Jordan Gothard was born a Nashville native, but it was his father’s work that took him to Texas. In a roundabout way, it was the same thing that brought him back to Tennessee.
His family moved to Round Rock, Texas, when Jordan was 12, just weeks before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It was at that moment that sparked his interest in serving in the United States Armed Forces.
“I was a fourth grader and we watched it all on TV in the classroom,” Jordan says. “I knew right then that I wanted to serve.”
As a high schooler, he joined the Junior ROTC program and, upon graduation, he enlisted on an eight-year contract with the Army National Guard. After basic and advanced training, he was assigned to a duty station in his home town of Round Rock, with the 136th Movement Enhancement Brigade. His military occupational specialty was military police, which provided some memorable experiences.
“I had just returned to Texas when we had a major chemical plant explosion, the same week as the Boston Marathon bombing,” he says. “At the time it was suspected as potential terrorism and we secured the site while the CIA and FBI investigated, confirming that it was actually an accident. That was one of the most memorable events of my military career.”
Gothard would ultimately serve four of his six years as an active National Guardsman as a full-time enlisted soldier. His unit received orders to deploy to Kabul, Afghanistan in late 2012, and began training for combat service. But the military sequestration effort cut the deployment in half, and Jordan’s number wasn’t called.
He would start at the bottom at Camp Mabry, a facility that handles official identification and other credentials for members of the military across the state of Texas, and Jordan rose quickly to become the Site Security Manager over five satellite facilities. It was that experience that prepared him for his leadership role in the restaurant world.
“My dad, Mark, had been a grocery store executive, but he took an opportunity with an old friend to become CFO of a very successful restaurant group,” Jordan says. “My active service was ending and I was ready for a change in scenery, and I had determined that I wasn’t going to pursue law enforcement as a career. I decided I would move at the same time as my parents back to Nashville, and I took a position as a host at Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant.”
Within months, he had become a front-of-house manager. He says the familial aspect reminds him of the military – in the way that he had managed a small squad of soldiers, now he manages servers, bussers and hosts.
“We work together as a team, and that goes hand in hand with the ‘selfless service’ core value of the Army. I love seeing a customer smile and hearing their stories,” he says.
“In the military we all wore the same uniform but we were from all over. It’s the same thing here with tourists and people moving to Nashville… everyone has a story, and we have a lot of regulars too.”
Jordan is working on a pathway to becoming a General Manager, and he sees great opportunity to build a career in the restaurant industry. He finds joy in taking care of people and setting a good example for his team members.
That makes him think of another story that, every now and then, he looks back on for inspiration.
“We were returning from field training one day, a three-hour drive in a hot HMMWV (Humvee) convoy, and we stopped at a Burger King to grab something quickly,” he says. “I was guarding the vehicles so I went in last when everyone else was done. A little boy about eight years old pulled on my sleeve and asked for my autograph, while his mom told me how thankful she was for my service.
“That experience has stuck with me – sometimes we don’t realize it, but everything we do means something to somebody. I hope I can be a leader and a good teammate and provide a great experience for our customers. If that’s my role to play, and I do it well, then we all win.”