Hiring Our Heroes Honors Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes recognized individuals and organizations who have demonstrated leadership in addressing the challenges faced by veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses in their search for employment, at its 11th  Annual Lee Anderson Hiring Our Heroes Awards Gala, presented by USAA.  

The Honorable Robert A. McDonald was presented with the 2021 President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. As the 8th Secretary of Veterans Affairs, McDonald focused on putting the needs and interests of veterans and their families first. Today, he continues to advocate for challenges facing transitioning service members and their families and is dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential.  

Referencing President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, McDonald told the audience he is not done working to make the world a better place.  

“If we want to maintain this fragile experiment called a democracy, we need to do more. We need to never leave the arena; we need to make sure we tell the critic who is outside the arena to get in with us, and we all need to collectively make sure we keep fighting because we can’t stop. This is too important,” McDonald said.  

While the veteran unemployment rate (4%) has rebounded to below national levels, veterans are more likely to be underemployed than their non-veteran peers. Additionally, 44% of hired veterans leave their job within their first year of transitioning out of the military. Veterans are working, but not in the careers that match their unique skillsets. 

“Nothing seems to be easy anymore, but we keep moving forward to accomplish the mission and work for a better day. It’s what we do as members of the military community. It’s what we do as part of the business community, and it's what we do at Hiring Our Heroes and what we have been doing over the last two years,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes.   

Hiring Our Heroes presented awards in six additional categories: Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment; Military Community Nonprofit Leadership; Military Spouse Employment and Mentoring; Post 9/11 Veteran Employment; Small Business; and Veteran and Military Spouse Employment. 

Colonel Michael Endres Leadership Award for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment was presented to Laura Schmiegel, Booz Allen Hamilton. The award is for an individual who has gone above and beyond to make a difference in employment opportunities for veterans, transitioning service members, and spouses. 

Lee Anderson Veteran and Military Spouse Employment Award was presented to Comcast NBCUniversal for overall excellence in hiring and retaining veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses. 

Military Community Nonprofit Leadership Award, presented by Comcast NBCUniversal, for demonstrated commitment to supporting veteran and military spouse employment and economic opportunity was awarded to Student Veterans of America. 

Steve Robinson Post-9/11 Veteran Employment Award, presented by Prudential Financial, was awarded to Verizon for effective and sustained efforts to enhance the ability of post-9/11 veterans and transitioning service members to find meaningful employment was awarded to  

Military Spouse Employment and Mentoring Award, presented by USAA, for demonstrated leadership and commitment to hire military spouses and empower them as they search for meaningful careers was awarded to Salesforce.  

This year’s small business designation goes to Freedom Learning Group, a military family-founded small business dedicated to employing veterans and military spouses.