This Veterans Day marks 100 years since the entry of the United States into World War I, and the massive conscription of the two million young Americans who sailed to France to make the world “safe for democracy.”
As we salute the service of our World War II, Korean and Vietnam Era servicemen and women, and those who’ve worn the uniform in subsequent years, it’s worth reflecting on the changing nature of the American military. In the absence of the draft, we now count on a select group of highly motivated young men and women who volunteer for the rigors of military service to defend our country. The number of active duty military (1.3 million) and reservists (800,000) totals 2.1 million in a country that has three times the population we did a century ago, representing just one percent of the American workforce. That’s a relatively small number to depend upon to keep our homeland safe and to defend our national interests and allies abroad. As such, it’s no wonder many Americans don’t come in frequent contact with a current member of the military and get the opportunity to offer sincere thanks for their service.
But lack of proximity should not negate our collective responsibility as citizens to offer our appreciation and support. We can all do our part by writing or sending a care package to those men and women currently serving overseas, by volunteering for veterans causes, by sponsoring a companion dog for veterans with disabilities, or simply by helping a veteran share with others their extraordinary stories.
Of course, one of the best and most rewarding means of supporting our veterans is to hire them. Employing veterans is definitely a win-win for companies and our country. These highly motivated men and women possess unparalleled leadership skills, technical know-how and the ability to perform under pressure. The 347 member-companies of the Aerospace Industries Association actively seek out veterans for high technology jobs and leadership positions in our industry. We know our ability to maintain our legacy of innovation in everything from civil aircraft to unmanned aircraft systems or drones, space systems and military equipment and platforms is tremendously enhanced by hiring veterans.
Saying the words, “Thank you for your service,” is important, but it’s just a first step toward expressing the real gratitude we owe our service men and women. If there is a growing company out there thinking about expanding its workforce, the best place to start – and the best way to show genuine appreciation for their service – is to hire a veteran to join your team.
David F. Melcher (Lt. Gen. USA-Ret), is the President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association.
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