By MARIA ALVAREZ – Special to Newsday
Ten years after he fought in the invasion of Iraq, Army veteran Joe Krulder of Massapequa was still fighting for his life here at home.
Krulder, 34, Wednesday recapped his recovery from battle trauma and homelessness to a new career at a Wall Street firm that hires and trains war veterans for lucrative high-finance jobs.
The firm, Drexel Hamilton, does not hire Harvard, Princeton and other Ivy League business graduates, it hires veterans instead. They are trained by a cadre of senior Wall Street financial experts with decades of experience from the Street’s top firms.
“These people work hard. They are the Joes of the world who deserve to buy a home for their families and have a decent shot at the American dream,” said James Cahill, 76, president of Drexel Hamilton, who has 45 years of Wall Street experience.
Drexel Hamilton has 69 employees; 31 are veterans and another 14 are disabled veterans.
Krulder was down and out when he came to Drexel Hamilton a year ago. “I was sleeping in my car; getting food wherever I could get it, and doing what I could to get a job,” he said.
Krulder, with a business degree from SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx, enlisted in the Army several months before 9/11. At 22, he was deployed with the 101st Airborne Division. He fought in the Battle of Najaf, Iraq, where armed forces seized the city to root out Saddam Hussein loyalists. He then went on to fight in Mosul to do the same.
In 2004, he returned from war to find himself tracked into law enforcement jobs. “I was trading in my military armor for a police vest,” said Krulder, who saw the possibility of his post-traumatic stress disorder flare up in his police job at the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, which encompasses the Daytona Beach, Fla., area.
“I got out before I got into trouble,” he said from his firm’s Wall Street trading-floor office in lower Manhattan, where he’s now an assistant vice president.
Krulder left law enforcement to manage a California factory, where he was later laid off. His family went to Illinois to be with his in-laws while he went to look for work in New York.