7-Eleven, Inc. Celebrates Military Appreciation Month

7-Eleven, Inc. employee shares his thoughts on Military Appreciation Month and his unique journey

Devon—Senior Real Estate Development Manager

Devon—Senior Real Estate Development Manager

“I mow a lot of grass,” laughs Devon, referring to the 60 acres of a former hunting preserve surrounding the house that he, his wife Tara and 11-year-old son Gabriel call home. Located in a small South Carolina town (pop. 286) in York County, he’s a long way from Duncan, British Columbia, where the Michigan native grew up. But he’s still an avid fisherman, whether it be kayaking locally for redfish or drift-fishing for salmon. As a family, they also enjoy camping with their two terrier puppies and beagle-chihuahua mix.

On his role at 7-Eleven…

Our eight-member team is responsible for all new organic store growth in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and the District of Columbia. We source opportunities with developers and property owners up and down the southern coast and the Mid-Atlantic region to refurbish or relocate existing stores and build new ones as well.

On his 20-year career in the military…

I enlisted in the U.S. Army right out of high school. Moving around, being separated from your family, often getting posted to high-stress environments, are all parts of the military lifestyle. I did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and served in a multitude of other duty stations in Korea, Germany, the Middle East, along with several stateside assignments. I met my wife while I was deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom One and Two, and we were married shortly after I returned from combat. Within a year, I was deployed back to Iraq for a 16-month tour, and then was immediately assigned to Fort Bliss in Texas as a First Sergeant to an Air Defense Artillery Battalion. That lasted two-and-a-half years and unfortunately, due to my wife's career as a forensic scientist, she was unable to accompany me.

But then I was blessed to be transferred to Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state, which is where our home was. Within 10 months, however, I was sent to Afghanistan for a year. So overall, in our first 10 years of marriage, I was either deployed or on maneuvers. Needless to say, it took a while for us to find a good marital balance. But we did!

On the other challenges of being a service member’s family…

Service members have it easier than their families. We knew what we signed up for and understood the risks, but our families didn’t. While we’re deployed, they’re often left in a position of wondering if we’re okay. They mostly see the bad on the news, which puts them in a constant state of worry.

Our families also deal with the aftermath of our experiences when we return. No matter what anyone says, service members aren’t the same after a combat tour. Our nerves are frayed, we have nightmares, survivors’ guilt and often have trouble dealing with being back in civilization. For instance, if you get in a car with someone who’s recently returned from combat, you’ll notice how they tense up going through intersections, how we look up at overpasses and get nervous about being boxed in by traffic. Our families deal with all of these issues without fully understanding what caused them. It’s an everyday struggle that takes a huge toll on relationships.

On whether enough is being done to support military families…

I think that the support military families received back in the days of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom is starting to wane. No question, there are still a lot of great organizations doing phenomenal things for our military families. But I fear that society in general is starting to forget the sacrifices our service members and their families have made and continue to make. I can honestly understand this since major combat operations have ended and therefore the military is not a daily feature of the news cycle.

On transitioning to the corporate world…

When I decided to leave the military, I was originally looking for a role with the federal government either with the Customs Border Patrol (CBP) or the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as I didn’t think my military experience would fit well in the corporate business world. But at a military hiring fair, I had the benefit of being approached by one of 7-Eleven’s Market Leaders, Dave Strachan (now Senior Vice President, Fresh Foods), and he showed me that my military leadership skills were not only a good fit for the corporate world but were highly coveted. Dave is also a veteran, so hearing that from him really helped me on my journey. Honestly, had it not been for Dave, I’m not sure where I would’ve landed! I’ve always been grateful that he helped me start this great journey with 7-Eleven.

Anything else you’d like to share about your journey?

I was blessed to serve in the Armed Forces. It was an honor and a privilege. Those with whom I served are absolutely some of the greatest people this country has to offer, and I’m humbled every day by their sacrifices. Especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I served with a lot of incredible people who never made it home and I think of how keenly their absence must be felt around the dinner table and during holidays. Their sacrifice makes me work to be a better person and to try not to take life for granted.