Honoring our Veterans–Individually

Honoring our Veterans–Individually

As we honor our veterans today, I am so pleased to invite Colonel David Sutherland, Chairman of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, to be my guest blogger. His experiences and voice are so important for us all to hear.

Diversity and inclusion frequently take a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, recruiting and retention may focus on veterans, as a whole, rather than the divergent qualities that enhance thinking and execution. 

 It’s ironic that lumping veterans together as a category defined as “diverse” may cause us to ignore the individual characteristics that make them assets to organizations.

 I like to say that if you’ve met a veteran, you’ve met “a veteran.” One veteran, one time, each one is unique.

 We veterans are more than just the sum of our parts. Yes, Veterans Day is a celebration of an amazing group of people. At the same time, we are remiss in not looking beyond the massed surface and into each one’s experiences and goals.

 My wish is for you to get to know us as a unique group of people who have taken a different path to get to this point in our lives, and who may have hit roadblocks on this journey created by their service to our country. Let’s start with three areas key to ensuring that veterans succeed where they live: 

      • Working with purpose. Those who served in uniform boast years of specialized training that make them experts in their fields, yet there remains significant underemployment and uncertainty. That’s why Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services works with employers, hiring managers, and recruiters to improve workplace hiring programs. This work goes beyond employment programs for veterans as a whole and instead seeks to establish a culture that considers the specific skill sets of each veteran and matches them to the position best for them.
      • Healing with honor. Let’s look at the data. Burn pits, enormous craters where waste is openly incinerated, are this generation’s Agent Orange. These chemical hazards are responsible for causing cancers, tumors and respiratory issues. Opioid abuse among combat-exposed individuals is 7 percentage points higher among those who deployed but didn’t see combat. Further, the number of veteran suicides exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008 – 2017 – or more than 60,000 over a decade. Part of what drives these numbers is an epidemic of disconnection that happens when we look at veterans en masse rather than creating a culture that considers the unique needs and isolation of each individual. It’s about making it personal – for both the veteran and the civilian.
      • Living with hope. T.S. Elliot said, “Home is where our story begins.” Dixon Center and its partners, among them Soldier On and Freddie Mac, are working to expand affordable housing, educate community-based organizations on fair housing practices for veterans, and increase compassionate outreach to those who are, or are at risk of becoming homeless. The goal is not to create new programs. Rather, the goal is to enable the integration of housing services that consider each veteran’s needs into existing programs to increase impact.

 This Veterans Day let’s keep in mind that as with people, one size does not fit all. In fact, one size often fits none.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel David Sutherland is Chairman of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services. He commanded the U.S. combat brigade in Diyala Province, Iraq (2006-2007) and served as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2009-2012).

Leading from the Front: Guest Blog from Ret. Colonel David Sutherland

Leading from the Front: Guest Blog from Ret. Colonel David Sutherland

Memorial Day is just a week away, and while we pause to remember and honor those who have fallen in service to our country, I am also moved by lessons learned from military leaders who have faced the most difficult and high-stakes challenges and crises imaginable.

Ret. Colonel David Sutherland, Chairman of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, an organization that is an essential part of The Fedcap Group, is a leader whose wisdom and insight I value.  

I thank Col. Sutherland for his great insight.  And, as always, I welcome your thoughts.


Ret. Colonel David Sutherland

Lead from the Front is a philosophy for team-building based on years of real-life experience in the field, culminating in Iraq.   One of the four traits of a leader is knowledge.

Say knowledge and people think “intelligence” and “information.”  True, it does mean that, but the main deliverable of knowledge is structure.  Think about it.  What do people really want to know before they begin a task and while they are completing it?

    1. What am I doing?
    2. Why is it important that I do it? 
    3. How is this going to make a difference?
    4. How well am I doing it?

It’s such a simple concept, yet you’d be surprised how many people don’t operate under these principles.  And when leaders do answer these questions?  People will follow them places you couldn’t imagine.

Take Ted, one of the Troop Commanders who served with me in Iraq.  During the initial part of our 15-month deployment, his Troop First Sergeant was killed in action.  The Troops’ next First Sergeant was shot and wounded in action.  Ted himself was engaged directly or within proximity of his convoy by as many as 70 IEDs.  And yet his troop accomplished more than I ever thought possible.  How?  Ted explained every task and didn’t overreact.  His troops understood the job that needed to get done and why they were doing it.  He put structure where it was needed and ensured standards were understood.

General George Patton once said, “Don’t tell someone how to do it, tell them what to do and they’ll surprise you.”

Follow that advice and you’ll have workers who are both competent and confident.

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Fought; Honoring Those Who Keep Fighting

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Fought; Honoring Those Who Keep Fighting

For many, Memorial Day heralds the beginning of summer with a long weekend, plants tucked safely in the garden, cook-outs, and gatherings with friends and families. And yet, for hundreds of thousands of families and friends, Memorial Day is a day to commemorate and honor their loved ones whose lives have been lost in service and whose courage and heroism has become a fundamental cornerstone of their family’s legacy. Yesterday, like many Americans, I remembered and honored those who have fallen, and yet I am well aware that it is not just one day a year that we acknowledge our fallen servicemen and women. Every day is Memorial Day.

I am compelled to think of those veterans who have returned from active duty who are still struggling with complex issues that interfere with their successful re-entry into the community. On any given night, 39,471 veterans are homeless. 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, overcrowded living arrangements, or lack of subsidized housing.

In addition, a large number of returning veterans—estimated at 20%–suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Among those, many also are affected by substance used disorder. These issues are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks and possibly most critical, lack of jobs.

Those who work with veterans agree that one of the most significant remedies to the struggles of veterans is obtaining and sustaining employment. Many assume that because veterans are well-trained in the field, they can readily translate their skills into civilian life. But that isn’t always the case. This is the reason why veterans need training, education, support, and a chance. Most employers agree that veterans make excellent employees.

Here at Fedcap, we are committed to supporting veterans through skills training, job readiness, outreach, and partnerships with local businesses. For example, through our partnership with Easterseals NY, we operate a Red Mango store on Long Island, specifically set aside as a training ground for veterans in a variety of retail management and day-to-day foodservice operations. In addition, we have created internship programs and a variety of services and training in culinary arts.

Early in May, Fedcap has joined forces with the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services to ensure that veterans and their families have the supports and services they need within the communities where they live. Together, we are working to break down barriers and drive a new conversation about the most effective way to honor the service of our veterans who have needs that are not being met effectively. The Dixon Center is sought out nationally by a number of veterans’ councils to help guide their efforts to support returning veterans. This is a very exciting and dynamic partnership.

Every one of us can do something to support our veterans who have so bravely served us at home. To begin with, we can find out more about what is happening in our areas to help veterans. In addition, you can donate to community organizations who are working to support job training and career building for veterans.

If you are interested in supporting Fedcap’s work with veterans, feel free to donate by going to this link: http://www.fedcap.org

On this week of Memorial Day, I challenge you to take action just as our veterans took action to support you.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.