What Veterans Want You to Know About Memorial Day
VETS Talk About Commitment, Community and Camaraderie
Remembering those who gave all, reflecting on the privileges of freedom they've collectively secured, and embracing the camaraderie that comes with service: That's what Memorial Day means to Josh Davis, a former Army Field Artillery Officer who is now a Corporate and Investment Bank Vice President for JPMorgan Chase. Davis is also the National Relay Chair for Carry The Load, an organization dedicated to restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day by recognizing service members and first responders who have given their lives in service to their country.
While Davis and his comrades hesitate to accept thanks for doing what they were trained to do, recognition is important. "We have a generation that still stands up and commits to selfless sacrifice, but to only pay attention on Memorial Day and Veterans Day is not enough," says Davis. That's the purpose of the month-long Carry The Load relay, spanning 6,600 miles along both coasts and happening around the clock in the days leading up to Memorial Day. "We want to remember those sons and daughters who served by walking through the heart of small town America, which is exactly where the members of our military and their families are."
From the Field to the Corporate Office
Davis has worked at JPMorgan Chase since 2010—starting with the firm just 30 days after leaving the military. He credits his "transition success story" to the firm's Voices for Employees that Served (better known as VETS) business resource group, designed for service members, veterans and their supporters. He now serves as co-chair of the VETS group in the New York area.
Functioning as a sort of internal networking system with regional chapters and an international reach, the group gives veteran employees access to community activities, mentorship, career mobility, networking and professional development opportunities.
Ben Clammer, an Executive Director at JPMorgan Chase who co-chairs the VETS Global Leadership Team, agrees. "Our core mission is to be an advocate and resource, a mentor and guide, and to promote the bonds and camaraderie among our members—especially the newly separated—as they navigate a big cultural shift," he says. VETS often works hand-in-hand with JPMorgan Chase's Military and Veteran Recruiting team, helping prospective employees document the skills they learned in the military on a resume and align them with the right role internally, according to Clammer.
The VETS group has also been an effective liaison to the firm's senior management, says Clammer, a former Navy aviator, frequently communicating the challenges and opportunities faced by veterans in the workplace.
The commitment is clear to Davis as well: "It's not a pat on the back or a job [just] for serving in the military. It's recognizing veterans as a resource and a valuable asset," he says.
On the Ground in Tampa Bay
Scott McLachlan, a Desert Storm veteran who served as an Army Combat Engineer, struggled with what he calls the "watering down" of Memorial Day. "It's become more of a kickoff to summer," says McLachlan, who works in Corporate and Investment Banking and co-chairs the Tampa VETS group. Since the city was not along the main Carry the Load route, McLachlan made it his personal mission to do something locally.
McLachlan and his team started a Carry The Load relay last year along Bayshore Boulevard, a route used by many organizations and charities. This year, as he continues to secure event sponsors and spread the word, McLachlan hopes to exceed last year's numbers and ultimately grow it to a citywide movement.
"Several people came wearing memorial shirts and expressed how much it meant to them and how happy they were to be involved," says McLachlan. Last year's relay drew 150 participants, who raised awareness simply by being there. Some joggers and passersby were inspired to join, and several individuals marched the full distance of the route even after the official event had ended.
VETS is primarily volunteer-run, a testament to the network's value and appeal. "My time in the service was the most meaningful period of my adult life," says Clammer.
Now, Clammer says he's grateful that he can give back by providing support to new JPMorgan Chase recruits, interns and veteran employees as they make the same transition he made from military to civilian employment.
To learn more about how you can help or participate, visit Carry The Load.org.
Michelle Seitzer is a freelance writer whose retirement/elder-care focused content has appeared on USNews.com, ReadersDigest.com, HuffingtonPost.com and AARP.org. She also writes about her international adoption experiences on ParentSociety.com.