Written by Noemi Pollack on February 27, 2012.
The newly minted “America Wants You” campaign is very reminiscent of WWII’s campaign “Uncle Sam Wants You,” — of some 70+ years ago. This time around it is a corporate call to arms – rather than a military one.
It is a call for a unified effort to rectify a catastrophic situation for the 800,000 veterans who are presently unemployed, 30 percent of them between the ages 18 to 34, a much higher per capita rate than the general population. It is also a call for Corporate America to sit up and take note that this situation will be exacerbated, as the draw down from Afghanistan continues.
The situation is abysmal. There is no question that our vets are owed and it’s not about “the other guy” doing something about it. It’s not a partisan issue. It is an American issue, with everyone doing his/her part.
Happily there are several programs, both private and public, whether state or federal, that are taking shape to shake up Corporate America. But whereas some programs are moving forward quietly and diligently to tackle the issue, one in particular, the PR campaign “America Wants You,” is making more noise than others, largely because they have enlisted actor Chris O’Donnell of NCIS: Los Angeles and Batman fame. In a video released this week, O’Donnell implores those who “sit in corner offices” to think about the 800,000 unemployed veterans first, when making hiring decisions.
A private sector initiative, this campaign is led by three retired private-sector executives from Los Angeles who have partnered with CareerBuilder and Southwestern Energy for the effort. America Wants You, CEO John Pike, a veteran who is a former president of Paramount Network Television, says it is time for corporations to do their part. The non-partisan organization apparently puts their money where their “mouth” is and took out a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal to reach its target audience.
It will not be easy for Corporate America to step up to this challenge, one that is becoming more clamorous daily. For one thing, the transition from military to corporate life cannot possibly be an easy road for any vet. For another, some of the youngest veterans simply have never been a part of the workforce, for many joined the military right out of high school with the hope that the military will offer training that might be needed in the workforce. And for those who may still serve in the National Guard and Reserves, it might even be more difficult, for employers will be wary of hiring them, cautious that these could be deployed again at any given time.
Still, all these arguments fall short, when one considers the underlying issue, which needs to remain steadfast — we owe them.
Many programs advocating for veteran employment offer grants, private or public, as compensation for training or hiring a vet. In some cases, a state even offers to pay the wages of an employed vet for six months as an incentive to the employer. Federal programs offer tax credits or other benefits.
But it should not be about benefits. It should be about “giving back” to those men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. It therefore becomes a moral obligation.
After all, it is the American way, and it needs to prevail.