On October 22nd,1962 President John F. Kennedy appeared on national television to address the country regarding the developing crisis in Cuba and the discovery of Russian nuclear missiles on the island. The president delivered a powerful speech that detailed the American plan to ensure hostile acts did not go unchecked, “as the world had learned from inaction in the 1930’s”. In his closing remarks, President Kennedy delivered a famous quote that describes American ethos, character, and spirit; “The cost of freedom is always high--and Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”
After 59 years and wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Americans have continued to pay the high cost of freedom and refused to choose the path of surrender or submission. Our country has rallied together and supported each other and the economy in the direst of times. Innovative business leaders and entrepreneurs have offered their services and technology to bolster strategic, operational, and tactical initiatives that have given our warfighters the advantage as they fought to defend our Nation and our way of life. Our brave service members have given their lives, limbs, and sanity, paying the high cost of freedom. Military families share the service of our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, but this shared high cost, shared service, and shared sacrifice is often overlooked.
At Ankura, our growing veteran community has illuminated our call to action. Supporting inclusion and diversity is a part of our culture, and leveraging our collective team is one of our core values. Our newly appointed Chief Inclusion and Innovation Officer retired Lieutenant General Vince Stewart, USMC has energized our company’s commitment to equity and agile work environments driving innovation, growth, and high-quality results. Furthermore, we recognize that veteran and military family support is not something to address one day or month out of the year, but on an ongoing basis. In doing so, we asked some tough questions to begin our journey toward meaningful solutions. What are the challenges the military and their families face? What support do the families of our service members have? How can we make it better?
Challenges the military and their families face
The following statistics are listed on the Department of Defense (DoD) website (defense.gov) and the congressional budget office website (cbo.gov):
- In fiscal year 2019, DoD personnel and family members numbered 4,747,313 including 600,000 spouses and 1,644,456 military children
- Military families re-locate on average every 2-3 years
- A military child will change schools 6-8 times
- 1 in 4 (25%, or ~ 150,000) military spouses are unemployed and actively seeking work 
- Over 5,000 service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Over 50,000 service members were wounded in action in both theaters combined 
Comprehending the size and scope of the people requiring support based on the information above is a challenge. Developing a succinct and successful response to those in need is a significant challenge that the Department of Defense and our Nation must continue to address.
One of the most prominent resources available to service members and their families across the DoD is Military OneSource. This Department of Defense-funded non-profit organization aggregates the host of programs and benefits available to service members and their families, accessible via a call center or online. Services offered on the website range from change of duty station moving support, family counseling, finance advisory services, health and wellness, and more. Successful non-profit organizations have also rallied to the call to support our military and their families including: The Gary Sinise Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Gold Star Wives of America, Hire our Heroes, The Travis Manion Foundation, A Soldier’s Child Foundation, Operation Gratitude, and many more.
Even with access to these and other resources, the military families of our service members, veterans, wounded, and fallen often don’t receive the support they need and deserve. How is that possible? The answer can be found in our nation’s disjointed response to solving the problem. We as a people most certainly agree that the military and their families must be supported, yet we have not collectively developed the solution to deliver a succinct and successful response.
Make it better
Thankfully, military families’ care and advocacy is receiving attention at the highest levels. In May of 2021, the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, announced the new phase of the Joining Forces initiative launching an Interagency Policy Committee to establish a forum to highlight and advance cross-agency priorities related to the families of service members, veterans, caregivers, and survivors. The President of the United States, Joe Biden, and his cabinet members are co-signatories on the committee’s inaugural report. This government committee is the first step to a solution in policy.
Ankura’s veteran community in the U.S. is strong and growing. Currently, we foster fellowship programs for veteran employment through Hire our Heroes, which has resulted in successful full-time hires, as well as service and donation opportunities through Operation Gratitude. Our goal over the next one to three years is to refine our corporate policies aligning with veteran and military family initiatives and increase our service-connected demographic by 25%. Our dedication to veteran inclusion not only helps to grow our strong team of professionals but also contributes to driving change to address the challenge facing our nation.
Civilian support and advocacy on this issue are also on the rise. In September 2021, over 100 Gold Star family members co-signed an open letter to America and federal government leaders addressing the dire need for Casualty Assistance Program reform and policy updates supporting survivors and their families. Continued support from our government as well as the private sector from across the nation is important now more than ever. Participation in leading local, state, and/or federal initiatives is how our country thrives. That collective investment and involvement encompasses one of our great nation’s most pure and successful ideals upon which it was founded, “Out of many, One”, or more famously known in Latin, “E Pluribus Unum”. It is time for us to come together and deliver the support our military and their families deserve and share the high cost of our freedom.
The authors would like to thank Vince Stewart for his contribution to this article. Vince was a frequent supporter and advocate for military veterans and their families. Please read more here from the Director of National Intelligence https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/press-releases-2023/item/2378-dni-haines-statement-on-the-passing-of-former-director-of-the-defense-intelligence-agency-lieutenant-general-vincent-stewart.
© Copyright 2021. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals. Ankura is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice.