#135: A Green Beret’s Hardest Mission – Green Beret Foundation’s Charlie Iacono & Nick Lavery (2023 Army Navy Game Series)

Friday April 12, 2024

There’s a dangerous difference between a Quiet Professional and Silent Professional. We’re conditioned as Green Berets to put the mission first and get the job done. That’s why Army Special Forces are the tip of the spear in both wartime and peace. 

For our first tailgate interview, and to kick off The Jedburgh Podcast’s new home as an official program of the Green Beret Foundation, Fran Racioppi sat down with CEO Charlie Iacono and America’s largest Green Beret Nick Lavery

Charlie shares his vision to enhance educational opportunities, make benefits the easiest part of transition and how he’s preparing the organization for America’s next battlefield. Nick explains how he’s committed to keeping Green Berets first in the fight and why telling our stories is critical to both retention and recruiting the next generation. 

Americans in combat may be out of the spotlight, but Green Berets continue their mission in every corner of the world and supporting them and their families will always be the core mission of the Green Beret Foundation. 

You decide if we’re in a 1939 moment and never forget… the Boston Tea Party was an Army operation…

The Jedburgh Podcast and the Jedburgh Media Channel are an official program of The Green Beret Foundation.

Listen to the podcast here


A Green Beret’s Hardest Mission – Green Beret Foundation’s Charlie Iacono & Nick Lavery (2023 Army Navy Game Series)


Nick and Charlie, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast live from the Army-Navy Game at Gillette Stadium. Nick, this is home.

How are you doing? It’s good to see you again.

The last time I saw you, you hopped into the back of the truck, WC 51. We were at SandlotJAX. I told you you’re still the biggest guy who’s ever sat in that truck.Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

I made it work. It helps you when you can do weird tricks like this. I’m like a launcher. I can fold myself in and out as I need to.

You’re incredibly flexible.

That’s multi-jointed.

I see all your posts on social media. You are working on that flexibility every single day. That’s the testament to that. It’s the first time the Army-Navy game has ever been at Gillette Stadium. You guys have both been here. Charlie, you live up here. Nick and I are both from the area. I have been here for a couple of days. As soon as you come into Massachusetts, you see the signs on every road talking about the Army-Navy game. Boston, Massachusetts, and the entire Patriots community have come out because everyone I know who lives in Massachusetts and has anything to do with Army-Navy is coming to this game.

Don’t quote me on the exact date, but 2024 was the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Someone fact-checked me. We’re in the arena of that. I doubt that has anything to do with the timing of the game schedule here. This is where it all started. A couple of guys in a bar came up with some ideas, and look where we are now.

Here’s the most important thing about the Boston Tea Party. There was no Navy present. Not only was there no Navy present. This was the forming of the Continental Army, but these guys were insurgents. We talked about the Jedburghs. That’s why I talk about it every single day. We credit them with being the first of the modern era unconventional warfare special operators. No, let’s take it back. It was those guys in that bar in Downtown Boston who said, “Let’s go have a party on the Harbor.”

Think of not only the courage which is obvious. A couple of guys in a bar are thinking about going up against the largest military superpower that the world’s ever known. The courage and the balls are there, but the visionary behind it accompanied that to see what is possible. If you combine those two things, the concept of vision and the courage to act on it, you can create miracles, and we’re living in one now.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

That’s what Green Berets do every day and in every corner of the world. Charlie, this is your first time on the Jedburgh Podcast. As our mutual friend Jason McCarthy would say, “You owe us a case of beer.” You came into the role of leading the organization. We’ve had the pleasure of sitting down not only with Jason but also with General Tovo to talk about the mission of the Green Beret Foundation. For all the things that are happening, I had the honor of going down to the headquarters. I became immersed in the entire organization.

Beth Macdonald was my advocate. She helped me go through a four-year process and close that gap to get to the full disability rating. The foundation is important to me not only in terms of everything that you’re doing for Green Berets but also for what you’ve done for me and my family. As you sit in the role, talk about the vision. What’s your vision for the organization? Where is it going?

First and foremost, thanks for having me. Nick, it’s always great to see you. It’s fantastic to be here with such a storied community, Army-Navy historic game, but the foundation itself is still a relatively new organization. It stood up by an incredible guy, Aaron Anderson, the founder of our organization. He realized that there wasn’t a benevolent organization supporting the SF. He changed that.

