“Once a Soldier, always a Soldier.”
General Raymond T. Odierno, United States Army Chief of Staff, made that proclamation. It is part of his statement that reads: “Soldiers past and present are selflfless, disciplined, and innovative. They have lived, served, and led with moral and ethical courage. They are Soldiers for Life and their attributes will make them a welcome addition to any organization.”
Those words from the highest ranking Soldier have a lot of weight. They essentially tell the world that Odierno has the utmost faith that America’s Soldiers and Veterans are upstanding individuals to be regarded highly. Those words are part of a campaign to inform the American public of the qualities that Soldiers posses and retain when they transition to civilian life.
The campaign, known as “Soldier for Life,” focuses on community engagement. The campaign aims to enable Army, governmental, and community efforts to facilitate successful reintegration of Soldiers, Veterans and their Families to keep them Army strong and instill their values, ethos and leadership within communities. The components for Veterans’ success are: employment, education and healthcare.
The communications director for the campaign, Lt. Col. Michael Bliss, said that as the Army draws down in the next five years there will be approximately 500,000 Soldiers transitioning to civilian life. Those Soldiers have born the burden by serving honorably in two wars and Odierno wants their transition to go smoothly.
Part of making the transition successful is to inform communities, businesses and non-profits about transitioning servicemembers.
“We’re trying to bridge that gap of bringing awareness to the communities,” Bliss said.
Bliss said that the Army’s Training Doctrine is working with civilian industries to get Soldiers credentialed for training and skills they possess, so they are recognized by civilian businesses.
Bliss reiterates that the message is that Veterans are not needing a handout, but require support and the understanding of the community that there’s a lot of value in hiring them.
Non-profit organizations have also stepped in to support Veteran causes, such as the Wounded Warrior Project. Their vision is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.
“The good thing is there is a lot of effort out there,” Bliss said. “There is a lot of groundswell support.”