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Supporting the Veterans Empowerment Movement

November 9, 2015

Earlier this year, The National Conference on Citizenship and Got Your 6 unveiled the findings of the first-ever Veterans Civic Health Index, a major study that reveals significant and positive trends in levels of civic engagement among veterans. According to the study, "civic health" is defined as:

  • "...a community's capacity to work together to resolve collective problems. [Civic Health] is defined by the degree to which people trust each other, help their neighbors, and interact with their government. On an individual level, civic health is shown to improve people's overall health-physical, emotional, social, and mental. On a community level, civic health forms the foundation for growth and improvement. Strong civic health positively affects local GDP, economic resilience, upward income mobility, public health, and student achievement. Simply put, when people are civically engaged, they are healthier and their communities are stronger."

The report, funded by a grant from the American Express Foundation, found that compared to their civilian counterparts, veterans:

  • Volunteer more
  • Donate more frequently to charitable causes
  • Have higher rates of voter registration and participation
  • Hold higher rates of membership in community-based organizations
  • Attend more public meetings

These findings were no surprise to Got Your 6 (GY6) a national, multi-sector, collective impact campaign designed to build and reinforce the image of veterans as leaders and civic assets. In fact, the GY6 campaign was created to address the misperceptions of veterans that have taken root in American society, such as the belief that veterans are chronically unemployed, undereducated, likely to have mental health issues, and are experiencing homelessness at alarming rates.

By shifting the cultural narrative on veterans to one of strength and empowerment-as opposed to charity or pity-the campaign seeks to help veterans successfully reintegrate into the civilian world and have their leadership, civic engagement, and professional expertise valued by communities and potential employers. To get this message to the American public, GY6 partners with the entertainment and media industries, veteran-serving nonprofits, and leading corporations.

At American Express, Developing Leaders and Serving Communities are two pillars of our philanthropy. Recognizing an opportunity to leverage the leadership abilities of veterans and to support their interest in serving on the home front, we've developed the following additional partnerships, among others:

  • Financial Inclusion and Literacy: In order to support returning veterans looking for a hand with their finances, American Express provided funding to the Better Business Institute for Marketplace Trust and Moneythink to create MobileMi$$ion, a program designed specifically for transitioning service members, veterans, and their families to help them navigate their finances during the transition from active duty to civilian life. Leveraging an innovative mobile application, the program gives veterans access to learning activities and financial counselors - who are all trained military spouses actively earning an Accredited Financial Counselor certification from the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education.
  • Storytellers: In addition to funding the Veterans Civic Health Index, American Express is a sponsor of Got Your 6 Storytellers, a platform to showcase veterans whose innovative ideas and experiences have had an impact on the civilian world. Storytellers events will be held around Veteran's Day 2015 in New York and Los Angeles, and the recorded presentations will be available online shortly thereafter.
  • Disaster Mitigation in National Parks: In an effort to protect and revitalize America's parks and public lands, Team Rubicon is developing a new program to engage its veteran volunteer members in disaster mitigation and habitat improvement projects with the U.S. Department of the Interior and its land management agencies. Since its first mission to Haiti in 2010, Team Rubicon has deployed over 3,500 veterans who have provided over 250,000 hours of disaster relief through 103 deployments including response efforts such as Hurricane Sandy, Texas Flooding, and most recently, the Nepal Earthquake.
  • National Parks Service Platoons: American Express is providing funding to sponsor four regional Service Platoons with The Mission Continues in Brooklyn, Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles focused on park revitalization and stewardship. The Mission Continues' Service Platoons engage veterans in service to their communities. A Service Platoon is a team 40-100 veterans, active duty service members, guardsmen and reservists that work to solve a specific challenge in their community. Service Platoon missions range from mentoring students and rehabilitating schools, to addressing poverty and hunger, to park and public space revitalization efforts.

(These last two partnerships are part of our sponsorship of the National Parks Service Centennial in 2016-2017.)

It's clear that leveraging veteran's leadership talents and their commitment to service helps strengthen communities and improves our civic health -- so on this Veterans Day, in addition to thanking a veteran for his or her service to our country, you can also thank them for their service to our communities!

If you have a question or comment, follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and we'll start a conversation there.


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