It’s October and I’m still getting used to leaves falling, Friday night high school football games, and pumpkin spice lattes. Still, I wanted to take this opportunity to focus on a special recruitment and retention strategy near to my heart – Veterans Day.
I served 20 years in the U.S.. Air Force and am proud to be part of the veteran corps. I appreciate seeing all the social posts thanking and saluting veterans worldwide on November 11th. However, it wasn’t until I began working for a volunteer fire department that those posts took on a deeper meaning. The department I was with posted a Veteran Appreciation post for all their volunteer members, including me, the paid employee. I was surprised and appreciative of them acknowledging me as a veteran but, more importantly, as part of the team.
Although Veterans Day is a month out, I wanted to provide some recruitment and retention strategies for departments to begin working on to make their veteran service members and other members in the community feel as proud and prideful as I did.
Taking a page from my first-grade teacher, you can create “Thank You” notes or cards to give to your veteran members, alumni, business partners, and department ambassadors. Get your members and their families involved and encourage them to write a note of thanks to local veterans. You can have someone deliver the notes to your area’s Veterans Affairs Office, VFW, or other places your local veterans may be.
There are veterans among your ranks every day. I have found it interesting that some department members might not even know it.
Take some time to find out who and if they’d be interested in sharing a story from their time while serving.
Departments may have younger members who recently joined the military and are away for boot camp, training, or a deployment. Trust me, these member posts give members pride, and it’s equally wonderful for younger generations to hear about others’ Service. If you have multiple members, think about scheduling several social media posts throughout the day to increase engagement.
Different ways to take on this task
- Departments can do a single post including all of your veteran members
- Single post with members from each specific branch (don’t forget U.S. Space Force)
- Individual member posts
Pro tip: If you are in a combination department, you can also recognize your veteran career counterparts.
Hang Out With A Vet
If you do not have someone who has served in your department but know of a community member who has, there are still some great ways to engage and salute them. Stations can invite one or several veterans to visit the station for a day of appreciation. You can document and recognize them on social media as long as they are comfortable with the attention.
No troop will turn down a Care Package
If your department wants to be a HIT with the troops,- sending care packages is the way to go. There are several options and ways to get information to ship your packages. You can contact your local Reserve/Guard unit and see where members are deployed. Here are a few ideas to who you can send care packages:
- Deployed members of your department or their families
- Deployed Community members
- Fire Department at a deployed location
- Fire Department at base/installation near you
- Local Reserve or Guard Units
Make this a department event and have members bring in one item to add to the care package box. Starting early is key. For additional information on Care Packages, the USO has a website with tons of information.
Support a Deployed Service Person's Family
When a service member deploys, the family has to take on more responsibilities. It would be great to think about including a service person’s family in your plans, as many might need a pick-me-up with their service member not around. An outstanding organization called Soldiers’ Angels has a program specifically for helping families of deployed members. Having your department member choose and deliver gifts can be a great retention tool and a great way for your entire station to come together.
Besides paying respect to those who have and are currently serving in the military, your department has direct benefits in participating in Veterans Day. For more ways to involve the military community in your recruitment and retention strategies, check out First Arriving’s Tiger Schmittendorf’s blog on “Maximizing Military Marketing for Your Volunteer Fire Department.” at soldierfirefighter.com.
- You build your brand and reputation internally and externally when your department comes together.
- It shows your current members you care and shows potential members what sets your organization apart.
- Strengthening cohesion, camaraderie, and team spirit throughout your department.
This year, Veterans Day is Friday, November 11th, and it allows departments and communities to stand united in respect for our veterans and show respect and honor those who have served. It is also an excellent time to implement a few recruitment and retention strategies while saying “thank you.”