Empowering our Veterans: Got Your 6's Year in Review

Posted December 21, 2016 by Bill Rausch

In the military, “got your six” means “I’ve got your back.” It also stands for loyalty, trust, and commitment — values that military veterans bring into communities and values that embody the team here at Got Your 6.

This year, Got Your 6 reached multiple milestones, funding 87 percent of our non-profit partner’s grant proposals, reaching three million people during our largest Storytellers program yet, and promoting a veteran empowerment policy agenda during and after the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

Got Your 6’s foundation is built on the spirit of service, pride in our nation, and promise of bridging the civilian-military divide through perception shift and collective impact. Since our founding, Got Your 6’s coalition has helped veterans get jobs, go back to school, find housing, and be supported in many other critical areas. However, in 2016, we raised the stakes.

Real problems exist across the nation that aren’t specific to the veteran community. Suicide, unemployment, and disconnected communities aren’t veteran problems; they’re American problems, and this year Got Your 6 doubled down on our efforts to harness veteran’s skills to address these critical issues. Veterans returning home aren’t the problem – we believe veterans and their unique skill sets are part of the solution. We can empower veterans to serve themselves by serving others; the nation we know and love.

Below are just some of the highlights from an active and impactful 2016, which will set us up for even more success next year in empowering our veterans to lead a resurgence of community across the country.

January 2016

Welcomed Bill Rausch As Executive Director

As an Army veteran and West Point graduate with deep experience in nonprofit leadership, entrepreneurship, and business management roles, I was proud to join this highly respected team of passionate professions. During my first 90 days on the job, I worked to assess where Got Your 6 has been and where we’re headed, and engaged the Got Your 6 coalition, along with its remarkable supporters and partnerships.

March 2016

South by Southwest

Got Your 6 was invited to participate in South by Southwest (SXSW). Held each year in Austin, Texas, SXSW has become a much promoted “launching pad for new creative content” that fosters the “intellectual and creative intermingling among industry leaders…to spark new ideas and carve the path for the future of each ever-evolving field.” I participated on a panel titled “Awareness Reform: Engineering ‘Perception Shift'” to speak about Got Your 6’s work to change the national narrative of veterans and help drive social change.

Bill Rausch addresses the crowd at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Hosted Veteran Empowerment Collaboratory

Got Your 6 held its second annual Collaboratory in Austin, Texas, bringing its nonprofit partners together to enhance the growth, progress and impact of the veteran empowerment movement. Out of the Collaboratory came five working groups that have met throughout the year to address collective challenges in the veteran space and create innovative solutions.

Thirty-plus coalition partners attend the second Veteran Empowerment Collaboratory at Google Fiber headquarters in Austin, Texas.

April 2016

Received Cynopsis Media’s Social Good Award

CynopsisMedia, the publisher of five trade publications for the entertainment and media industries, hosted its second annual Social Good Awards ceremony in 2106. Got Your 6 took home the prize in the “Awareness Campaign” category, beating out other industry titans like A&E, Discovery, Food Network, Lifetime, Sony Pictures, Toyota, and Univision. The event was a tremendous opportunity to showcase the important work the campaign does to empower and enrich the lives of America’s veterans.

Got Your 6 Staff Day of Service

The Got Your 6 staff joined nonprofit coalition partner The 6th Branch and other local volunteers in Baltimore for a day of urban farming. Volunteers tilled soil, planted seeds and repaired a greenhouse in a two-block stretch of East Baltimore that The 6th Branch converted to a community garden. The project was partially funded by grant money awarded to The 6th Branch by Got Your 6 in 2015.

Julia Tivald, Got Your 6’s Director of Strategy, tends to a community garden in her hometown of Baltimore, Md.

Joined White House Delegation at Invictus Games

Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch was one of five leaders selected to join a White House delegation—including First Lady Michelle Obama—to support the second Invictus Games on May 8 in Orlando. The Invictus Games are a Paralympic-style international athletic event created by the U.K.’s Prince Harry to showcase the talent, fortitude and resilience of wounded, injured, or sick veterans.

Rausch attends the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla., as part of the official U.S. Presidential Delegation.

Hosted Entertainment Partner Convening

Got Your 6 hosted a convening of the campaign’s major entertainment industry partners in Los Angeles. It was attended by more than a dozen organizations including NBCUniversal, ABC, Disney, Sony, Endemol Shine, and Paramount. The convening ended with a powerful call to action by Got Your 6 and a commitment from various participants to help connect Got Your 6 to writers’ rooms, submit projects for 6 Certification, and share ideas and collaborate within the coalition.

May 2016

Partnered with Macy’s for American Icons

During the weekend of May 13-15, Macy’s stores across the country executed American Icons, the company’s fourth annual cause-marketing campaign to benefit Got Your 6. Customers who purchased a $3 coupon that weekend saved 25 percent on most in-store items, and the proceeds of the coupon sales were fully donated to Got Your 6. This year, American Icons raised $1.5 million for Got Your 6, 24 percent more than the previous year.

