As Sodexo is preparing to honor our brave men and women in uniform this Veteran’s Day, I find myself reflecting on my decade of experience working with the military community. I am reflecting for two reasons: (1) because I am this year’s keynote speaker at Sodexo’s SOAR with HONOR: A Day of Discovery, Development, and Dialogue event (and I need to figure out what I am going to say (smile); and (2) because I have devoted my career to ensuring that service members who transition to the civilian workforce (especially our wounded warriors) are prepared to meet the challenge of the next chapter in their lives (and that employers are prepared to welcome them). I think about their struggles every waking moment of every day – but mostly I think about the fact that at any given time in the past decade, less than 1% of the American population has served on active military duty, or worn the uniform.
Now, I do not come from a military family, did not have friends growing up who joined the military, and until 9/11 had honestly never given much thought to what “wearing the uniform” truly signified. Fast forward to today, and I can honestly say that my experiences working with and on behalf of service members, veterans and their families has given my life and my career new purpose and meaning. It has defined who I am and who I aspire to be. Our men and women in uniform possess a remarkable level of commitment, integrity, dedication, resiliency, and leadership that is unmatched. It has been my mission to make certain those in the business community who haven’t worn the uniform understand and benefit from this extraordinary skill set.
Every active duty service member, member of a National Guard or Reserve unit, veteran, and military spouse I meet in my travels truly makes me want to be a better person. If I had the opportunity go back in time, I can, without a doubt, tell you that I would have served my country…proudly…in uniform. I would be today a proud member of a community of brothers and sisters who share an awe-inspiring connectedness and an exceptional devotion to one another and a greater cause.
Since time traveling is not an option (yet), I will simply focus on serving those who have served. As Executive Vice President of Economic Empowerment for Wounded Warrior Project, I strive to create programs and services, as well as meaningful and long-lasting partnerships that will help our nation’s wounded warriors succeed in education and in their post-military careers. The mission of Wounded Warrior Project is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. Although I have never worn the uniform, it is my personal mission to aid and support those who have – especially those returning from war with injuries, whether visible or unseen.
To that end, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to represent Wounded Warrior Project and provide the keynote address at SOAR with HONOR; event on November 9th. I hope you will join me as we honor Sodexo’s military-connected community, welcome them home, and remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom…while wearing the uniform.
Lisa Stern is Executive Vice President at Wounded Warrior Project.