Vet talks service, leadership with Exeter community

Zach Iscol '97 highlights "Exeter Salutes" program with war stories from abroad and at home.

November 10, 2021

Zach Iscol '97, a retired Marine captain, speaks with Exeter students before the "Exeter Salutes" program Tuesday night at the Elizabeth Phillips Academy Center.

As a combat commander during two tours in Iraq, Zach Iscol ’97 fought with and led American Marines in battle. As a private citizen since his return, Iscol has continued to fight for former American servicemen and women at home.

Iscol launched the Headstrong Project, a nonprofit that provides free health care to a thousand veterans monthly in 35 cities across the United States. He also founded Hirepurpose, a hiring platform for veterans and their spouses that provides career guidance and matches them with potential employers.

“I think no matter what leadership role you're in, if you take care of your people, you give them the resources that they need, you know that you're looking out for their welfare, they will go and accomplish that mission,” Iscol said.

Iscol, awarded the John and Elizabeth Phillips Award in 2017, was back on campus this week to headline “Exeter Salutes,” the Academy’s annual Veterans Day celebration of Exonians who exemplify non sibi through military service. In a conversation Tuesday evening with Jack Herney '46, '69, '71, '74, '92, '95 (Hon.), emeritus chair of the History Department, he recounted how he found his way from Exeter to the Marines and eventually to the streets of Fallujah, where he commanded a platoon throughout the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War. Iscol also shared how his military experiences have shaped his life since those harrowing times and he lamented how the nation's political and military leadership have failed to adapt their approach to warfare in the 21st century with tragic results.

“If you look at the military today … it's not that different than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “And I think that begs the question as to how have we not evolved? How have we not met the challenges of today by adapting the military to the requirements that we have?”

Watch the full conversation between Capt. Iscol and Mr. Herney here: