Friday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, and there will be parades, speeches and news coverage. The phrase “thank you for your service” has come to define how America expresses gratitude for its military veterans and current service members.
In his role at ESGR, Irving focuses on educating employers and business leaders on the value of hiring U.S. National Guard and Reserve service members. After serving 38 years in the Air National Guard, Irving knows a thing or two about transitioning back into the civilian workforce and the challenges that many veterans face.
He shares some timely advice on how employers and people outside of the military can honor and support veterans any day of the year.
- Employers should play a crucial role. Employers need to encourage their employees to support veterans, as well as be proactive in spreading the word within their organization, as well as outside of the organization, that they support veterans. Veterans and Guard and Reserve service members always want to know whether a company supports current and ex-military.
“If you’re not sure if your company or organization supports veterans, then find out,” Irving said. “It is top of mind for veterans, it should be equally important for employers.”
- Display your patriotism. Companies should show their commitment to veterans. It provides a strong message to clients and visitors, but also to employees that veterans and active military are important.
“The town of Gilbert, Ariz., does an exceptional job of displaying the awards that they’ve received from ESGR and proudly displays photos of their service members in uniform,” Irving said. “It really shows Gilbert’s commitment to active service members and veterans.”
- Review your company’s personnel policies. Does your company’s employee handbook include specific verbiage regarding its support of those serving in the Guard and Reserve? If not, it should. Active Guard and Reserve members are protected by law. But it is still a concern, as many smaller companies that do not have a robust human resources department.
“Employers of all sizes should educate themselves for a better understanding on the employment rights of veterans and reserve members,” Irving said. “The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects Guard and Reserve service members who must participate in a two-week annual training or if they are deployed for up to 12 months.”
- Lead by example. Join a veterans committee or group to better advocate for veterans in your community or in your place of work.
“Many metropolitan areas and large companies have existing veterans committees or volunteer groups that focus on serving the needs of veterans and active service members,” Irving said. “In the spirit of teamwork, there’s a great opportunity for any age or skill set.”
- Think outside of the box. If your company doesn’t have a program or group that supports veterans, don’t let that stop you. There are many types of short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities available through notable organizations like the American Legion, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the USO.
“There are multitudes of ways to support and honor veterans, as well as active-duty Guard and Reservists year round. Finding the right volunteer opportunity for you will help keep your interest and engagement,” Irving concluded. “It also lets our service members and their families know that you stand behind them as they defend our country.”