Today we celebrate Veterans’ Day, a Federal Holiday to honor the brave members of our Armed Forces.

A tradition started with the celebration of Armistice Day (the end of World War I), this day has had different meanings for the many generations that have celebrated it in the century since its creation.

As our nation once again saw its young fight and die protecting our allies against Fascist oppression during World War II, this Holiday gained a new layer of pride and sobriety, as new generations understood the price paid for defending freedom against tyranny.

At Charter School Capital, several of us have family and friends who have served. Brad Coburn, our Chief Financial Officer, shared with us the remarkable story of his father and his two uncles, all of whom served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Brad’s uncle George Coburn, a Pearl Harbor veteran, made the news recently, as he finally received his medals a full 74 years after he earned them. Among these medals was a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the Battle of Okinawa – a fierce and decisive battle on the Pacific Front.

The Korean war brought a certain disenchantment in America’s perception of our role in global conflict. And Veterans’ Day lost luster during the Vietnam War and its aftermath, as Americans collectively struggled to understand that dark period of history. Sadly, it was our veterans who paid much of the price for this disenchantment – and more veterans died once back home, on American soil, than they had in the war itself. They died of physical and mental injuries. They died of neglect and isolation, as a nation mostly turned its back on them.

American sentiment toward the Armed Forces shifted dramatically after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. From 2001 on, enlistment in the Armed Forces saw a significant uptick, and civilians everywhere began to openly thank military members for their service.

We have now lived in a state of constant war for two generations. Our Military personnel is aware that they may be deployed overseas and put in harm’s way every day. And still, they enlist and serve. Some seeking opportunity, some out of tradition, many more out of a sense of duty.

The Experience of Women in the Military

We sat down with Kia Baker, Host of The Female Veterans’ Podcast. Through her podcast, Kia shines a light on female veteran experiences. She shared with us her thoughts on Military culture and her recommendations on how to best help Veterans of the Armed Forces.

Kia served five years of active duty in the Navy and three years in inactive reserves. She then pursued a corporate career, learning the vast disconnect between the corporate and the military world at a personal level. She started The Female Veterans’ Podcast because she felt that female veterans’ story was mostly untold – both because of a culture of silence and cultural perception of the Military as a male-dominated field.

Kia had started a project called Artemisia to help homeless female veterans. In Kia’s eyes, it was a stark contrast that female veterans received fewer donations and mostly went unseen and unrecognized compared to their male counterparts. Kia says that about 9% of homeless veterans are female, and this percentage is rising. These veterans often have PTSD and sexual trauma, and many have nowhere to go. Kia felt it necessary to tell their stories and shine a light on female veterans’ lives.

According to Kia, the rate of suicide among female veterans is 250% higher than civilian women (pdf). This statistic has soared 85% in recent years, as reported on the NPR website.

Kia speaks of nuance and paradox. Her Military experience was a challenging one. She was not the type who naturally falls in line, who naturally obeys authority (“the gung-ho types,” she calls them.) And yet she acknowledges that the discipline she acquired in her years of service shaped her character and allows her even today to achieve more and perform better.

“I will tell you till the day I die how proud I am of my Military service – but at the time that I was having it, I couldn’t wait to be done with it.”

She speaks with fondness about her fellow members in the Armed Forces – and yet she also witnessed women suffering from instances of sexual harassment – and advocated on their behalf.

“It’s still a boy’s club,” says Kia. “It will still take time. And what it is, for women, is that we often have to be better than the men. And oftentimes we don’t get credit for it. So we have to work extra hard – that is just par for the course.”  According to the VA website, female veterans make up 12.3% of all veterans – though it’s worth noting this statistic has not been updated since 2015. As a result of this perception of a predominantly male demographic, women in the Military face constant challenges in the health system.

Kia’s eyes light up with pride when she speaks of the humanitarian work she saw undertaken by the Military – recounting the Armed Forces’ role during Hurricane Katrina and the recent Hurricane Harvey.

Most notably, Kia speaks of the disconnect between military culture and civilian life – a disconnect that exacerbates the challenges of transitioning to civilian life, especially for female veterans.

In Kia’s view, most people in academia and the corporate world tend to discount the education, work experience, and skills acquired by applicants during their time in the Armed Forces. Kia believes this can be extremely counter-productive and significantly impacts veterans’ lives.

“We’re told that the corporate world will value our experience, value our service. But often, that’s just not the case,” says Kia.

Rather than focus on criticism, Kia has solid advice and recommendations for human resources departments, corporate managers, leaders, and employees without military experience.

“Look for veterans,” Kia recommends. “Look for veterans in your hiring efforts, and interview them, and see if they’re a fit. And interview more than one.” She especially recommends assigning a high value to female veterans because these are people who have had to prove their mettle and their competence, often being required to be twice as good as male counterparts to be promoted or even recognized.

“Hiring a female veteran who’s qualified for the role you need to fill is like finding a Unicorn. Because she has the best of both worlds – she has all that military training, but she also has the sensitivity and warmth and nurturing of being feminine,” Kia says.

In Kia’s experience, she was not getting interviews and was openly told that it might be because of the stigma associated with Military personnel. Once she took off her military experience from her resume, she started getting interviews.

Kia believes one place where veterans’ hiring has fallen short—and this is a challenge with all minority sectors—is that a lazy recruiting effort might seek to check a box. Lazy recruiting efforts often leads companies to hire someone just because they’re a veteran rather than find genuinely qualified candidates who have a solid record of experience and are veterans. This may lead to a disappointing hire, which would lead a company to have a bias, or at least a hesitation, from that point forward.

The correct approach, Kia says, is to follow a rigorous hiring process with solid vetting practices while at the same time reaching out to veterans.

“There are recruiters who specialize in bringing veterans to companies,” Kia says. Companies could leverage this a lot more.

Companies could make mention of their interest in hiring veterans on their Careers and their Company Culture pages.

For corporate employees, Kia’s advice is to exhibit patience and compassion with their fellow hires from a military background. “It’s such a culture shock for many of us,” Kia says. “I mean, we speak a different language.” For fellow employees, a veteran may appear aloof or reserved, or unsympathetic at first. In reality, the vet is likely struggling to adapt to new communication styles and a new culture.

For civilians at large, Kia emphasizes the importance of appreciation. “It’s good to feel that your experience mattered,” Kia says. “You volunteer to become the property of the U.S. Government for a few years. You volunteer to put yourself in harm’s way. And it makes a big difference when that is valued when that is acknowledged.”

Kia recalls a flight on Alaska Airlines, where the airline extended first boarding privilege to first-class passengers, mothers with small children and pregnant women, and military veterans. A small gesture, but one that has left a positive mark in Kia’s mind.

Recruiting agencies for Veterans:

Additional Resources:

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Since the company’s inception in 2006, Charter School Capital has been committed to the success of charter schools. We help schools access, leverage, and sustain the resources charter schools need to thrive, allowing them to focus on what matters most – educating students. Our depth of experience working with charter school leaders and our knowledge of how to address charter school financial and operational needs have allowed us to provide over $1.8 billion in support of 600 charter schools that have educated over 1,027,000 students across the country. For more information on how we can support your charter school, contact us. We’d love to work with you!

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