Connecting veterans in three ways

Social support and camaraderie among veterans: We connect veterans with other veterans by creating a team of veterans dedicated to service.

Veteran/non-veteran divide: We create experiences for veterans that connect them with teams of non-veterans in pursuing community impact.

Professional networking: We provide additional opportunities for professional networking to facilitate veterans’ career prospects.

“Having a strong support system is key to successfully moving onward. It was the catalyst that prepared me for where I am today.”
- Tyler Thompson, US Army

the need is clear

One of the most significant barriers to successful reintegration for veterans is the social isolation many experience upon returning home.

Only about 1% of the U.S. population has served in the military, meaning most veterans are coming home to communities that may not understand their specific needs and experiences. The Department of Veterans Affairs identifies social isolation9 as a major risk factor for suicide, which itself has become an epidemic among the veteran community. The risk may be higher among older veterans whose social resources dwindle with age.

Moreover, women veterans experience especially high rates of isolation because of the many unique experiences they endure in the military. Social isolation, even when it does not lead to suicide, can have deleterious effects on veterans’ physical and mental health. One study found that its effect on mortality is similar to the effects of smoking and substance abuse. Furthermore, social isolation also affects employment outcomes, with those who are socially isolated, or low on “social capital,” being less likely to be employed.

Connecting veterans to other veterans has proven a successful strategy to reduce the effects of social isolation. Studies of veteran peer support programs have been concluded that such programs can help veteran reintegration by promoting relationship building and also creating social networks that act as links to services and resources.

Service programs that connect veterans together to achieve common goals or solve problems also have beneficial effects. A 2017 study of veterans who completed The Mission Continues civic service fellowship program found veterans reported decreased rates of social isolation and loneliness and an increased sense of social support. Another study found that re-creating a familiar culture of camaraderie among veterans helps foster a sense of connectedness that helps veterans reintegrate into civilian life.

While TMC programming will not directly address veterans’ mental health needs, it can reduce the burden of social isolation by connecting veterans with each other, as well as non-veterans. The connectedness our programs inspire can help veterans feel less alone and ultimately aid in their reintegration process.

And as much as connecting vets with other vets is critical, connecting them to non-veterans is also important. Several studies have found evidence of a veteran/non-veteran divide that can increase social isolation among veterans and preclude their successful integration into civilian life, including employment. Programs that have attempted to bridge this gap have focused on promoting connection through storytelling and communication on both sides.

“As a gay veteran who served under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” The Mission Continues gave me the connection to the veteran community I never thought could exist. The brotherhood of our membership and the act of service allows me to feel connected to my community.”
- Nathan Mallory, US Air Force

how we fill the gap

Internal evaluations have found veterans cite connecting with other veterans among their top reasons for participating in TMC programs. More than two-thirds (67.8%) of participants in a 2017 survey said connecting with veterans was a reason they got involved with TMC.

Additionally, three-quarters of participants reported feeling more connected with other veterans’ post-participation with TMC. This sense of connection with other veterans is critical not only for support and camaraderie, but because veterans can help other veterans find the resources they need, like job opportunities or services for health needs.

Feeling more connected to veterans can be especially beneficial to veterans with special needs or experiences who lack opportunities to connect with veterans like them in their natural environments.

In addition to connecting with other veterans, the TMC also offers opportunities to connect more deeply with non-veteran populations. After participating in TMC programs, 59.6% of veterans said they felt more connected to the non-veteran community. Many times veterans are able to make stronger connections with non-veterans in their lives once they develop the tools to communicate about their experiences as veterans and tell their stories to people in their lives.

The tools to communicate about one’s own experiences is part of the personal growth TMC programs help foster (See Personal Growth above) that allows veterans to foster that connection.

Veterans can also build connections that will help them in future activities, like finding a job. More than three in five participants (63%) in the Service Platoon Program said they were able to build more networking opportunities through their participation.

“I was able to meet others that let me know that I wasn't alone and that I always have someone supporting me.”
- James Fitzgerald, US Army