Retired Marine Shares Transition Tips for the Military with Tony White

Put your mind to it and work hard.

We’ve all heard similar words since we were children.

Because having the right work ethics help us make the right decisions for ourselves.

And especially people, who’ve succeeded despite many hardships growing up, say that their success was due their work ethic.

And who could explain how to develop the right work ethic better than a veteran who served his country for many years.

In this episode, Tony White shares how to thrive in hard times, and a simple tip to make better decisions.

Listen now.

Show highlights include: 

  • The work ethic that turns hardships in your life into your biggest achievements ([2:08])
  • How to adapt to new responsibilities (even if they are the opposite of what you expected) ([8:18])
  • One simple, yet effective habit to end bad decisions you regret ([12:59])

How networking with the right people can be a short cut to changing your career


Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? Welcome to “Retire in Texas”, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the State of Texas—and, now, here’s your host, financial advisor, author, and all-around good Texan, Darryl Lyons.

Darryl: Hey, this is Darryl Lyons, CEO and co-founder of PAX Financial Group. I’m glad you tuned in today. Just want to make sure that you are aware of our disclosure before we get started. This information is general nature only. It’s not intended to provide specific tax, investment, or legal advice. Visit PAXFinancialGroup.com, and PAX Financial Group is the sponsor of this program, so be sure to visit them.

Also, if you want, you can text “TEXAS” to the number 74868, and we’ll have an advisor connect with you that has a heart of a teacher. It’s a 15-minute consult. It doesn’t cost you anything. We find that to be a refreshing way to engage with us, so 74868, “TEXAS”. [01:08].7]

Absolutely love having those that served our country on the program today, so today, we have Tony white. Thank you for coming on board.

Tony: It’s my pleasure.

Darryl: I look forward to talking with you. We’ve known each other for a while now.

Tony: Almost 10 years.

Darryl: Yeah, sinking in. I’ve seen you and connected with you on social media, but the other thing is we went fishing together.

Tony: Right, yeah, last year.

Darryl: It was fun.

Tony: It was fun.

Darryl: I did pretty good. I mean, all I do is the guy tells me where to throw the … but, hey, the guides did good.

Tony: Yes, they did very well and it was amazing how many men from the church showed up for that, so it was a wonderful experience.

Darryl: Are y’all going to do that again or what do you think?

Tony: I’m no longer at that church. I’m actually at Mission City Church.

Darryl: Oh, yeah.

Tony: And we’ve started talking about doing the same thing.

Darryl: Yeah. I wasn’t even a member of that church. I was just invited, so yeah. [02:00].7]

Tony: Yeah, and you guys did really good.

Darryl: Yeah, it was a blast.

Tony: I thought you guys were stacking the deck a little bit. You got the ringers in, the pros from Dover.

Darryl: You know it’s funny, funny, not funny, my dad, he loves fishing and he got Covid right at the tail end of that trip.

Tony: Oh, no.

Darryl: Yeah, so he was passed out in the back of the truck the whole way back.

Tony: The drive home, yeah.

Darryl: Yeah, yeah. That was a great experience, but let’s get into your life a little bit more and retirement and kind of what you’re doing now, what you’re doing, what your ambitions are going forward, because what I love about knowing you and your family is you still have a love for our country and you still want to serve, and so we’ll get into that. But let’s get into kind of where you’re from. Are you originally from Texas?

Tony: No, I’m originally from East Los Angeles and grew up there in single-parent home. My dad had passed away when I was an infant and my mom raised me and my other brothers as a single parent. So, I really took away a work ethic from my mom, because she just said, “Hey, look, you can do anything you want in this country. Put your mind to it and you work hard,” and so that was the big takeaway from her. [03:08].8]

Darryl: That’s a good momma. Now, when people say East L.A., I have a different vision in my mind of what East LA looks like.

Tony: The hood.

Darryl: Is it? Is it? Is it? I mean, because it’s just … that’s a big … but it is. That’s what I think about it, it’s the hood.

