Updated: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that Greenlight A Vet is part of Walmart's $20 million philanthropic support for veterans advocacy groups. This endeavor is separate from that program.
Mega retailer Walmart is investing $20 million in veterans groups and is calling attention in a nationwide effort to the professional and personal struggles some veterans face once their military service comes to an end.
The project is called Greenlight A Vet, and with prime-time national TV spots leading up to running to raise Service members transitioning out of the military don’t always know what’s next, whether it be going to school, starting a career or growing their family. But in time for this Veterans Day next week, organizers hope it will compel the American seeks one campaign shines a light on a few programs targeted to help veterans achieve their goals. The new #GreenlightAVet campaign, sponsored by Walmart, has pledged to work with veterans as they enter civilian life, and has asked all Americans to "greenlight" their support by turning on green lights at their residences or offices on Nov. 11. The initiative encourages mentorship from the public to show greater support for the men and women who have fought two wars on their behalf while encouraging veterans, but also for vets to seek the support they may need from advocacy groups such as the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Team Rubicon, Blue Star Families, and other groups involved in the campaign, said Chris Erickson, a veteran ‘exbellum’ resident at FleishmanHillard marketing agency.
At its core, the project is calling on Americans from coast to coast to display green lights at their homes and workplaces on Nov. 11, a symbolic show of gratitude for the service and sacrifices made by more than 2.5 million military families since the nation went to war in 2001. More broadly, it's calling attention to several veterans advocacy groups, including the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, Team Rubicon and Blue Star Families.
"Some of these programs don’t have the visibility, but with the assets Walmart provides, this could bring the focus to the American public all at once," said Chris Erickson, an Army veteran and resident at FleishmanHillard, a marketing agency helping Walmart promote Greenlight A Vet. served in the Army's Special Forces before leaving the military as a staff sergeant, told Military Times Nov. 2. "A veteran can sit for an average of twenty-two weeks in unemployment between their last military paycheck and a new job ... and they just need to know there is a support network out there for them," he said."
Walmart and its foundation have donated $20 million for the veterans outreach programs under Greenlight A Vet. The company, under its "Welcome Home Commitment" program, has pledged to hire 250,000 veterans by 2020. The company Walmart recently hired its 100,000th vet, and has promoted 9,000 since 2013, according to its website. Since 2011, the company's foundation has pledged more than $40 million This is the second time Walmart has given $20 million to veterans groups; in 2011, the company pledged $20 million to vet programs that provide job training, transition help and education.
The Greenlight A Vet website launched Oct. 26. There, organizers are collecting digital support for the initiative, simple clicks that already have surpassed has gathered over 475,000 "clicks" in support since its launch last week. The final tally will be displayed during the New York City Veterans Day Parade.
The website also features personal stories from vets like Lourdes, who joined the Army at age 17 years-old, and has worked to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder since her deployment to Iraq. "The only other people who understand this is other vets," she Lourdes says. "Being in a place where tomorrow's not guaranteed, you learn how to value life. I went to Iraq, and I made it back home. So I can do anything."
Veterans should be seen as "This creates a very unique opportunity to highlight veterans as assets in our communities," said Maureen Casey, chief operating officer for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Fewer than 1 percent of the population has served since 9/11, she said, and many veterans worry that their communities don't understand them "We can’t forget that less than one percent of us have served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001. Many military families are concerned they’re coming home to communities that don’t know them, ... and an opportunity like Greenlight A Vet continues to raise awareness."
"Our commitment is to identify ways we can continue to highlight these veterans," Casey said, "whether it’s as simple as green light bulbs, hiring a vet, being a mentor to a vet ... but having an opportunity for broader conversation," Casey said."
A former special forces staff sergeant, Erickson said he used similar programs in September to transition into his current job from a 10-year Army career into his current role in September. They "These programs, aside from personal goals, help veterans get training," he said, "from basic needs like how their new benefits systems work, how to generate a resume based on a military career, to helping spouses of service members transition as well," Erickson said."