It is something great and greatening to cherish an ideal; to act in the light of truth that is far-away and far above; to set aside the near advantage, the momentary pleasure; the snatching of seeming good to self; and to act for remoter ends, for higher good, and for interests other than our own. – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, October 3, 1889
At Hire Heroes USA, we consider the words of General Chamberlain as much a call of action today as they were a fitting eulogy 125 years ago at the dedication of the monument for the men of the 20th Maine Infantry who fought and died in the smothering July heat at the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain, who won the Medal of Honor for his “daring heroism and great tenacity” while commanding the defense of the Union left flank at Little Round Top, was wounded six times during the course of the war and went on to become Governor of Maine and President of Bowdoin College.
Chamberlain’s successful post-war reintegration into civilian society was aided in no small part to the fact that in 1866 nearly half of American men between the ages of 16 and 43 were Civil War veterans. Government, industry, and educational institutions were flooded with men who had served “interests other than [their] own” and who now formed a fraternity of common experience – if not common purpose – within the halls of higher learning, business, and power.
Veterans today face a markedly different post-service landscape than the one Chamberlain experienced 150 years ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics less than 9% of the population age 18 and over are veterans and that percentage decreases with each passing year. American society struggles to identify with the unique culture and experience of its cadre of military professionals, which contributes to a sustained unemployment rate of 24% among many veterans.
Meanwhile, the drawdown of US military forces in Afghanistan will soon bring to a close 13 years of war in Southwest Asia that cost more than 5,300 US battle deaths (10% as many battle deaths as US forces suffered in World War I) and more than 52,000 US service members wounded. A million service members will exit the military in the next four years; they will want to work, but many will not know how to relate their military experience in a winsome manner that nonveterans value and understand.
That’s where Chamberlain’s eulogy becomes Hire Heroes USA’s exhortation. By putting service to work through our best-in-class, personalized employment training and corporate engagement, Hire Heroes USA stands squarely at the intersection of veteran needs and the opportunities offered by a growing economy. In the past year alone, we have helped more than 1,200 veterans achieve new careers, with salutary ripple effects throughout their families, employers and communities.
If acting “for higher good” is on your mind this holiday weekend, why not visit our website and check out some of the ways that you can make a difference today.
About the author – Hire Heroes USA Chief Operating Officer, Nathan Smith