A conversation with Wes Moore

Wes Moore is a New York Times bestselling author (2010’s The Other Wes Moore), television host, motivational speaker, activist, and Army combat veteran. In latest undertaking, the three-part documentary series Coming Back with Wes Moore (premiering May 13th on PBS), Moore takes the audience on a journey into the lives of our returning service members, putting faces and personal stories to the very important topic of veteran reintegration.

At Bank of America, we are grateful for the service of veterans such as Moore, and we share his commitment to helping our men and women transition back to their communities. We recently caught up with Moore to learn more about Coming Back and hear firsthand about the difficulties of transitioning, the importance of support systems, the role that institutions can play in easing this process, and more.

In Coming Back, how did you balance documenting the struggles that veterans face with the idea of celebrating their service and the hope that comes in building their new lives?

What we tried to do with this was not delve into the swamp on either side, but to try to get an honest portrayal of what that reintegration process is like, and an honest portrayal of what the end of these wars mean through the men and women who have spent the past decade fighting in them.

Throughout the process, not only was there a bond that we all shared, that became very clear, but a friendship that we developed. It was a wonderful process just getting to learn and know about them, and now being able to share my friends’ stories.

Why is it so important for transitioning veterans to have strong support systems in place? 

When you’re in a deployment environment, there is a tremendous support system in place. You have your chain of command, you have your battle buddies, you have your service support staff, you have all the machinery and mechanisms you need in order to fight and win our nation’s war and accomplish our stated mission. And then you come home, and it can be an amazingly jarring transition.

It’s literally humanly and physically impossible to come back to the world that you left before, because your kids are in a different place, your relationship is changed because your spouse has taken on the responsibilities while you were gone. Then you come home and you’re trying to fit back in. All these things become incredibly important to acknowledge and respect. Making sure that we have those support systems in place for people making these transitions is imperative to a smooth transition.  

What about the role of homes and how critical they are for returning veterans?

There is a peace of mind that comes along with having a home, knowing that you and your family are protected and safe. That makes a psychological difference, to know there is a place for you to feel that sense of belonging again. It’s a place where you are able to heal, and it is a huge spring for future success to know that the element of having a solid home base is taken care of.    

Very few citizens can relate with veterans, but we can support them. What is the role of companies and institutions in helping with that transition?

There are certain fundamental skill sets that our veterans have that can be utilized, nurtured and supported. Soldiers are some of the most entrepreneurial and creative people that I’ve ever met. The reason for that is this: no day is exactly the same. We just have to figure out how exactly to adapt and adjust. I think there are certain entrepreneurial skills that would be of extraordinary benefit to employers. It’s not looking at veterans as some type of charity, but looking at them as a real investment. There are tremendous background skill sets that are inherent to who they are now. If those are nurtured, supported and acknowledged, then I think the employers would actually notice that they have someone who will make a real difference in their organization.

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