It has been over 4 decades since I returned from Vietnam. It would be trite if not unobserving, to simply say how the world has evolved!
After a 15-hour flight from Vietnam to McCord Air Force Base I can’t help but remember seeing protesters with signs and throwing rocks at our cab that would take us to the Seattle Airport so I could, after 362 days, finally go home. For the next 40 years I was shy (almost embarrassed) to let anyone know I was a Veteran –a Vietnam Veteran. It was a time that for so long I just wanted to forget! So the past 40 plus Veterans Days has just been another day when Federal Employees were given a day off! I had no desire to participate in celebrations or events because of how I was “welcomed home” by almost everyone (except maybe my parents) from Vietnam in 1969!
It was not until 2012 that someone casually said to me…”Thank you for your Service!” I am not sure how I responded but I do know that I was shocked that someone, anyone would recognize my contribution (no matter how insignificant).
But that was a different time in our history. Perhaps the lessons of the strategy of winning in Vietnam are not only embedded in history but have also set the groundwork understanding the sacrifice made by a few of us for our country. I was lucky – I came home! It was a different time and a sad time in our history.
So let’s fast-forward to the present…I can say without reservation that how we view those of us who have made these commitments has changed! Today understanding the Veteran community, it seems, it at the top of everyone’s “to do list”. Veterans are appreciated for their service and their commitment. It goes without saying that it is politically correct to honor a Vet – there is a feeling throughout the country that Veterans deserve respect for their service. Finally we can all stand tall and say that we “Served”!
Yet politically correct only gets us so far! Feeling and saying is not enough. It is time for a more concerted effort to make every Veteran whole! Let’s stop saying we are going to end Veteran homelessness, help every Veteran with a psychological or substance abuse issue and make sure we do something or anything to decrease Veteran unemployment! Let’s cut through the bureaucracy of studies and forms and get the work that needs to be done accomplished.
Unfortunately there are some organizations that take advantage of the political correctness of assisting Veterans – to those organizations I will say “go find another cause to support”! Let the organizations that are committed to the well being of our Veterans do our work and help to effectively end the issues facing today’s Veterans.
In 2014 I created Silhouettes for VETS with only one goal in mind…Coach and Prepare Veterans for the workforce. And by doing so I could impact the staggering Veteran unemployment rate. After over 40 years in the Staffing and Human Resources industry I am keenly aware that the population in general does not know how to look for a job (career) and that number is dramatically increased in the Veteran community. So I used my experience to give back! And giving back we have helped place 80% of the Veterans we have coached into career positions! Just think how much we could accomplish if our model is expanded. Can you envision Veteran unemployment at 5%? – now wouldn’t that be great.
But is not just Silhouettes for VETS. Many organizations in the non-profit sector have the same level of commitment to our Veterans. Organizations like NVTSI, Makeovers that Matter, The Gary Sinise Foundation, Hire our Hero’s, Easter Seals, The Salvation Army Haven, JVS, The Soldiers Project, PsychArmor, PATH and many others are having a profound impact as they work with Veterans to ensure that they can make a seamless transition to civilian life.
Let’s take a moment and know that policies, documents and plans don’t help the Veteran community. We need a call for results. Each of the organizations that are committed to work for the benefit of our Veterans already has a plan – let’s put our plan (s) into action without delay. So I challenge each of you who are currently working and supporting our Veterans to do just 10% more in the coming twelve months! The results, I can assure you, will have a profound impact in making the Veteran community a better place.
So as we celebrate, commemorate Veterans Day 2015 let’s all reflect and honor those of us that have served – let’s do more – let’s to everything we can so Veterans can be off the street, psychologically sound, drug and alcohol free and employed!
To everyone who has ever served…THANK YOU!