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Photo of a person carrying a child's bike.


Honoring Our Veterans: Dustin Wicks

By Operation Homefront

CarMax is an active supporter of Operation Homefront and recently partnered provide bikes to children of military families. In addition, CarMax’s financial support has contributed to Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance program that helps military families overcome short-term financial crises.

Meet Dustin Wicks, a veteran who has made CarMax his civilian career of choice:

  • Hometown: Syracuse, NY
  • Military Service Branch: United States Army
  • Military Rank: Specialist, E-4
  • Years Served: 1997-2003
  • Position at CarMax: Operations Manager at the Clackamas, OR, store

What inspired you to join the military?
My father was in the Navy during Vietnam and my grandmother served in the Red Cross during World War II. Honor and duty were an important part of how I was raised. Joining the military was just “the next step” in my career after college. For me, the military signifies more than the conflicts we engaged in. What inspires me are young men and women sacrificing for something greater than themselves.

What were your jobs, roles, and assignments in the Army?
I was an Arabic linguist in the Army. I spent 63 weeks learning Arabic in the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. I was then stationed in Sierra Vista, Arizona, before 9/11 and at the National Security Agency – in Fort Meade, Maryland – after 9/11.

Can you tell us about a notable moment(s) from your time in the service?
Post 9/11 was a scary time to be in the military. A group of us were the first to be recalled to active duty. We were not given orders on where we would be deployed … only that we should get our affairs at home in order. Not knowing where we were going but gearing up to go there was surreal. Once deployed, the group that I was in was split up and sent all over the world to support Operation Enduring Freedom. I am proud of those 14 individuals and the sacrifices they all made in the months following 9/11.

What is the most rewarding part of serving in the military?
The most rewarding part of military service for me are the life skills. I joined the Army at 20 years old with no clue what I wanted to do with my life – and I was in no hurry to find out. In the military I learned discipline. I learned how rewarding it was to work hard for something and to sacrifice. I completed my degree while in the Army and received a degree in Arabic. Once I left the military, I had the skills to continue my education and completed my MBA. I am not sure I would have done any of that without the character and life skills I was taught in the Army.

What was the most challenging part of being in the military?
It was definitely being apart from my family. In the first four years of my son’s life, I was away deployed for three of them. The separation is hard on military families. My son and his mother sacrificed as much as I did during those years. That is why I think organizations like Operation Homefront are so amazing. Sometimes the families of soldiers can be forgotten, especially in the chaos that was military life post 9/11.

How was your transition from military to civilian life?
Leaving the military was difficult. When I transitioned out of the military, I had been on a year-long unaccompanied deployment. I got out expecting everything to be the same … but life moves on while you are gone. It was really hard for me to adjust and catch back up.

How was your post-military job-seeking experience and why did you choose CarMax? 
My post-military job seeking experience was stop and start. I left the military with a highly coveted skill and credential at the time – Arabic language and a security clearance – but I wanted to do something different. I decided to pursue my MBA instead of going into private sector government work, which was my skill base.

Until I found CarMax, I honestly felt the six years I spent in the military were wasted. Military experience was not valued in any of the companies I worked in before CarMax. I was often passed over for opportunities because other candidates had “more relative experience,” as those companies did not view my military experience as relevant to their businesses.

Tell us about your role at CarMax. What do you enjoy most about working here?
I am an Operations Manager. I think what I enjoy most about my current role is that it is different every day. Each day is unique, and it is great watching the team come together to accomplish a task. I enjoy developing Associates. The culture of continuous improvement and growth is exciting. It feels great when I can play a role in helping an Associate achieve the career goals they are working toward.

How does your military experience help you succeed in your current role at CarMax?
The biggest way is familiarity with the CarMax Competency Model. The Army’s leadership dimensions – loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage – were so similar to the CarMax Competency Model that I felt like I already knew the culture and what was expected from the day I started. It really helped me acclimate and make contributions to the overall success of my teams from day one.

Can you discuss Operation Homefront and your experience volunteering for the organization?
It was an amazing experience. Seeing the faces of the kids as they pulled up and saw the bikes that we had prepared for them was awesome. I have been on the other side of that situation as a young E-2 with a family. I was never exposed to an organization like Operation Homefront when I was a young private so it made me feel great that I could provide support. Being in the military and being a military family is a rewarding life, but it is a difficult life.

To Dustin, active-duty military members, and veterans everywhere – thank you for service.

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