In just a few short days, Veterans Day will be upon us — a day very dear to me. As the son of a Navy veteran, I understand the trials and tribulations military families go through, not only during active duty but after they leave service to start new lives and be with their families.
While many citizens will likely go on about their day, this is a day where I reflect and challenge myself as a business leader. I believe it is crucial for businesses to support the dreams and aspirations of those who unselfishly sacrifice for our freedoms.
As a community, we show great support for our military. However, as business leaders, we must ask the tough question: Are we doing enough through our business networks to support those who have served in the military and their families?
I recently heard the phrase, “are you veteran-friendly or veteran-ready?” Meaning, what steps are you taking to ensure our veterans are not only welcomed, but also actively included? Certainly, hiring those who served in the military is vital for stronger community integration. Placing good veteran candidates with employers is an economic boost for all. After a veteran has a good job, the question that is then specific to my business becomes — what does homeownership look like for a veteran?
As a mortgage lender, Gateway is a strong supporter of VA loans. This year alone, we have almost tripled the number of VA loans closed over previous years. Gateway will close over $400 million in VA loans across the country, with millions of those loans located in our greater Tulsa area. We believe that we can best help strengthen the veteran population through homeownership, and our communities are stronger for it. Every economic indicator says that when people own homes, they invest in their local community.
Specific to Gateway and what products we offer our customers, I consider how VA Loans are helping our veteran population. For instance, on a federal level, H.R 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, allows homebuyers to use a VA loan instead of a conventional jumbo loan when they want to borrow above the conforming loan limit. It also eliminates burdensome regulations, allowing those who served in the military to put down permanent roots in our community.
Not only should homeownership be available to those who gave up so much to defend our freedom, but they should rest easy knowing they won’t lose their home if they fall on hard times. Gateway supports the service member Civil Relief Act that protects active-duty service members from several debt collection initiatives.
Additionally, we partner with Owasso-based Folds of Honor to provide educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members. Gateway donates $5 for every closed loan across the country as one more way to give back to those who have given so much.
As a native Oklahoman, I am proud to lead a company that encourages homeownership to strengthen communities and families. We have made great strides in being a veteran-friendly and a veteran-ready community.
I urge all Tulsa business leaders to take a stand with me and renew our commitment to veterans as we approach Nov. 11. Together, we can give back to those who have already given so much to us.
Stephen Curry is chairman and CEO of Gateway First Bank and Gateway Mortgage.