Who you are often depends on where you’ve been.
Bingham Jamison has had a long journey climbing to where he is today. He’s been a frat boy, a University of Virginia graduate, battle-hardened U.S. Marine Corps commander and a veteran who dealt with the stresses of transitioning home from war.
And now he’s a happy father with a fulfilling, multifaceted career as a wealth manager with Manchester Capital Management, a contributor for the investing section of Forbes, and a philanthropist.
While a student at UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce, Jamison intended to embark upon a lucrative career as a Wall Street investment banker. But the September 11 terror attacks changed his priorities.
“The attacks pissed me off so much that I decided to shelve my investment career for a few years to fight for my country. I knew I had the rest of my life to sit behind a desk, and likewise that I’d forever regret not seizing the opportunity that fate brought to those of us in the historic Class of 2002, the first to graduate following Sept. 11,” he said.
“I looked into the mirror and asked myself if I was strong enough, if I was tough enough, to follow through on my patriotic ambitions. Thankfully I answered, ‘yes,’” he said.
He was plenty tough. Jamison earned a coveted slot as a counter-intelligence officer, subsequently commanding human intelligence exploitation teams during tours to Al Qaim and Fallujah, Iraq.
Jamison’s team of Marines was responsible for gathering on-the-ground intelligence to locate IEDs, disrupt enemy attacks, and eliminate Al Qaeda leadership in the region.
“My Marines and I were fortunate to take part in some pivotal operations. One particularly sensitive mission involved rescuing three hostages that had been kidnapped weeks before by Al Qaeda and held for ransom, men who were literally hours away from being beheaded,” he recalled.
“Hearing the emotion in their voices when they called their families for the first time since being captured, and listening as they proclaimed to me how they’d be forever indebted to the Marines for saving them from an almost certain terrible death, was confirmation that my team was a force multiplier for the greater good.”
The fighting, however, was fierce.
“Prior to Iraq, I had always considered myself a good person, but second-guessing some of my split-second battlefield decisions caused me to question that self-perceived morality. It was hard to ultimately reconcile what I felt was a strong moral compass with things I did to survive downrange,” he said.
While Jamison encountered some dark days in those early years post-Iraq, he eventually chose to begin speaking and writing publically about various wartime experiences he had long kept to himself.
As a contributor for TIME Magazine, Jamison discovered that publishing articles was not just personally cathartic, but therapeutic to other combat veterans with whom Jamison’s stories resonated.
Over time, Jamison gradually learned about combat’s parallel impact on his own family.
“I came to realize that family members sacrifice every bit as much, if not more, than the soldier or Marine that deploys into harm’s way. I firmly believe that spouses and children are the ‘invisible veterans’ of our nation’s wars,” he said.
Acknowledging the importance of a combat veteran’s family to his or her ultimate recovery, Jamison joined with two Korean War-era veterans in Charlottesville and spearheaded the creation of a charitable organization to support veterans and their families as they navigate the post-war recovery process.
Jamison is the chairman and co-founder of Warrior Healing Campaign, which has raised nearly $200,000 for The Richmond Fisher House Foundation, where Jamison is also a member of the board.
Jamison admits that these philanthropic endeavors have had positive unintended consequences: the privilege to assist fellow combat veterans has brought absolute healing and closure to Jamison’s own recovery.
Jamison explains this curious dichotomy by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘it is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.’
“I’m the same man that attended UVa. The same man that felt called to serve after September 11 and the same hardcore S.O.B. I was as a Marine officer,” Jamison said. “But I’m also the same man I was at my lowest point, beset with survivor’s guilt, unbearable severe chronic pain after two failed hip surgeries post-Iraq, and a trauma-induced hole in my soul.”
Having experienced the highs and lows of fighting a war, and ultimately overcoming the suffering that that entailed, is what helped forge Jamison into the man he is today.
“I’d like to think that by embracing this crucible, I have transformed into a more affectionate father, a more empathetic businessman, and ideally a more wholesome human being,” he said.
He grinned and quoted rapper Eminem, also known as Marshall Mathers: “Yeah, it’s been a ride. I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one.”
Jamison knows that his Marine team had a hugely positive impact during their time in Iraq, for which he is immensely proud.
“I’m grateful to have fought for my country, and for narrowly bringing all of my men home,” he said. “If I had the opportunity to go back in time and decide whether serving was ultimately worth it for me, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Leading Marines was my great honor."