Partnered with Tesla for Factory Fun Run

In Fremont, California, Got Your 6 participated in the second annual Tesla Factory 5K run. The run and other family-friendly events, all of which took place at the company’s Bay Area factory and test track, were designed to further demonstrate Tesla’s well-known commitment to hiring veterans. More than 2,000 employees, veterans, and members of the public showed up in support. Proceeds from ticket sales were donated to two nonprofit organizations: $15,000 each to Semper Fi Fund and Got Your 6.

Janeen Wynn and Matt Mabe from Got Your 6 pose in front of a Telsa camouflaged Model S.

June 2016

Partnered with Macy’s for Summer Vibes

From June 2 to 19, Macy’s hosted “Summer Vibes,” the company’s first ever digital music festival, and an addendum to this year’s American Icons campaign. Summer Vibes began with a live performance by Todrick Hall and other performers on June 2. Fans who missed the live show could continue to watch on a Macy’s dedicated YouTube channel. Macy’s donated $1 to Got Your 6 for every online view, up to 100,000 views. Viewership far surpassed its target, with well over a million views at the end of the first week. The $100,000 donation to Got Your 6 will be applied to programs and operations.

Announced Third Round of 6 Certified Projects

The third round of projects to receive 6 Certified status was discussed onstage at an ATX Television Festival panel for NBC’s “The Night Shift.” The panel examined the power of television to shift public perception, with panelists including the cast and creators of “The Night Shift” and me as the moderator. Nine new projects were awarded 6 Certified status.

Rasuch presents a 6 Certified certificate to the director and cast of NBC’s “The Night Shift.”

Hosted WWII Memorial Service Project on 6/6 Day

As an Honor Flight of WWII veterans attended a ceremony at the National WWII Memorial commemorating D-Day, Got Your 6 rallied 125 veterans, family members, and civilian supporter volunteers for the 6/6 Day of Service as a way to pay tribute to the Greatest Generation. Volunteers ranging from local school students to Vietnam War veterans helped the National Park Service beautify and clean the WWII Memorial grounds, painting benches, clearing brush, and mulching flowerbeds.

July 2016

Featured on Celebrity Family Feud

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and ABC’s Family Feud teamed up for two special shows of “Celebrity Family Feud.” NFC Defense, led by Thomas Davis (Carolina Panthers), and including Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia Eagles), Cliff Avril (Seattle Seahawks), Terrance Knighton (New England Patriots), and Tyrann Mathieu (Arizona Cardinals), played to support Got Your 6 and won $25,000 for the campaign.

Attended the Republican and Democratic National Conventions

To highlight the value of veterans as civic and community leaders, Got Your 6 brought its #VetInspired campaign to the 2016 Presidential Campaign, starting with the RNC and DNC. The #VetInspired campaign upholds the service, sacrifice, and stories of our uniformed personnel as a call to action in the U.S. electoral process. Got Your 6 attended the RNC and DNC to remind all Americans that— no matter their political affiliation—there is no better way to honor our veterans than by participating in the very electoral process that our brothers and sisters in arms sacrificed to defend.

August 2016

Expanded 6 Certified Committee

The 6 Certified Committee is composed of subject matter experts charged with evaluating film and television projects that accurately and responsibly portray veterans and military families. This year, Got Your 6 welcomed Amy Gravitt, executive vice president of HBO Programming, and Bonnie Carroll, 2015 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

September 2016

Partnered with TurboVote for National Voter Registration Day

Got Your 6 launched a voter registration portal powered by TurboVote to challenge all Americans to participate in the U.S. democratic process. The site, gotyour6.org/vote, allows users to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, and apply for absentee ballots.

Launched the 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index (VCHI)

The second annual Veterans Civic Health Index launched at an event titled “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” at SiriusXM Radio’s Washington, D.C. studios. The event featured panels moderated by SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124 host Jared Rizzi and included Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. The VCHI provides tangible evidence that veterans volunteer, engage with local governments and community organizations, vote, and help neighbors, all at rates higher than their non-veteran counterparts.

Rausch joins Janaia DeShields from Points of Lights and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on a panel hosted by SiriusXM to discuss the findings of the 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index.

October 2016

Expanded Veteran Empowerment Coalition

Got Your 6 welcomed four new members to its Veteran Empowerment Coalition, which is focused on achieving widespread social change through the power of collective impact. New coalition members include America’s Warrior Partnership, Service to School, Travis Manion Foundation, and the Warrior-Scholar Project.

