Skybox Veterans share their military experiences

With the first anniversary of the end of WWI, the United States government established “Armistice Day” on November 11th, 1919, later becoming, by Congress resolution, “Veterans Day”, a national holiday to honor and give thanks to those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

One of the best ways to celebrate Veterans Day and properly honor those who have served is by sharing their stories. We’re proud to share some of the Skybox team’s Veteran stories.

Left: young Valudos in intelligence training, Right: Airforce Achievement Medal awarded to Valudos by USAF Colonel Bair, then Commander of 67th Intelligence Group

Jason Valudos was only 17 years old when he overheard recruiters in his high school counselors’ office discussing the promising opportunities the military could provide one of his friends. He lingered to ask more questions, intrigued by the possibility to pay his way to college. With younger twin brothers Stephen and Mark at home, (now also working in the data center space), Jason knew college would be a significant financial burden to his parents.

When considering branches, I wanted to jump out of planes, but my dad didn’t want me to do that. Because I was so young, I had to defer to his wishes, and as things worked out, I’m glad I did,” said Valudos.

Jason’s dad was a computer programmer, which in 1996 was at the forefront of the tech world’s burgeoning growth. Jason had a clear advantage (especially at the age of 17) to join Air Force Intelligence, with knowledge passed down from his dad.

Intelligence work ended up being a great fit for me because of my gift set: thinking analytically and putting ‘puzzles’ together with little background or information. This paired with my execution strengths made for a smooth transition into the military intelligence field,” said Jason.

Equipped with his computer programming background and analytical mind, Jason was quickly elevated to project manager in his unit. He was deployed to various locations from a mission in El Paso to help capture drug lords to Germany in 1999 during the Kosovo conflict. During this time Jason was promoted to Senior Analyst, monitoring their station to prevent the divulging of mission details or propagation of misinformation while feeding enemies incorrect information about US military team whereabouts. These daily reports sent by Valudos to military commanders and colonels led to successful missions, clarified information to protect troops, cancelled missions, and ultimately helped keep the US military and UN forces as safe as possible.

Who would you salute today?

Team Chief Sergeant Yabes and Supervisor Sergeant Starnes were both great mentors to me at such a young age. When I arrived at my duty station, they saw so much potential in me that I couldn’t see on my own. They developed me to put me in positions and provide opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. These people effectively changed my life.

What did you take with you from your military experience?

Though the Armed Forces is not for everyone, I believe a lot of people, like myself, have and would benefit from military experience. By chance, I fell into a situation that set up the rest of my life. I developed character and leadership qualities I don’t think I would’ve otherwise learned. Now that I have a few grey hairs, I am much more aware of the impact of leading by example. I look back and realize how influential my superiors were to me at the time and it makes me want to be a better leader today at home and at Skybox.

Left: Chris Williams (far left) after lunch with 75th US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Right: Williams enjoying the snow in Kabul, Afghanistan

Chris Williams started life after high school as a welder and decided at the age of 24 to go into the military. “No one in my family had gone to college or gone into the military. Like Jason, I knew the Armed Forces would provide that chance for me. I didn’t want to go to trade school, college was my goal and the military helped me get there,” said Williams.

Chris joined the Navy where he focused on aviation, specializing in aircraft maintenance. His team ensured plane safety, performing root cause analysis, and regularly practiced training drills and programs if something went wrong with an aircraft. More than anything Williams really enjoyed the variety of jobs he was able to carry out during his service. Administration, hands on maintenance, HVAC, security, and electrical upkeep were a few roles Chris got to fill. In addition, he led Military Funeral Honors for those who had served, presenting the American flag to their remaining loved ones. One of Chris’ last deployments was to Kabul, Afghanistan after 9/11 to serve during Operation Enduring Freedom, overseeing a Gulf Stream 7 for an Army general.

“More than anything, the weight of responsibility was always enjoyable to me. I knew we were not just relied upon to fuel aircrafts. These birds were carrying military commanders, colonels, and Pentagon staff. Passengers like the commandant of the Marine Corp and Secretary of the Navy were not taken lightly. We knew we held precious cargo, and mistakes were not an option. Today, for me, this translates into upkeep and protection of datacenters that carry millions of dollars each minute. Knowing that helps me keep my head down and get my work done with excellence,” said Chris.

Who would you salute today?

My friend Sergeant Noe Garcia, a Marine I worked with prior to enlisting. He was in the 2nd battalion who went to Iraq right after 9/11. Noe was probably the first person that ever made me contemplate joining the military. When I told Noe I was sleeping in a shipping container with 2x4 bedframes and very thin mattresses during my deployment in Kabul, he laughed and jokingly called me “soft.” “You got mattresses, Chris. I was in Iraq for three weeks before we got toilet paper. Count your blessings.”

What did you take with you from your military experience?

Born and raised in Houston, I hadn’t seen much of the world and the military helped me do just that. It was eye opening living in Afghanistan, from warfare challenges to cultural differences. When something goes wrong now, my perspective has changed. My small issues don’t even compare to those across the globe. I’m much more grateful in general to those in service and the opportunities I had during my time.

How to Help

Looking for more ways to honor our veterans? Considering donating to Veteran support groups like Wounded Warrior Project or Lone Survivor Foundation. Call a Veteran you know and ask about their experience in the military. Most importantly, tell a Veteran thank you for their service! We salute you Jason and Chris!

Skybox Team Veteran Family

Skybox would like to recognize our extended family who have served in the military on this Veterans Day. Altogether, our families have been assigned to 15 submarines, one destroyer, and three aircraft carriers.

On behalf of our team, thank you for your service and providing us the opportunity to develop world-class facilities around the world.

USN Captain Donald W. Kellerman, USN Captain Albert Perry, USN Rear Admiral Kenneth Perry, USN Officer Robert Perry, USN Officer David Perry, AF Captain Hunter Gordon Strader, Jr, USM 1st Sergeant Gary D. O'Gilvie, USA Captain William Fletcher Womble, USN Officer George L. Grunthaner