By: Matt Grob, Chief Strategy Officer, VETLANTA
The VETLANTA Q2 Super Summit held on 7 May, hosted by AMB Group at Mercedes Benz Stadium, was dedicated to the community-wide launch of The Warrior Alliance. This event marked the realization of a major milestone years in the making.
VETLANTA formed over 5 years ago. It chartered as a non-funded club and developed an unrivaled capability to bring together multiple stakeholders in our Veterans community; corporations, non-profit and government providers, and academic institutions that was never done before at a community level. VETLANTA’s hallmark feature is the quarterly Summits, and it established a vetting capability to lend validity to service providers. VETLANTA’s non-funded structure made it a very effective organizer immune to dilemmas and pressures that fundraising can often present. It has become the community’s seal of approval of providers and developed into a regular forum for the exchange of services to our Veteran community.
Yet as effective as VETLANTA was in bringing together the community for each quarterly Summit, the non-funded structure had its tradeoffs. It could not provide the depth of committed care and coordination that each individual service member, Veteran and family member required between those Summits. As an all-volunteer force, this was done by sweat equity and frenetic activity of VETLANTA members making connections and providing counsel while balancing their own day jobs and family commitments. The community needed a dedicated organization that could manage the daily choreography of services from multiple providers that Veterans required. Those requirements could range from employment assistance, career advice, financial planning, filing VA claims and access to healthcare, legal assistance, starting and growing a business, connecting to recreational activities specifically suited for fellow Veterans, housing support, educational and training opportunities and much more. Most Veterans usually required some combination of these; in some cases, they need all the above.
Our Atlanta Veterans community is extremely complex and diverse. And it is a significantly large population. Roughly 230,000 Veterans young and old, male and female, of every ethnicity, creed, orientation, home-grown or transplanted here, now call the Atlanta area home. And more are coming… Atlanta is a net importer of Veterans and their families. They are staying here from our nearly 100,000 active duty, Guard and Reserve members already in Georgia, or moving here after their terms of service to reintegrate into our community from duty stations throughout the Southeast, across the nation and around the globe. As America’s overall percentage of Veterans has dropped from 8% to under 6% over the last ten years, Atlanta’s percentage of Veterans has been increasing.
The needs of this community are as diverse as its membership. Younger Veterans transitioning out of service are seeking out new career opportunities outside the military, and more of them nowadays have families. They are seeking out jobs, while going to school to get a quality education, and providing for their families, often also seeking out job and educational opportunities themselves that were not as available in service. Many need additional assistance and healthcare needs related to their time in service and combat.
Almost one half of our entire Veteran population is 65 or older; most are already retired from the workforce. They have “been there and done that” with trophy T-shirts to spare. They have raised families, started companies, led corporate America and continued to serve our community in other capacities. They are more likely to have healthcare needs that exceed expectations. Sometimes, it is the effects of service-related exposure and experiences catching up and exacting a delayed toll, and face challenges proving the connection between current health issues and their military service long ago.
The middle generation of Veterans are currently the largest percentage of Veterans in the workforce. Most have been out of service for a while now. They are experiencing the pinch of raising children into adulthood while simultaneously taking care of aging parents. They are also likely to be hiring managers and decision makers in corporations, government agencies and academic institutions.
All our generations of Veterans, regardless of when they served, are bound by a common experiences of service and the virtues of our military community. We all desire to belong to a community and connect with each other to experience the unbreakable bonds of comradery that only military service can forge. It’s what most Veterans say they miss the most about their time in uniform… that sense of selfless service and unity that keeps us together.
Thus, it is no surprise that the Atlanta Veteran community, as large as it is, continues to come together to make Atlanta the premier Veterans community. In corporate America, competition is the overarching organizing principle. In the military, collaboration and teamwork are the organizing principles. And so it these values of selfless service and teamwork that our military Veterans bring to civil society that cannot be easily duplicated, and what makes Veterans such valuable and sought-after assets to any organization and community. Collaboration and teamwork among, not competition against, ourselves are our organizing principles, and our principles and values are what make our community strong.
Though we formally launched The Warrior Alliance at this week’s Q2 Super Summit, it has been long in the making, an extremely valuable missing link in our community’s ecosystem. In this partnership, these two organizations complete a naturally symbiotic relationship. VETLANTA remains a unique non-funded club pure to its cause of collaboration and capable of shaping the Veterans ecosystem at a strategic level between employers, service providers, government agencies and academic institutions for the maximum benefit of our Veterans community. The Warrior Alliance now represents an operational capability to provide those best-in-class services to our Veterans and their families on a daily basis. Working together in collaboration, combining and integrating our networks of providers, employers, agencies and institutions toward one common objective, we will be better able to provide a much more holistic and coordinated experience to our Veterans. Our fellow Veterans and their families deserve nothing less.