One minute, Dylan Gray and his fellow U.S. Marines were driving along in their Humvee on a recon mission in Iraq. Two days later, Gray woke up in a hospital in Germany, with both legs amputated below the knees. They had been hit by an improvised explosive device.
Last week — seven years since his injury — Gray, 30, was at UCLA Anderson for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), hoping to gain the skills he needs to launch his second business. The nine-day residency program provides free entrepreneurship and management training to veterans disabled as a result of their service in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. They take classes in subjects ranging from branding and budgeting to human resources and public relations, and present their final business plans at the end of the program.
Gray’s post-military career has already included starting (and selling) a metal fabrication shop for off-road vehicles, and working with the nonprofit Nevada Military Support Alliance speaking on veterans’ issues. That led to a role as state veteran outreach coordinator for the Green Zone Network of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, where he helped develop a certification program to encourage and help employers hire more vets.
Driven by his passion for snowboarding, Gray is now in the midst of developing prototypes of a prosthetic to help other amputees snowboard with fewer limitations. “Every day as I come across a different obstacle, I think, ‘What can I make to help?’” he says. The EBV program presented the perfect opportunity and motivation to help him get his business off the ground and to help focus the energy of his true lifelong joy, invention.
“I saw it as a great opportunity because I have a lot of ideas,” says Gray. “I just didn’t have a lot of education in how to run a business.” He adds that the EBV program has shown him his strengths and weaknesses, and the importance of creating a team that can help him succeed.
“The program has also provided me a great network of some great people and amazing resources,” says Gray. “Being with fellow vets is great. It is a way to connect with like-minded people but also to connect with others that have been through some of the same experiences…. Vets are always helping other vets and I would like to continue that trend.”
Gray and his fellow EBV participants graduated from the program this past Saturday. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 19, his military career spanned three deployments to Iraq, and he served with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. He currently lives in Nevada.
To learn more about the EBV program, visit the program page.