Greenlight a Veteran
November 11, 2015
November 11, 2015
“I support our troops.”
It’s a nice catch phrase to toss around on patriotic holidays like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and today, Veterans Day. It immediately evokes rich imagery of men and women bravely defending those who cannot defend themselves, whether here at home or on the other side of the globe; Young patriots giving up the comfort of home to put their lives on the line for strangers. Yes, it’s easy to wave the flag for these hometown heroes, fighting the good fight. But what about when that hero comes home? When he or she takes off the uniform and steps back into civilian life? Where is the catch phrase, “I support our vets?” Why does our tone change from cheering on our troops to discussing our veterans?
With roughly 573,000 veterans unemployed and struggling to find access to quality jobs, coming home is where the real struggle begins and our support is needed most. As individuals, we can participate in runs and walks, we can donate our money and even our time. But corporate America is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, with the ability to provide access to training and certification programs that offer not only a consistent paycheck, but the tools and pathways to succeed in life outside the armed forces.
In 2013, President Obama challenged corporate America to help change the way we support our veterans. He asked them to either provide training and access to healthcare or a more focused effort to hire returning veterans. AT&T, GE, Google and Visa are amongst dozens of companies who have all made the pledge to support our vets, introducing new programs to their corporate structure. And then there’s Walmart, which has pledged to hire 250,000 veterans by 2020. In just over two years, with 100,000 veterans, it is the largest private employer of veterans in the country. And it isn’t stopping there.
On October 26, in advance of Veterans Day, Walmart took another step: it launched its Greenlight a Vet Campaign with a simple, yet effective message: Show support to our veterans by simply placing a green light in our windows at home and at work. It is a visible representation of our support and appreciation for the 2.8 million veterans living throughout the United States.
After it launched, stores across the country were selling out of green lights. As of Veterans Day morning 2015, its Twitter feed had 1,500 followers, with hundreds of photos of green lights pouring in from across the country. The campaign’s website had over 2 million “clicks of support” which will be reflected on its Greenlight Beacon during the Veterans Day parade in New York City.
Why is the simple act of turning on a light so effective? It serves as a reminder to family, friends and neighbors that, while we cannot see our veterans in civilian clothing, they live and work among us. It prompts conversations on how we can better serve our veterans and how we can support issues that affect them like employment, healthcare, housing and access to benefits.
Most importantly, it offers an opportunity for us to say “thank you.”