University of Southern California

Salute The Brave
May 27, 2011 • by Ryan Morris

Last fall I was sitting in an accounting class and noticed that the guy next to me had a tattoo on his wrist: "Marines." It turned out he had done three tours of duty in Iraq. He told me about his military experiences and it got me thinking. Here I am, a 21-year-old USC Marshall School of Business student, having the experience of a lifetime, living in Southern California, getting a great education. Then in contrast, there are kids younger than me, overseas fighting for our country. I realized that there are people out there doing amazing things for America. I asked myself, "Why not give back to them?"

Later that semester, as part of my entrepreneurship concentration, I had to come up with an idea for a company. I decided to try something that could be a successful business, but still give back to a great cause. Salute The Brave hats was born. The idea is pretty simple. We produce a line of baseball caps that feature graphics saluting the brave men and women fighting for our country. Every time I sell a hat, I donate one to Operation Gratitude. Operation Gratitude sends care packages to soldiers who are deployed in harm's way overseas, or who are back in the U.S. recovering from wounds suffered in service.

When I decided to take the idea from a class project to reality, the professors at Marshall were incredibly supportive and helpful. I also received wonderful advice from Major General John Long (retired), who used to run the Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores and online e-commerce store for military veterans and families. Two weeks ago my website launched. And we're getting a good response. At the Menlo School in Atherton, California, for example, I sold 75 hats in 45 minutes. We then donated 75 hats to Operation Gratitude to distribute to soldiers.

None of this would have been possible had it not been for the support of the USC Marshall School of Business faculty. They have taught me not only to think about merely making a profit, but to also be socially aware and to give back to others—as a company. By supporting Marshall, you are supporting the kind of thinking that takes American business to a new level, a mindset that creates riches beyond simple profit.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I salute the brave men and women who serve our country. I thank them for their service, and I thank USC Marshall for giving me the opportunity to serve them in return.

Fight On!
Ryan Morris
USC Marshall School of Business
Class of 2012