Several years later, we’ve supported more than 16,000 Green Berets and their families. We have supported the community with $15 million plus of revenue into the marketplace to help guys heal in both mind, body, and spirit. The future of the foundation is all of that and then some. We are one of the few organizations that service and support the veteran community of the regiment and the active duty space. That’s what distinguishes us from all the others that are out there.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

We love all the other benevolence. We love companies working hard to get guys what they and their families need. We’re going to take that level that we’re at now, take it to the next level, and embrace that full-force multiplier mindset. It’s going to focus on the mind, body, and spirit, not for the warfighter but for the entire family, children included. We’re upping our game in scholarships. We acquired the Bennie Adkins Scholarship Foundation, storied Green Beret, and won the Medal of Honor.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.What made him even more of a legend after his service was that, with the guys he served with in Vietnam, he taught the guys how to read. Since his passing, his family has continued to lift up that legacy because he recognizes that you need education. Whatever level you are in life, you need that education. We’re launching a new scholarship initiative with that. We’re also launching the redefined Next Ridgeline program, which will encompass the VA benefits program that you experienced.

We’re going to take that to the next level, and we’re going to start to introduce career services hubs connecting Green Berets and their spouses with career opportunities as well as other programmatic development areas of financial literacy, relocation, and understanding where to buy if you want to start a new business.

Don’t move to Orange County, California. Move to a more friendly state like Texas that’s business-friendly and supportive of entrepreneurs. It’s a bright future for the foundation. We’re preparing for the next conflict. We’re getting ready to support our warfighters and their families. It’s a commitment that I’ve made since day one. When that phone rings, we’re going to pick it up.

One of the important things that you’re starting to focus on as you’ve come into the role is to start to bring the network together. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it. Nick is coming in, taking the greater part of that, and expanding that Green Berets Foundation network. Nick, as you now begin to work more with the organization, what do you see in the organization?

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

My transition, not to get too off track, has already started because I’m getting the opportunities to spend more time doing things outside of the uniform, Which is amazing. The irony of it is, for several years, the world, in particular the nation, knew what we were doing. Many wanted to act on that in support of our service members because we were in multiple conflicts, and it was right in front of their faces most of the time.

We suffered many losses. The Special Forces ODA has been the most requested soft unit of action since the beginning of the global war on terrorism by a mile. That’s because of what we do, how we do it, and the effects we create. They bear the burden of the losses. Heavy costs come with that, which we accept wholeheartedly, with no problem and hesitation.

My point is that, for a few decades, organizations like GPF were able to receive more funding and support because it was obvious what we were going through. People wanted to be a part of that support network. The truth is that, although we are no longer in that type of conflict like we had been, we’re seeing the second and third-order effects of having been at that tip of the spear for that long.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

Charlie would know this better than me, but where I’m positioned now, I say that the demand and the need for services like this is arguably higher now than it was even at peak GWOT because a lot of those lasting effects didn’t take place while guys were actively in the fight. You’re seeing that trickle effect happen now.

One of the things that I messaged loudly is one, because you don’t see it on the 24-hour news cycle as you did, we’re still out and operational every single day around the world, and two, the need for support and resources is higher now than it was back then. Because it’s not as obvious, do not mistake that for the need to no longer exist.

There’s a lag factor that comes with this. Everybody was still up until several years ago in the fight. Charlie, you talked about that next conflict. We have to prepare the force for the next conflict, but a lot of those who were in the previous years are now going to get out over the next couple of years. One of the things that is important as the organization has grown is to put an advocate and a representative in each of the active duty groups. Can you talk about that initiative, where it is, and what the next steps are for it?

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

We are stronger together. That’s a new phrase that I’m using. The reality of it is we need to be where the various groups are. From a transition support perspective but also from a perspective of if somebody walks into the fifth group and talks to Tim Ambler, who’s our VSO in the fifth group, and says, “I’m having some trouble with this initiative. I’m having some trouble with this life experience. Who can I talk to?” Tim knows he can call somebody right away on the team and we’ll start servicing that particular request.

It’s there to be embedded with the groups to form that long-lasting partnership of trust, donor-centric, partner-centric, but more importantly friend-centric mindset, but also to use that as a force multiplier concept to say, “We’re going to be with them across the entire spectrum of their career in service and post service.”

