Recently, as our nation celebrated Veterans Day, we honored veterans past and present for their service and sacrifice. As a millennial, I skimmed Facebook reading the numerous posts about gratitude for those who have answered the call to protect our nation, values, and way of life. One post in particular stood out, written by an Army captain: “Don't just thank a Veteran today, donate to a good cause that helps wounded Vets or one that helps fund their civilian education. I can buy my own beer.” The frankness and shear simplicity of the statement highlighted that we all have some capacity to help veterans successfully overcome the challenges they face after returning from service, and we must match that capacity to rising needs.
The wars of the past decade-plus have tested not only our military’s endurance, but also our nation’s ability to reintegrate and care for its veterans. Although the VA has responded to increased demand, gaps still exist. Non-profits, academic institutions, and private companies play an increasingly important role in filling these gaps by providing services, research, and funding. Further, local communities play an important role as they receive veterans back into the fold of daily life.
As veterans return home and transition to civilian life, they will need the engagement and support of their communities. Employers can assist by fully understanding the business case for hiring veterans. The private sector can engage in public-private partnerships in areas such as mental health, building capacity and providing much needed services. Individuals have the potential to play a critical role by donating time and money to veteran-centric non-profits and learning about what issues effect veterans the most in their communities. Understanding these challenges will not only promote better investment, but also bridge the gap between communities and their veterans.