These Veterans Fought al Qaeda. Now They’ve Started 162,000 New Businesses

Fifteen years after 9/11, some 162,000 veterans of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking on the daunting, exhilarating challenges of entrepreneurship. These are their stories.

Ten years ago, Blake Hall was nearly blown up at work. A platoon leader in the Army Rangers, Hall was in charge of a reconnaissance unit stationed in Mosul, Iraq. His team was on routine patrol one day when a bomb exploded near their base. Then mortar shells began to fall, pummeling the combat hospital inside the base, injuring 10 during the first few blasts.

Suddenly, Hall was racing his men across the Tigris River, hoping to find the mortar unit. They were outnumbered and facing attacks from three directions, without air cover or other support. Yet they ultimately destroyed the unit, capturing four al Qaeda fighters and killing two, Hall says, while avoiding any casualties themselves.

“It was a miracle, really,” says Hall, who was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for that day’s work. “God was good to us, to me, that day.”

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