What I’ve been saying is, it’s effective, but not in 100% cases. The Global War on Terror has concluded to the levels that we once saw. The challenge is that conflict may be over for the guys in SF and those who are in the conventional forces we’re fighting, but they’re fighting a new conflict. You have traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, struggles with alcohol and substance abuse issues, and transition issues. I said to one of the VA guys that we work with on a regular basis, “Why does it seem like the hardest mission a Green Beret has to deal with is, when he gets out, he’s trying to get his benefits.”

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

In the world that we live in, you sign a contract, you’re expected to get the benefits that you’re promised when you’re 18 or 20 years old, and you’re trying to get those benefits. It’s all of this red tape and challenges. Our VSOs help guys navigate that constant mountainous terrain to let it be and make it easier for them.

We help them with that because what we don’t want to happen is what happened in the Vietnam era. You had guys that came in. They got evaluated. They got the reward, but several years later, they started to develop serious issues, cancer, and other traumatic brain injuries that were finally coming to a head. You have to go and reevaluate their med grade. You’re like, “They’re at 60%. They should be 100%.”

We specialize in that. We get guys who’ve been getting benefits for all these years. We get them the right rating. The problem is you want the guy to get the right rating with the one-time check of 40 or 30 years of back pay, which is great, but think of all the challenges that that person has gone through when there’s a time of service. They didn’t have that money for several years. The initiative that we’re trying to do is to make sure that guys are rated the right way. They’re set up for success on day one when they transition, whether it’s 3 or 10 years. You want that next chapter not to be a conflict. You want to be a good adventure at that.

Veteran transition has been top of mind for me. We’ve been talking a lot about it on the show. We’ve had a couple of great organizations who are helping veterans transition out and I’ve said openly that my biggest challenge that I’ve ever faced was not becoming a Green Beret. It was not a Green Beret anymore.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

What is that next chapter look like and how are you prepared? What do you do? How do you redefine yourself? What is the next step? How do you stay involved but know I’ve got to move on and do something else? Having this advocate there now was something that didn’t exist when I got out. That’s a touch point. That’s a safe space that the transitioning Special Operators can go to and say, “I don’t know what’s coming next.”

If you can navigate and ensure a successful transition, it will not only put that individual in a position to win from day one, but it’s also going to curb the existential crisis that we have with soldier suicide. It has to be addressed. A lot of it is these guys who do incredible things like Nick, you, Jason, and Travis did all these incredible things for their career of service.

They get out, and some of these guys struggle to land a job because, in fairness to them, they joined when they were eighteen. They never had a job interview. They didn’t know who they should talk to and the interview prep. It’s taking them a lot longer of a time to get settled on their next journey. They have not identified what that next spark will be, and that’s where that slippery slope begins.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.You start to see some challenges. The guys are struggling. They start to second guess whether or not they should have transitioned out, and they left a few years on the table, which is all valid. What you don’t want to happen is for them to take that right turn or that left turn and go down a dark road. That’s where we’re at now.

I’ve said this a number of times to a number of good thought leaders in this space. We fix transition, and the Green Beret Foundation is planning to do that for our community. We’re going to fix it, and we’re going to roll it out to the greater conventional forces and other branches and say, “Take this and replicate it. Here’s the playbook. Go be the force multiplier and fix this problem.”

We’ve got another responsibility. Nick, that responsibility incumbent upon guys like you and me is to motivate and prepare that next generation of Green Berets. One of the things that I love about everything you’re doing, with the book, objective security, and all of the messaging that you’re putting out on a daily basis, is not only important for anybody who’s looking to improve themself. Whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally, they can take something out of there. It’s motivating for the people who look at what you did in our world and the Green Beret and say, “That’s something I aspire to be.” That message that you’re sending is critical for that recruiting effort.

I appreciate that man, especially coming from a colleague and a fellow warrior. Charlie and I were talking about this at dinner. We go by the term Quiet Professional. It’s ingrained in who we are. It’s part of how we live. We’re people of action. We let our actions speak for themselves. We don’t need the spotlight. We’re looking for results. More often than not, we deliberately want someone else to be in that spotlight on purpose.

