LtCol Michael Zacchea, US Marine Corps (ret.)

Co-founder and Executive Director for Entrepreneurship
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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. 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. 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.

In 2009, Mike founded the UConn Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, through which he has helped veterans start more than 130 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. Mike founded the CT Veterans Chamber of Commerce 501(c)6 organization in 2013, and the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce in 2017. Mike was appointed to Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs for the Small Business Administration in 2018.

Mike 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. 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 lives in rural northwest Connecticut.

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