Veterans Day Q&A with Matthew Williams and Joe Dobesh

The theme for Veterans Day 2022 is “Honor.” Veterans are proud of their military service in defending our Nation. Honor reflects the military value and tradition of answering the call to duty. There is distinct honor in serving to protect our way of life and the Constitution of the United States of America.

We spoke with U.S. Veterans, Matthew Williams and Joe Dobesh about what Veterans Day means to them, ways that people and organization can support veterans in the workplace, and what progress they would like to see in our Nation over the next three years.

What does Veterans Day mean to you? What is something you’d want people to know that they might not about Veterans Day, our Veterans, and our active Military? 

Joe: Veterans Day has the largest audience of the 3 military-centric holidays. Armed Services day is intended to honor those currently serving on active duty or deployed status. Memorial Day is to honor and respect those military members that died in service to this country. Most people don’t know the difference between the 3, but now you do!  This Veterans Day, if you have a friend or family member that served in the military in any capacity, simply reach out and say “thank you for your service.” That simple acknowledgment will mean a lot to the veteran. Depending on your personal relationship with the veteran, feel free to ask them light questions such as “where was your favorite duty station” or “what did you do in the military.”

Matthew: Veterans Day represents a moment to recognize those who dedicated a moment in their lives to serve the country. It was an honor to serve with my colleagues who dedicated the same effort to preserve freedom and democracy across the planet. As a veteran, I think of those who made an earnest selfless effort for our country.

Veterans Day is also Armistice Day (the Day World War I ended) it was later recognized as Veterans in 1954. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day (Remembering those who died in service to the country).

What can people and organizations do to support Veterans in the workplace?

Joe: Men and women make the decision to join the military, usually without any pomp or circumstance. In general, the best way to thank a veteran for their service is in a small group or 1 on 1 discussion.  It would be great to see a military employee resource group or a volunteer opportunity for a veteran effort. Veterans love to talk, so providing a space for them to interact and swap stories can be invaluable for building strong connections with other employees and co-workers.

Matthew: Take time to acknowledge a veteran with a little more than a “thank you for your service”. Ask about their unit. For example, I am a paratrooper – I jumped out of planes with a backpack attached to my waist that weighed as much as a large dog (80 pounds) sometimes more! Ask about their favorite war movie – mine is a toss-up between black hawk down and Full Metal Jacket. Or, ask what they liked most about the military. Most might say it was the friendships they gained.

Over the next 3 years, what progress would you like to see in how our Nation supports Veterans and creates opportunities for Veterans to continue to thrive beyond their years of service? 

Joe: This country has come a long way over the years. Military men and women returning from Vietnam were not welcomed with open arms across most of the country. That is not the case anymore. Military members often receive a hero’s welcome when they return from a deployment. Friends and family are proud to say they have a close relationship with someone in the military- you see it on bumper stickers, hats, t-shirts, etc. I left active duty in 2019 and there was only some basic job hunting and assistance in place for transitioning military members.

The DoD Skillbridge program and the military’s new transition program have undertaken huge improvements. I would love to see these become standardized across the professional workspace. The military has a lot of valuable skills that are applicable in the civilian workforce, from truck drivers to doctors, lawyers, project managers, engineers, cooks, IT, police, and mechanics. These skills have huge demand in the civilian workforce and we are trending on a great path for 2025. Companies are identifying the “new” skilled labor force and taking amazing steps towards getting recently transitioned veterans smoothly into the workforce.

Matthew: Civilians are beginning to learn that military members possess a wealth of experience that creates value for both the team, the culture, and the organization. A common gap between the Veteran Community and civilians is the stigma of what soldiers represent and what value they bring to a group. The translation of how their leadership and training are applicable to the workforce, how their experience can add value to the organization, and what are some takeaways from their tenure in the military that are applicable to the organization (comparable to their experience, of course).

Connect with Joe and Matthew!