VETLANTA: Post-9/11 Leaders Wanted
If Veterans Support Organizations (VSO) are to remain relevant today, they need to find ways to be relatable to the only growing segment of the veteran’s population, the post-9/11 veteran. One of the most effective ways that they can do that is to actively pursue young leaders to bring onto their leadership teams. While many organizations state that obtaining funding is their largest challenge, what I believe to be the true challenge is that they struggle to find veterans who utilize their services in a convincing enough fashion to justify funding their efforts. Placing more post-9/11 veterans in leadership positions at these organizations can help solve this challenge. By having their boots on the ground, young leaders are better able to understand the needs of their peer groups and then can influence the organizations they serve to better address the needs of the veterans who are aided by the organizations.
Today’s post-9/11 veteran leader is looking for an organization that aligns with their values. I know because that’s what I did when I moved to Atlanta and attended my very first VETLANTA Summit in 2017. I was looking for an organization that recognized the value of younger veterans and that was willing to allow them to impact their mission. I started by first attending summits as a club member, becoming a pillar director shortly thereafter. Most recently, I took on the role of Chief Marketing Officer. I walked, jogged, and then sprinted my way into VETLANTA by first understanding what services it provided, then recognized some areas that I could impact. Most importantly, I then took steps to be the change I wanted to see. It’s imperative that other post-9/11 veterans understand that the process is just as challenging as it is rewarding, and providing ideas isn’t enough; they have to step up and make their ideas become reality.
The questions below can help get the conversation started between legacy leaders and the next generation of organizational leadership.
For legacy leaders:
• Do you have a succession plan in place?
• Have you identified a hard-charging veteran that you think
would be a great addition to your leadership team and have
you told them?
• What is the culture like within your leadership team and
have you set the stage for new leaders to experience success
once brought on?
For post-9/11 veterans:
• Have you identified an organization that you align with
• If so, what steps are you actively taking to deepen your
relationship with that organization to better understand its
capabilities, leadership, and mission?
• Who do you look up to in that organization to whom you
should reach out?
At VETLANTA, rule #1 is “Help veterans.” We remind ourselves of that at the beginning of each meeting. For VETLANTA and for every other VSO, we must stay focused on the execution of our missions by remembering why we got involved with our respective organizations in the first place. If we are to impact the changing veterans’ landscape, we must change with it. Through the active promotion of diversity of thought and experience, VSOs can thrive, not just survive, in the post-9/11 era.
Tyler Freeman was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and joined the United States Marine Corps in 2008. He was stationed in the Carolinas shortly thereafter with military occupations primarily involving helicopter squadrons as an Aviation Maintenance Supervisor and a CH-53E Helicopter Crew Member.
After 5½ years of service and three deployments (two to Northeast Africa and one to Afghanistan), Tyler received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in April of 2014 to pursue undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While enrolled, he held a concurrent full-time position at Ameriprise Financial in various operations and project management roles. He completed a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Magna Cum Laude) at UNC Greensboro in December 2017. Tyler then relocated to Atlanta after he was accepted to Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and Emory Law School, where he began the full-time MBA/JM Dual Degree program in August 2018.
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