WACO, Tex. – On June 28, The Grounds Guys and its parent company, The Dwyer Group, joined the International Franchise Association in celebrating Veterans Small Business Independence Day, a national event celebrated by over 60 companies in 12 cities.

In Austin, Tex., Derek and Maureen Paulk, owners of The Grounds Guys of San Marcos, Tex., spoke in front of the State Capital Building in Austin about their transition from military fighter pilots to landscape management franchise owners. The couple met while deployed in Iraq and decided to go into landscaping and grounds care after their return to the U.S.

"The VetFran program at the Dwyer Group have given Derek and I an opportunity to excel we may not have been given otherwise," said Maureen Paulk. "We have followed our path to this fantastic culture of care with The Grounds Guys and we thank the VetFran Program for this special chapter in our lives. The sky’s the limit!" Their franchise location in San Marcos just celebrated its one-year anniversary and expanded its service area to the nearby town of New Braunfels.

At the ceremonial event, The Dwyer Group announced new tools available from the IFA to put veterans back to work, including a VetFran Toolkit and a Veterans Mentor Network. VetFran, an IFA program offering financial incentives to veterans in franchising, was founded by The Dwyer Group in 1991 and has grown to include over 400 other companies.

Wounded warrior and motivational speaker Shilo Harris and Veterans of Foreign Wars representative Dan West each shared several words about the leadership skills and work ethic that veterans have to offer to small business.

Simultaneously in Dallas, The Grounds Guys president and Army veteran Ron Madera and new franchise owner Rebecca McMahon partnered with FASTSIGNS to address the issue of veteran unemployment and how franchising can help veterans become franchise owners. McMahon and her husband, both Marine Corps veterans, are participating in a unique program called Boost a Hero, which uses a crowdfunding platform to help veterans raise capital to open a franchise. The McMahons hope to raise $20,000 through the program to help purchase a truck and trailer for their landscaping business.

The Grounds Guys has been named a 2012 Military Friendly Franchise and offers a discount of 25 percent off the franchise fee for military veterans. About one in five of The Grounds Guys’ 70 U.S. franchises is veteran-owned.