Sometimes, these GIs-turned-CEOs have gotten into rough spots. James Cayne, an Army veteran, led Bear Stearns right off a fiscal cliff. And Robert Benmosche, formerly of the Army Signal Corps, signed on in August to lead AIG out of the financial wilderness — and then this week allegedly told the board that hired him that he wanted to quit.
But quite often veterans are loyal and effective chief executives. A 2006 study by Korn/Ferrey International found that CEOs with military backgrounds both lasted longer than their totally civilian counterparts in the boss' chair and outperformed the S&P 500 index in periods of 3, 5, and 10 years prior.
Here is a list of the top 5 American veterans to have made their mark in the economic sector.
5. George Steinbrenner, Owner, New York Yankees
Branch of Service: Air Force.
Impact: It's certainly been tough for Yankees players through the years to deal with the Boss's military-inspired personal appearance rules. After making a mint in the family shipbuilding business, Mr. Steinbrenner has made it his business to bring World Series trophies to the Big Apple.
4. Jack Taylor, founder, Enterprise Rent-a-Car
Branch of Service: Navy
Impact: After dropping out of Washington University to fly fighter planes for the Navy in World War II, Taylor returned home to eventual take a life-changing risk: a 50 percent paycut to found a company that provided rental cars. Now, he's America's 36th richest person.
3. H. Ross Perot, technology pioneer
Branch of Service: Navy
Impact: After attending the U.S. Naval Academy, Mr. Perot founded and subsequently sold both Electronic Data Systems to GE in 1984 and Perot Systems, Inc. to Dell in 2009. Not to be content with a mountain of money, Perot mounted two presidential runs brandishing his business credentials and preaching the gospel of the unfettered marketplace.
2. Frederick Smith, Founder and CEO, FedEx
Branch of Service: Marines.
Impact: The legend has it that Fred Smith wrote a paper about overnight delivery methods for an undergraduate course at Yale - and got a C. Two tours of duty in Vietnam and nearly 40 years of FedEX later, Smith did much to change the way America gets its mail.
1. Josue Robles, Jr., CEO of financial services and insurance firm USAA
Branch of Service: Army
Impact: Mr. Robles led USAA out of 2008 with a profit while other firms crashed and burned. Veterans make up 21 percent of USAA's workforce, a total that, after the company's recent success, Robles, a former two-star general, wants to see go higher. "I’m upping the recruiting goals to bring more of those kind of people into the company,” he told GI Magazine.