By Lisa Gattie
President Ronald Reagan once said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don’t have that problem.”
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. David A. Rababy, retired, a Lake Caroline resident, doesn’t have to wonder if he’s making a difference.
Rababy was awarded the 2014 Small Business Veteran of the Year on May 14 at the University of Mary Washington Graduate Center in Fredericksburg. As President and CEO of Rababy & Associates (R&A) LLC, a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, Rababy met the guiding principles necessary to win this award. He exuded the principles of passion and commitment to his enterprise, showed leadership within his industry, proved success through sustainability and growth, and a dedication toward his community.
Established in 2007, Rababy and his team form a consulting service for customers such as the federal government and related agencies, as well as industry. They gather unclassified information using multiple sources, primarily Internet based, and perform predictive analysis on that information, creating the intelligence needed for their customer.
“It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together without knowing what the final picture will look like,” said Rababy.
The team, fondly referred to as his “kids,” is comprised of either Wounded Warriors or Disabled American Veterans (DAV) who are recruited and trained through the Disabled Veteran Intelligence Program (DVIP). Because of their military background, these employees have a familiarity and expertise necessary to satisfy their customers’ requests.
Rababy, former board member of the Marine Executive Association (MEA), believes in the MEA’s mission and carries that mission on through R&A with the DVIP. The MEA helps retired and current active duty Marines find employment and transition back to reserve or retired status.
“It’s a way of paying it forward,” said Rababy.
R&A’s employees currently represent three branches of the military.
After more than 27 years of military service, Rababy possesses an impressive resume of knowledge and experience to offer his customers. A Marine Air/Ground Task Force Intelligence Officer, he was enlisted in the infantry for six years, served as a Senior Intelligence Officer for 22 years and worked as both an interrogator and an interpreter. He was a Foreign Area Officer specializing in language and culture and advised commanding generals with his extensive knowledge.
During his military career, he was deployed during Operations Desert Shield and Storm in Kuwait, where he served as a Marine Forces Liaison Officer between American and Saudi units. He endured combat during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia as a Ground Combat Element Intelligence Officer and also during Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he served as an interpreter.
“If you want to know what the world will look like at its end, go to Mogadishu,” said Rababy, recalling his time in Somalia. “It was surreal.”
He describes the scene with death and terror everywhere. People were shot at all the time. Often soldiers slept on the ground and suffered from extreme heat and fatigue. Soldiers had to be resourceful in how they handled themselves, their gear, and their Meals Ready-to Eat (MREs) to survive. These conditions of constant heightened awareness made many Marines hypervigilant.
This hypervigilance, a behavior soldiers often return home with, is a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder Rababy is passionate about. He helps soldiers recover, or at least be able to cope with this challenge enough so they can remain productive members of society.
Not coincidentally, many of these suffering veterans are often unemployed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its annual review earlier this year of former members of the armed services, veterans aged 18-24 have an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent. In addition, there is a military veteran who commits suicide every 65 minutes, according to a study on veteran suicides from 1999-2010 by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“It’s really an epidemic,” said Rababy.
Perhaps even more than building his business, Rababy’s mission is helping this cause. He works through R&A and as a member of multiple related associations such as the DAV, the Marine Corps League, and the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NVOBA) at making a difference.
He has briefed senators and congressmen to help influence agencies to support and hire veterans. He is also on the Board of Directors for the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) where he hopes to connect those suffering with PTSD with a pet for therapeutic purposes.
Acceptance, patience, challenge, and gratitude are actions the community can do to help these veterans transition back, according to Rababy. “Spend time with the warfighter. Give them an opportunity to vent or share their soul.”