I was lucky to come across this article recently about my new friend Melissa Boatwright and the organization she has founded, Battle Tested Veterans. She also hosts a podcast (find it here) that is incredible, and I knew I had to reach out as soon as I listened to a couple episodes. To my surprise she answered right away, and generously agreed to talk to me by phone.
Melissa's father served for decades in the Wyoming National Guard, and despite her father's frequent recommendations to join the military herself, she forged her own path. Her dream was to become a TV sports caster - Hannah Storm was her hero - and her father finally got through to her when he told her that they had broadcasters in the military. Melissa then enlisted in the Air Force and spent 10 years as a TV journalist, traveling the world, getting to know all facets of the Air Force, and having the privilege of sharing their stories. Melissa eventually left active duty for the Reserve, completing a graduate degree, getting married, and ending up in the San Francisco area.
In the news and in the entertainment industry, vets are shown at their most dramatic. Watching and listening to how veterans were portrayed, Melissa didn't feel like she fit the mold, nor did her Air Force contemporaries or husband. Was she a vet? What did that mean?
This sparked an idea to change this narrow definition of a veteran, and she wanted to host an event to help people see and experience veterans like she did. She applied to host a TEDx event, but the application was declined - not because they didn't like her idea - it just didn't fit their criteria. It was such a powerful idea, this need to expand the narrative to be inclusive of all vets and their stories, that she wasn't willing to give up. She decided she was either going to do something or forget it all together.
Last November, Melissa brought together 9 speakers, from all services, all walks of life, and each with a unique story. She brought together an audience of senior corporate executives and HR professionals. Melissa's goal is to show the senior leaders of industry this awesome and underused resource, and wants them to expand veteran hiring programs and education opportunities for "smart creative" veterans. You will hear a lot of the talks when you listen to the pod casts, as well as more background on their stories.
Melissa and the mission of Battle Tested really captured my attention because this is what I find most frustrating about being a vet - I don't fit with Wounded Warriors, nor am I ready to hang out at the VFW. Both are awesome groups - but just don't fit me.
Because this is me....
And this is me too...