Officials at Got Your Six already know veterans are more likely to do volunteer work, donate to charity and get involved in local politics.
Now the advocacy group is challenging non-veterans to use that available military experience and enthusiasm to better their communities.
On Thursday, Got Your Six released its annual Veterans Civic Health Index, an overview of veterans' post-military engagement in local charities and coordination. As in past years, the results show a higher level of involvement by veterans compared to their civilian peers.
Researchers found veterans spend more time performing volunteer work (169 hours a year vs. 126 for non-veterans), are more likely to vote in local elections (73.8 percent vs 57.2 percent for non-vets) and more often work with neighbors to tackle problems in their community (10.7 percent vs. 7.6 percent for non-vets).
They argued the statistics show not only that veterans should be active in their communities, they should be seen as potential leaders and organizers in improvement efforts.
"When people are engaged, they’re happier, and their communities are stronger," said Julia Tivald, director of strategy for Got Your Six and author of the report. "And we know that getting involved can be a positive agent for social change."
Group officials see veterans as potential community organizers on a host of issues, beyond military and Veterans Affairs challenges. Executive Director Bill Rausch said he sees recently separated troops as valuable voices in national conversations about race relations and social division, because of their willingness to work toward compromise and progress.
Unfortunately, most people only associate combat and war with military service.
"The majority of Americans … view veterans as broken or heroic," he said. "There are some very dangerous narratives. And because we’re a small percentage of the population, they’re not experiencing a narrative that is different.
"And that’s why we exist, to promote veterans as civic assets."
The report includes a host of recommendations for companies, policymakers and charities to change that perception, including simply "have a conversation with a veteran."
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.