In honor of Veterans Day, IVY conceptualized and hosted a series of impact events to bring together representatives from nonprofit organizations, foundations, and corporations, as well as government officials, to learn more about veterans affairs and how to contribute to this field.

The events were hosted in six major U.S. cities — Chicago, Boston, Miami, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles — and brought together top veterans’ organizations, thought leaders, and IVY Members to share trends, best practices, lessons learned, and collaborative opportunities in the veterans space. The purpose of these events was to discuss and educate about the innovative ways returning armed service members are integrating back into civilian life, and how the attendees, as a community, can support veterans. Here’s what we learned.

The panelists (from left to right): Omar Qudrat, Regan Turner, Blas Villalobos, and Janessa Mangone (IVY’s West Coast Community Director).

Key Takeaways

Each of the panel discussions resulted in engaging, thought-provoking, and informative discussions regarding the veterans space in the U.S.

Accelerating Veteran-Run Businesses

There are a disproportionate amount of veterans who are entrepreneurs compared to the civilian population. Organizations like Bunker Labs are helping their businesses thrive. Other organizations like EnlistedPartners are helping these businesses with funding.

Recruiting and Retaining Veteran Talent in the Workplace

One theme centered on the experience veterans bring to the table upon joining the civilian workforce, including their understated skills. Some key skills discussed included teamwork and collaboration, but speakers clarified that veterans can be great leaders as well as effective followers. Speakers mentioned that some HR departments don’t understand how veterans’ skills are translatable into being valuable in the workforce, and transitioning veterans themselves sometimes cannot accurately communicate how the broad spectrum of their diverse skill sets are applicable in the workplace. Chad Arroyo from the New York event elaborated, “One misconception is that transitioning veterans don’t have the right skills to enter the civilian workforce … Some of the things that all of us had to focus on during our time in service were a lot of the core competencies around teamwork, leadership, responsibility, discipline, duties, learning quickly, performing under stress and undue pressure at all times.”

Other companies are leading the way in HR initiatives specifically aimed at incorporating veterans into their corporate cultures, and many have hired veterans to focus on specific recruitment and retention efforts for veterans in their companies. For example, Deloitte’s Career Opportunity Redefinition & Exploration (CORE) Leadership Program helps members of the armed forces and veterans translate their skills, knowledge, and experience into a business environment.

Acknowledging Diverse Service Experiences

Rather than saying “thank you for your service,” it is important to acknowledge that the experience of each veteran is different from the next. A “one size fits all” approach isn’t the right way to go about things when trying to reintegrate a veteran into civilian life; each military branch has multiple specialties, and it should not be assumed that someone who served as a pilot and someone who was a mechanic had a similar experience or share the same perspective. Veteran panelists encouraged civilians to ask veterans about their roles throughout their time in the military — to truly engage with the topic — rather than simply thanking them for their service.

The Importance of Finding Community During Reintegration

Finding community after returning home was an important theme for the panelists. For some veterans, community is found through athletic organizations like Team Red, White, and Blue. For other organizations, it’s through service — whether that’s community service opportunities with organizations like Mission Continues, or responding to disasters with Team Rubicon.

The Panels

Held on November 13, the Chicago Impact Forum panel consisted of:

  • Todd Connor, U.S. Navy veteran; Founder and CEO of Bunker Labs.
  • William McNulty, civilian intelligence professional; Co-Founder of Team Rubicon.
  • Megan Everett, former Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy; Director of the Veterans Program for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Also held on November 13, the Boston Impact Forum panel consisted of:

  • Rachel McNeill, former Heavy Construction Equipment Operator serving in the Army Reserves; Co-founder and Steering Committee Member of the Greater Boston Veterans Collaborative.
  • Sean Horgan, former Marine; Co-Founder, Greater Boston Veterans Collaborative.
  • David Hencke, retired Lieutenant Colonel; Veteran Outreach Coordinator at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

The Impact Forum in Miami was held on November 14, with a panel including:

  • Keith Gibson, Air Force veteran; Currently at EnlistedPartners.com.
  • Derek Auguste, Army veteran; Platoon Leader at The Mission Continues Miami.
  • Joseph Messere, Navy Reservist; Region Administrator at Team Rubicon.

Held on November 15, the New York Impact Forum panel consisted of:

  • Spencer Kympton, former aviation officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot; President, The Mission Continues.
  • Chad Arroyo, Navy veteran; Executive Director of Bunker Labs New York.
  • Jonathan Connors, former active duty Marine Corps officer; Regional Administrator with Region II at Team Rubicon.
  • Amanda Scott, Donor Relations & Development Operations Manager at the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

The Impact Forum in Washington, DC was held on November 16, and the panel consisted of:

  • Nancy Sherman, Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University and notable author.
  • Amanda Burke, former Captain in the Marine Corps; Deputy Director of Region III with Team Rubicon.
  • Alex Haig, former Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army; Strategy and Operations Manager with Deloitte Consulting.
  • Mary Beth Bruggeman, former active duty Marine combat engineer; Executive Director for the Southeast Region at The Mission Continues.

Held on November 29, the Los Angeles Impact Forum panel included:

  • Blas Villalobos, former Squad Leader serving in the Marine Corps; Veterans Affairs Manager for the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
  • Regan Turner, former Captain in the Marine Corps; Regional Director for The Mission Continues.
  • Omar Qudrat, former Reserve Officer in the U.S. Army; Terrorism Prosecutor.

Veterans Organizations and Resources

Bunker Labs is a national entrepreneurship organization dedicated to helping military veterans start and grow businesses. The not-for-profit organization works to support military veterans by creating locally thriving networks, robust educational programs, and platforms for military veteran entrepreneurs to connect with the people and the resources they need to be successful with early stage ventures.

Bob Woodruff Foundation is an organization that works to fund and shape innovative programs in communities where veterans, and their families and caregivers live and work.

EnlistedPartners.com provides consulting, capital, and mentorship for growing veteran-owned businesses (“VOBs”). EnlistedPartners.com invests, connects, and accelerates VOBs through corporate and entrepreneurial partnerships.

Greater Boston Veterans Collaborative is an organization that works to serve veterans living in Greater Boston with a connected and supportive network of organizations working together to enrich their lives.

Team Red, White, and Blue is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

Team Rubicon is a non-profit organization that utilizes the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

The Mission Continues is non-profit organization that empowers veterans facing the challenge of adjusting to life at home to find new missions.