There are many ways to say “thank you” to our nation’s heroes not just on Veterans Day, but every day of the year. At Thanksgiving, I was reminded again how blessed we are because of our military families.
Today, our nation’s military community is made up of more than 18 million veterans and 1.4 million active duty service members. In addition, 2.7 million military family members have dedicated their lives to serving our country by standing behind their loved ones (Department of Defense).
For many military members and their families who are returning from overseas or leaving service, their battle is only just beginning. Often, a number of challenges can arise, from physical and unseen wounds to the struggle to integrate back into civilian life. For those who need specialized care for wounds, injuries or illnesses, the major challenge can be treatment and recovery assigned at a facility far from their home and family.
We saw this firsthand with the Curry family. When Anson Curry was wounded with a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan in 2011, he spent more than nine months recovering at the Palo Alto VA hospital in Northern California. His wife, Minie, and his brother had to travel more than 1,700 miles from their home in San Antonio in order to remain by his bedside throughout his long journey to recovery.
We believe families like the Currys, who have given so much, should be embraced with a network of support. Zachary Fisher saw the need for housing and travel support for military families and decided to create Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit best known for a network of 86 homes where families can stay near a VA facility at no cost while their loved one receives treatment. Since 1990, we’ve saved military families more than $451 million in lodging and travel costs.
Other organizations have also made a difference in the lives of those who serve. Organizations like Hire Heroes USA, Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and Operation Homefront have each identified ways to serve and offer support through job training, scholarship opportunities and reintegration resources.
Despite their work, these organizations cannot do it alone. By supporting our service members, veterans and their families, businesses have the unique opportunity to improve the lives of individuals and communities around them. This can be done through a variety of ways, such as job creation for veterans, as well as leveraging a corporation’s assets to further support in creative ways.
This year, Suave took a particularly creative approach to supporting the service member community while going above and beyond its donation of $1 million to Fisher House Foundation. The brand — with thousands of supporters — took action on Twitter to #GiveTheExtraMile and contributed 2 million miles to Fisher House’s Hero Miles program, covering necessary airfare for service members and their families.
Although Zachary Fisher never wore the uniform, he felt he had to give back to our military community. As a skilled builder and developer, he did just that the only way he knew how — through construction. By leveraging their own unique strengths, each and every business can have their own role to play in supporting our nation’s heroes.
The key to thanking our service members will come from strategic cross-sector collaborations that identify and create the solutions that will help make a difference for our service members and veterans, and the brave men and women who stand behind them.
Ken Fisher, managing partner at Fisher Brothers, is chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation, Shaun Smith is a senior brand manager at Suave.