By Danielle Beurteaux
It started with a visit to a 2,000-acre ranch an hour from
Dallas, where 15 recently wounded military veterans were taken
for some rest and relaxation. But the vets were enjoying
themselves so much that what was meant to be a weekend turned
into an unforgettable six-day break for Kyle Bass, managing
partner of the Dallas hedge fund Hayman Capital Management, who
was along for the ride. "I called my office and said, 'Cancel
my calendar; I’m not coming back.’ "
||Kyle Bass: Going from the armed forces into
the civilian world, the friction is
Bass, 42, is on the board of Troops First Foundation, based
in Laurel, Md., and founded in 2008, which offers programs to
injured and noninjured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan
conflicts. About 60,000 troops have been wounded in those two
military operations, and 1,000 are amputees. The Department of
Veterans Affairs is now tracking 163,000 new cases, which
include brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, both
of which can take time to develop. The real casualty figures
may not be known for years.
Vets being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
Washington, D.C., the National Naval Medical Center in
Bethesda, Md. and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio,
Tex. went to the ranch for that first visit, and Bass felt an
immediate connection. "When you sit and talk with these guys,
you can’t but help want to care for them," he
says. "When they get hurt, they may wake up at the Ramstein Air
Base in Germany or Bethesda, Md., because they were so severely
injured they were transported unconscious. They have multiple
surgeries, multiple doctors’ appointments,
multiple physical therapy sessions. And none of their friends
are around, none of their units are around, and they feel
isolated and almost left behind; they feel guilty about being
To help injured soldiers reach some resolution, Troops First
has created Operation Proper Exit, the only program of its
kind, where vets return to active forward operating bases in
Iraq. Troops First has organized 10 trips to Iraq so far,
taking 77 veterans, and is planning a similar trip to
Afghanistan before the end of 2011. It is also launching a
needs-based housing grant program, called Operation Front Door,
for combat-injured and disabled veterans. Golf coaching and
hospital visits are two other Troops First programs.
Rick Kell, co-founder and executive director of Troops
First, says that Bass is always there to help.
"He’s there on the other end of the phone when we
need to get something done for an individual. He really helps
facilitate resources," says Kell.
Employment is another concern for veterans who leave the
armed forces with few job skills that are transferable. "Going
from the armed forces into the civilian world, the friction is
enormous because of the job functionality disparities between
private sector needs and armed forces skill training," says
Bass. The Troops First network has been able to help some
soldiers get jobs, something that can be done to help veterans
across the country, says Bass.
"There are so many things that are easy to do if you just
set those plans in motion," says Bass. "And we’ve
been able to set some of those plans in motion."