When you think of a military veteran, who do you picture? Is it a young man just back from another tour of duty in the Middle East, an elderly man in uniform, or is it a working mother of two?
All can be accurate — and that's exactly what an inspiring new campaign from Got Your 6 aims to point out.
Launching Monday, the #IAm campaign will celebrate the multidimensional attributes of U.S. veterans by featuring more than 30 faces throughout the month of November. The veterans all have different backgrounds and characteristics aside from their veteran status, furthering Got Your 6's mission to change perceptions around those who have served, as well as the overall narrative.
"Our society seems to believe that a veteran looks and acts a certain way,"Got Your 6 director of communications and U.S. Army veteran Kait Hoit toldMashable. "A lot of folks think 'my dad's generation' or 'my grandfather's generation' ... [This campaign] has a variety of folks who, hopefully, when a civilian or veteran sees them can help them identify and go, 'Oh, wow, I do that, too.'"
Hoit said the featured veterans run the gamut — world travelers, film buffs, volunteers, registered voters, poets, athletes, formerly homeschooled students, mothers and even a "reluctant gardener."
Some of these veterans came through Got Your 6's nonprofit partners, likeTeam Red White & Blue, Team Rubicon and the Pat Tillman Foundation. Others Hoit met throughout the years simply by working in the veteran space, and as a result discovered that they're doing amazing things in their communities.
Hoit hopes the #IAm campaign inspires both online engagement and real-life conversations. Even though the dialogue around veterans ramps up around Veteran's Day, she thinks the campaign can help build momentum year-round, especially regarding identity and mental health issues.
"Some veterans just don't self-identify. The idea to really show these photographs of a new face, a new generation, will hopefully get other veterans talking more about their experiences and what they've been through, and put themselves out there more," Hoit said.
But the campaign isn't limited to these veterans; anyone can share their own #IAm photos on Twitter by using the hashtag and @GotYourSix, and including their first name, branch of the military and two attributes.
And even if you aren't a veteran yourself, you can support the cause by showcasing friends and family, or attending one of Got Your 6's Veteran's Day events. The nonprofit will host TED-style Storytellers events in New York on Nov. 5 and Los Angeles on Nov. 10, where veterans will talk about life after service and how they're strengthening their communities.
Each event will have an #IAm photo booth set up, encouraging veterans and advocates alike to join the campaign.
"Just the word veteran can be kind of riddled with misconceptions, negative stereotypes and even confusion," Hoit said.
"The goal of the campaign is really to lessen those issues and bridge the divide, and show people that service is just one attribute. There's much more to us."