This Thanksgiving, Reflect on the Pilgrims and the Veterans

November 24, 2014
Senior Adviser, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

(Above: Medal of Honor recipient Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer)

As Thanksgiving approaches, I always take time to consider the experiences of the early settlers arriving in the New World.

I think about the trepidation of crossing the ocean and arriving in an unfamiliar land and the challenges of survival during those first days.

What were the remarkable qualities that these men and women possessed? Courage. Dedication. Resourcefulness. Commitment to purpose and to one another.

These traits are now inherent in the American soul. But they are embodied most clearly in the men and women of our military, who have worked to defend our nation since the dawn of its existence.

Veterans Day offers a chance to pay special recognition to our service members, and Thanksgiving provides another opportunity for us to show our appreciation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is proud to work directly with veterans on a number of issues, most notably through its Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) program, which seeks to find meaningful employment for veterans and military spouses.

The transition from military life to civilian life is in many ways much like the experience of those brave people at Plymouth Rock. Like the early settlers, new veterans are optimistic yet anxious about the future.

Thankfully, HOH has had great success in finding work for thousands of people transitioning from the military.

The group recently held its 800th job fair, including its first-ever overseas events at military bases in Germany.  As a direct result of all the HOH job fairs, more than 1,500 businesses have hired 25,000 service members and military spouses.

Earlier this month, HOH and Capital One announced that they received commitments from companies to hire 585,000 veterans and military spouses, exceeding the goal of the Hire 500,000 Heroes Campaign.

Finding meaningful work for veterans and military spouses is powerful. It’s not just about doing a good thing, but it's also about strengthening the American economy and spurring growth.

Employers will tell you that veterans have the characteristics they seek in workers. Their military experience provides them with an array of skills as well as a hard-earned sense of discipline, reliability, and adaptability.

Just like the pilgrims who planted the seeds of our great country, veterans can handle stress and won’t quit until the job is done. Who wouldn’t want to hire people with such qualities?

This Thanksgiving I’ll spend some time reflecting on the Mayflower, while eating way too much turkey and pumpkin pie. 

But I’ll also make sure to raise a glass on behalf of our service members and our Hiring Our Heroes team for the important job they do every day for our veterans and military spouses. I hope you will too. 

John R. McKernan Jr. is the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. His President's Corner column runs every other week.