(Photo: New York Daily News)
Every game in the middle of the second inning, Baltimore Orioles' fans redirect their cheering from the players on the field to the veterans in the stands. Similar ceremonies are projected on Jumbotrons across the country as a small way to publicly recognize those who voluntarily put themselves into harm's way to protect our nation.
Cynics -- including some of my former brothers and sisters in arms -- argue that the phrase "thank you for your service" is too casually thrown around by civilians toward the one percent who fought for their country. However, the America I've experienced is earnest in its thanks but needs help in directing it in a meaningful way.
That's why, four years ago, the veterans empowerment organization Got Your 6 and the leading retailer Macy's began challenging Americans to back up their words with actions at the cash register. As part of the annual "American Icons" campaign before Memorial Day, Macy's invites its customers to support our veterans by donating $3 at the point-of-sale.
Through those small but meaningful tokens of "thanks," Macy's has channeled America's support of its veterans to the tune of $7.4 million.
Got Your 6 — a name drawn from military slang for "I've got your back" — works to empower veterans to lead in their communities. Though the support of partners like Macy's and their customers, we are helping create real change in towns and cities across America.
Over the past four years, Got Your 6 has provided 37 grants to nonprofit coalition partners such as Baltimore's The 6th Branch, a veteran-run nonprofit that utilizes the leadership and operational skills of military veterans to accomplish community service initiatives. Last year, Got Your 6 provided The 6th Branch a $93,000 grant, which supports a year's worth of service to transform abandoned lots in Baltimore into urban farms and safe spaces for youth recreation. This past April, The 6th Branch organized a community service event at the Oliver Community Farm in Baltimore, a veteran-created community resource designed to provide fresh produce in response to a lack of healthy food options in the area.
The good news is that charitable giving for community building organizations at the cash register is thriving. According to a recent report by the nonprofit consulting firm Catalist, within the last two months 66 percent of consumers donated to charity at retail when asked at point-of-sale. Additional studies reveal that consumers are actually grateful when a retailer has offered them the ability to donate to causes in their community in a quick and simple way.
"Thank you for your service" might just be words, but when mobilized they can turn into meaningful results. That's why we're once again partnering with Macy's during its 11th annual Shop For A Cause campaign, which runs today, Friday, Aug. 26 through Sunday, Aug. 28. Visit Got Your 6's online store to purchase a $5 savings pass to receive 25 percent off in-store Macy's purchases Aug. 26-18. All of the proceeds of the savings pass will go directly to empowering veterans.
Veterans are leaders, team builders, and problem solvers who have the unique potential to lead a resurgence of community across the nation. Through our continued partnership with Macy's, Got Your 6 is able to reach millions of Americans, shifting public perceptions so that veterans' leadership and skills are recognized and utilized at home, just as they were on the battlefield.
We've got our veterans' six. Thanks to all those Macy's shoppers who also have ours.
Bill Rausch is an Iraq War veteran and the executive director of Got Your 6.