Gathering to Support the Military Community

Posted April 15, 2013

By: Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D.

Give an Hour is hosting a series of inspiring events in New York City, June 2-3, 2013, under the banner A Celebration of Service. These events include a ceremony to mark the signing of our Memorandum of Understanding with the Army National Guard; a VIP reception, where we will honor Colonel David W. Sutherland (U.S. Army, retired); and a day-long conference at Columbia University to orient students in mental health disciplines to the mental health needs of those currently serving, veterans, and their families.

We are proud to be the lead activation partner for the health pillar of the Got Your 6 campaign and proud of the commitment we have made to support this effort. Through the Clinton Global Initiative, we have pledged to educate 100,000 students in mental health disciplines about the issues affecting military families. The June 3 conference is the cornerstone of this commitment.

Our many events over June 2-3, 2013, will bring together colleagues from the military, government, corporate, educational, and nonprofit worlds to focus on service and train the next generation of mental health professionals while encouraging voluntarism, engaging communities, and creating awareness of the need for critical mental health services.

Why did we decide to build two days of events in NYC this spring? There are several reasons. First and foremost, tens of thousands of brave men and women will end their service to our country and come home to our communities over the coming months and years. While many will successfully reintegrate back into civilian life, some will struggle. We know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to assisting those who come home from battle. For some who suffer the invisible injuries of war, traditional therapy will provide the necessary tools they need to heal; for others, joining disaster relief efforts with Team Rubicon or becoming a Tillman Scholar through the Pat Tillman Foundation may be the answer to their search for ongoing meaning and purpose in life. Our job is to ensure that the next generation of mental health professionals are knowledgeable about military culture, the issues that affect those who fight, and the various approaches, opportunities, and strategies that allow our veterans to lead the healthy and productive lives they want and deserve.

Another important reason to host this gathering is that it will bring together our many friends and colleagues who work tirelessly to support the military community. Every organization that participates in the GY6 campaign—as well as the Community Blueprint Initiative—will be invited to join us. Several of these organizations will be represented on panels at the conference on June 3, and others will participate alongside students from the mental health community in our service project the day before. Just as one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to addressing the signature wounds of war, no one agency or organization alone can address all of the needs of our military and veteran communities. Events like A Celebration of Service and efforts like GY6 and the Community Blueprint encourage the kind of collaboration and coordination that is critical for those we support.

Finally, A Celebration of Service will provide an opportunity to continue to engage Americans in an important conversation about those who serve. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, recently said when speaking about returning veterans, “We need to leverage this incredible resource to drive their energy and curiosity into productive pursuits that benefit the entire nation.” Many who will attend our events in NYC are fine examples of veterans who have returned to continue to lead in our neighborhoods and in our nation. We are proud to provide an opportunity for their stories to be told and their voices to be heard.