Daniel Merritt, an Army veteran, businessman and former Congressional candidate surprised onlookers when he re-enlisted with the Army after selling his share of Nine Line Apparel to his disabled-veteran co-owner brother Tyler Merritt.
Tyler now owns 100 percent of the company and Nine Line remains a 100 percent disabled veteran owned company.
Re-enlisting was a no-brainer for the soldier who was “dying to do something else,” and he knew Nine Line Apparel, a clothing company “founded by patriots for patriots,” was in good hands.
“Daniel is my brother. I’m very proud of him trying to enter politics and go back into the military, but he didn’t have the ability to focus on the company, so he was bought out and [Nine Line Apparel] is now 100 percent owned by me,” Daniel’s brother Tyler told American Military News. “It is a 100 percent disabled veteran owned company.”
Additionally, Merritt’s remaining businesses, A Southern Lifestyle Company and Downside Investment Group, have day-to-day management running the companies which freed up Merritt to re-enlist.
“All of the things that I was able to accomplish was because of the decision [to join the Army] that I was able to make somehow when I was 18 years old. So maybe that’s kind of, in a way, a reason that when I sold my company, I wanted to continue to give back because if I hadn’t joined in the beginning, I would have never had the tools that I needed to…achieve all of these great things because I had the discipline to do it,” Merritt told American Military News.
Born in Stanford, Ct., Merritt spent his youth like many other American boys: playing Army in the woods. His grandfather, a Marine who was shot during the first landing on Iwo Jima, provided a connection for the young Merritt to a life in the service.
“The military always kind of called out to me,” Merritt said.
A poor student, Merritt struggled with follow-through, surrounding himself with “not the best folks…I was the kid who probably should have gone to jail or been dead.” Knowing that wasn’t who he wanted to be, Merritt considered the Army; a move that, if pursued, he knew he could not back out of.
“Once your sign your name on that dotted line, you’re stuck. It was a three-year commitment and it would bring me to Europe. I wanted to commit to something,” Merritt said. “It was the best decision I ever made in my entire life.”
Merritt enlisted right out of high school. He was deployed twice during his 18 years of service: once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
In Iraq, he had an “extremely unique experience” as a satellite platoon leader, meaning he was a platoon leader but he wasn’t with his company. Instead, at just 27 years old, Merritt was attached to an element in charge of training Iraqi police.
Merritt credits those around him with his success in Iraq. He ran hundreds of combat patrols and brought all of his guys home, earning a Bronze Star. Merritt called it “the highlight of my military career.”
In Afghanistan, Merritt was in charge of two different programs that included bringing police officers from the U.S. to train Afghani officers and getting their police organizations up to speed so they could move forward on their own.
After his deployments, Merritt said he was ready for something new, adding, “I checked all of the boxes…Iraq, Afghanistan…the bombs, the bullets…I wanted to do something else.”
The soldier took off for Savanah, Georgia, where he and his brother, a Special Operations helicopter pilot, started the small business “Nine Line Apparel.”
Around the same time that Merritt sold his half of Nine Line Apparel, one of his friends, a disabled veteran struggling with substance abuse, needed help. After his friend reached out to the VA with confusing results, Merritt stepped in and called his congressman, but he never heard back.
The frustration propelled the veteran to run for Congress. While he ultimately lost his bid for one of Georgia’s House seats, Merritt said he is glad he ran because it made his competition “a better Congressman.”
“As a small business owner, and a big believer in small business, competition in business is great for the people in the United States. Competition drives prices down. Competition makes products better. Competition makes service better. And it’s the same thing in office. Every congressman, every senator, they should have competition all the time because it should keep them on their toes. It should make them want to work harder,” Merritt said. “My congressman worked so freakin hard when I was running against him. I made him a better Congressman because he had competition. He had a decent competitor and it made him work harder. Competition is who we are as Americans. It’s the ultimate equalizer.”
Still wanting to serve, Merritt re-enlisted and moved with his wife and four children to Germany for his new assignment.
Looking forward, Merritt said he’d consider running for office again, but even if he doesn’t, he definitely wants to see more veterans in office.
“What we’re willing to do for a third of the price is much greater than what these guys have to do on a daily basis and we’ll do it in the far parts of the world that nobody wants to go to but we’re happy to go. We’re also happy to serve,” Merritt said. “If we could get more veterans in office, I do believe, it would still take a long time, but if we get more vets in office, I think we could start to make an impact and really change the game a bit.”
Even though he didn’t make it to Congress “this time,” Merritt said sitting at home sulking simply wasn’t an option. His philosophy on life is to “be a participant.”
“You can make an impact…in a small way or in a big way. Anybody who is feeling like there is huge division, figure out what they can do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to make a small impact,” Merritt said. “Be nice to people. Bring a meal to a homeless guy. Do something positive. It’s the small stuff that makes the biggest impact.”