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Veterans 'get down to business' at boot camp

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Grand Forks, N.D. (WDAY-WDAZ-TV)-- Disabled veterans from across the country arrived at the University of North Dakota to take part in their business "Bootcamp" week this Sunday.

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program at UND is one of four like it in the county, and some of our country's bravest are also some of the brightest.

24 disabled veterans from across the country began bootcamp Sunday morning. Not actual bootcamp, rather business bootcamp.

"It really challenges you and makes you think, why am I doing this, what is the definition of that. So its good!" said veteran Lanny LaPlante. 

Lanny LaPlante served his country for 14 years in the Marine Corps, until a series of leg injuries landed him disabled. Since then, he started a business installing airport lighting and navigation systems. He's now back to bootcamp to take his business even further.

"I did not have a lot of skills that they're filling in. And whenever anyone starts a business, you dont have all the answers and you're not going to have all the answers. And this is a really good jump starter to get you going," LaPlante said. 

Bootcamp started Sunday and the schedule looks like this, different sessions and discussions every fews hours, all day long, until next Saturday. And even though they're only one day in, the veterans seem to be loving it so far.

"It's been amazing," said veteran Brandi Jude, "It's really exciting to put myself out there and get critical feedback from the people who are actually educating us."

Brandi Jude served in the Army before she became disabled. Now her life is on a new path as she's trying to start a non-profit to help victims of human traffiking. After one day of bootcamp, she's already feeling pretty good.

"I feel even more inspired to be successful with my business venture and actually have the business provide the services that we're trying to provide," said Brandi Jude

The bootcamp is part of the Veteran's Entrepreneurship Program, a new program offered to disabled veterans through UND's Center for Innovation. The program is free for those who serve and is funded by grants and private donations.

"It's basically a 7-day intensive learning program to give our veterans a chance to learn how to properly work their business," said program director Tyler Okerlund.

A disabled veteran himself, program director Tyler Okerlund, is happy to see his venture taking off, as other veterans's ventures take shape.

"Basically as a disabled veteran, I have a passion to help other vetrans and get things going for them because some of them dont know what to do or where to go, and I want to make sure they have that option." said Okerlund. 

And so far, so good.

"It's a really great program so far! I mean I've learned so much in just this half day," said LaPlante

Business bootcamp is the second of the three-phase Veteran Entrepreneurship Program.

Phase one was a 5-week online seminar, and phase three is a 6-month long mentoring program.