The Council’s Opportunity to Serve Veterans, Military Families, and Communities

User .Minh Luu
Posted Date : March 4, 2013

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Living in Anchorage, Alaska, I am reminded on a daily basis that freedom is not free. As an important part of our community, the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard have a significant presence that transcends their service to our nation. Combined with the very high number of veterans who make our state their home after leaving the service, active-duty members and their families provide significant civic and business leadership as well as volunteer expertise. This strengthens our quality of life in Anchorage and other places across the state. Over the past decade, our Alaska-based service members have been been regularly deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. These deployments impact the service member, their families, and the broader community. This same scenario has played out in many communities across the country.

During the next year, one million men and women will leave the active-duty military service and return to civilian life in communities across America. They will become part of the two million men and women who have served the nation over the past decade of war. Of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly 44 percent said they found reentry into civilian life difficult. Today, communities have an unprecedented opportunity to help veterans and their families reintegrate into civic and family life so they can maximize their great potential. The issues that need to be addressed include jobs, education, and physical and mental health.

On June 1, the Council on Foundations and the Blue Shield of California Foundation convened public, private, and philanthropic colleagues to discuss the needs of our returning war veterans. This discussion was borne of a series of retreats at White Oaks Plantation in Florida that focused primarily on the relationship between government and nonprofits and their efforts to coordinate services. Among the important outcomes of the White Oaks conversations was the creation of the Military Community Blueprint, a guide for communities on developing effective practices for the military, families, and veterans in their regions. The guide is now used in more than a dozen cities.

In addition, the White Oaks conversations validated an opportunity for the Council to provide active leadership in this emerging and vital national conversation. The subsequent June 1 Veterans Philanthropy Meeting was our initial effort to bring together Council members, the White House, federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations to build relationships, discuss frameworks, and understand collaborative opportunities.

These conversations will continue. Though each participant brings different perspectives, developing a coherent framework for collaboration is an important goal. Once such a framework is in place, nearly every foundation will be able to identify concrete ways to support military families while maintaining their organizational mission and community priorities. Importantly, the Council can continue to convene key stakeholders, connect our members for peer learning opportunities, and share lessons, promising practices, and useful tools across the field.

With so many committed partners in this conversation, the Council looks forward to playing a unique role in assisting our men and women in uniform, and their families, in this important transition. It is an opportunity for us to serve those who have given so much in service of our nation.

Jeff Clarkeis interim president and CEO of the Council on Foundations.

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