15 years in the Making

My old Platoon Sergeant, SFC Heil, used to always say, “Remember, Gents. Everything you’ve done in your life has led you to this moment right here.”

He’d usually say this when everything had hit the fan, and all you could think about was, “How the hell did I end up here in the first place.”

As I embark on this new journey of A.M. Money, I think it’s appropriate to take a step back and appreciate how I found myself here.

I shipped out to the U.S Army 15 years ago to the month. I had no idea that we were only a few weeks out from the start of a war that would define the lives of an entire generation. All I knew was that I had left everyone behind to try to make a difference and maybe carve out a better life for myself.

The year before I joined the army was tumultuous – to say the least. I left home after a violent altercation with my father, and I bounced around various houses until my mother found a way to support herself away from him. On multiple occasions, I slept on the Red line from 95th street to Howard, back and forth, just to stay warm in the winter. I worked a couple of jobs and had a couple of hustles to keep fed and help my mom out where I could, but that too was insufficient.

One day, fed up with everything, I walked my way into an Army Recruiting Station and stated that I was looking to sign up. I looked a mess. I was, 6’5”, 160 pounds and probably hadn’t had any sort of grooming in months.

The recruiters were...um…skeptical to say the least.

Then I took the admissions test.  SSG Carothers, the head recruiter and first true role model I ever had, came out.

“Son, what are you doing?”

“Uh..Sir. Trying to join the Army? What do you mean?”

“Call me Sergeant. And I mean, why are you joining the Army? Scores like that don’t just walk through that door. Why aren’t you going to college?”

Here we go again, I thought. I had heard this before. I had heard it a 1000 times if I had heard it once. Of course I wanted to go to college. Of course, I wanted a better life for myself. But where am I supposed to get the 30k for tuition, let alone everything else I had to worry about. I slept on the train last week, homie.  I didn’t eat yesterday, homie. You wanna tell me how the hell I’m supposed to go to college when I have to worry about all that?

Surprisingly, SSG Carothers was unfazed. “Yea. I get it. I came from the same place, and I can show you how to make that happen. Have a seat, son.”

And he did. He walked me through all the tuition assistance programs in the Army. He told me how I’d have to put in the extra hours to take classes on the weekends.  He told me how I’d have to deal with people questioning my commitment to the service.  But I’d have to just stay focused. He said I wouldn’t sleep a lot.

Bet it up. I can do that. Easy. 

I spent the next 6 months working the late shift so I could take remedial high school classes during the evening.

Two Months after shipping out, I gained 25 pounds because I was so malnourished.

Three years later, I was wrapping up my associate degree on the back of a combat vehicle while a member of a Special Operations Taskforce.

Six  years later, I was graduating with my Bachelors with Honors and starting a prestigious job at the State Department.

Ten years later, I was earning a full-ride to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business to study analytical finance.

15 years later, here I am -- co-founding A.M. Money.

I’ve had an incredible run for which I am incredibly appreciative.

But I think back to that scared, emaciated young man I used to be and I can’t help but think about how things would have been different, if SSG Carothers hadn’t stepped in and shown me the way.

I founded A.M. Money because I want to be there for folks like me the way SSG Carothers was.  I believe that a lack of capital should never be the reason why someone is unable to fulfill his or her potential. If you put in the work and have the potential, then we will be there for you. We are committed to this, because after all everything I have done in my life led me to this moment right here.