When you take the route that I’ve taken, and you’re going to start to open yourself up and share with the greater society in the world, there’s a conflict that exists within that. Am I violating this ethos? Am I violating this code of ethics? It’s a struggle. I struggle with it to this day, but there’s a massive difference between being a quiet professional and a silent professional.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

One of the things that we, as a regiment, have done quite poorly is sharing knowledge and experiences. We’re letting people know who we are and what we do. In order for anyone to want to be a Green Beret, they have to know we exist and have an idea of what we do, how we do it, and why we’re such a critical asset and the opportunity that comes with being one. Inspiration, instruction, motivation, and all these other intangibles that I seek to provide, one of the major focuses is knowledge and information to provide awareness of who we are and what we do because that’s where it begins.

Another part of that is supporting each other as former teammates. We’re looking at each other and guys who were out there who are doing what you’re doing and supporting it. We haven’t done a good job. I agree with you. Many times, we’ve looked at guys who put themselves out there. You hear the talk, “F that guy. Why is he doing that? He shouldn’t be doing that.” It’s putting on him. No, this is important for the community.

What happens is the guys get out and they become reclusive almost. If you’re not out there talking about it, what it does is it opens up others to talk about it. Charlie brought up the suicide rate, and SOF has a ridiculously high percentage of that. I’ve gone back and forth with SOCOM on the exact numbers, but with that percentage, at a period of time, it’s dropped a little bit commensurate with the rest of the Army, but for a good period of time, it was higher than the regular Army.

Part of that is because guys think that they have to forget and put in a box everything they did, which I did. When I got out, I had my box of all my Army stuff. For several months, it sat in the box. I was like, “I don’t know if I could take it out. That was then. What’s now?” Eventually, you open that box up, and you say, “No, it might not be what I do now, but it’s a part of who I am. It’s made me who I am. It’s a part of my history.” Being able to see stories like yours and the other guys who are out there doing stuff allows you to become more open and recreate that community that you had before, but in a different way.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

People are always going to judge. I receive that same ridicule, and that’s okay. I get it. I respect and understand it. I believe something different, and that’s okay. We can have different opinions. You can do your thing. I’m going to do my thing. When you approach it with values, integrity, morals, and respect for the organization in which you come from and proudly represent, and you do it “the right way,” whether someone wants to do something similar or not is irrelevant.

Not only is it okay for me to talk about some of the things I’ve been through, whether I’m trying to share knowledge or provide inspiration or it’s more therapeutic for myself. Not only is it okay, but it’s in my best interest and the best interest of others, whether it’s the others that I never know and we’ll never meet or the others being my wife, my kids, my teammates, and the people I care about. Not only should it be okay, but it’s an asset you have at your disposal.

We’re both blessed to have incredible spouses. We’re all blessed. We got a great sense of family. I remember when I was interviewing with the Board of the GVF. They said, “What’s your 30,000-foot overview review of the organization that we’ve been talking about for a couple of weeks?” I said, “We’ve got a great story as a foundation. More importantly, there is a historical story of the regimen. We’re not telling it.” They’re like, “You got to be careful about that.” I said, “No, it’s imperative that we tell the story for all those who have come back and not come back.”

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.For those of us like myself who’ve never served, we as civilians understand it, but more importantly, your children, kids, and future generations of your family understand it. We all had relatives who served in the World War II. For the longest time, my father-in-law thought his dad peeled potatoes in the Army. His dad was a member of the 82nd Airborne and jumped into France before the invasion. They never knew what his dad did. He was highly decorated because they didn’t talk about it.

That’s where we’ve fallen off with the understanding of the importance of storytelling, which is great because you have this show and there are others that are out there that are telling that story so people can understand. When they start to think about, “What do I want to do with my life?” The option of serving your country becomes the forethought of that conversation.

It doesn’t have to be the Army. We’d love it to be the Army or Special Forces, but it can be other branches. There are other ways to serve. That’s one of the things that we’re trying to strive to accomplish as a foundation to entice the younger generations to get excited about service and get young spouses to be supportive of their husbands or their wives if they decide to start to explore that and say, “That can make a cool life for us.”

Veterans’ impact doesn’t happen when they’re in the service. Somebody asked me a few weeks ago. They said, “What’s one of your top books?” It’s Objective Secure. My second favorite book was by a well-known author named David McCullough. He wrote a book called 1776. What’s he talking about? He’s talking about a group of people who came together, changed the world, and built the country.

Look at what our veterans after World War II did, and our Vietnam veterans who were disrespected but still went on to build amazing companies and serve in Congress. We have to think at a time when recruiting numbers are down, “What’s the impact on society? How’s it going to affect things several years from now?” We still need Veterans to come out of service successfully transitioned, take all those experiences, talk about them, and make our American society better. That’s the responsibility that we have.