Tony: Yes, it’s one big cement slab, and now it is, for sure, but there used to be a break between San Clemente and San Diego. There was a little bit of green grass growing. But it is really one big cement slab out there now. In East Los Angeles, lived right near the rail line and there was a dairy and a bakery just on the other side of the block from us. There was a rough neighborhood and, eventually, I was able to talk my mom into moving out of that neighborhood.

Darryl: What does your mom do?

Tony: Originally, she worked as a nursing assistant in a hospital. That’s how she actually met my dad. [04:00].0]

Darryl: Okay.

Tony: And then, later on, she became a cooks assistant in a nursing home and, eventually, went to a junior college, got her certifications to become a nutritionist, and so she has a great success story of her going from cook’s assistant all the way to running the kitchen and being the dietetic supervisor for the nursing home.

Darryl: She’s got grit, huh?

Tony: She was a wonderful role model and she’s my hero, because like I’d mentioned earlier, we grew up in the hood and she put the fear of God in us very quickly that “Look, don’t off ramp your life and the skills and blessings that God has given you to get involved with gang banging or drugs, or anything like that.” So, you really just created an environment where you didn’t want to let her down.

Darryl: Yeah, that’s healthy. Your dad passed away at what age?

Tony: He was 54. I was three months old at the time? [05:00].3]

Darryl: Wow, that’s tough.

Tony: Yeah.

Darryl: And then, I’m assuming not a lot of people at that time had life insurance, right? So, she didn’t get a big windfall of money to set you guys up.

Tony: Right. My dad worked for Sealy Corporation. He had an eighth-grade education. He was a Texan, and right after World War II when he was released from his active service, he picked up or loaded up to his pickup truck and moved to L.A. to find work, and he used to work on the machines that created the mattresses. They’re at the Sealy plant.

Darryl: Oh, wow. Sealy is still around today.

Tony: Yeah.

Darryl: When you see Sealy, do you think of your dad?

Tony: I do.

Darryl: Yeah, I’d imagine so. Wow, that’s tough. So, when you graduated high school, assuming so, you went where? 

Tony: I joined the Marine Corps.

Darryl: Right away? [05:50].0]

Tony: My original plan was I was going to enlist right out of high school, but right towards the end of my senior year, I was encouraged to take the SAT and I had gone on a Tiger Cruise with the Navy Junior ROTC that was at my high school, and it was an amphibious ship. So, that experience, I was like, Wow. I’d met Marines and I was like, I want that. I want that determination and direction that those guys just carry with them.

So, at the last moment, I applied to California Lutheran University and I was on a four-year plan and went through college. I called my recruiter my freshman year, and at that time, they didn’t have internet or anything, so I just called him and said, “My name is Tony White. I’m going to be a Marine officer someday. When is it good to come and visit you, Tuesday or Thursday?” He was like, Wow, tiger, okay, let’s set something up.

Darryl: Nice. My grandfather was a survivor of Iwo Jima, so I always had been endeared to the Marines. In fact, above the ceiling of PAX, a lot of people don’t know, we have just to honor those that served, we have the sands of Iwo Jima in our roof – [07:09].0]

Tony: Oh.

Darryl: – that we got. Anyway, we certainly honor those that have served. A lot of Air Force, of course, in San Antonio.

Tony: Sure.

Darryl: And even I think of California, a lot of Air Force. You enlisted and then, of course, that was just a different era, man. That was like, they were for real, so you had your boot camp.

Tony: Right. It was the start of the Reagan buildup, and so I went through college, graduated in 1983 with a Communication Arts major, and enlisted or took my commission at that particular time, and then reported that fall, fall of ’83, and I started my journey now as a second lieutenant.

Darryl: Okay.

Tony: Yeah, so I attended the Basic School, which is where all marine officers go as a grounding, it’s a six-month course, and then from there went on to my primary MOS school, which was infantry, and so I stayed right there for an additional two months of intensive infantry training and then reported to North Carolina where I joined my first unit. [08:18].0]

Darryl: Wonderful. Were you ever stationed overseas? 

