WASHINGTON, DC – The White House celebrated the 5th anniversary of Joining Forces last week with a series of events focusing on the military community. The initiative, created in 2011 by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, works with the public and private sectors to support service members, veterans, and their families in areas of employment, education, and wellness.
The week included special announcements, highlights of military families from around the country, and celebration events that coincided with the USO turning 75 years old. The Homefront United Network covered the week’s festivities, which included revisiting successes already achieved and new programs to expect.
Joining Forces took on a role of a national megaphone for veterans and military spouses. The team traveled the country to remind companies of the assets that lie within the military community. And it worked, especially in areas of employment. Since Joining Forces started advocating for military-affiliated job seekers, 1.2 million veterans and spouses have been hired or trained. By showcasing the benefits of employing a worker with military service, partner companies sought new hires from within our own community. Similarly, the initiative collaborated with organizations to gain awareness for one of the most prominent employment barriers military spouses were encountering: licensing. Today, credential and licensing procedures for the transient spouse community has dramatically improved. All fifty states now accept state-to-state transfers of teaching credentials, and a similar milestone is on the horizon for lawyers. The one holdout is the great state of New York (come on New York, let’s get with the program!).
On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden held a special press event to announce further accomplishments in the area of employment. Forty companies pledged to hire over 110,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years in three different areas of employment. Amazon, one of the hosts of the event, pledged to hire 25,000 veterans and spouses alone. In the Aerospace-Defense sector, companies like BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are hiring a combined total of 30,000 veterans. And in the telecommunications sector, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon put their number at 25,000 hires. Those numbers are so exciting!
Joining Forces Turns 5: First Lady Urges Continued Work in Next Administration
The Founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, spoke about the particular strengths that make up the military spouse and veteran, strengths that make them particularly successful. Companies shouldn’t be afraid of hiring them, of stepping out of the normal scope of business and creating remote work options. “We are constantly looking for leaders who can invent, think big, and have a bias for action,” he said. “Those principles look very familiar to the men and women who served our country, and also in their spouses.”
One of those spouses is Kathleen Carroll, head of Amazon’s military outreach. The Marine veteran set out to find a career after beginning a family with her husband, who is also a Marine.
“We want them to know that Amazon values their leadership and unique experiences,” she says about her fellow veterans. Amazon created Amazon Warriors – a program that provides mentorship programs and organized volunteer opportunities. Amazon doesn’t just hire veterans and military spouses, it welcomes them into a very robust family. If you are thinking about returning into the work force, preparing for a PCS, or transitioning out of the military, check out the companies and programs involved in this amazing announcement. Seeking those jobs and trainings shows these companies that we appreciate them as much as they appreciate us, and it will also encourage them to keep growing similar programs.
As the First Lady closed out the event, she emphasized that the work isn’t done. “I will say this again, and again: No matter who is in the White House next, this should absolutely continue to be a national priority with national leadership coming from this building,” Obama said. “Military spouses and veterans are simply the best employees around. And they realize that training and hiring these folks isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for their bottom lines.”
The HUN hopes, along with Mrs. Obama, that this is only the beginning of at least five more years of amazing work. There is still so much more to be done.
We encourage you to go through the fact sheet from the event. Inside you will find a list of participating companies, as well as the trainings that are being made available to veterans and military spouses.