A huge coffee dispenser.
Platters of cookies.
Walking into the Annapolis Harbour Center Starbucks for the Veterans’ Fireside Chat, you would have seen the coffee and cookies to your left first. When you turned to your right, you would have seen a table of information with friendly faces behind it– including information about Starbucks’ initiatives for military families and veterans and MilitaryOneClick resources. And mugs– a lot of free Starbucks mugs.
The room was buzzing with people and many were there despite gloomy weather that dropped fat raindrops onto the parking lot outside the storefront windows.
As the beginning of the first-ever Veterans’ Fireside Chat neared, people holding napkins filled with goodies and full cups found their seats while representatives from Starbucks, MilitaryOneClick, and governmental agencies took theirs. Aaron Thompson, of Starbucks, Maryland Commissioner Rebecca Stone, and Corby Lawrence and Jen Pilcher of MilitaryOneClick, opened the conversation with remarks and then handed the floor over to the veterans, active duty members, spouses, and family members present.
Friendship and Camaraderie Matter
Finding welcoming communities once service is over was a prevalent theme from veterans who spoke. Some had moved across the country and were looking for a place to belong in their new, permanent home. Other veterans who found hope and help while dealing with physical and mental maladies stemming from service spoke about how integral those groups were to their support and healing.
Time was spent enumerating the difficulties in navigating governmental websites– from finding information to obtaining needed services. There was much discussion about the possibility of apps for “smart” devices that can change and adapt as technology gets more intuitive and becomes an even more important part of military families’ and veterans’ lives.
Veterans shared their networking secrets with each other; most veterans who spoke had gained after-service employment because they had networked. One veteran found worth in LinkedIn and encouraged others to not only create a complete profile, but to reach out to others and interact on the social media platform. Another member of the audience told the group how important translating military skills to civilian ones was in writing their resume and securing a job.
As the evening wound down, many attendees stayed to chat and enjoy another brownie or oatmeal cookie. Some handed out business cards, others invited each other to other meetings and events. In the back, a group of people quietly chatted. While they had no military service in their background, they had eagerly attended to learn about the veterans in their community and understand more fully the obstacles they faced. It was another unexpected, but welcome, positive development in an evening with so much thoughtful conversation.
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