Tony: For my first four years, I deployed either for a six-month rotation to Okinawa, Japan, and while there, we also went up, we were four months on Okinawa, two months in Fuji at Camp Fuji. And then when I came back, deployed back out for training, a month here, a month there, and then had the opportunity to join a unit because of my Spanish-speaking capability, and so I went to Latin America and we were training crews, embarked aboard ship, which was just an awesome experience and I did that for about four and a half months straight, both on the Atlantic, Caribbean and the Pacific sides. [09:02].7]

Darryl: What a journey. And how many years were you in active duty?

Tony: My career was split between active and reserve. When we won the Cold War at the end of the ’80s, they pink-slipped a bunch of us and encouraged us to join the reserves, and so that’s what I did, so about 17.5 years of active duty cumulative. I was mobilized six times in my career due to presidential recall, either Gulf War 1, Gulf War 11, war on terrorism, peacekeeping in Yugoslavia, and other times, they just brought me on and gave me additional drill dates so that I could support things like the federal response to the L.A. riots.

Darryl: Was it mostly intel?

Tony: No, the first 10 years, I was an infantry officer, and then the next 22 years, I was an intel officer.

Darryl: That’s what I was thinking, yeah, okay, so that matches up with where my timeline was going. So, when they had you as a reserve, when they called you, it was for intel purposes or was it various jobs attached? [10:06].8]

Tony: First mobilization, I was an infantry officer still, I was a captain, and they designed me to do casualty notification and be responsible for that in the nine Midwestern states. So, I was based out of Kansas City and I was just scratching my head saying, “You know, what am I doing here?”

Darryl: Oh my gosh.

Tony: “I should be toward the sound of the guns. That’s what most Marines tilt towards.” But at the same time, in my heart, I knew God puts you in places because that’s where he wants you to serve and with that type of– if you’ve ever seen the movie with Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance, where he escorts a body home for burial, that’s the type of work I was doing. Although I was an infantry guy, I wasn’t doing infantry work. [10:57].3]

And right after that assignment, I had the opportunity to cross over to the intel community. They wanted guys and gals with operational experience, so the infantry guys, tankers, artillery, and aviators, and they figured because we had been in those roles, we would better support the operators in the future. We were fixing our intelligence within the Marine Corps.

Darryl: That makes sense. Now, did you communicate with the widows directly?

Tony: I did.

Darryl: I say widows. It could have been mothers, yeah.

Tony: Right, moms. We had the responsibility for notifying either primary or secondary next of kin, and so it was not as busy as we thought we were going to be in the First Gulf War. The briefings that we got to prepare really concerned us. We thought we were going to be very stretched.

Darryl: Oh, I see.

Tony: But, luckily, Saddam Hussein did not use chemical weapons on us when we went over the berm, and because of our air superiority, we were able to quickly bring that particular engagement to a close. [12:06].8]

Darryl: Certainly. There’s all these exit ramps I want to take with you, because it’s hard to prove a negative, but I often think if you guys had not done that, what would have happened?

Tony: Boy, this is only a 30-minute program, right? It’s when you allow individuals to do things like what he had done in invading Kuwait, you embolden, if you let them continue, and so I’m always a big proponent of peace through power. And it’s not that you want to use your military. It’s not that our military wants to go to war. But we know that we’ve signed up and that is a potential, and we are an extension of foreign policy and we’ll try everything up to kinetics, if that’s what it takes, but at some point, that’s what you need to do. [12:59].0]

Darryl: Yeah, I can only imagine, and I haven’t read enough about it, but I can only imagine if he would have had free rein, the lives that would have been lost. Last night, I was reading a book on Eisenhower in the way he made decisions, and it just blows me away. You don’t ever have– and looking in retrospect, you can question everything all the time, but at the time, you don’t have all the information. You have to make judgment calls and you have to lean on principles and your faith, which I’m sure you did all throughout your career.

