Veterans’ Day 2.0

Today is veteran’s day. A day americans come together to honor our veterans and their service to our homeland. No matter which political or social creed you belong to, we can all agree that our veterans deserve nothing but the very best support, care and respect we can offer them. Unfortunately, our society is not always there for our veterans when they need it the most.

Today got me thinking about how we can revamp the concept of veteran’s day from a day of honor and respect, to a day of service. As a society, we try our best but we do a pretty lousy job of transitioning our vets back into civilian life. Government and the private sector does not or cannot offer the necessary level of psychological care, training, job assistance, skills development and overall social integration that is necessary for someone to transition form a war hero to a productive member of civilian society. I have never had the opportunity to serve the United States Military. I cannot pretend that I know the complexities, the issues and the challenges involved. I do not have a concrete plan. I don’t think there can BE a concrete, formulaic way to tackle this national issue. I think each veteran’s experience, needs and situation is unique and must be handled as such.

What I do think I know.. is that we can all help. Yes we can. Not just be attending the parade, but by volunteering. Getting involved. Finding out what the vets in your community need? Are there issues of homelessness? counseling? job training? skills? help finding a job? a place to stay? financial assistance? Help with babysitting or family assistance? legal assistance? help buying a house? help buying a computer?

If we look at america as one big talent pool, it is pretty darn impressive. Each of us possess skills and experience in things big and small, from project management to management of grocery lists, that can contribute towards the solution in some way, shape or form. The biggest question is how to harness this knowledge, energy and yes even desire of people who want to help, and channel it in a meaningful and constructive way to help our vets. Many models could make sense:

1) The VA could take an active role in connecting volunteers to vets. Many things could be done here. One can envision putting together a craigslist type of online clearinghouse where vets can registers and outline their daily challenges, and volunteers can find areas where they can assist. Oversight and championship from the VA would reduce the instance of fraud and abuse. The challenge here would be that the VA’s role and vision is national and global. I can imagine that it is difficult for the VA to think and act on a micro-community level. However, I suspect that to be effective, the needs of vets must be understood and addressed at a local/community level.

2) A new non-profit could be established to focus on just connecting vets to volunteers. However, setting up a successful non profit with the reach and scale to address a problem of this magnitude is not easy

3) The existing network of non profits and volunteer organizations, including entities like AmeriCorp, Teach for America, Code for America, and Habitat for Humanity could connect, collaborate and provide veteran focussed services and offerings

I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that we need to all start taking active steps towards finding one. We have a generation of veterans returning from two wars, and they deserve and expect that their homeland will take care of them when they return. If we apply the same level of energy that the #gov20 community is enjoying these days, we can definitely start developing the structures and visibility needed to move this ball forward.

What are your thoughts? Share your ideas and insights. Lets see if technology has a role to play here. Especially if you have experience dealing directly with veterans’ issues (which I don’t), I would love to hear your perspective.

God bless our veterans and this great country.

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