A New Test of Service and Sacrifice
This Memorial Day takes on new significance as America welcomes the largest number of returning veterans since the end of World War II. After nearly 13 years, America’s waning involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan means that nearly 2 million service men and women will return home by year’s end. Their homecoming is cause to celebrate and to prepare.
Facilitating the successful transition of our returning veterans will require broad involvement and collective action – from nonprofits to civil servants to military agencies and more. These collective efforts must include significant support for the military families and caregivers who take on much of the responsibility for supporting servicemembers as they re-enter civilian life. Recognizing this, and building upon our past commitments, we at Blue Shield of California Foundation have renewed our investment in military families to help ensure their wellbeing and provide the long-term support they deserve.
As one of the very first foundations to initiate the recently-launched Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge, we are particularly proud to see the critical mass of funders who have since stepped-up to back this critical cause. Working in close partnership with the First Lady Michelle Obama, Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and the Council on Foundations, more than thirty philanthropic organizations have come together to pledge $170 million to support veterans and their families. Over the next five years, this effort will help to create affordable housing, provide health and wellness services, enable education and job training, prevent domestic violence, expand economic opportunities, and more.
Our partners at Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation are helping to lead the way in this effort, and offer a wealth of insights into military families’ needs and best practices in veteran mental health and wellbeing.
At the Pledge’s launch event in Washington, D.C., the First Lady emphasized in her remarks the breadth and importance of this work as we move forward:
“To all the military families here today and across the country, I just want you to know that this is just a first step," she said. “…no matter where you live or work, you will be surrounded by a country that truly honors your service and your sacrifice, now and in the years and decades ahead. That is our pledge to you.”
This work is not only essential at the national level, but at the local level as well. Here in California, Blue Shield of California Foundation has been dedicated to preventing violence in the homes of military families for more than four years through projects that support innovative violence prevention models and new cross-sector partnerships. In Riverside County, for example, grantee agency Alternatives to Domestic Violence has established the Military Families Initiative and partners with March Air Reserve Base to refer military families to counseling services. And in San Diego, we’re working with San Diego Grantmakers to develop the Military Transition Support Project (MTSP). MTSP is bringing together public and private stakeholders throughout the county to develop a collaborative plan to improve community response and resources for military families. This includes piloting a “navigator” hotline and a web-based portal to connect veterans and families in need to local social services and support.
In advancing our programmatic work and deepening our commitment to military families, we hope to raise awareness about the impact of war on families and loved ones, encourage others to invest and get involved, and ultimately help to improve the lives of those who have served.
For those who have paid the ultimate price in service to our nation, we owe it to them to provide the best support to those fortunate enough to return. As Americans come together to recognize their great sacrifice, I am incredibly proud of our ongoing commitment to veterans and military families, and honored to join other philanthropic organization leading this work in communities across the country. On behalf of Blue Shield of California Foundation, I say to all who’ve worn our nation’s uniform: you are commended, respected, and thanked - this Memorial Day and every day.