Held on Nov. 15, the Veterans Legacy Summit's Zoned In event highlighted thought-provoking ideas that challenge assumptions about what it means to honor service members, veterans, and their families. Col. Steve Parker, executive director of Joining Forces, was the keynote speaker and discussed its three priority areas: employment resources, education programs, and wellness access. Joining Forces was created more than three years ago by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden as a national initiative to engage all sectors of society to give service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.
During the plenaries, Thomas Muir, Deputy Under Secretary for Management for the National Cemetery Administration, discussed the NCA's benefits and programs, and a panel discussion on "How Foundations Work in the Veterans Space" was moderated by Florida Philanthropic Network's President & CEO David Biemesderfer with panelists from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and The Veterans Trust.
Workshops showcased successful, creative, and meaningful ways organizations are focusing on Joining Forces' three priority areas to support veterans and those who are serving and their families. Presenting organizations included WUSF Veterans Coming Home; Team Red, White, and Blue; Veteran Student Services at Saint Leo University; Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs; Protect Our Defenders Foundation; Heroes on the Water; Soldier Songs and Voices; Save A Warrior; Military Officers Association of Sarasota; Sarasota County Schools; In Gear Career; and National Military Family Association.
Workshop presenters shared their personal stories and described specific ways to get involved with their organizations. A woman commented that she couldn't wait to tell her son about one of the organizations at the "Veterans' Recreational Support Programs" workshop; by volunteering, he could use his fishing hobby to engage interested veterans. A college student assisting at Zoned In expressed in an email afterward that his participation increased his awareness of the struggles that some veterans may be confronted with. Representatives from a variety of organizations learned about each other's work and exchanged contact information.
These all exemplify the intentions of Zoned-In— sharing fresh perspectives on strategies and ideas and making connections to accelerate positive change. And here is a great example of the ripple effect from this endeavor: Bobbie O'Brien, reporter, producer and WUSF Veterans Coming Home Coordinator, is planning to develop stories stimulated by the Veterans Legacy Summit on other veteran-serving organizations that she met at Zoned In and at the Celebration's Legacy Zone, including Heroes on the Water and Wreaths Across America. She reported that she already had an opportunity to interview Rob Walker of No Veteran Left Behind while they were both at the Summit, and she aired that story recently on WUSF 89.7 FM in Tampa. Recordings of future featured stories will be posted on the WUSF Veterans Coming Home website.
To learn more about Zoned In and to access presentations from the event, visit www.thepattersonfoundation.org/veterans-legacy-summit.html.
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