As we celebrate Veterans Day during one of the most traumatic times in our nation’s history, many of us are focused on COVID fatigue, economic uncertainty and the future of our country following one of the most highly watched elections in our lifetimes.  It is particularly important during this critical time to come together and recognize, celebrate and support those Americans who have sacrificed for our freedoms and everything we stand for.

So today I celebrate my friend and a true hero Lt. Col. Kathy Lowrey Gallowitz, USAF Retired, founder of Vanguard Veteran, and share with you her recently published book, Beyond “Thank You for Your Service:” the Veteran Champion handbook for civilians.

Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz is a third-generation serviceperson, the daughter and grand-daughter of veterans, the spouse of a combat veteran and a decorated veteran herself.  In her book, she shares candid accounts of her own experiences and of others who have given so much to protect our values and keep us safe. A nurse and public affairs officer, Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz, learned at an early age the skills that are critical to success in the military and in life generally.

As the child of a military officer, she moved often and was forced to develop the internal fortitude and resilience to adapt to new circumstances and environments, to develop relationships as a newcomer, and to handle unexpected turmoil with aplomb.  She exudes a unique blend of confidence, integrity and strength borne of her upbringing and experience.  She exemplifies the leadership “can-do” traits that the military instills. Despite her achievements, Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz is modest about her contributions and accomplishments, focused instead on supporting our servicemembers, veterans, and their families during their active duty service and post-military transition to civilian life.

By highlighting her important book this Veterans Day, I hope to entice you to read it, share it and live its message. I spoke with Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz recently about the inspiration for her book and its teachings. As she courageously shares so much of her personal journey, some key themes emerge.

While serving, military personnel learn how to work effectively as a team, mobilize quickly for and manage crises and push through hardship.  That is particularly true for those who see combat.  They must trust the person on each side of them with their lives, creating a bond that most of us do not experience in civilian life.  Also, service members and their families move often as they change duty stations, are redeployed, and experience long and frequently painful family separations, have to manage as single parents and learn to rely on one another.

While serving in the military, most people do not have the opportunity to develop roots (or a personal network) in the civilian community.  Relocation, new schools and changing places of worship, all take a toll and deprive those in active service from establishing the networks we in civilian life take for granted.  That means that when someone completes their service commitment and returns to civilian life, they probably do not have the connections or toolkit to find meaningful employment or navigate the business community easily. This is where Veteran Champions come in. Veteran Champions are civilians who are a “Part of the Win” by creating mutually-beneficial activities and services that strengthen the Veterans’ quality of life, workforce opportunities and community.

Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz provides multiple concrete examples of how civilians (i.e., employers, lawyers, healthcare providers, educators, community influencers and faith leaders) have taken the initiative to become Veterans Champions and proactively support servicemembers, veterans and their families. These practical, easy-to-do examples can be applied in all of our communities to show gratitude for our men and women in uniform. Her hope is that these examples will be inspirational for those of us who have been unaware of Veterans’ needs or are uncertain of how to support them.

Of particular importance to Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz is having employers understand the “business case for hiring veterans” and the “best practices” for succeeding with these diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives by leveraging their unique skillsets to strengthen the civilian workforce. According to Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz, military personnel excel at “leadership, teamwork, and mission-focus.” They are more productive and miss work less than their non-veteran counterparts and they instinctively provide “selfless service” rather than being self-promoters over the interests of their team.

Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions about veterans that “stigmatize” them and make their transition to civilian life and the workplace more challenging than it should be.  One prime example is that “we need to bust the myth that veterans are broken, or that most suffer from post-traumatic stress.” Even if a veteran bears scars from service, inside or out, these challenges do not prevent them from being stellar employees. Most servicemembers and veterans are highly resilient! They are willing to “pay the ultimate price for their country” and, as the beneficiaries of this and other sacrifices, we need “to honor, respect and support them.” According to Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz, supporting veterans “is not rocket science, its people science.”  We owe them that and so much more.

I am proud to call Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz, “Kathy” to me, my friend, neighbor, and a true patriot.  Starting today, I ask you to support just one servicemember, veteran or family member in your neighborhood and make it the beginning of a lifelong commitment to being a Veteran Champion, one who pays tribute – through your actions – to those who selflessly sacrifice for us. Kathy invites you to join the Veteran Champion movement and Be a “Part of the Win.” Lt. Col. Lowrey Gallowitz and her fellow veterans, I salute you. Happy Veterans Day!

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