Veteran's Day tribute

My tribute to Veteran's Day, 2014. Another project I wrote for Find the original story here:


Starbucks honors Veterans with a book, commitment, & a promise.
By Heather Hopkins, Team FootStomp
(Original post November 10, 2014:

Admittedly, there were times I wanted to put the book down…because I couldn’t bear yet another picture in my mind of yet another bomb seriously wounding or taking the life of another Soldier or Marine. Admittedly, I felt I wanted to push aside scenes that have been, are, and will be played out every day, far away from me. But I realized I would be taking for granted one of the many luxury’s that exists in a free country, convenience – a part of my life that I know is there because so many have volunteered to brave the world and courageously fight for our freedom. I had the choice to conveniently put the book down and walk away, letting the echoes of the bombs, the voices of so many that have sacrificed so much, fade away into the background the farther away from the book I moved.  Admittedly, I know I had been guilty of such humanly selfish acts of turning away from horrendous or sad or tragic stories because it’s just too hard to face sometimes.  I have conveniently turned off the TV or clicked to another page online when a heroic story was featured because..well…I had work to do, places to go, MY family to worry about. This book has provided me a deeper understanding of sacrifice and the undeserved disconnect many Service Members face among civilian life, and how many continue to give to help others. From what I have read in the book’s description, it has accomplished its mission, at least on me!

The book, “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice,” was co-inspired by earnest experiences of both Howard Schultz, Starbucks Chairman, President and CEO, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, now a Senior Correspondent and Associate Editor of The Washington Post (he was the newspaper’s bureau chief in Baghdad in 2003 and 2004 and a war correspondent in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011). After his visits to West Point and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Schultz resolved in himself that he “couldn’t be a bystander when it came to our veterans;” he “couldn’t simply say “thank you” and move on.” Chandrasekaran was in the midst of the same eye-opener after he found a recent Washington Post-Kaiser Foundation study reported that “55 % - about 1.4 million veterans among this generation – said they feel disconnected from civilian life in America.” The two soon-to-be co-authors shared the same urgency in revealing a hidden crisis taking place among our everyday lives that they so eloquently stated in the Epilogue: “In a society in which…less than 1% join the military, and only about 5% have an immediate family connection to someone who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the other 95% have an obligation to understand who their warriors are, what they’ve done, and what they can yet accomplish.”

And boy did they ever succeed in illustrating this passionate plea in this book. It’s a quick read and now, instead of pushing the stories aside so I can conveniently go on with my life, I am left wanting more. I actually wish it were a longer book filled with more glimpses into the thousands of heroes living among us 95%ers.

But Schultz does continue to give more. The Schultz Family Foundation launched an initiative, Onward Veterans, which stems from Howard’s revelations on the Post-Kaiser study and is committed to “bridging the empathy gap between civilians and veterans”. The foundation’s priorities focus on wellness, economic opportunity, and strengthening families. Find out more here:

Schultz also understands that an essential way to help and understand veterans and their families is through career support. On November 6, 2014, Starbucks Coffee Company announced a “strategic commitment to develop a comprehensive hiring platform for veterans and active duty spouses” and is now on its way to hire 10,000 Veterans and military spouses by 2018.

“One of the most significant challenges our veterans face is a corporation’s inability to understand and translate the skills of military service into a meaningful private sector role,” said former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Starbucks board member. “Veterans and military spouses represent one of the most underutilized talent pools in our country and, without the proper career path, will continue to go untapped. Companies like Starbucks recognize this opportunity and are moving swiftly and aggressively to match the jobs they will create in the future with the talent returning to America over the next several years." Find out more here:

When I came across the book, I happened to be in my favorite coffee shop – um, yes, Starbucks – and I was surprised by the book display. I stopped to look around, checking to make sure I was still where I thought and hadn’t Twilight Zoned into another dimension – albeit an honorable dimension. What in the world does Starbucks have to do with Veterans, (besides their friendly participation among the many Veteran’s Day meal deals food and beverage establishments now offer)? I embarked on a nonstop research and reading marathon to learn more about Starbucks endeavors in support of Veterans and three days later, I am a bit in awe. Thank goodness the authors had epiphanies and came together to cover the many daunting issues that have been overlooked and lie ahead. I am left with these thoughts… 

I hope many will pick up this book, not shy away, and their hearts will become heavier upon reading because when they reach the end, they will carry the weight of courage, the weight of hope, the weight of grief, and the weight of honor. As an adaptive sports athlete supporter and advocate, and as a caregiver, I have crossed paths with many heroes and I want to say, I know you, I understand you. Like you, many more heroes will live through exceptional valor that others cannot imagine, they will brave the unthinkable during their time of recovery, and they will remain courageous while turning their tragedy into a new life full of hope. They could give up, they could say, “That’s enough”. Instead, like you, they will most likely take advantage of a freedom they fought for…they will have the convenience of choice and say, “I have too much to do with my life”…and they will push forward…onward. While honor is to be bestowed unto all Veterans of any generation, I hope the authors insightful exploration followed by action, much needed right now for post 9/11 Veterans, won’t fade into the background.


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