The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” didn’t exist in my vernacular in the mid ‘80’s. I had just graduated from a high school in a small town about 30 miles south of Houston, Texas. My peer group in that high school, which for the most part could be considered a semi-rural community, was made up of kids whose parents were engineers at NASA, shrimp fisherman in Galveston Bay, chemical plant workers, and just about every occupation you can imagine. I felt well-equipped to enter the world of diversity I had imagined I would experience when I swore an oath to join the US Army.
It wouldn’t be until years after my time in the military that I realized how special my experience was from a D&I perspective. As my experience played out, my time in the military was about getting the job done, developing as a soldier, and taking on as much responsibility as I could. The men and women who served alongside me were immensely diverse; only years after my service did it occur to me that this diversity would create such a powerful advantage in our mission as a nation’s armed force. The best of our cultural, geographic, socio-economic, and religious differences allowed us to become stronger together, providing a competitive advantage over our adversaries.
My primary objective of looking out for my fellow soldiers in any given task or mission was enhanced by the bonds of knowing them as people first and having appreciation for their individual journeys. When I look at my old photos of my time served, I see Rivera, Peterson, Lister, Kelly, Cossio, Lemza and Puerto Rico, Mississippi, Philly, Kentucky, LA. Almost running out fuel on a long convoy (funny now, but not so much then…). All men and women with whom I lived, worked, laughed, celebrated, grieved and never wavered in our commitment to one another and our mission. Our differences provided unique perspectives and energy to our efforts. When I speak with men and women coming out of military today, I can’t help but to feel a genuine sense that if we had more people that served, some of the challenges of the day would be less prominent.
Like many business owners, my primary objective is to create an enterprise that can deliver on the promises we make to our constituents – clients, employees and shareholders. I feel that I am better served in doing so because of my time in the military and the rich blend of cultures that helped to formed me into the person I am today.
Over 200,000 servicemen and women are exiting the military every year and looking to kick off their civilian careers. They come from all walks of life and every corner of the map, physically and culturally. If you are a business that has committed to and has acted upon creating a truly diverse and inclusive organization, well done! You are well positioned to compete in tomorrow’s world.
If your organization is looking for high-quality talent and you would like to “build in” some diversity, a Veteran may be your answer. We can help you build a driven, results-oriented, and loyal talent pool that is as diverse as the US Military.