For our returning heroes, a path to corporate America

American veterans returning from Afghanistan or Iraq face nothing like the scorn and ridicule that too often was heaped on veterans who returned from Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To the contrary, today’s veterans are treated with great respect, even by many who oppose our military actions.

But this doesn’t mean it’s easy for these veterans to transition into corporate America. In fact, returning veterans frequently have no contacts in the corporate world.

That’s why Sidney Goodfriend founded an organization called American Corporate Partners. It pairs returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with mentors from the corporate world. So far, according to the Washington Post, Goodfriend has enlisted six companies — Campbell’s, PepsiCo, Home Depot, Verizon, General Electric and investment bank Morgan Stanley — each of which has promised to offer returning vets 50 mentors, in eight cities.

The mentors pledge to spend four hours each month for a year meeting with their assigned veteran. The meetings can take almost any form: lunch, a fishing trip, a golf outing. The program tries to match mentors with veterans as closely as possible without pigeonholing. Thus, Goodfriend says, “it may be better to have a woman with a woman or an African American with an African American mentor.”

American Corporate Partners has an impressive advisory board that includes George Shultz, Bob Dole, George Mitchell, Paul Wolfowitz, Lawrence Summers, and Peter Pace. As Pace explains:

It’s not whether or not anyone is for or against the war, but it’s for the troops. It is certainly something that is very, very helpful to our vets.

The program officially opened last months with 300 available slots. Despite the absence of publicity, it received 800 applications. Let’s hope that word spreads and the program expands.

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