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Spc. Andrew Cooper learns about job opportunities at the Federal Aviation Administration desk during a career fair on Feb. 12, 2015.

Spc. Andrew Cooper learns about job opportunities at the Federal Aviation Administration desk during a career fair on Feb. 12, 2015. (Steve Peterson/U.S. Army)

Central to nearly every success story — in the military, in business, and in our personal lives — is a clear vision of what we need to accomplish and an unwavering commitment to making it a reality. Today, we are happy to share a success story that started three years ago when Capital One and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program set out to accomplish something big together.

We saw the facts — telling us that nearly 250,000 men and women are transitioning out of the military every year, coupled with stubbornly high unemployment rates for post-9/11 veterans and military spouses — and we thought through how we could combine our resources, core competencies and values to serve the veterans and military families who sacrifice for us each day. The result was Hiring 500,000 Heroes, a three-year, $4.5 million campaign to successfully match half a million veterans and military spouses with employers all across the country.

The moment we announced this effort in 2012, we knew that we had set a high bar. After all, hiring new talent can be best described as an art — not a science. It is a delicate process built on function and fit, and the stakes are high for everyone involved.

Today we can look back on the past three years and say that the Hiring 500,000 Heroes initiative has been every bit as challenging as we expected it to be, but it was also more exciting and inspiring than we ever could have imagined. Thanks to the thousands of businesses, organizations, veterans and military families involved — it can also be described as a resounding success. This month, we are very pleased to announce the 500,000th hire as part of the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign, marking a major milestone in this initiative and a contributor to veteran and military spouse employment.

What continues to sustain our efforts is the knowledge that 500,000 is more than just a number. It represents 500,000 individuals — veterans and military spouses who have served our country — and the more than 2,000 businesses of all sizes and from every industry that participated in this grassroots effort to hire them. And for every hire, there is a distinct story to be told.

We’ve had the opportunity to see a former Navy helicopter pilot use her aptitude for risk management to thrive in her role as a business manager at Capital One, We’ve seen an Army veteran transfer his lifelong dedication to service to his work at a major nonprofit organization, and we’ve seen a military spouse use her ability to multi-task and adapt to different environments to lead a large corporate team through a time of change. Every individual and every experience is distinct, and together they represent success and the journey we have been on together.

It starts with the sacrifices and valor of those on the front lines who have taken their civic duty to new heights. It extends to the employers across the United States who are making an effort to not just hire these talented military men and women, but also to ensure they are supported throughout their transition to the civilian workforce. Our goal has been to help raise awareness, shift perceptions, and provide resources to fundamentally change the way businesses recruit, hire and retain veterans and military spouses within their organizations.

Our experiences and those of our peers have shown us that when you provide tailored training programs, establish resource and mentoring groups, and create a flexible work environment for veterans and military spouses, you are able to fully capitalize on the range of skills these employees bring to the table. With the right support, these experienced leaders, problem-solvers and collaborators can use their skills in new and uncharted ways.

As with every major milestone, we should celebrate just how far we’ve come. More than 500,000 veteran and military spouse hires in the span of only three years certainly warrant recognition, and each one is a testament to what can be achieved when we not only think up big goals, but also work together to make them a reality.

We are so grateful to — and proud of — the businesses that have made this critical mission a top priority in recent years. This milestone represents the path forward for businesses large and small that have recognized that, in the course of doing right by veterans and military spouses, they are also doing right by their businesses’ bottom lines.

Eric Eversole is president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. He serves in the Navy Reserve. John Finneran is general counsel for Capital One Financial. He is a Navy veteran.

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