The way Americans see veterans is changing. Throughout my 26 years in the Army, I have seen this shift firsthand. Two polls released today by Got Your 6 and ServiceNation reveal that the nation's perception of veterans is changing to better reflect the realities of those who served. Only one year ago, the "broken hero" narrative was the norm. Americans believed that veterans were more likely to be homeless, unemployed, or were all suffering from post traumatic stress. That perception is beginning to shift as Americans start to see veterans in a new light.
Got Your 6 — a campaign that unites veteran-focused nonprofits, the entertainment industry and government partners to elevate the conversation about veterans — in conjunction with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, just released a study illustrating that a more compelling message about veterans is starting to take root. The country is beginning to realize that the "broken hero" perception of post-9/11 veterans is just that — a perception — and the American public is ready to accept a new reality about a veteran population that is more dynamic and diverse than ever before.
New numbers also released today found that the organizations tasked with combating our nation's biggest challenges — from eliminating poverty to ending the dropout crisis to rebuilding communities after natural disasters — want to bring in more veterans to help solve these problems. This study, commissioned by the McCormick Foundation and led by ServiceNation — an organization fighting to expand opportunities for Americans to serve through programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps — surveyed those on the ground running these organizations and revealed that they see veterans as leaders with a unique and valuable set of skills and attributes.
What caused this shift?
One reason behind this shift is that Americans are seeing more accurate portrayals of veterans in film and television. Earlier this year, Got Your 6 partnered with first lady Michelle Obama and Bradley Cooper to launch the "6 Certified" program, working with writers and producers to encourage more normalized depictions of veterans in film and television. Got Your 6 has also partnered with action superstar Chris Pratt, and even the Madagascar Penguins, to create PSAs and digital videos to ensure veterans are more accurately portrayed to the general public as people who are neither all broken, nor all heroes.
As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day, we must remind ourselves that while some veterans do struggle with homelessness, unemployment and PTS, veterans, as a whole, are a resilient community. By changing these negative perceptions, we make it easier for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life and we make communities stronger when we recognize veterans as part of the solution to making America a better place for future generations.
Dottie Kist, 91, served as a Navy radio operator on Long Island in 1944-45. On Sept. 22, she was part of the first All Female Honor Flight to visit Washington, D.C.'s war memorials.
Photo Credit: Veterans Affairs Department
ServiceNation believes that all Americans — veterans, students, millennials, seniors, and citizens of all backgrounds — should have the opportunity to be a part of that solution. That is why ServiceNation has been working to develop ideas like the Veteran Civilian Service Option and a Military Spouse Service Corps. These proposals would expand opportunities for veterans and their families to continue serving as leaders — this time at home in their communities. They would also allow the very same nonprofit leaders who expressed a desire to hire veterans the opportunity to engage them right away to help address challenges facing America today.
These ideas have data to back them up. Back in April, the National Conference on Citizenship (in conjunction with Got Your 6) released the first Veterans Civic Health Index, the findings from which overwhelmingly show that military service positively affects a person's civic health. The report found that veterans are more likely to serve and be active citizens in their communities than their civilian counterparts.
On Veterans Day, let us remember the sacrifice of our veterans and their commitment to country. Let us also reflect on what it means to be a veteran in America today. Let us open our minds to a future that truly honors their service and sacrifice and one that expands opportunities for these talented men and women to serve as leaders here at home.