Gear ɡir/ noun 1.
one of a set of toothed wheels that work together to alter the relation between the speed of a driving mechanism (such as the engine of a vehicle or the crank of a bicycle) and the speed of the driven parts (the wheels).
I truly enjoy speaking to veterans who are passionate about their business and especially when their business provides something worthy to the military or law enforcement community. Enter Steve D’Amico of Broken Gear Wear clothing line. I was introduced to Steve after I wrote an article about another company for Spotter Up. I called Steve immediately and found he was chill and easy to talk to yet he was laser focused on building his brand, Broken Gear.
Right off the bat I asked Steve to tell me about his company. In a nutshell Broken Gear Wear is an athletic clothing line and it’s geared towards disabled veterans athletes, disabled athletes and their supporters. The company’s motto is “I am Broken, not Beaten” and features T-shirts with sayings such as “I am Broken and I play,” or “… and I ride,” or “… and I run,” plus hats and stickers with the Broken Gear logo. The company also provides custom apparel to Veteran owned businesses and to Veteran based not for profit organizations.
Anyone who has ever served in the military likely knows a fellow service member who was severely injured to the point where the service member was forced to retire. Being injured is not a good place to be in and, for those who need to navigate the maze that is the Veteran’s Administration, it can alter your head-space.
What if the injury happened to you? Well, that’s what happened to Steve, founder of Broken Gear, as he was faced with a career altering disability. Some broken gears can simply be replaced, but a human being’s way of life cannot. What was Steve to do now?
It’s interesting to note that many veterans go into a career, believing they will retire with the branch they started out with, yet instead are forced to retire because of an injury. They have to find meaning somewhere else. The job that was meant to be theirs for a duration of 20 or 30 years is cut short. Steve ended up having an injury that forced him to retire from an Active Duty position within the Rhode Island Air National Guard, after 18 years. His job was with the National Guard Counterdrug Program, and duties included working with anti drug coalitions, police departments, as well as educating local youths on the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
Steve’s injury occurred in March of 2010 when he slipped on black ice and suffered a spiral fracture that spun up his left fibula. This required surgery, a steel plate and a number of screws to hold it all together “The pain never really went away,” he said, “apparently because my ankle can’t properly rotate.” He was eventually diagnosed with a frayed peroneal tendon, which has a very low success rate in regards to surgical corrections. Often times, surgery can make the pain and condition worse.
Steve needed to find a substitute for his old way of life and doing “things” with a new one. Before his injury, Steve had played hard-contact sports such as kickboxing, rugby and hockey where players are prone to being injured. Because Steve engaged in many of these kinds of activities, it helped him create something beneficial to others that were hurt too. Having injuries meant life might be a bit more difficult for Steve yet he wasn’t going to let it stop him from being active nor resilient.
Steve was broken and knew it. He stated, “We were all gears in the war machine, and some of those gears were broken.” So what was next for him? He decided to create a business and sought to create a brand that empowered veterans by creating work centers and meaningful careers for veterans. Steve ended up being able to attend the University of Connecticut’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. It was at this bootcamp where he solidified the concept for Broken Gear. The name of the company, along with sayings such as, “I am Broken and I Play” shows Steve’s positive attitude, and how he wants to affect others to be fighters and not quitters. Those who are “Broken” can look upon the injury as something that connects them with others-therefore creating community.
He stated, “I want to build the business, build the brand and get the proverbial gears turning.”
He sent me a couple of cool items that I can wear. A killer looking t-shirt, a ball cap and probably the coolest thing Broken Gear creates is the Broken Gear Bag, a fabric pocket that can fasten to a wheelchair or a belt. The pocket is made from decommissioned camouflage uniforms and was created by Steve after he read a story about a Veteran whose prosthetic hand wouldn’t fit into his pants pocket. That tells you a lot about where Steve’s heart is-he wants to help veterans.
As the business develops, D’Amico plans to hire “Broken” Veterans to work in an environment that is the antithesis of corporate America’s dog eat dog world. This model will closely resemble the teamwork and camaraderie found in the military, and to a lesser degree, on athletic teams. Using familiar tools such as an S.O.P, or an Org. Chart will allow the new team member to assimilate into a familiar environment.
Steve does not burden himself with the corporate moniker of “President”, or “CEO”. Instead, he prefers the term “Team Captain” Using a hockey analogy he states, “We are all part of this team, but I wear the C on my jersey. But as a captain, you have to be willing to go into the corners, do some dirty work and get beat up a little. That is my leadership philosophy. If we are not working as a team, we lose.”
Steve already knows that life is full of obstacles but feeling broken is a mindset that can be changed. Broken gears can be changed out too. It looks as if Steve D’Amico paid attention when cartoonist and humorist Charles Schulz spoke. Schulz, no stranger to military service, served as a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe, and as a squad leader on a .50 caliber machine gun team. He stated,“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.”
With the right attitude a veteran can go far. Let’s watch him put his company into the right gear, and let him go.