Veteran Jay Ramos: A Developer Shaped by Military Service During the Gulf War

In May 1990, Jay Ramos was a smiling young man decked out in a tux at his senior prom. Eight months later, he was on the deck of the storied USS Missouri in the middle of a war in the Persian Gulf.

“One month you're a kid and all of sudden you're in the middle of a war," the Senior Director of Real Estate Development said. “It was so surreal. The magnitude of it didn't really hit me until four or five years afterwards."

Jay chose to enlist after high school as he didn't feel ready for college; he had no example to look to because no one in his working-class family had attended college. He enlisted in the Navy for two years of active duty and six years of inactive duty.

Rather than a customary two-week leave following boot camp, he was on the first flight of his life destined for Bahrain, an unknown place to him and much of the world prior to the Gulf War. He traveled from San Diego to Sicily, where after a three-day layover, he boarded a helicopter bound for the battleship in the Mediterranean Sea. The ship arrived in the Persian Gulf on January 1, 1991. Jay turned 19 on January 9, and Operation Desert Storm commenced 16 days later.

“In the middle of war, you grow up really quickly," he said. “You learn to be independent and rely on your instincts."

Jay was a Boatswain's Mate, considered the jack-of-all-trades aboard a Naval ship. Because he was able to pass an advanced swimming and physical test, he was assigned to the Small Boats Unit, quick detachments that operated “ribs," or 18- to 20-foot inflatable boats supporting Explosive Ordinance and Demolition (EOD) teams.

“It was exciting," he recalled. “We got off the big ship and were able to go where the big ships couldn't go."

The unit's missions gave them a break from the contained life aboard the USS Missouri that some of the 1,600 crewmembers found overwhelming.

Discharged with Confidence, Ready for the Future

After completing a stop-loss third year of active duty, Jay was eager to begin college. He had learned a lot – including a lot about himself.

“I learned the military wasn't for me." he said. “I have an entrepreneurial personality and the military is not entrepreneurial. It also taught me I was lot smarter than I thought. It turned on the fire for education for me." Jay jumped right into college and graduated with a biology degree from Arizona State University in three years.

He aspired to be a physical therapist, but an eye-opening internship changed his mind. Instead, he took a job with a small boutique investment banking firm without any prior exposure to the industry.

He credits the military for giving him the confidence to make that bold career move, as well as jumping from investment banking into real estate development, with the assurance that everything will work out.

“After everything I experienced in the military, I knew I could make these changes and be fine," he said.

From trivial tasks like making his bed daily and keeping his desk organized to his leadership, decision-making and teamwork abilities, one can see Jay's inherent traits honed by the military.

“Military training is some of the best preparations for a successful career in business," said Larry Pobuda, Executive Vice President & General Manager. “Discipline, training, hard work, structure and attention to detail are qualities of top-performing developers and they are embedded in Jay. We are proud of Jay's service, and we are proud to call Jay our teammate."

Jay regularly works on large development projects involving joint venture partners, municipalities and neighborhood groups. Despite the high stakes and often complex dynamics, he can remain calm and adapt quickly, leaning on his problem-solving and decision-making abilities gained in the military.

He also understands there are times for collaborating and consensus-building, and other times that require making decisions and directing others to act to reach a goal. He used both approaches in the military to protect lives. Today, those leadership skills help him, and Opus, succeed.

Jay joined Opus in August 2022. He has found the company's supportive culture and in-house multi-disciplinary team to be strong assets both in the market and for him professionally.

“I love how everyone here sincerely cares about each other and really wants you to do well," he said. “And being able to walk down the hall to talk to the head of construction, that makes me a better developer."

Pausing to Reflect

It takes special occasions for Jay to reflect deeply on his days in the military. Like when he and his family visited the USS Missouri, which became a WWII museum in Pearl Harbor after its decommissioning in 1992. As Jay toured the battleship, sharing his memories with his family, he was flooded with emotions.

Veterans Day also prompts him to pause and remember.

“I think of all the people I served with, many from challenging socioeconomic situations," Jay said, choking up. “The military was our common thread. 90% of the military is enlisted personnel. These are ordinary people who do the tough work that affords us the freedoms we have."

That notion will never be lost on Jay, who uses Veterans Day each year to teach his kids to tell anyone who served, “Thank you."


On Veterans Day, we honor all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. We are proud of our associates who have served in the military, or are still serving, and we thank them for their dedication to our country.