Monday, January 26, 2009

Quick Impressions from the Survivor Corps Veterans Community Reintegration Summit

Great things happening at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., today and into tomorrow as an historic conference has gotten underway. Its aim: Foster synergy among a wide range of stakeholders to better serve the reintegration needs of returning veterans and military families.

To do this, barriers and competition between entities need to be breached and broken down into a laser-focused 'megacommunty' made up of the federal, state, and local government sectors; large and small businesses; national and community-based NGOs and nonprofits; media (national, local and new); health care providers; educational institutions; veterans service organizations and veterans/military families.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Today was a full day -- working lunch included.

This is not a conference where panelists talk about the issues, wrap up with a brief Q & A, and then move on to the next thing.

Early this morning, attendees were assigned to their stakeholder category (I'm in the Media/Communications group) and, following a brief but inspiring welcome and introduction, then set out to first nail down what the current reintegration landscape is -- from each group's vantage point -- and then begin to brainstorm what must be done to "scale it up."

From Survivor Corps:

For the first time, community leaders from government, businesses, non-profit and veteran service organizations are convening in Washington DC on January 26-27 to collaboratively address the reintegration of service members and veterans as they return home to their families, communities, schools and jobs. Booz Allen Hamilton and The Veterans' Coalition are co-hosting the historic summit with Survivor Corps. ...

"We must recognize that it is our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure, not just that returning service members and veterans survive, but that they have every opportunity to thrive physically, psychologically, socially, and economically," says Jerry White, founder and executive director of Survivor Corps.

Over the past ten years Survivor Corps experience working with survivors of conflict has proven that reintegration is a key factor in whether survivors successfully overcome the traumatic experiences of war.

Survivor Corps U.S. Program Manger Scott Quilty is a U.S. Army Captain (Retired) who knows first hand about the challenge of recovering from the wounds of war after being severely injured by an improvised explosive device while on duty in Iraq.

“Reintegration didn’t occur for me as a result of orthopedic surgery or expert prosthetic care," Scott says. "It came through months of learning about myself, how I had changed from my experience… and by becoming a productive member of my community. Most importantly, I didn’t do it by myself, or with the help of any single organization."

"There are numerous organizations…many of which are represented in this room, who are doing what they can to improve the reintegration experience," Harry Walters, Chairman and President of the Veterans Coalition, said in his address to the Summit. "On the other hand, many of these very good intentions and best efforts are uncoordinated and can be confusing to those most needing assistance."

The Conference on Reintegration of Service Members and Veterans marks the start of an ongoing, close collaboration between the numerous individuals and organizations addressing the reintegration issue. Leaders from all sectors will share experiences, knowledge and perspectives in order to improve the overall quality of services and support for returning troops, their families and their communities.

"We truly believe this will be the beginning of a new type of effort that will positively impact the reintegration of service members and veterans to an extent never seen before," said Jerry White.

I'll have more when I return home (along with a few photos).

For now, let me close by saying that it is a hopeful endeavor. I'm very pleased to see so many from all segments come together and meet on equal terms. These types of mash-ups have been taking place on a more local level for the past few years (for example, in Kansas City last October and in Nashville last May); but, it's not enough for those on the lower rungs to stretch and strain to find new ways of doing what needs to be done.

That commitment needs to come from the top, too.

Imagine what a resounding success it would be if even a handful of the 200 or so high-level attendees (many greatly situated-to-move-the-necessary-levers for broad and deep change) is inspired enough to say to themselves, "I don't need a new law or regulation or mandate, I can do some digging and tweaking and implement some of these changes myself."

It's just the stuff America was built on, eh?

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