Veteran Radio Syndicate was only started about 6 months ago, but it has already garnered guests from top veteran organizations and personalities, including 5 Bravo, Grunt Style, A Combat Veteran, and more. The station now has over 20 shows, featuring both news and a brand of comedy all their own; they are continuing to grow at an incredible rate. VetRS is currently owned by Thomas Brickner, Josh Miller, and Daniel Eric. We got on the phone with Daniel, the CEO of VetRS (or “el presidente,” as he referred to himself), to find out more about the station, and the philosophy behind the work that they do. A self-professed “shy guy” in high school, his experience in the Marines taught him not to take things so seriously, and it shows:
I: Hi Dan, great to talk to you. To start, tell us what you do in one sentence.
Dan: Organize insanity.
I: That’s awesome, haha, great answer. Can you tell me how and why VetRS was Started?
Dan: I was approached by several [companies] and people… basically I gave up radio, [but] they wouldn’t let me quit. So, they kind of gave me the push and the uh, and the drive to start another project; which in my own vision I thought would stay very, very small and, you know, just for my own personal hobby… within 6 months we were up to 20 shows and working with some of the biggest names and companies in the veteran community.
I: That’s incredible! Can you tell me some of the people you work with?
Dan: The biggest help is, you know, [the people] over at Grunt Style… That’s number 1. I do shows with John Burk, who’s been a help from the very beginning as well. [The guys at] 5 Bravo… also we have a show with a couple of organizations like Active Heroes.
I: A lot of big names. I know that Active Heroes is a prominent charity in the Veteran community. What is that show about?
Dan: Their show is, it goes into detail on what Active Heroes is doing, their upcoming events; it’s more of an informative on what’s going on within Active Heroes. Which I think is very important because, especially in a large organization [like that], there’s always questions, there’s always people digging into it, there’s always people wondering what’s going on. Especially when there’s a lot of money involved, that’s just the way the community is; everybody, you know, is looking. And it’s a good way for him to let out what’s going on with his organization. It’s kind of like a “business out in the open” platform. Which is really cool.
I: I actually took the opportunity to listen to a couple of your shows.
Dan: Oh boy…
I: (Laughter) Part of what intrigued me was that it was divided into a couple of groups; one was, like you described, mainly informative. The other, however, was… well, let’s describe it as politically incorrect.
Dan: Um. Yeah… When we first started, like, my realm was comedy. Especially veteran comedy, which can get pretty, ah, intense at times. And then, the station, we also had a lot of shows – like you said – informative, news, and stuff; so we wound up splitting the station into two channels. And I’m gonna curse, I mean it’s gonna slip, so I’m trying to behave right now; I don’t know how well it’s gonna work.
I: Whatever you want to go on the record I’ll put in the record (Laughter).
Dan: Well, if I curse, I curse; it happens. Basically, the foundation of the station was started on comedy and support. We found that with everybody coming aboard – and we have a LOT of new shows coming in the future – we split the stations. One is the “N” side, the news, sports, and organizations. And the other is Veteran Radio Syndicate “X” which is fuckery, fun, and comedy. What I found in my years of radio was, people love to laugh. Our highest rated shows are our comedy shows. And when I first started, to me it was just fun, it was a way to express myself, like a little separate life, and, you know, do my hobby and have fun doing it. What it turned into was an actual kind of support system for a lot of people. They came to escape reality for 2 hours and laugh with us and have a couple of drinks. And, you know, the outpour and the messages I would get on a daily basis, like, thanking me for doing this, and I was just like, “I’m just having fun.” And they say, “No, you don’t understand… I was in a bad place and you guys made me laugh for 2 hours and I felt a lot better afterwards.”
I: That actually leads me into my next question, which is what do you find to be the value of your brand of humor? Because it’s not something that maybe the average American would encounter on a daily basis, but it sounds like it has a really big impact on the veteran community.
Dan: We bring a sense of realism and truth to our comedy. We’re not afraid to say what’s actually happening… And to me, my whole mantra for everything is [this]: If I can make one person laugh, one night, that keeps them out of a dark place and from doing something stupid that night, I did my job.
I: Yeah. Yeah.
Dan: I don’t care if there’s 5,000 people listening or 5 people listening. If I can help that one person escape reality for a minute, laugh, get them out of their own head for a little while, and they think twice about doing something stupid, then I’d feel satisfied. I don’t need anything else in my life.
