Flo Groberg didn’t set out to be a hero when he tackled a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2012. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor, but he doesn’t want to be called a hero. “I’m a soldier who did his job,” he says. “That is it.”
Groberg, 33, wants Americans to honor him for what he has yet to accomplish. He wants them to recognize that his military training, skills and experience can have a transformative impact on his country, his employer and his community.
That’s why Groberg agreed to participate in a campaign launched on Veterans Day 2016 by LinkedIn. Called #HonorOurFuture, the campaign features the stories of Groberg and five other post-9/11 veterans who want more than just “thanks for your service” from Americans. They want the opportunity to excel as civilians and to continue to serve.
“We are reaching out to millions of people with a message that states that we can continue on to do great things outside the service, and you should utilize that drive, experience, hunger and passion,” Groberg says.
Through blog posts, videos, Instagrams and tweets, #HonorOurFuture encourages America to rethink how it honors its veterans.
“While it’s true that some veterans face challenges as a result of their service, it’s also true that there is a strong and compelling business case for hiring veterans,” says Dan Savage, a former Army infantry officer who now heads the veterans program for LinkedIn. “Our grandparents were called the Greatest Generation for a reason – veterans have returned from conflicts for generations to make strong positive impacts on their communities to become leaders in industry, politics and civil service.”
The LinkedIn campaign includes Tiannia Romero, a former aircraft maintenance tech who appeared in a recent G.I. Jobs cover story about the evolution of Military Friendly®. The Military Friendly® program empowers veterans to make well-informed decisions about their post-military future by connecting them to career and education opportunities, a mission mirrored by the #HonorOurFuture campaign. For that reason, Military Friendly® is one of five organizations partnering with LinkedIn.
“It’s important to show the community we are not broken just because we are veterans,” says Romero, who serves as president of the Student Veterans of America chapter at California’s College of San Mateo and as an American Legion commander. “We have the skills and want to make a difference.”
Marcus Carey is already making a difference. A former Navy cryptographer, he used his skills to start a cyber security company that simulates attacks on clients’ networks. He’s not unemployed, as the media often portrays veterans. He’s actually hiring, because the business he founded in Austin, Texas, in 2014 is growing.
“There’s no greater feeling in the world than being able to help others provide for their families,” Carey says in his Honor Our Future blog post. “I love that I can provide health care and benefits to my employees, in addition to a competitive salary.”
Making a Difference
Garrett Wilkerson is a digital marketing specialist for Cedaron Medical Inc. in Davis, Calif., a job he found by using the LinkedIn search feature. Before he got involved in the Honor Our Future campaign, the former Army infantryman published a blog post on LinkedIn about the misconceptions his civilian co-workers had about him. In less than a week, the blog was viewed by 17,000 people, liked by more than 1,000 and shared by hundreds. He was stunned. When LinkedIn asked him to participate in Honor Our Future, it was a no-brainer.
“I felt that the campaign was shedding light on a quiet phenomenon that plagues the veteran community,” he says. “Veterans are often characterized by the actions of their past, which prevents many people and many employers from considering their future.”
I’m Not Broken
For Donte Burney, 33, an Army veteran who now works as a web developer in Oakland, Calif., the motivation to participate in the LinkedIn campaign was twofold.
“I wanted companies to know that veterans are capable of fulfilling critical roles in business and to let veterans know there are resources available to help them move forward,” he says.
Burney thought he was well prepared to join the civilian workforce when he left the Army in 2010. Then an employer told him during an interview that he wasn’t a good fit for the company because of his military service. So he enrolled in a web development school and earned certifications. Now he’s poised to earn a degree in multimedia communications and is developing an app that blends video, graphic design, animation and virtual reality.
“Every single day I get a call with fresh opportunities,” he says in his Honor Our Future blog post. “All because I used my military service and training to drive my career, instead of believing anyone who said my service was a liability.”
Just Getting Started
The ambush that earned Groberg the Medal of Honor shredded the former track star’s lower left leg, which had to be rebuilt through 33 surgeries over three years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. When he was medically retired in July 2015, Groberg faced the same challenges as many transitioning veterans.
“I didn’t have the right résumé, I didn’t know how to speak it, and I needed to learn an entirely new culture, to include dressing myself,” he says. He also struggled with “internal demons” that tried to extinguish his warrior spirit. With the help of mentors, Groberg got back on track.
Today, he’s the director of veteran outreach for Boeing, a company that employs more than 22,000 veterans. For Groberg, it’s his dream job.
“I get to be a part of a team that is out there in our community providing opportunities, changing lives and even saving lives,” he says.
He’s not done serving. He’s just getting started.