UMB is fortunate to have several veterans on our team and are proud to hire veterans in our local communities. This series highlights some of our associates who have served their country in the military prior to joining UMB. Be sure to check out the other profiles in our series—Steve Marin, Ryan Gardner & Lynda McWhirter.
It took two years after high school to realize that I needed to make a change in my life, so I joined the U.S. Army in 1994 as a Forward Observer 13F. I exited the Army in 1997 and began my college career at Illinois State University where I earned degrees in Marketing and Economics in 2000.
My first job after college was a credit manager for a large financial institution. I was quickly promoted to branch sales manager and managed four offices and several associates until I left in 2009 to pursue an opportunity with a smaller community bank. After a few years, I realized that I needed something in the middle and was blessed to have the opportunity to come to UMB in 2011. I love it here!
What about your past shaped who you are today?
Who I am today could be easily summed up with one word. Pride. I take great pride in everything I do. From the day I was born, I was blessed with a name to be proud of. My father, Tom Huddleston a retired forklift operator at John Deere Harvester, named me after his supervisor Stacey King. For several reasons, Stacey was the most respected man my father ever knew at the time, and took great pride in knowing that his son would carry the same name as his mentor.
As I grew up I watched my father go on strike every four years or get laid off during slow times, where he would take whatever job he needed to make ends meet. My father wasn’t necessarily proud of where he worked, but he was extremely proud of the work he accomplished. I watched my mother, Pam Huddleston, give unconditional positive support to my father during these hardships. She was always proud of my father no matter what the circumstances.
As early as I could remember I would spend entire weekends with my father walking several miles of country roads as we picked up aluminum cans to recycle for extra money for the family. (He’s 75 now and still collects aluminum cans for extra money). It was these times that I learned why we actually had a small farm where we raised hogs, chickens and rabbits. Our animals always seemed to provide for us when we needed it most.
My mother was our CEO/CFO/COO and warden! She taught me to respect everyone around me, common courtesy and to take pride in myself. She pushed me to always do better, and expected me to always be as happy as I can be. My father expected me to simply make good choices and never tarnish the Huddleston name. He told me that no matter what I ever did, be the very best at it. Take pride in everything you do, everything!
From these lessons I accomplished a few things that have brought me here to this point in my life. I am the first on either side of my family to graduate high school, to step foot on a university campus, and to earn a college degree. I am the first banker in my family.
Tell us about your family.
My parents Tom and Pam Huddleston live in Colona, Ill., only 2 miles from where I grew up. My father is retired from John Deere Harvester, doing the same job he was first hired to do. Shortly after my father retired to spend more quality time with my mother at their home, my mother retired as the homemaker of the “Huddleston House” and has been making sandwiches at a local restaurant ever since.
I am a proud father of two amazing young men, Brant, 15 and Mason, 14. Brant is finishing up his freshman year and will soon be driving. Mason is very much involved in drama where he’s taken several roles in school. We spend quite a bit of time together doing home projects where I teach them how to use power tools, read a tape measure and use their hands. We spend quite a bit of time outdoors hunting, hiking and taking pictures of the wildlife. I am grateful for the challenges and opportunities that have placed me where I am today.
Why did you choose to join the military?
Two years after high school, I realized that I was on a path of self destruction and going nowhere. I met an Army veteran who mentored me, giving me the confidence to do something great. He also mentioned a free college education program that Illinois offered residents who came back to Illinois after their military service. I quickly found a recruiter and made a long-term plan for success. Within two weeks of meeting a recruiter, I took the entry test and joined the U.S. Army as a Forward Observer 13F with a plan to get back to Illinois as quickly as possible to start college. I never knew what a forward observer was when I joined, but I loved calling in artillery once I figured it out.
Give us some highlights about your military career.
I started off my basic and advanced training at Ft. Sill, Okla., where I heard the word “terrorism” for the first time on April 19, 1995, after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed while I was sitting outside our barracks that sunny day.
I spent the next year in the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Hovey, South Korea, where we were reorganized as the 2nd battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment “Manchus.” Our commander ordered us to march the traditional 50 mile Manchu road march along the mountainous hills near the DMZ of North Korea to show our force. The entire 2/9th Army nearly caused a conflict that day!
I was then stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash., where my remaining time in the Army was spent conducting nonstop training in the 25th Infantry Division. My training took me to Ft. Polk, La., Yakima, Wash., and two stops at the National Training Center in California, all in a span of less than a year. I exited the Army as a Specialist promotable in just less than three years of service to start my college career.
What are the greatest challenges that someone leaving the military and entering a new career faces?
Purpose! One of the most difficult challenges for anyone leaving the military and adjusting to civilian life is trying to find their purpose. I find myself talking to other veterans who have had a difficult time adjusting because they feel as if they should be back on the battlefield, or they have survivor’s guilt or they can’t seem to get that adrenaline rush back that had been forced on them for so long. I believe it’s important that organizations like Warriors for Freedom‡ help organize events and activities for our veterans so that they may feel connected with our community, network with other civilians and help them find their purpose.
I am excited to see UMB organize a Veterans Engagement Taskforce (VET) to give our veterans additional purpose. I believe our focus on veterans will help give them the purpose they need to transition into a new career and adjust from the military lifestyle.
I’m also thrilled to be a new mentor through the ACP program‡ and look forward to working with fellow veterans to help with their transition into civilian life.
What are your favorite ways to give back in the community?
I was raised with the old saying, “give anyone that needs help the clothes off your back without asking for anything in return.” To this day I try to help everyone I can as much as possible. I don’t wait for a special event, holiday or gathering to give. When I see someone in need, I simply do whatever it takes to help them out. Sometimes it’s giving up my lunch or clothes to someone, fixing their home and even pulling trees from their yard.
I think many people believe they have to write a check, or put on a volunteer shirt to make a difference. It’s because of my upbringing and lack of money, where I can truly understand the needs of others and help them when I can. I work very hard to instill these same values in my two boys, who two years ago helped me hand out Christmas presents to children and feed those who didn’t have a hot meal that day.
What are your favorite ways to spend a weekend?
I rarely sit still long enough to relax, so many of my weekends are spent with my boys hunting, hiking, fishing golfing or working on home projects. I recently purchased a fixer-upper house, and the boys love working with their hands and learning how to operate power tools.
How did you come to be at UMB? What made you want to work here?
I was contacted by a UMB recruiter to apply for the position of commercial business development officer. I had never heard of this position before and had very little information about it at the time. After doing quite a bit of research on UMB, its products and people; I found that there is a long lasting retention rate within the commercial team, and there are so many products and services to offer clients compared to what I was used to. I was sold on UMB once I realized that I was to simply call on the Oklahoma market by offering UMB products and sharing our story.
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