The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes the federal holiday’s purpose as “a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
We asked our team’s veterans and spouses of veterans to share their service background and personal reflections as we commemorate their sacrifice for our freedom.
Hear from President Matt Ellis, Co-Chief Investment Officer Neale Ellis, Director of Operations Justin Jones, and Investment Specialist Libby Castle Lohmeier below and join us in saluting their service.
Matt Ellis, CPWA®
President & Founding Partner
What branch did you serve in? U.S. Navy
Why did you choose that branch? My father (Captain Larry H Ellis, pictured above) was a Naval Officer and was my primary example of servant leadership growing up. My family was stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) for three years, and I remember being incredibly impressed by the midshipmen.
What were your ranks/positions? I was a Lieutenant and a Naval Flight Officer / Tactical Coordinator and Mission Commander in the P-3C Orion aircraft. After my squadron tour, I was a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) instructor at the University of Memphis.
How many years did you serve? I served eight years after graduating from the USNA in 1990, leaving the service in June of 1998.
If you were deployed, where to and when? I was deployed three separate times around the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Middle East, based out of Sicily, Italy, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Why did you enlist? I was commissioned as a Naval Officer after graduating from the USNA.
What is the most impactful thing you learned from your time in the military? Nothing brings more satisfaction and builds stronger relationships than shared hardship, sacrifice, and experience defending or supporting something greater than yourself. It was a great honor to serve, and I know I received more than I gave during my years of service.
What does it mean to you to be a veteran? That I had a part, however small, in helping to preserve and protect this great nation of which I am blessed to be a citizen. I’m proud to be in the community of citizens who share that bond.
How do you honor veterans and service on Veterans Day? Veterans Day is a chance to be intentional about recognizing veterans for their and their families’ sacrifice. Because I’m a veteran, I’m always delighted to connect and help other veterans in whatever capacity I can. When I meet a veteran, I don’t know everything about them, but I at least know that they share some core values that led them to serve their country.
Neale Ellis, CFA, CPWA®
Co-Chief Investment Officer, Founding Partner
What branch did you serve in? U.S. Navy
Why did you choose that branch? My dad was a Chaplain in the Navy, and my grandfather (Colonel Robert H Ruud, pictured above) was in the Marine Corps. I had a tremendous amount of respect for them and decided to apply to the NROTC program.
What were your ranks/positions? I served as a Surface Warfare Officer on cruisers and destroyers. I left active duty as a Lieutenant Commander and retired from the Navy Reserve as a Commander.
How many years did you serve? 12 years of active duty and another eight years in the reserves
If you were deployed, where to and when? I was deployed numerous times in many different places. During Operation Desert Storm, I was in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. I have also deployed to the Persian Gulf, South America in the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Caribbean Sea.
Why did you enlist? I saw the Navy as an opportunity to serve my country and make a difference. I know there are a lot of ways to do that without serving in the military, but being raised in a military family, it seemed like a natural choice. I also saw it as a chance to grow and develop character, to do something challenging.
What is the most impactful thing you learned from your time in the military? I learned so much, but I’ll just list the first two concepts that come to mind. First is that character, integrity, and dedication are far more important than natural talent. The second is servant leadership. Great leadership is not concerned about power and control but rather setting a good example and caring for your people and the mission. At the end of the day, you are only as good as your team.
What does it mean to you to be a veteran? I’m proud to be a veteran, but there is a myriad of ways to serve outside of the military. Having said that, one of the great things about being a veteran is when you meet another veteran. You may have completely different backgrounds and experiences but having been exposed to the ethos and culture of the military gives you a common “language” or frame of reference.
How do you honor veterans and service on Veterans Day? I don’t know that I do anything special on Veterans Day except reflect on the privilege of getting to serve. Anytime I run into a veteran, I thank him or her for their service. People willing to serve the common good, in whatever capacity, should be recognized.
Director of Operations
What branch did you serve in? U.S. Army
Why did you choose that branch? It was a tough decision for me. I liked the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army. The Army seemed to offer the most flexibility for my situation.
What were your ranks/positions? 19D Cavalry Scout, Specialist
How many years did you serve? Two years active duty and a short time in active reserve
If you were deployed, where to and when? I was not deployed. My time in service ended two weeks before 9/11, and I started to pursue my degree. When that terrible day happened, I was torn about whether to stay in school or re-enlist. I ultimately decided to see my education through while standing by to serve, should I have been called up.
Why did you enlist? I enlisted to make it easier to go to school without accumulating a pile of debt or being a burden to my parents. I wanted to pay my own way. I also love my country and took pride in serving.
What is the most impactful thing you learned from your time in the military? My sergeants used to say, “The majority of success is just about showing up. Show up on time, do what you are supposed to, be accountable, and dress the part—you will be 90% ahead of everyone in this world.”
What does it mean to you to be a veteran? I don’t really consider myself a veteran. Yes, I served my country and did so proudly, but I didn’t go overseas, and I didn’t serve very long. My sacrifice was minimal compared to so many.
How do you honor veterans and service on Veterans Day? I know Memorial Day is a separate holiday, but I can’t help but think of those who gave everything on both days. I give thanks to those who are still here with us, but it’s not a day I can truly celebrate. My family has four veterans: my father, who served during the Vietnam War, my two brothers, and myself. I don’t really consider what I did to be anything special, but I definitely honor my dad and brothers. My dad was lucky he didn’t have to serve on the front lines, though he was drafted and honored his orders. My brothers have been on multiple deployments. I know many others who have done the same. Some didn’t make it back. I thank all the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country.
Libby Castle Lohmeier, CFA, CFP®
Investment Specialist, Relationship Manager
Family member? My husband, Brett Lohmeier
What branch did he serve in? U.S. Army
What were his ranks/positions? Corporal
How many years did he serve? Three years
If he was deployed, where to and when? He was deployed three times in the early 2000s to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of the years you’ve been together, during how many did he serve? Brett served before we met.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from being the spouse of/in a relationship with a military member/veteran? Freedom isn’t free. Our veterans have made enormous sacrifices to help safeguard our freedoms.
How do you honor veterans and service on Veterans Day? Praying for the safety of our Active Duty, our veterans, and their families. Ask questions and be a good listener when needed. Thank them for their service and help to honor and celebrate the freedoms they worked so hard to provide us.