Michael Allen, Chief of Staff, US Public Sector, Microsoft

 

Do you know a veteran? There’s a good chance you do but may not realize it.

I bet some of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy met some when the National Guard and Marines arrived to help.
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There is a long history of military service in my family. I had two great uncles that fought in WWII. One landed on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day Invasion and was severely wounded. My great aunt, his sister, put her life on hold and took care of him for the rest of his life. The other flew P-51 fighters over Europe.

image   My parents met while they both were in the Air Force. My brother-in-law was an Air Force Academy graduate and flew F-4 fighters. My sister’s world changed drastically when an Air Force sedan pulled up to our house with a chaplain and public affairs officer to tell us he had been killed during a training mission over South Korea.

My wife’s cousin was a cadet at West Point and served during the Iraq War and my nephew went through Officer Candidate School and led a platoon in the Afghanistan War.

I thought I was an expert on all things related to our veterans but I wasn’t. I’m still not, but living outside Washington DC I have been fortunate to learn more from some amazing people that are helping and from those that have served. I have had the privilege of meeting many veterans that served during WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have met wounded warriors and talked with their families about the sacrifices they were making. I have met homeless veterans, those that are struggling with unseen wounds, some feel guilty that they survived and some were fortunate enough to serve and come home safe. They all served for personal reasons and the one common quality I have noticed in all of them is pride; pride in our country and pride in their service. As a nation, we are blessed by those that have stepped up to serve.

One of the most important facts that I have learned is that our veterans come home to communities, not commands. When our wounded warriors come home to heal it isn’t just about the hospital or the veterans center, it’s their community that steps forward and has the services they need to reclaim their lives.   image

Every community play a central role as our veterans, our wounded, their families, and the families of the fallen transition back to civilian life but many aren’t ready to meet their unique needs.

Fortunately there are organizations that are stepping forward to help. Organizations like Easter Seals, the USO, TAPS, Operation Mend, Fisher House, Hope for the Warriors and others are working to help communities provide those essential services. Another important area of need is employment and that’s where corporate America can step in and help and many have. Companies like Disney, American Airlines, Home Depot, Sears, JP Morgan Chase and my company, Microsoft, have special programs for our veterans. Microsoft has a strong veteran’s community and has created We Still Serve, which helps veterans understand how their skills translate to jobs at Microsoft as well as the Elevate America Veterans Initiative, providing no cost IT skills training and certification for veterans and cash donations to organizations that are helping them.

image   Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen started a grass roots effort called the Sea of Goodwill to bring public and private solutions together to help our veterans. He truly understood that the challenges facing our veterans were too great for the government or a handful of companies to solve alone.

The current Chairman, General Martin Dempsey has continued this effort. We need everyone leaning forward to fill the gaps in services and opportunities.

So what can you do? It’s pretty easy actually…listen to them.  Listen to their stories and their experiences.  I started an organization, Homefront Heroes, that creates short documentaries to share stories from the wounded warrior community and may be a good place to start. You can also give back as one neighbor to another by being a mentor or introducing them to your network of contacts and give to an organization in your community because that's who they come home to and where they live.

Our veterans are pretty awesome. They make sacrifices many of us don’t realize and their families endure situations civilians never experience. We can give back and thank them for their sacrifices and it
will make a difference.

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Interested in reading more about Veterans? Read the latest issue of MSN Causes!

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