Without a doubt, Zebra is a “military family” and a military-friendly company. We are deeply proud to have active servicemembers, veterans, military spouses and (grown) military children within our ranks. And we appreciate the sacrifices that are made by each of these individuals, during their time of service and long after they complete their last mission.
That is why, as a company, we have made it our mission to better serve those who have served via the new Veterans Inclusion Network at Zebra (VETZ).
We recently spoke with U.S. Marine veteran Michael “Zee” Zimmerman to learn more about VETZ and his experience as member of the Zebra military family…
Your Edge Blog Team: First of all, we want to extend our gratitude to you for your service and sacrifice during your military career. You served in the U.S. Marine Corps, correct?
Zee: Yes, Semper Fi! I’ve actually spent over half of my life on military bases around the world. My father served in the Marine Corps for 30 years, my brother served and, of course, I served. I’ve experienced military life from all perspectives.
Your Edge Blog Team: So, you personally understand the challenges that military members and their families encounter both during their time of service and after.
Zee: Absolutely. Most people are acutely aware of the support that is needed during deployments and during reintegration. However, unless you’ve served or know someone who has, it can be difficult to truly understand the struggles that can occur when servicemembers – and their families – transition to civilian life. It’s not as simple as switching jobs. Not to downplay the challenges that civilians face with a major life change, such as a job or complete career change. But there’s a reason they call it “military life.”
The access you have to certain resources, the steady paycheck and benefits you receive and even the sense of community that come with your time in service can all disappear in a day. Literally. One day you’re in the military, one day you’re not. Sometimes, such changes occur on more than one occasion for Guard or Reserve members who transition on and off active duty during the course of their military careers. Regardless of the reason why you’re no longer receiving “full benefits,” leaving military life can be quite a shocking experience. Many families find themselves having to start over – forced to figure out the next chapter of their lives – with very little guidance or support. That’s something that would be overwhelming to anyone. One minute you have a whole unit rallying for you: commanders and first sergeants and readiness groups extending 24/7 support; battle buddies making sure no one is left behind – on the battlefield or at home. Then, suddenly, you’re no longer reporting for duty and that support seems to fade away.
Your Edge Blog Team: Hasn’t there been an uptick in the number of organizations and resources that are aimed at helping veterans in recent years?
Zee: There has. However, it can take time to find those resources or confirm your eligibility in order to start receiving services. It doesn’t always happen on day one. On top of that, veteran resources aren’t as centralized as they are on a military installation. You may have to go to one organization for healthcare, one for career or education support, another for overall “transition assistance.” You also have to remember that not all veterans qualify for the same level of support from some of these organizations. And, in many cases, many veterans don’t realize they need help with something until a year, five years or even 10 years after they serve. Perhaps they’re struggling with their mental health; PTSD doesn’t always appear immediately after an incident. Or, perhaps they are contemplating a career change – or have decided they’re finally ready to re-enter the workforce after a transition period. Maybe they need help writing a resume or simply understanding the value of their military skill set in the civilian force. Alternatively, they may want to go back to school. At that point, they may feel even more disconnected from their military community. Or the resources that may have been available when they separated have changed: new organizations have emerged, others have disbanded.
Your Edge Blog Team: Is that why Zebra is launching VETZ?
Zee: Yes, one of the many reasons. Our goal with VETZ is to provide organizational awareness of, and develop programs focused on, the value that veterans and their families have within our communities and the value they bring specifically to Zebra. At the same time, we want to foster an environment that leverages the unique skills, experiences and perspectives that veterans provide to assist Zebra in meeting its goals and vision for the future.
We are going to have an active and visible Veterans’ Council driving different veteran-focused activities within Zebra.
Your Edge Blog Team: Can you give some examples of the programs that VETZ will offer?
Zee: First and foremost, we’re going to make sure that no one ever forgets the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families.For example, we’re going to commemorate veterans by conducting on-site ceremonies and participating in community events on key remembrance dates around the world.
At the same time, we are going to increase our efforts around recruitment of veterans. For example, we would like to work with each of the military branches to ensure that transitioning servicemembers are aware of the career opportunities that exist with Zebra.
And we want to better connect the veterans, active Reservists and families already within Zebra’s organization to help ensure that the support they are accustomed to receiving from their “military community” while on active duty doesn’t drop off after they leave the service and “settle in” to civilian life.
Your Edge Blog Team: Is that the goal of the Veteran’s Network that you just mentioned?
Zee: Indeed. The level of support needed by veterans and their families usually evolves as they move through different phases of military and civilian life. And no one is better equipped to support a veteran or family member than another member of that military community, in my opinion. Just knowing that someone has your back at all times – knowing there is someone you can talk to who has an understanding of what you have experienced – can be invaluable to a veteran or anyone who has close ties with a veteran.
Your Edge Blog Team: So, is VETZ meant to serve as an employee resource group, like the Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) or Zebra Equality Alliance (ZEAL) that we’ve talked about here before on Your Edge?
Zee: It is. As you mentioned, Zebra is strongly committed to Inclusion and Diversity, and the inclusion networks are one of the ways that we’re fostering both. WIN was the first network to form, and ZEAL just launched this summer. We’re excited to now get VETZ up and running so that we have the proper programming in place to serve the military families that have joined our Zebra family.
Your Edge Blog Team: Do you have to be a veteran or dependent to benefit from the VETZ initiative?
Zee: Absolutely not. There are thousands of Zebras who have a friend, sibling or other family member who has served – or is serving now. Even though they may have never been a military ID card holder, they are absolutely a part of our military family. They have served – or may still serve – as support networks for veterans and their families and understand the sometimes-lifelong struggles that military families face. We welcome them to join VETZ, to benefit from our resources and to learn how they can extend their support to their Zebra military family members and veterans within their communities.
Your Edge Blog Team: You mentioned that VETZ will coordinate Zebra’s participation in community commemoration events. Will you also be partnering with community organizations in other ways?
Zee: Oh, absolutely. Our long-term goal is to conduct several Veterans Community Outreach Programs in cooperation with Zebra’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team; we want to extend our reach outside of Zebra. At the same time, we would like to work with community organizations to provide resources to members of the Zebra Veteran’s Network when possible. We are just now starting to establish those relationships and define those programs, though. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.
Your Edge Blog Team: If someone reading this wanted to get involved with VETZ, or a community veteran/military organization wants to partner with VETZ, who should they contact?
Zee: They can email our VETZ Advisory Council at firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite anyone and everyone to get involved with VETZ, and we certainly welcome any support from community organizations across the U.S.
In case you missed our recent discussions about Zebra’s Inclusion and Diversity initiatives, you can catch up here:
You can also read more about Zebra’s other CSR initiatives on the Your Edge blog.