Maid Brigade offers a real Veterans' Day celebration

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When it comes to holidays, Veterans' Day really gets the short end of the stick. Wedged between the sugar shock of Halloween and the tryptophan coma of Thanksgiving, celebration of the eleventh day of the eleventh month usually involves department store sales and the occasional wreath at the local soldiers' monument. Needless to say, this is poor recompense for the men who, in the words of Allan Massie, "[make] it possible for civilized folk to despise war."

This year, however, Maid Brigade, an Atlanta-based cleaning company, decided to show its appreciation for America's fighting men with the Veterans Franchise Giveaway, a contest that is designed to help soldiers make the transition from military life to the civilian world. The program, which I reported on in August, rewards its grand prize winner with a full Maid Brigade cleaning franchise, valued at $45,000. Second and third prize winners get similar packages, worth $27,500 and $17,000. Additionally, Maid Brigade waived its franchise fee for any qualified veterans who were interested in going into business with the company.

Although the Veterans Franchise Giveaway was originally designed as a one-time program, Maid Brigade president Don Hay announced his plans to make it a yearly event: "Before we were finished, I was calling this the 'first annual' Maid Brigade Veterans Franchise Giveaway." In fact, Hay plans to extend the scope of the program, noting that "One of our judges, Ted Dewalt, is president of VetJobs.com. He suggested that we extend next year's contest to military spouses, members of the National Guard, and Wounded Warriors."

Hay's enthusiasm for the Giveaway lies, to a great extent, in the quality of applicants. Speaking of the program's finalists -- former Army Major Philip Thomas Piaget, former Air Force Captain Thomas McWorter, and former Chief Petty Officer Gerald Ziegler -- Hay noted how much he was impressed with their leadership skills, stating that "These guys make corporate managers look like amateurs." Hay pointed out that the military lifestyle, which encourages independent thinking within a structured system, was an outstanding fit for Maid Brigade.

Piaget, the contest's winner, was struck by this similarity when he first contemplated joining the company: "Working from 9 to 5 in a cubicle was something that I couldn't do. I cast a wide net and was drawn to Maid Brigade, because they had many of the same qualities that I had experienced in the military. Like the military, Maid Brigade combines freedom and structure." This smooth transition becomes particularly clear when one considers Piaget's career arc, which took him straight from the military to Maid Brigade. After high school, he enrolled as a private in the Army. Later, he attended Officer Candidate School and ultimately moved into the officer corps. In September, he retired after 20 years in uniform.

Like Hay, Piaget was also impressed by the program's participants. Asked if he saw his accomplishment as a win for the Army, he laughed: "Looking at my fellow finalists, I'm not sure that I would have picked me. They were a quality group of smart, smart people. I am humbled and excited."

From here, Piaget will enter into a three-stage training program that will prepare him to run his own Maid Brigade franchise. When asked if he intends to hire veterans, he was effusive, noting that he plans to work with the Wounded Warrior project -- which is designed to help severely wounded veterans re-enter civilian life -- and other programs designed to help spouses of military personnel find meaningful employment.

It looks like, with Piaget's help, Maid Brigade will be able to continue its support of America's veterans.

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