I: That’s awesome. I feel like that’s the dream for a lot of people, not necessarily to be influential, but to do good and help people.
Dan: I don’t care, I don’t want to be an internet superstar, I don’t need to feed my own ego, I don’t need to have a million likes on a post, I just enjoy doing what I’m doing. And if other people can enjoy what I’m doing, then I’m satisfied.
I: Since you started VetRS, what do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
Dan: I think my biggest accomplishment, I would say, is the fact that I get to work with and bring together a lot of different companies and a lot of different names… I don’t know how to put this… I’m privileged in the fact that I have the friends and the people that I get to work with on a weekly basis, and I got there just by being honest and being true to my word, and helping them as much as they help me. I think there’s a lack of that in the community, and… it’s fun, I don’t – I don’t know how to word that. You’re the writer!
Dan: I just do radio! I think the biggest accomplishment for me is bringing a lot of people together toward a common goal. There’s so much support between the host of the smallest show and the biggest name on the highest show. There’s no – everybody kind of – is kind of trying to work together, all toward a common goal, and enjoy doing radio and have a place to do it.
I: Absolutely. I also wanted to ask, I know you work with Grunt Style a lot; they recently designed a shirt for you. And I took a look at the design, it’s pretty amazing, I just wanted to know what inspired it?
Dan: I designed the shirt, that’s my design. They helped me out, cleaned it up and everything. Um, do you want me to be 100% honest with you?
Dan: So… uh, after having “relations” with my girlfriend that I live with, the idea just kind of popped into my head, and I don’t know where it came from.
I: Oh my gosh. Ok. (Laughter)
Dan: You asked! You asked! I’m being 100% honest, I was smoking a cigarette out on the back deck and was like, “Holy shit, I’ve got an idea for a t-shirt!”
I: I mean, you know, inspiration can strike at the best of times, and you were feeling good –
Dan: Euphoria set in, the brain was relaxed…
I: (Laughter) That’s awesome. So, what is your favorite thing about being on the radio?
Dan: My personal favorite is how- it doesn’t matter who we bring on the radio… we’re gonna interview them our own way, and they’re not gonna get their ass kicked. We’re gonna have fun with them, we’re gonna break them down to where they can be themselves. I want to talk to people as themselves, not as their public image.
I: Yeah – and that’s everybody’s goal, really, is to get to the heart of somebody.
Dan: And nobody knows, like some of these people that you look at and you’re like, “Wow, they’re really serious, I don’t know if that’s gonna be a good guest.” Next thing you know, they’re making jokes and they’re laughing. And they’re broken down, and it brings that realism out of it. You get them not afraid to laugh at themselves or a joke and I think that helps them drop their walls and open up more about what they’re really thinking and trying to express themselves as.
I: With that being said, what do you think is the one message that you want VetRS to send to the world? What do you want that overarching message to be?
Dan: Don’t be lazy; if you want to do something, find a way to get it done. Have fun with it. A lot of people are like, “Oh, I don’t have time.” I mean, I work a day job 60 to 70 hours a week, I raise a son, you know, like I said I have a girlfriend, and, I don’t have a lot of time, but I always find a way to get what I need to get done. I mean, I have help, I’m not gonna lie… but I always find a way to get it done. Because it’s my drive, it’s my passion, and I think a lot of people can – you know – they always want to do something, but they don’t go and do it, or they don’t at least try. I mean, the road to success is paved in failures. And you’ve got to go out there and at least try; if you fail, so what? Everybody else has failed on the way up, just keep going, try something at a different angle.
I: Alright one last question: if you woke up tomorrow and had to room with a president or one of the founding fathers, who would you pick?
Dan: Franklin, duh! Can’t go wrong with Ben Franklin.
I: Anything else that you wanted to add that I didn’t get to?
Dan: A big shout out to Tim Jensen, Dan Alarik at Grunt Style, Stephanie and Justin at Club Grunt Style as well. We have a great relationship, it’s been a team effort, and I really could not have done this without them.
Where is VetRS going? Your guess is as good as Dan’s; he describes the current success of the station as “winging it well.” We hope they continue to wing it to new heights!
If you want to listen to the station, you can check them out here.