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Report: Veterans an untapped resource for charities, communities

Leo Shane III | Military Times

Officials at Got Your Six already know veterans are more likely to do volunteer work, donate to charity and get involved in local politics.

Now the advocacy group is challenging non-veterans to use that available military experience and enthusiasm to better their communities. 

On Thursday, Got Your Six released its annual Veterans Civic Health Index, and overview of veterans’ post-military engagement in local charities and coordination. As in past years, the results show a higher level of involvement by veterans compared to their civilian peers. 

Researchers found veterans spend more time performing volunteer work (169 hours a year, vs. 126 for non-veterans), are more likely to vote in local elections (73.8 percent, vs 57.2 percent for non-vets) and more often work with neighbors to tackle problems in their community (10.7 percent, vs. 7.6 percent for non-vets). 

They argued the statistics show not only that veterans should be active in their communities, they should be seen as potential leaders and organizers in improvement efforts. 

“When people are engaged, they’re happier, and their communities are stronger,” said Julia Tivald, director of strategy for Got Your Six and author of the report. “And we know that getting involved can be a positive agent for social change.” 

Group officials see veterans as potential community organizers on a host of issues, beyond just military and Veterans Affairs challenges. Executive Director Bill Rausch said he sees recently separated troops as valuable voices in national conversations about race relations and social division, because of their willingness to work towards compromise and progress. 

Unfortunately, most people only associate combat and war with military service. 

“The majority of Americans … view veterans as broken or heroic,” he said. “There are some very dangerous narratives. And because we’re a small percentage of the population, they’re not experiencing a narrative that is different. 

“And that’s why we exist, to promote veterans as civic assets.” 

The report includes a host of recommendations for companies, policymakers and charities to change that perception, including simply “have a conversation with a veteran.” 

The full report is available online at the Got Your Six web site

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