Adapt and overcome

Originally written by Col. David Sutherland for the Sutherland Partnership Buzz. I’m the Chairman and founder of the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services at Easter Seals. Dixon Center is coordinating, collaborating and consolidating the disparate efforts underway in communities across the U.S. to support veterans and military families.

My mission is to align this nationwide network of support for veterans and military families so that the organizations involved can sustain their momentum and maintain the best possible services. Between the drawdown in Afghanistan and tighter restraints on government fiscal resources, there is a greater need to fill in the gaps. These groups must look beyond the present and consider how they will build for the long haul.

My team and my efforts unite complementary efforts in three areas that are necessary to ensure a sustainable life in civilian society for veterans and their families:
Education so that veterans and their families can achieve their graduation goals, go one step beyond their “battlefield knowledge” and better transition to private sector careers that take advantage of their skill sets.

Meaningful employment that earns a “family wage” – enough to provide for the veteran and his or her family.
Access to healthcare beyond what is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including information and options, for a “whole person” concept.
If we can efficiently and effectively provide these elements to our veterans and their families – in the communities where they live – these heroes will thrive.

The idea of community is important. Currently, our veterans and service members come home to a grateful nation. But we also come home to our families, neighbors and communities who – while grateful – also expect us to pick up where we left off.

Together, we can figure this out, challenge the status quo, and do the unthinkable – consolidate efforts to focus solutions for our veterans and military families during their transition and reintegration. As Admiral Mike Mullen, 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “Just get them started and I think they’ll soar.”

Colonel David W. Sutherland founded the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services at Easter Seals. He actively contributes to numerous national veteran and military family committees and boards. COL Sutherland speaks in communities at universities, businesses and conferences around the country as a vocal advocate and leader for transformational change. He is a vocal advocate for our service members, military veterans, their families, and the families of our fallen. Sutherland presented his ideas in St. Cloud for Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota.