A Ponte Vedra Beach resident, Michael Linnington is the CEO of Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). He brings 35 years of military experience and leadership to the Jacksonville-based organization.
Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I grew up as one of six boys in Cape May, New Jersey, and went to military high school and military college. I graduated in 1980 from West Point, where I met my wife. I’ve been married for 37 years, and I have two adult children and two grandchildren.
What are you most proud of when you reflect on your career?
That’s a difficult thing to pinpoint after 35 years of military service. Obviously, I look back on my time leading troops in combat, America’s sons and daughters, in Iraq and Afghanistan as a brigade commander as being a notable time in my career. I also enjoyed being commandant of cadets at West Point. You’re responsible for the leadership development of 4,400 cadets, and their military and physical development as well. Given what we’re asking our young leaders to do in today’s Army, that was important to me. I am also proud of my time overseas in Berlin during the Cold War, and three years as a battalion commander in Korea. As a civilian after my time in the Army, I was the director of the POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which was responsible for worldwide return of our nation’s heroes from past wars. Expanding the ability of our nation to do that and to do it well was an achievement I’m proud of as well.
What’s most rewarding about your work at Wounded Warrior Project?
For me, it’s spending time with wounded, ill and injured service members, and their families. It is really inspiring to see what our veterans have done in tough combat operations and witness them persevere during difficult rehabilitation, recover and realize their dreams — reaching their full potential as civilian leaders in communities all across America.
I come to work happy every day because I’m surrounded by passionate, caring teammates who want to positively help our wounded veterans, and their families. They are all totally committed to our mission, and the warriors we serve. More than 40 percent of our 650 employees are veterans themselves — many recovered wounded warriors. So, for me, working at WWP is really a continuation of my 35 years of military service.
What are some of the goals for Wounded Warrior Project moving forward?
We must stay relevant to the warriors we serve. As I think about WWP’s future, it’s really the future of the hundreds of thousands of warriors (and their families) that we’ve served over the last 15 years. We survey our warriors annually, and they provide tremendous insights on areas of their greatest need, and that’s where we invest. Recently, that’s been more focused attention on mental and physical health and wellness, but future investments may focus on research and cures for toxic exposures. As our warriors age, their needs continue to grow. A bit surprising to me is that despite smaller numbers of U.S. servicemembers deployed overseas, we are seeing tremendous growth in those signing up for the programs and services we provide: 56 a day! Keeping up with this need and providing for those that have given our country so much, is what keeps me up at night.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra Beach?
To me it’s the people. The people in this community are successful, generous and they care. They’re also a very diverse group of leaders; corporate, nonprofit, government and healthcare — and they all engaged in a big way. It’s also a very active lifestyle here in Ponte Vedra, which makes living here a lot of fun.
Ponte Vedra is also a beautiful place. You have the beaches, warm weather and you have friendly people who are genuinely happy to see you every day. I won’t say I’ve always lived in places where that’s true, but it’s certainly true here in Ponte Vedra. Having our office in Jacksonville and living at the Beaches and being part of the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach makes living in Ponte Vedra really cool.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy this active lifestyle of Northeast Florida. I do travel a bit, so I’m not here as often as I’d like. But my wife and I spend time out in the fresh air. We love to ride bicycles, and we walk the beaches. We do also spend a bit of time up in Virginia with the grandkids. We do what most families do: we’re engaged with many community activities with the Rotary, the Chamber and our local church, and when we have time to reflect and spend time out in nature, we do it. We just bought bicycles, so we’ve joined the cycling community. I ride with a group named Dawn Patrol. We ride every weekend, and it’s just a great thing to get out and hang out with a group of people that really enjoy being around each other.