Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and weddings — these are among the millions of memories that the men and women of our armed forces forfeit when they serve in wartime. But what happens when the uniform comes off for the last time? What comes next?

The greatest legacy of our recent wars and other persistent conflicts will be rooted in the post-service aspirations and achievements of those who fought. While many veterans will pursue higher education or a meaningful trade, we are committing today to develop and expand training and mentoring programs to empower those who find a calling in creating their own jobs, joining the millions of veterans who came before them as business owners.

To that end, we recently announced a seven-year, $7 million partnership to leverage the corporate resources and expertise of small business catalyst First Data Corp. and the entrepreneurial thought leadership and training experience of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.

This novel partnership will support the development of innovative educational and training programs that will expand access to business ownership for veterans, and provide thought leadership related to policy impacting veteran-business ownership.

Data from the Small Business Administration suggests that in 2014 alone, nearly 25,000 service members participated in small business ownership training as they prepared for transition to civilian life.

The pull to business ownership among veterans makes perfect sense. Where the rubber meets the road, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are as entrepreneurial as they come — a fact that runs counter to the perception that the military is rigid and bureaucratic. Our service members are trained to act and thrive in dynamic and resource-constrained environments. This ability stands alone as the foundation for successful business ownership.

By its very nature, launching and growing a new business venture is the highest form of social and economic service. More than 60 percent of new jobs created each year come from small businesses, including many of the new jobs now filled by the millions of post-9/11 veterans who have transitioned to civilian life over the past 10 years.

The foundational logic behind expanding business ownership opportunities for veterans is intuitive and pragmatic. Veteran business owners have a proven track record as fuel for the economic engine of the nation.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 2.4 million veteran business owners whose companies employ more than 5.7 million Americans and contribute approximately $1.2 trillion annually to our GDP. Veterans represent 6 percent of the population but are disproportionately represented in the small-business community, accounting for 13.5 percent of small businesses. Expanding access to business ownership for our veterans makes economic sense, as it's building on a track record of success.

A second, and equally compelling, argument for action to empower veterans as business owners returns to service and citizenship, and the relationship between the role that our veterans played in defending freedom, and the role that veterans can play in creating economic freedom for themselves, and this nation, through business ownership. Few are more deserving of the American dream of business ownership than those men and women who put on the uniform and pledged to defend it.

The opportunity to transform the same leadership and ingenuity that served our military so well on the battlefield into an engine of new venture creation in America is strong and compelling. The men and women who answered the nation's call to military service should be afforded expanded opportunity to serve their families, communities and the nation yet again as the next generation of business owners and leaders.

We are recommitting ourselves in 2015 to expand training and education opportunities for budding veteran entrepreneurs. But we can't do it alone. Long-term success depends on collective and collaborative action across the public and private sectors to empower veterans through business ownership.

Like those before them, a great number of today's veterans have identified business ownership as means by which to extend their legacy of service to the nation. We have made public our renewed commitment. We now call on other federal, state and local public- and private-sector leaders to take their own steps to empower the next greatest generation of veteran business owners. We owe our veterans, and the nation, that much.

Frank Bisignano is the chairman and CEO of First Data Corp., and a leader in the global financial services industry.

Mike Haynie is a former Air Force officer, the vice chancellor of Syracuse University, and the executive director and founder of Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

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