Tony: Absolutely. I would say that, at the beginning of my Marine Corps career, I was in great physical shape and I had a good mind that helped me work through difficult issues, but I was really self-centered and there were times where I didn’t pursue God’s direction in my life. [13:51].1]

After I got out from my first four years of active duty, I rededicated my life and, at that particular time, I’d really make every decision after I pray to God, and since I’ve been married for 32-plus years, my wife and I really do seek direction through prayer and discussion between her and myself.

Darryl: I don’t know, I find it to be a challenge to not have that, so I’m glad to hear that you have that and it’s integrated into your decision-making in your life. There’s always a challenge when you move from active duty even as a reservists to go into the civilian world because the just the cadence. The communication is just … everything is awkward. What would you suggest to those who are considering making that transition, how to do that in a way that’s a little less frustrating for them?

Tony: For sure. I had a parallel dual career track going. I was a reservist one weekend out of the month, two weeks out of the year, the more traditional type of reserve requirements, and then I was called back to active duty, usually as an individual as opposed to as part of a unit because of my intelligence background. [15:08].0]

When I wasn’t doing marine things, I was in the medical industry, and when I retired 10 years ago, this year, actually, it was my hope to actually go back into that industry because that’s where I was mobilized from after the attacks on 9/11, and I loved the job I was doing. I was a global marketing manager.

I developed OR equipment by speaking with physicians and engineers, and then coming up from a conceptual idea to hard electronics that were manipulating the electromagnetic spectrum. That was just a very gratifying job because I knew the things we were bringing to the market were going to help people in the OR with medical conditions that they had. [16:02].8]

Because I had been in and out of active duty, I knew how to write a resume, I knew how to research. Obviously, as the internet proliferated, it became much easier, but the power of networking with people, either people that are just a little farther down the pathway that you are, and asking them for guidance is always beneficial. They can provide you rudder direction that would help you.

There have been many times where I’ve met Marines and other service members here in the San Antonio area, where somebody has introduced us and I start trying to pick their brain a little bit and understand what is it you want to do. Remember, your service time in your particular military service is not ever going to be replicated in the civilian world? It’s very hard to do that.

Darryl: That’s a great point. I know a little bit about what you’ve done in kind of the political landscape. Is that something you’re going to look at going forward or what does the next chapter for you guys look like? [17:05].8]

Tony: Again, prayers always and guidance from God. I would hope someday that, if there’s an opportunity to serve, that I’ll get that opportunity and God will open those doors. I’m trusting on Him to do that. But, yeah, I did run for Congress. There were actually 16 or 17 of us running in the Chip Roy one, and Chip does a phenomenal job for us here in District 21, and I help advise him on military and veteran issues so that he has that understanding and can help legislate better laws to support either a national security issue or veteran benefits.

Darryl: That’s great. I suspect that will continue in some capacity, Lord willing.

Tony: Absolutely, Lord willing.

Darryl: YH. There’s so much more I want to ask, but obviously, we’re coming to a close. We might have to do this again. One last question before we end. What’s your favorite salsa? [18:05].8]

Tony: I would say pico de gallo.

Darryl: Yeah.

Tony: But my mom did teach me how to cook a little bit in the kitchen, so sometimes it’s just salsa roja, red salsa.

Darryl: Yeah.

Tony: I’m a fan of all salsa. In fact, when my mom was trying to wean me, she stuck my fingers in chili, and then when I stuck my thumb in my mouth, I actually licked the chili off and would put my fingers out asking her, “Give me some more.”

Darryl: Oh, yeah, okay, that tells me a lot right there. Does your body still handle the hot?

Tony: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Fortunately, health wise, nothing wrong with the GI tract.

Darryl: Good for you. This has been a pleasure and an honor, so thank you for serving and thank you for continuing to serve.

Tony: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Darryl: And everyone who stayed tuned to the end, I appreciate it. I continue to get incredible feedback from you guys, so keep sending it. Any ideas for the shows, any feedback, anything you’d like to hear, certainly, email me, darryl@paxfg.com.

Again, if you need to speak to an advisor, text “TEXAS” to 74868. That’s “TEXAS” to 74868. Appreciate you hanging in there, and remember, you think different when you think long term. Have a great day.

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