Cincinnati, OH, August 10, 2017
With Our Serve just around the corner, we are excited to welcome back Jon Sanchez as the emcee. A former Navy SEAL, he spent several years working for PNC (Easterseals Hero, July 2017). Then, in 2014, he founded the Team Performance Institute which is dedicated to helping organizations enhance their performance and individuals enrich their lives. He is a busy man, traveling all across the country to share his valuable expertise, but we were able to snag a quick conversation over the phone just before he took off to New York.
Easterseals: So, first things first. What brings you back to Our Serve this year?
Jon Sanchez: Oh, I love this event. First and foremost, It’s an incredible event that helps veterans. It raises a lot of awareness for an issue that is so worthy in my mind. And it’s fun! What is not fun about seeing incredible speakers, being around great people in Cincinnati that are all gathered around a worthy cause?
Easterseals: What do you see as the biggest barrier that veterans face when transitioning to civilian life?
Jon Sanchez: The biggest barrier for veterans themselves is a lack of exposure to what is out there. They have been focused on their military careers and our country’s protection. As such, they don’t have the exposure to business or employment opportunities they may very well excel in.
On the employers’ side, the challenge is understanding veterans. I always say, when talking to veterans, make sure your prospective employer really understands what a veteran is and what you would LIKE to do for them.
See, veterans are a complete cross-section of America—they’re all different. But they all signed up to be part of something bigger than themselves. They raised their right hand to defend the Constitution. They are called to higher ideals and values, and they are held accountable to those higher ideals and values. For employers to really grasp that is important and valuable.
Easterseals: What is one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned as both a Navy SEAL and a member of the civilian business world?
Jon Sanchez: The best lesson I learned was to follow my passion to serve. It led me to realize that the skills I learned were highly transferrable from the military to civilian life. That’s #1. What I mean by that, those skills are the soft skills: integrity, accountability, showing up, being there, getting the job done no matter what it takes, being empathetic and being a really good listener, being a really good follower. A lot of companies talk about leadership, and that’s great, but you need followers too. People have to play both sides of that ticket, and in the military you learn both.
Easterseals: What is one thing you feel most people don’t know about veterans?
Jon Sanchez: Probably a lack of understanding that you can’t pick a veteran out. You couldn’t look at a room and just say, “Those are the veterans” without talking to them.
I also wish people knew what an incredible resource veterans are in our community for all things. Whether it be for employment, how trainable they are, how motivated and excited they would be to be a part of a team, all those soft skills we talk about that are so important in employment. There is a huge need to get involved and seek to understand the veteran movement. What I mean by “movement” is that there are 200,000 veterans coming out of the military. We need to embrace that as a country. Future generations of who will want to sign up are watching from the third grade right now.
Think of the epidemics we’re facing in Cincinnati: the poverty epidemic, the heroin epidemic. I am on the Board of Joseph House and the Tristate Veteran Community Alliance, and what’s scary for veterans is that the military doesn’t provide any credible training for when you get out. They give you about a week to decommission you from military to civilian. Just a week. Transition takes a very long time, but that doesn’t have to be seen as a negative. I think it’s an awesome opportunity: They’re coming out; what can they bring out of the military to help us as a country?
I was talking to a young man, 18 years old, who just enlisted. I asked him point-blank, “What spurred your interest in the military?” He said it was after 9/11. So let’s do the math: he was one year old when the towers fell, so by three years old he was watching how America treated veterans and wanted to be a part of it. 9/11 was an awful day, but it created a swell of patriotism in our nation. I wish for that patriotism to remain forever.
Right now, we’re having this movement: How do we handle this? How do we employ veterans? If they find their way into great companies and those companies allow them to flourish and be their authentic selves, in 10-15 years, those are going to be the Presidents and CEOs. They would be the leaders of the next generation
Easterseals: What would you say the average Cincinnatian can do to effectively support veterans?
Jon Sanchez: It starts with awareness. Just being at Our Serve is great. It opens your eyes. Second is reflection: What, in my world, can I do? Get involved. Get involved with some of the organizations that are out there: Easterseals, go visit the Joseph House where we’re supporting chemically dependent veterans, learn about the TVCA. You know the old saying: It’s time, talent, treasure. Go volunteer if you don’t have any cash. Don’t have any time? Then donations to any of those organizations are highly useful right now. Or get your company involved. Awareness, involvement, understanding, heck, one on one mentoring. You can become a mentor to a veteran, somebody they can talk to or a connector in the community. Just knowing that you can do something, and then reaching out and doing it can make such a difference in the life of someone who has done something deeply profound for this nation.