By Adam Hunter
In one life, Jared Kebea is a father of two teenagers and a 4-year-old, living in Springfield, New Jersey, and a project management specialist for Prudential Financial’s Enterprise Services & Systems department. In the other, he’s a master sergeant with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army.
“You’re coming off one life, and going back into another one. Everything down to the clothes you wear is completely different.”
Four weeks ago, Jared took a leave of absence from Prudential for a six-month deployment to Iraq, where he will serve in an advisory role for the Iraqi government, developing training programs with coalition forces that will help the country maintain its security. On his last day before deployment, however, the mission wasn’t foremost on his mind.
“I know I’m going to a dangerous place, but I’ve been there several times before,” he said. “I’ll be honest, I don’t think people realize that my wife is going to have the harder job of the two of us over the next six months.”
Jared’s wife, Nicole, a manager in Prudential’s Law, Compliance, Business Ethics & External Affairs department, knows well what her husband will experience overseas. She was a staff sergeant in the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) working in counterintelligence when she met Jared during a deployment to Afghanistan.
Nicole serves as Chief of Staff for VETNET, the business resource group within Prudential that connects veterans across the company with each other and their supporters. This year, while anticipating Jared’s deployment, Nicole sought to plan a Veterans Day event for Prudential employees that would connect her family’s military life with their civilian one.
On November 8th, Nicole and her colleagues will gather in the lobby of Prudential Tower in Newark to Skype live with Jared from his base in Baghdad.
“It’s extra special for me that we’re honoring the talented veterans at Prudential, their spouses, families, and I’ll get to see Jared on the Prudential Tower media wall as a proud wife,” Nicole said.
The event is part of a series of Prudential Veterans Day events around the country, including Military Appreciation Night on Nov. 11 at Prudential Center in Newark, where the USO will debut a new mobile support unit sponsored by Prudential.
Prudential Vice President and Head of Veterans Initiatives Chuck Sevola, a former Army captain, says events like these can provide veterans and their families the sense of community they need.
“You have a strong support system while you’re in the military,” Sevola says. “It’s just as important for veterans like Nicole and Jared to find that same support in civilian life, especially in their workplace. Any chance for us to recognize their sacrifices and share their stories brings us closer as a community.”
Jared and Nicole came to Prudential in 2014, six years after leaving active duty. In the interim, Nicole went to school to earn a mathematics degree and worked in a support role to the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Jared transitioned into the National Guard, earned a degree in applied science with a concentration in business, and went to work for a government contractor, with duties that continued to send him overseas often. They got married and moved to New Jersey to be near Jared’s older children. The birth of their first child together four years ago made stable employment a priority. A friend suggested Prudential, which made a quick impression on Nicole.
“Having served in the military, I knew Prudential was the one that backed our service member’s life insurance, so you know there’s definitely some strength there,” she said. “My military experience was valued and appreciated. When I interviewed, they were able to look past the fact that I didn’t have time in this industry but identify the skills I possessed from my military experience would be a good fit and that I could quickly adapt.”
Jared followed three weeks later. “With Prudential, there are a lot of options within the company for veterans,” he said. “There’s diversity there—similar to the military, it’s a huge operation.”
Early on, Jared and Nicole were introduced to VETNET, which they credit with helping them adjust to their civilian roles.
“When people try to come into the private sector, especially those who have spent 10 years in the military, the hardest thing is the culture,” Jared said. “It’s important to have an organization within Prudential that can reach out to veterans and finds ways to connect them so they can share their experiences and learn together.”
Nicole admits that emotions have been running high since Jared’s deployment orders came in. “This is Jared’s first long deployment since we’ve been with Prudential, and the first since we’ve had our son as well,” she says. “There’s definitely sadness, anger, and even happiness, because I know this is an important opportunity for Jared. It’s a roller coaster.”
For Jared, knowing Nicole will be surrounded by her colleagues on Veterans Day will make a powerful impact. “This is going to be one of the more difficult deployments, with our little one now, but we’ve been getting a lot of support from Prudential and our community as well,” Jared said. “I’m going over there more at ease knowing my wife and family have a strong support system.”
Want to learn more about Prudential’s Veterans Day events and veterans initiatives? Contact Alicia Rodgers Alston.