Veterans must be taken care of, for the sake of themselves and their families

There are 22 million veterans alive right now. That means that you probably know a veteran who has served.

But often, when military personnel return to the U.S., they’re soon forgotten—and that’s unacceptable. The stigma of mental illness and PTSD, combined with lack of training in resume building and interviewing, make for a whole host of targeted problems for veterans. 10% of veterans in 2012 were jobless.

And without job security or community support, many veterans struggle in civilian life. The statistics (compiled by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans) are shocking: nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless each night. And it’s an intersectional issue: 40% of homeless veterans are black or Latinx, even though these groups combined only account for less than 15% of the veteran population. 51% of homeless veterans have disabilities, 50% have serious mental illnesses, and 70% have substance abuse problems.

These figures are disappointing, and point to a larger weakness in our society that we have the ability to address.

I’m not entirely comfortable funding war or military intervention, but the fact remains: military servicepeople and their families were willing to make enormous sacrifices—and those sacrifices have benefited me. Veterans’ Day feels like the right time to reevaluate how we offer community support to our veterans, and to celebrate those who are making a clear effort.

These 3 companies have publicly come out in support of veterans and military families, by offering unique hiring programs, discounts, and employer programs:

1. Starbucks

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is big into veterans: just this July, he co-authored a book entitled For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice.

In the lead up to his book’s publication, Schultz also donated $30 million to help fund PTS and brain trauma research, which could benefit Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Schultz stated:

“I think [businesses] should demonstrate [that] people who are entering civilian life from the military have extraordinary skills: leadership skills, integrity, unbelievable assets that we can apply to business. It’s not charity; it’s not pity. We just need to hire them.”

On a corporate level, Starbucks has announced they’re committed to hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018. To be most effective in this way, they’ve hired a recruiter who is also a veteran, and have set up a network of employees who are veterans to provide mentorship to new staff.

To date, Starbucks has hired over 1000 veterans, among their staff of 151,000.

2. Walgreens

Profiles in Diversity Journal called out Walgreens in their 2014 list of 25 Most Influential Companies for Veteran Hiring, citing their long-serving policies for store and corporate employees who participate in active duty service.

On Walgreens’ corporate website, they affirm their commitment:

“Walgreens has a long history of supporting American troops and veterans, from providing a store in the Pentagon beginning in the 1940s, to decades of donation and product drives, and extending company benefits to employees called to active service.

Under the Walgreens military leave policy, employees called to active service receive their full salary, less military pay, for 42 months from the last day worked. In addition, they have the option of continuing medical, prescription and dental coverage at active employee rates.”

The founder of the company, Charles R. Walgreens, Sr., was a Spanish-American war veteran.

Walgreens also is offering a 15-20% discount on Veterans’ Day at select store locations, with valid military I.D. Free flu shots are also available to veterans.

3. Verizon

Although both AT&T and Verizon were noted for their military/veteran hiring excellence by Military Times in 2014, only Verizon took the top spot in the category of Telecommunications. Of all businesses, Verizon was ranked #2, with over 11,000 military personnel on staff (of their 166,000 in total), and a 5% recruiting budget earmarked for veterans. They also offer full benefits to active duty servicemembers.

Current Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdams got his start in the U.S. Navy, and has come out in support of his company’s hiring practices:

“I feel honored to have served in the military… it’s a great way for anyone to start any career. The things you learn in the military stay with you for life.”

Verizon has also been ranked highly for its military spouse policy: for 2015, they were recognized by Military Spouse Magazine and G.I. Jobs as one of the top 10 best companies for military spousesWorking Mother also has recognized Verizon for its general family-friendly policies every year for the past 13 years.

These 3 companies are setting a stellar example in their treatment of veterans. With their corporate assets, media attention, and financial clout, they’re taking a stand: not to support a political agenda, but to invest in, employ, and change the conversation around veterans. As customers of these companies (and others), we can use our consumer power to call for more businesses to respond to pressing social problems.

And if supporting companies isn’t your thing, there are other ways to show your appreciation for people who have served. Buy a military family a night out to relax: Brown Paper Tickets allows anyone to buy tickets to events for active duty servicepeople, honorably discharged veterans, and their family members.

Maybe someday we’ll live in a world where safety for all is assured. But in order to make peace a reality, we, as civilians, voters, employers, businesses, and organizations, have a responsibility to make civilian life as welcoming as possible.

Kelsey Ryan is the editor of Groundswell’s magazine. She’s a linguist, fledgling Tolkien scholar, knitter, Oxford comma proponent, and firm believer in the use of stories for social good. Explore her website, or connect on Twitter: @kryanlion.