DAV Patriot Boot Camp participants witnessed the release of two golden eagles. Celebrity chef and mentor Robert Irvine likened the release to the work DAV does to empower veterans through entrepreneurship.

Between the mountains of Big Springs Park in Provo, Utah, U.K. Royal Navy veteran and famed chef Robert Irvine urged onlookers to “stand in the moment.” What they were about to witness would be truly special.

With care, Irvine loosened a cap placed over the head of a golden eagle that had spent months being rehabilitated by Great Basin Wildlife Rescue. It would be one of two eagles released back into the wild that evening.

Irvine, best known as the host of Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible,” likened the eagles’ paths to the stories of those who gathered in front of him—and the organization hosting them.

Earlier that day, DAV Patriot Boot Camp welcomed a new cohort of entrepreneurs from the military and veteran community to MX Technologies headquarters in the Silicon Slopes of Lehi, Utah, about 20 miles northwest of the park. Dozens of participants listened to world-class business experts and connected with leading mentors to help grow and accelerate their ventures. Irvine, a successful entrepreneur who has long supported the military and veteran community through his Robert Irvine Foundation, served as one of those mentors.

Marie Bailey, a retired Navy commander and founder of Mortgage Me Free, said Irvine connected her with an invaluable industry contact on the spot.

Marie Bailey, a retired Navy commander and founder of Mortgage Me Free, had a one-on-one mentoring session with Irvine. Her company offers a mortgage reduction program that gives homeowners a customizable, interactive tool to help them better track and pay down their debt.

Bailey said Irvine challenged her business model and encouraged her to market to banks. Before she knew it, he was on the phone with a close associate in the banking field and connecting Bailey with an invaluable resource.

“It was exciting,” Bailey said. “Watching him and how much he cares about the vets was just unbelievable.”

Phillip Bragg, a retired Marine and founder of 1350 Distilling, said Irvine similarly pushed and surprised him. His company specializes in handcrafted spirits, with each bottle dedicated to a different branch of the military or first responders.

Phillip Bragg, a retired Marine and founder of 1350 Distilling, attended DAV Patriot Boot Camp to help scale his company. Bragg said the mentorship and peer support reenergized him.

“I told [Irvine] I did a little under $400K [in revenue] last year, and he looked at me in the eye and he says, ‘If you can make $400K, you can make $5 million,’” Bragg said. “And that was probably the most inspirational thing that I’ve heard in a long time.”

Irvine is a longtime supporter of DAV. Through the Robert Irvine Foundation, veterans, first responders and families are connected with life-changing opportunities that unlock the potential in their personal and professional lives. But this was his first time he leveraged his talent through DAV to provide direct services to veteran entrepreneurs.

“I never had mentors,” Irvine said. “And I’m sitting in the room listening, in the first five minutes, to information I would have loved 20 years ago [when I was starting out].

“It’s been unbelievable. … What DAV is doing with Patriot Boot Camp is something special.”

Volunteers like Irvine and the dozens of speakers and mentors who attended the three-day event are the lifeblood of the program, said DAV Patriot Boot Camp Director Nick Brophy.

“We are incredibly grateful for Chef Irvine and all the people who generously volunteered their time and expertise to this cohort of entrepreneurs,” Brophy said. “We know that mentorship is crucial for a successful business, especially for those founders who spent their formative years focused on selfless service to our country. DAV Patriot Boot Camp gives them access to invaluable resources, and in return, we all benefit from their impactful, purpose-driven businesses.”

Back at the park, the cohort watched in awe as the first golden eagle leaped from a volunteer’s arms, spread its wings and flew toward the mountains.

“[This] is what DAV does,” Irvine said, comparing the eagles’ release to the support DAV provides veterans. “We rehabilitate. We give the resources. And we give you new training to go on to do something better.”

Bragg, a life member of DAV, said that’s what he loves about the organization. From disability claims assistance to employment and entrepreneurship programs and volunteer opportunities, DAV supports and empowers veterans across all phases of their life.

Entrepreneurship, Bragg said, is a particularly powerful tool in that mission.

“You join the military because you have that sense of purpose, and you completely tie your identity to your job. And then one day, you’re not on active duty anymore and everything that you tied your identity to is not there anymore, and so you have to find a way to replace it,” Bragg said.

“And one way that you can do that is through small business. There’s nothing [like] that feeling of belonging and ownership and purpose.”

To learn more and sign up for updates, visit patriotbootcamp.org.