By Maggie Mowery / Guest Editorial
The Fourth of July holiday was a chance for many of us to celebrate freedom and those who have fought on our behalf for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – but was it a truly celebratory time for all?
I recently learned something new about the Fourth of July through some consulting work I have been doing this summer with the Supportive Services for Homeless Veterans Program in the western United States. It turns out that not all veterans enjoy the day, according to Allen Brown, a disabled veteran and consultant who has been doing training on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military culture for nonprofits working with veterans.
Allen’s father was a Vietnam vet who committed suicide when Allen was just six years old. Allen went on to serve his country, and while in Haiti, suffered severe trauma causing PTSD. He now trains others and speaks from personal experience about the effects trauma has upon the individual, couples, families and our broader society.
Many factors related to the Fourth of July can trigger PTSD episodes – the loud boom of fireworks, the crowds and noise, or the smoke hanging in the air along with the smell of sulfur. Allen said he used to leave town when July Fourth rolled around just to avoid those triggers. It made me think twice about how I’ve always assumed the holiday to be positive, exciting and fun.
Allen also shared with me some tips for creating a veteran-friendly culture in businesses that hire, employ or serve veterans.
Go beyond saying ”thank you for your service,” and offer a sincere, grateful statement about what veterans have done for our country or a more specific scenario. A young veteran recently said to me, “When someone thanks me, I think, ‘why?’ I didn’t do anything – plus I was victim of military sexual assault.” Whatever your political, military or religious views, gratitude goes a long way.
If interviewing a veteran for a position, ask about what responsibilities they had in the military, not “what did you do over there?” Also ask how they are doing since their return, and who they have supporting them with their readjustment. Never ask what type of discharge they were given, or any specifics about their service.
Other excellent information on hiring and employing veterans can be found through the Department of Labor (www.dol.gov), which offers a six-step guide for designing a vet-friendly workplace, and at the Veterans Administration website (www.va.gov/vetsinworkplace).
I encourage all businesses I work with to focus on building upon the individual strengths of people to create an effective workplace. I have learned so much listening to the stories of Allen and other veterans and their families about their dedication, resiliency and courage. Their loyalty, integrity and leadership have served our country well. With that in mind, please consider how veterans can help you in the workplace.
Maggie Mowery is with Maggie Mowery Consulting, www.maggiemowery.com.