Some of the pages are funny. Many are emotional. And some are routine slices-of-life made more interesting by the passage of time. Some of the most moving are also the most stark: the dreaded, tersely written Western Union telegram from the War Department telling a mother that her child will not be coming home, or the awkward note from a young soldier trying to offer comfort to his best friend's widow.
Visitors to the site can look at the collected stories and artwork, as well as add their own to the archive that sponsors call living history. Company founder Christopher Michel, a Gulf War veteran, says the idea to create the business came to him at a military reunion. Some people were talking about their experiences and trying to get services they needed. "Other people, like good Navy people, were just complaining," says Michel. "It hit me like a ton of bricks that the Internet was made for this."
That was two years ago. Now the site claims 2 million unique visitors a month. Some go to connect with buddies through a personnel locator. Others go for help in obtaining services to which they're entitled. "I went to Harvard Business School and [even] I can't figure out a VA loan application," says Michel. There are links to 50,000 home pages, one for each different military unit, with its own mission, culture, and history.
The company has received investment funding, and its revenue model is set up to work in partnership with companies and organizations that wish to market to veterans, including the Department of Defense. Thirty percent of revenue comes from the Department of Defense, through lead generation of new recruits. Defense-oriented companies such as Lockheed-Martin are also working with the company to augment their own recruiting efforts. Michel says that's especially useful when seeking candidates who already have a security clearance: "It's more targeted than monster.com."