11/07/2011 04:22 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2012

Happy "Military Alumni" Day

We owe an infinite level of gratitude to the men and women who have served in America's military. Those alive today, and those who have fought the War on Terror since 9/11, have sacrificed greatly to preserve the freedoms which enable all of us to prosper. They are selfless heroes -- national treasures -- whom we love and admire. But is that why we should help them find jobs or start a new business?

Not according to the companies which employ the vast majority of us! For as long as a version of capitalism exists where companies owe a fiduciary responsibility to drive shareholder profit, companies will continue to view hiring veterans as a financial and competitive advantage.

In 2003, G.I. Jobs magazine published its first list of America's most "Military Friendly Employers." Among the ten companies, the average percentage of new hires that year who were veterans was 6%. By 2011 that list had grown to 100 companies and the average percentage of new hires who were veterans had ballooned to a staggering 24%. Yes, that means that one in four new hires today at America's blue chip companies -- companies like GE, Deloitte, CDW, Travelers, T-Mobile, State Farm and The Home Depot -- are veterans.

The reality is that most military personnel perform many of the same functions as those in the civilian world -- and often better. They are supply chain experts, auditors, marketers, technology gurus, doctors and lawyers. They are technicians, nurses, heavy equipment operators, skilled laborers and first responders. They are all problem solvers, ambassadors and leaders who are accountable for executing a plan. They're trained to innovate when the mission doesn't go as planned. That happens a lot. They're pressure-tested. They work well in teams. They're diverse. They bring global perspective. They work 80 hour weeks. Their business trips last 12 months or longer.

Sounds like a business school curriculum on steroids. So let's start referring to those who endure, those who flourish, in a new way -- as what they truly are: as graduates of the best business school in the world. Let's call them "military alumni."

But I thought military alumni unemployment rates were so high?

For young military alumni they are, but so are unemployment rates for all young people. And some military alumni choose to temporarily remain unemployed immediately following the military for a number of reasons: they need a break from the high operational tempo, they choose to go back to school or they temporarily return to the same hometown that didn't have jobs four years ago. But while times are tough for all, corporate America, since 2003, has actively chosen to pursue hiring military alumni at a much higher rate than those who did not serve.

Does it come as a surprise that military alumni own businesses at twice the rate of non-veterans? In fact, one in seven businesses in the U.S. is owned by a military alumnus. Is trust an important part of your decision when choosing a dentist, a plumber or an auto mechanic? If so, go to where you'll find business owners who rest their reputation on the strong backs of the 25 million strong family of military alumni.

So this Veteran's Day, please do thank a veteran -- but hire or buy from a military alumnus.

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