American Dream U (ADU) hit the road for our #EndlessCaravan last weekend! They’re traveling to military bases across the country, educating veterans about employment opportunity and sharing the stories of people they meet along the way. Below, ADU Founder Phil Randazzo gives an inside look at the first week on the road in the Airstream.
Phil, Jennie and Gigi
Our nationwide Airstream #EndlessCaravan tour began this week in Nashville, Tennessee! My wife Jennie and I have officially hit the road in our Airstream, accompanied by our dog Gigi, who is an emotional support service dog, with an emphasis on military support.
While in the Nashville area, I had the privilege of sitting down with several incredible veterans, including: five firefighters from the Franklin Fire Department, Ned Collins the CEO of NPREX, Ivan Sarabia who I met at a coffee shop in Franklin, and Jonathan Gensler, founder of Revive Energy.
Phil and Franklin Firefighters
Since I've never spent time with veteran firefighters before, those interviews were particularly interesting and informative for me. Each firefighter I interviewed loves the fact that he or she can serve the community in which they live.
Everyone I interviewed has a second job—two of them still serve in the National Guard, one in the Army, and one in the Coast Guard. Throughout the interviews, they all mentioned a few times that in the firefighter community, you get to continue being part of a tribe that live and serve together, similarly to the military.
Photo by City of Franklin, TN
I also had the opportunity to interview Jeff Rose, the CEO and Founder of Alliance Wealth Management, who also served for 17 months in Iraq in 2005. One particular statement from Jeff during our interview really sums up why we started American Dream U over 15 years ago.
“I came back [from deployment] and was just ready to start my life again. I quickly realized that it wasn’t that easy. Jeff Rose ‘pre-deployment’ was the happy, stupid jokes, corny guy. But for 17 months, I became Staff Sergeant Rose… then when I came home, I was still Staff Sergeant Rose.” —Jeff Rose, Iraqi combat veteran
Through therapy, other forms of support and a lot of personal grit, Jeff transitioned back to civilian life and successfully runs his financial planning firm. He is also the author of “Soldier of Finance,” a book that combines his military background with his financial-planning knowledge. Jeff’s interview makes me even more excited for all the incredible folks I have yet to meet on our journey.
Phil and Jeff Rose
Traveling through Tennessee, we came to notice that people in the South are extremely polite, gracious and patriotic. They’re also very curious about what we're up to at American Dream U! Traveling in an iconic trailer like the Airstream only increases everyone’s curiosities. I even met a couple at a gas station who inquired about the size of the Airstream we’re traveling in. They asked a number of questions before revealing that they owned a ‘75 Airstream that they were fixing up! They couldn't stop talking about it.
As for hitting the road and driving the trailer, it’s been been a ton of fun already. I was a bit nervous leading up to the trip, thinking about the four thousand miles we would be driving in a short period of time. However, the truck and the trailer ride extremely smooth, which makes the miles pass quickly. The freedom of being able to pull over and set up for the night is empowering, to say the least. As we’re finishing up this first week, I do wish I had planned more free time to stop at some of the National Parks we’re passing along the way.
In terms of adapting to pulling the Airstream, the only real challenge that has cropped up so far was attempting to back out of the fire station on a relatively busy road. With that, I did need some guidance from the firefighters—they were kind enough to helping stop traffic as we left. It’s truly a “learn as you go” situation.
We are definitely looking forward to another few dozen interviews and events coming up, all while serving our military every stop along the way. I'm reminded of Veterans Day coming up with all the flags posted in yards and businesses that we pass by. This country is just amazing, and I’m grateful to be traveling across it with an Airstream in tow!
Full Schedule (subject to change):
- Nov 8-9: Fort Hood, TX
- Nov 9-10: San Antonio, TX
- Nov 11: Waco, TX
- Nov 12: Down Day
- Nov 13: Austin, TX
- Nov 14: San Antonio, TX
- Nov 16-19: New Orleans, LA
- Nov 20-25: Las Vegas for Thanksgiving
- Nov 26: New Orleans, LA
- Nov 27: Atlanta, GA
- Nov 28-29: Holly Ridge, NC
- Nov 30: Durham, NC
- Dec 1: Winston Salem, NC
- Dec 2: Asheville, NC
- Dec 3-4: Fort Campbell, KY
- Dec 5: Jackson Center, OH