Heroes on the Homefront
One of the hallmarks at Boot Campaign is supporting military families as a whole, and that same sentiment courses through Veterans United Foundation each and every day. For the past three years, the organization has partnered with Boot Campaign to help veterans on the road to forever homeownership, undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of family life for service members and civilians alike.
Greg Steinhoff, president of strategic operations for Veterans United, has always had a deep respect for those who serve, but didn’t fully understand the sacrifice made by the entire family, not just the individual service member. “It’s pretty remarkable what people do and don’t complain about. They’re doing it because they have a heart to serve,” he explains.
Steinhoff, who got his start as a businessman in the Veterans United hometown of Columbia, Missouri, joined the company in 2010 and hit the ground running. A former military brat himself, he admits to being intrigued by the overwhelming give-back reputation Veterans United built in the community, including their in-house non-profit Veterans United Foundation.
“Veterans United has great culture – there’s authentic, genuine dedication by everybody to service veterans, universally from top to bottom,” he says.
Veterans United Foundation is unique; the employee-funded non-profit sees about 90% of its 1,500 employees contributing 1% or more of their salaries to assist veterans in their Columbia, Missouri town and across the nation. According to Steinhoff, Veterans United employees identify their top charitable goals for veterans as permanent housing; employment opportunities; support for wounded/disabled veterans including mental health services; and empowering organizations that work individually with veterans to give them tools to integrate into the workforce or into civilian life.
Like many experienced business leaders, Steinhoff and his team at Veterans United understand the tenacity and work ethic veterans bring to the table when joining private sector corporations. “Most companies start slow and grow big,” he continues, “So they appreciate the individual assertiveness it takes to get there.”
Witnessing that courage and spirit every day, whether helping military families with their homes or through the efforts of Veterans United Foundation, reinforces for Steinhoff the changing tide in how the American public sees veterans. Growing up during the tail end of the Vietnam War, he saw returning soldiers endure harsh and unwelcoming treatment and not the respect they deserved.
“To see that turn, to see Vietnam vets especially receive empathy and love through organizations and individuals is really cool. We’re finally getting right,” he emphasizes.
Even with growing support across multiple generations and industries, Steinhoff agrees there’s plenty of room for improvement. Sometimes getting the ball rolling in a company without a veteran-focus can be challenging, but he suggests beginning with “little things that make employees aware of veterans and military service members: send a note, thank a vet, anything small. Encourage employees to give face-to-face love to people who serve. Once you get it started, employees see it and want to do more of it, and it snowballs.”
Building a Foundation
Making that connection with today’s young workforce is especially important, according to Steinhoff, because it’s during that stage in life where “opinions about people, who’s important and who matters” are developed. He maintains that establishing respect and honor for veterans during this formative time is critical for setting the foundation of the country for the next several decades. “It’s the cool thing now to express gratitude for people who’ve served. It’d be great to see this generation of 20-year-olds, early workforce people, wearing boots.”
Regardless of the motivation, the culture shift from rejecting veterans to embracing them is a positive thing in Steinhoff’s eyes. This groundbreaking support for America’s heroes will no doubt inspire other businesses to follow suit. Boot Campaign is honored to work with Veterans United Foundation to help military families across the country. Together, we’re giving back to America’s heroes, one home at a time.