Executive Director, United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Mike Zacchea was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1990. He deployed to Somalia for OPERATION RESTORE HOPE and to Haiti for OPERATION SUPPORT DEMOCRACY. He served as operations officer and executive officer of a Marine recruiting station. He commanded two artillery batteries and served as a battalion assistant operations officer. He served a second tour on recruiting duty in the northeastern US. In March 2004, as a major, he deployed to Iraq for OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM II. His mission was to build, train, and lead in combat the first Iraqi army battalion trained by the US military. After an initial 4-month training period, he led the Iraqi battalion in combat operations for 8 months. The battalion participated in OPERATION PHANTOM FURY, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah. The battalion spent 6 weeks in urban combat and accomplished a number of historical firsts for the Iraqi army. During the battle, Mike was wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade. As a result of his wounds, Mike has been medically retired.
Mike’s military awards include the Bronze Star Medal (with Valor device) (with gold star in lieu of 2nd award), the Purple Heart Medal, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, and numerous unit and campaign awards. Mike was also the first and at the time only American recognized by the Iraqi government by the Order of the Lion of Babylon.
In 2009, Mike founded the UConn Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, through which he has helped veterans start more than 140 businesses. Mike helped form a non-profit organization of military advisers in 2006 to help Iraqi interpreters immigrate to the United States, known nationally as Netroots: the List Project. He served on a multi-agency cross-disciplinary working group chaired by the CT Dept of Veterans Affairs focusing on veteran reintegration, education, training, and workforce re-entry issues. Mike founded the CT Veterans Chamber of Commerce 501(c)6 organization in 2013. Since 2013, the Chamber has successfully lobbied and helped pass a number of laws promoting veterans workforce reintegration and access to healthcare in CT. He was recognized as the 2012 Veterans Business Champion by the Small Business Administration, and inducted into the UConn School of Business Hall of Fame. Mike serves on several veterans advisory boards for elected officials. Mike was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs for the Small Business Administration in 2015, and in 2018 became the Chairman and was re-appointed to a three year term, advising the Administrator on policies and issues affecting more than 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses producing more than $1.2 trillion in GDP.
Mike is a frequent guest speaker in the media, and has been featured in several books and documentaries addressing the Iraq War, Iraqi refugee issues, and veterans’ issues, including the acclaimed documentary Thank You For Your Service, winner of the 2016 GI Film Festival “best documentary” award. Mike was also a technical consultant on the theatrical release of the 2016 movie “Man Down.” Mike’s critically acclaimed memoir The Ragged Edge: A US Marine’s Account of Leading the Iraqi Army Fifth Battalion was published by the Chicago Review Press in 2017. Mike is the author of “Veteran’s Advocacy: the Fight for Social Justice and Healing Through Activism” in Healing War Trauma: A Handbook of Creative Approaches (Routledge: 2012) and of “Social Entrepreneurship Solution for Veterans’ Reintegration through Entrepreneur Training for Disabled Veterans” in Social Entrepreneurship as a Catalyst for Social Change (Infoage: 2013). Mike presented “Managing Trauma in the War Theater” to the International Congress of Stress and Trauma Management in 2013.
Mike earned an MBA from the School of Business at the University of Connecticut.