There’s nothing better than supporting a Veteran in their business. There’s nothing better than seeing a veteran and a family who has served in a different way when their loved one was overseas excelling in their new civilian life or that next chapter. It is imperative that the location of the Army-Navy game is historic. It’s the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party for 250 years.

Everything else that has been accomplished in Massachusetts set forth the stored history of America. I was telling Travis Wilson earlier. The first soldier to fall at Bunker Hill was a Mohegan Indian. It wasn’t even an American. He had no rights that the Colonials had, but he believed what that idea could become. That has always stuck with me when I spent time with the Mohegan nation. They have a long, storied history of service. They said, “We weren’t even able to eat with those who are serving in the Continental Army.” Think about that. He still believed and saw the vision.

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

That’s where we have to get back to. We all have our differences. We all have our own political spectrums that we stand on. Everybody moved more to the right, left, and center. Greater things could be accomplished. The future of this country is incredibly bright and it’s because of those few people who choose to serve our nation.

I got two more questions, and we’re going to get our game on here. We got to get Nick over to his next cameo. What’s the focus now? We’re going to close out 2023. I can’t believe it. As we sit here in early December, by the time this airs will be into 2024, but what is the focus now in 2024, first for the foundation and second for you, Nick?

I quote General Braga when I was with him in Charlotte. Prior to that, it was after the terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas. He said to a group of about 85 entrepreneurs and executives, “Make no doubt about it. We’re living in a 1939 moment again. We do not have the luxury to sit back for a few more years and see how it plays out.”

The focus for the foundation in 2024 is to continue to care for the warfighter past and present and their families. It is to surge our activities in fundraising prowess to get ready for that conflict because it’s coming. We don’t know where and when, but we know because we know the history of the regiment,. It’s going to be those Green Berets are the first ones and the tip of the spear in the country already, embedding with the indigenous populations.Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.

When that phone rings, that proverbial statement of we’re going to pick it up, it’s not only that we’re going to pick it up, we’re going to be able to deploy the resources and the actions of the community and individuals like Travis Wilson, Jason, Walt Cooper, and all of our incredible board members and all of your former teammates that have been there. They’re going to want to mobilize around that community that’s taking that fight to the enemy. We’re going to be there. Whether it takes 12 or 18 months until that happens, or hopefully never, but when it does, and if it does, we’ll be there to support it. It’s a huge focus on surging our ability to raise more money.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to support the foundation, whether it’s through our awesome partnerships with Alpha Leap Performance, Team Machine, Dugout Mugs, or Heritage Distillery with the soft branded whiskey that they released in honor of the regiment, the reality of it is there are lots of different ways. You can support the Green Beret Foundation. That’s what we’re asking the community to do. It’s to become that force multiplier and part of that network. Let’s activate the network and leverage what we can do for the community.

Nick, what’s your priority in 2024 besides motivating me every day when I wake up and see your posts?

Green Beret Foundation CEO Charles Iacono and Nick Lavery join Fran Racioppi live from the Army Navy Game.My priority in 2024 is my family. That may go without saying, but it’s important for me to continuously remind myself of that as much as those of us who are fortunate to love what we do professionally and want to do it as often as possible. For those of us with family responsibilities, it’s important to keep that at the forefront of our minds.

That is step one. I left the team life. There’s a company Ops warrant. I write at a desk most of the time. You want to do the cool guy stuff forever. It runs its course. It’s amazing what I get to do now. I swore that I would be miserable doing any other job in the Army for the rest of my career. My wife will tell you. It turns out I was wildly wrong. I learned that. I have a lot to learn with that responsibility I have.

We’ve talked about transition. I’m in a fortunate position where not only do I know what my next purpose is beyond military service, but I get the chance to do it now, nights and weekends passion projects style. Watching that continue to build, the services we provide to our clients, and the work we get to do with our friends and partners is exciting. It’s a fun ride. I make mistakes as a business owner or entrepreneur daily. That’s the idea. Let’s get it wrong as often as early as possible because that’s where the lessons are learned.” I’m looking forward to ‘24. It’s going to be a fun ride.

It’s exciting. I love the same thing between the show and my company, FRsix. We’re doing it every day. It’s like, “I didn’t think about that.” Thanks for joining.

I appreciate it.


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