“They left kicking and screaming from the Theater” as told by General James Amos; Brave men and women that were injured in the act of protecting our country’s freedom often arrive home with the guilt of leaving others behind. More than that, they are denied a sense of closure and are faced to reconcile memories of war with the relative normalcy of life back home.
Last week, I had the fortunate opportunity to hear General Amos speak at the Wounded Warrior Hiring and Support Conference organized by NAVSEA. This remarkable (free) event offered a roster of inspiring speakers urging employers to support our returning heroes in securing gainful employment. Much was said about the “invisible wounds” of war. In fact, it is mostly the scars of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that are common among returning service members as opposed to the burns and amputations most people associate with “wounded warriors”. Additionally, many have associated PTSD with the military when, in fact, it is a concern that affects approximately 7-8% of the U.S. population.
Most of the people that attended the Wounded Warrior Conference likely understood the business case for hiring Veterans. Aside from loyalty and teamwork, employers get access to leaders that have global experience, are adaptable, and can infuse their enthusiasm for work within the workplace. Considering the profile of those that serve in the military, they are people who wanted to get involved and contribute to the best of their abilities. In HR speak, that means high employee engagement and the Veteran population brings the elusive concept of discretionary effort into the forefront. In financial terms, high engagement has been correlated with high financial returns with one study citing a 19% increase in operating income and 28% growth in earnings per share.
America’s Heroes at Work, a Department of Labor project, addresses the employment challenges of Veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). In their employer support section, they cite a finding by the National Council on Disability that people who regain employment following the onset of a disability report higher life satisfaction and better adjustment than do people who are not employed. If employers needed a call to action to hire a Wounded Warrior, this is certainly one that can be heard loud and clear.
As for the Wounded Warriors that General Amos was referring to, it seems that a program has emerged to meet those needs as well. Rick Kell, founder of Operation Proper Exit, was interviewed last week about his innovative program to bring closure to Veterans. Kell explains, “They were taken from Iraq. When they arrived home last time, there were no homecomings… And they have to put those pieces back together. And they do, many do. And– but the one piece they couldn’t put back was the piece of exiting and leaving the way they thought they would leave with their team, with– with their battle buddies.” A total of 68 soldiers and Marines have taken part in this specialized program and returned to the battlefield to confront their memories. This time, they regain the control they were not previously afforded and, when it’s all over, finally leave the conflict on their own terms.
My parting thought for today questions the common excuse for not hiring Veterans: they are hard to find. Considering only 1% of the population serves in the military, it could be true if not for the abundance of resources available from each branch of the military and several other private organizations. Employers can start with the National Resources Directory and also tap into a number of free services resulting from a quick internet search. After Veteran’s day last week, employers should feel motivated to act as President Theodore Roosevelt once advised: “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.”