Military Appreciation Month, celebrated each May since 1999, is a time for all of us to show gratitude to those who have served. It’s a small way we can say “thank you” for all they’ve done for our country.
A great way that event professionals can honor our military members is by recognizing their contributions to our nation beyond their years of active service. Military veterans have admirable and compelling stories to share. Informed by their extraordinary life experiences, military speakers possess a unique ability to encourage, inspire, and challenge us, delivering powerful messages around topics like leadership, resilience, motivation, service to others, and perseverance.
With topics that are timely and relevant to everyone, booking a military speaker is a great move no matter the time of year. If you’ve been on the fence about planning an event like this, Military Appreciation Month is the perfect reason to go all in. Read on for a rundown of the top military speakers organized by their most frequent themes.
Learning to lead on an individual or organizational level means understanding how to take a diverse collection of team members— each bringing their own experiences and unique skill sets— and direct and guide them towards the same mission. Military service members tend to be powerful spokespeople for leadership development because while learning to lead in a business setting may affect profits margins and job security, it can mean the difference between life and death for service members.
John Register is a two-time Olympic Trials Qualifier and U.S. Army Gulf War Veteran who, after suffering an amputation, qualified for the Paralympic swim team only 27 months post-surgery. Four years later, after learning how to run on a prosthesis, he captured the Paralympic long jump silver medal in Sydney, Australia. His exceptional story of courage and inspiration led him to found Inspired Communications, where he serves as inspirational speaker, leading by example and helping his audiences apply life lessons learned through times of testing to focus on what is possible.
Col. Nicole Malachowski embodies what it means to be a leader. She’s a combat veteran, the first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, a White House Fellow, as well as an inductee into both the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame. Nicole brings her experience to the stage and holds audiences spellbound with an easygoing authenticity of someone who’s achieved greatness. She’s been a member and leader of exceptional teams.
Motivation and leadership go hand in hand. For an organization, business, or any group, it’s essential to have team members who not only understand the plan and know how to reach goals, but are also motivated to work towards them. What better way to motivate an audience than to book speakers for your event whose stories are all about challenging yourself to push past your perceived limits?
David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL and is the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks), the U.S. Army Ranger School (where he graduated as Enlisted Honor Man) and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. As a Navy SEAL, Goggins was one of an elite group of men regularly sent on some of the toughest missions in the world, but that just wasn’t enough. Goggins needed yet another challenge, so he set about conquering the hardest sporting events known to man and is now considered to be one of the greatest endurance athletes in the country.
J.R. Martinez is an actor, best-selling author, motivational speaker, advocate, and wounded U.S. Army veteran. Whether it is speaking to troops and audiences around the world or winning the coveted mirror ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars, J.R. Martinez continues to inspire us here at AAE. As an injured combat veteran of the Iraq war, he has undergone 34 surgeries and spent nearly 3 years in hospitals. J.R. now advocates for burn survivors. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling book “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit,” a memoir about how he was able to take his personal tragedy and turn it into an inspiration for others.
If resilience wasn’t already considered one of the most important character traits for a person to develop, this past year has made clear just how essential it is to be able to carry on— even thrive— in the face of adversity and change. The universal inevitability of adversity and change makes messages of reliance poignant and actionable to any audience regardless of industry. The message is taken to another level of inspiration, however, when it’s delivered by people who have suffered life-altering injuries in battle and refused to let that slow them down.
Melissa Stockwell is an American war hero who has triumphed over personal tragedy to achieve greatness, World Champion status, and she has dedicated her life to chasing remarkable accomplishments while giving back to others, particularly those who face challenges similar to her own. In 2004 while deployed to Iraq, a blast from a roadside bomb struck Melissa’s Humvee causing the loss of her left leg above the knee, making her the first female ever to lose a limb in active combat. In April of 2008, she became the first Iraqi War Veteran to qualify for the Paralympics and is now a three-time World Champion.
Brian Fleming was attacked and severely injured by a suicide bomber while serving as a Team Leader in an Infantry platoon with the US Army’s elite 10th Mountain Division while fighting the ground war in Afghanistan. He spent 14 months enduring painful burn treatments and reconstructive surgery as he struggled to successfully rebuild his life and transition his career. The author of 4 books and a Resilience Trainer for the US Military and Fortune 500 companies, Fleming teaches organizations just like yours practical, proven lessons in human resilience they can immediately use and apply so their companies and staff know how to stand firm and succeed- even when everything around them is blowing up.
Service to Others
Service can manifest itself in extreme actions of sacrifice like shielding your fellow marines from a grenade blast, as U.S. Marine Kyle Carpenter did, or in everyday acts of selflessness like chipping in a little extra on a project when a coworker is out sick. On either side of this spectrum, no matter the level of sacrifice involved, you find a quality that elevates the potential of any group. These extreme examples of sacrifice, ones that involve risking life and limb or advocating on behalf of a noble cause, give us a glimpse of how service to others is crucial to the success of a mission at the absolute highest level. Hearing from speakers with these experiences inspires the audience to emulate this service.
Jessika Rovell is an attorney with more than twenty years of leadership, management, and training experience working within military, public, and private sectors… she is also a sexual assault and domestic violence survivor. Victimized as a law student and during the early years of her legal and military careers, she shares her compelling story of survival and resilience in an inspiring, relatable and at times humorous way. Her lectures and workshops focus on cultivating awareness and empowering others to end sexual violence, support survivors, and unlock their own unlimited potential to thrive, even when faced with the most extreme of personal challenges.
Kyle Carpenter is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient. While serving in Afghanistan, he shielded fellow marines on a rooftop from a grenade blast with his own body, resulting in devastating injuries and massive blood loss. Since that rooftop in 2010, Carpenter has made it his mission to never take a moment for granted and to live his life to the fullest. He believes in jumping out of airplanes, running marathons, taking chances and doing anything that makes his heart pound in his chest. Today, Carpenter travels the world as a motivational speaker for military and civilian audiences, sharing his story of courage, sacrifice and perseverance.
In the same way that military veterans push us to be better leaders, to be more resilient, and to be better teammates, they also push our society as a whole to be more inclusive and boldly challenge the status quo, paving the way for others to do the same. They show us that in an environment where the stakes are high and so much is on the line, the cause of diversity and inclusion does not and must not take a back seat. Their pioneering service to their country and the messages they share are invaluable case studies of how to push the boundaries of our society.
Shane Ortega is the first openly serving transgender military service member. He was featured in the HBO documentary The Trans List. Ortega is a mixed American Indian enrolled in the Skaroreh Katenuauka Nation, a retired disabled combat veteran (Marines and Army) of over 11 years, and a two-spirit (transgender) man. Ortega has a record of championing human rights legislation and policy. He is the recipient of several military and civilian awards, including the Icon Award from Harper’s Bazaar, as one of the three most influential champions of human rights for people of color in America.
Becky Halstead is a 1981 graduate of the United States Military Academy and achieved an historic milestone as the first female graduate of West Point to be promoted to General Officer. She was the senior Commanding General for logistics in Iraq, and was the first female in U.S. history to command in combat at the strategic level. In this capacity she was responsible for leading over 200 multi‐disciplined units (20,000 military and 5,000 civilians) located across 55 different bases, providing supply, maintenance, transportation and distribution support to over 250,000 personnel serving in Iraq.
Ready to book the perfect military speaker for Military Appreciation Month?
In addition to the speakers and topics listed above, AAE has a robust catalogue of talented military speakers. We can find the perfect fit for your event and make the booking process simple and quick. Get in touch with us to get started!