As a former Army company commander during the Vietnam War, many of my fellow soldiers struggled to re-acclimate to civilian life.
I was reminded of that struggle after my daughter, Shannon, was injured during combat in Iraq while serving in the Army. It was challenging for her to get the medical care she needed. Shannon ran into red tape, complications and a two-year delay before she could get critical, major reconstructive surgery.
It shouldn’t have to be that way.
Sometimes, the problem is availability of services for veterans. Sometimes, the problem is a lack of coordination between the services that do exist.
Shannon was my inspiration to help launch a more seamless, streamlined transition for our veterans in my community of Greater Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
United Way of Broward County had an idea for a better way: a new, holistic approach to assist veterans. I got involved in the beginning, translating my passion into action. Today, United Way leads what's called MISSION UNITED™. It’s turned from an idea into an established program with continued support from the local Veterans Administration, local businesses, government, volunteers, universities and donors.
And it’s making a difference for other people’s daughters and sons who may be struggling to re-acclimate to civilian life. Since we started it, MISSION UNITED™ has helped more than 8,000 local veterans and their families find jobs and navigate social services, including legal assistance, education, financial services, health and housing support.
I want to thank the hundreds of people who have given their time, talents and money to fuel MISSION UNITED™, including some 400 lawyers who volunteered to give free legal help.
It’s very heartening to see that the United Way network is committed to expanding this successful effort. So far, 10 other communities across America have agreed to pilot MISSION UNITED™. This is a great way to celebrate Veterans Day.
Author and anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, that’s the only thing that ever has.” Mead’s comment hits home for me. It eloquently reinforces the point that everyone has the ability to make a lasting difference.
Find out more about United Way’s new MISSION UNITED™ initiative at http://www.MissionUnited.org.