Launched “Don’t Just Thank, Vote!” Campaign

Got Your 6 teamed up with ATTN: and Omaze to encourage all Americans to vote in the Presidential election. The “Don’t Just Thank, Vote!” campaign included a PSA featuring actors and veterans Rob Riggle, David Eigenberg, and J.W. Cortes, actors Tom Arnold and Joe Manganiello, and supporters of the veteran empowerment organization Got Your 6. Additionally, through the online fundraising platform Omaze, t-shirts were sold to raise funds and awareness to support the campaign.

November 2016

Storytellers NYC Hosted by HBO

Storytellers is an annual event that celebrates the accomplishments and inspirational stories of our nation’s veterans. It gathers veterans who deliver TED-style talks about their ideas, accomplishments, philosophies, and the many contributions they are making in their communities and workplaces. The fourth annual Storytellers talks were live-streamed on the Got Your 6 Facebook page and later distributed online.

Storytellers NYC featured veterans including Commissioner of the Office of Veterans’ Service for the City of Boston Giselle Sterling; cosmetologist and activist Sharay Santora; Albany, N.Y., police officer Zee Kitonyi; Team Red, White & Blue Director of Leadership Development Joe Quinn; and Wounded Warrior Project alumna Jessica Coulter.

Joe Quinn, Army veteran and Leadership Development Director at Team Red, White and Blue addresses the attendees of Storytellers NYC hosted by HBO.

Storytellers LA Hosted by Television Academy

Storytellers LA featured veteran and actor Jeff Bosley; founder and CEO of Combat Flip Flops, Matt Griffin; founder and CEO of the nonprofit TentEd, Zack Bazzi; Marjorie Williams of Endemol Shine; singer/songwriter Stephen Covell; and comedian Thom Tran. Additionally, Ryan Phillippe, who stars in the USA Network drama “Shooter,” delivered remarks and announced the newest round of 6 Certified projects.

Ryan Phillippe, star of the 6 Certified show “Shooter” on USA Network, announces the next round of 6 Certified projects at the Television Academy during Storytellers LA.

Storytellers DC Hosted by Discovery Communications

Storytellers DC featured veterans including Invictus Games U.S. team captain and Deloitte manager Will Reynolds; Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald; District Court Judge Lou Olivera from Cumberland County, N.C.; Paralympian Ce-Ce Mazyck; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Bonnie Carroll; and Wounded Warrior Project “Warrior Speaks” spokesperson Deven Schei. Discovery Communications live-streamed the program via the American Heroes Channel, aired Got Your 6’s national PSA, and used in-program call-out cards to promote the event.

The veteran speakers at Storytellers DC gather moments before the event kicks off at Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, Md.

Announced Fourth Round of 6 Certified Projects

The largest and most diverse class of 6 Certified projects was announced at Storytellers LA. The 13 new projects to receive “6 Certified” status included feature films, independent films, television shows, and—for the first time ever—a theatrical production.

“Sully,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Bandstand,” and “Marvel’s Luke Cage” were some of the 13 new projects that received 6 Certified status on Nov. 1.

Partnered with Facebook on Veterans Day

On Veteran’s Day, Bill Rausch participated on a panel entitled, “Changing the Narrative and Dispelling Myths about Vets at Work” at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. Bill was joined by Anne Meree Craig from COMMIT Foundation and Jeff Phillips from Reserve Officers Association. The panelists shared their thoughts on the veteran narrative, how the current narrative around hiring veterans impacts them in the workplace, and how to navigate the corporate world. The panel was live-streamed through Facebook headquarters.

Rausch joins VSO partners at the Facebook Vets and Allies event in Menlo Park on Veterans Day.

Attended Veterans Day Breakfast hosted by President Obama

Director of Impact Matt Mabe represented Got Your 6 at the White House’s annual Veterans Day breakfast. Mabe joined dozens of other veterans for a light breakfast, conversation and fellowship in the East Room before briefly meeting President Obama. Attendees later boarded buses bound for Arlington National Cemetery for a ceremony and commemorative speech delivered by the president.

December 2016

Completed Annual Grantmaking to the Veteran Empowerment Coalition

Got Your 6 granted $1.1 million in funding to 20 of its nonprofit Veteran Empowerment Coalition partners to support on-the-ground initiatives ensuring successful veteran reintegration and veteran empowerment in communities across the country. The 2016 grant awards, which represent a 22 percent increase of the previous year’s total, support Got Your 6’s mission of achieving widespread social change through the power of collective impact.

Of course, none of our 2016 successes would have been possible without the support of our incredible sponsors: Macy’s (Founding and Presenting Sponsor); Wounded Warrior (Project Presenting Sponsor); American Express, Veterans United Foundation, and Aspen Dental (Corporate Sponsors); and Sword & Plough, NFLPA, and General Dynamics (Sponsors).

Bill Rausch is an Iraq War veteran and the Executive Director of Got Your 6.