Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has announced a commitment of $30 million through his family foundation to support the social, emotional, and economic integration of military veterans into civilian life.
In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Schultz wrote that the gift from the Schultz Family Foundation will support efforts to help returning veterans transition to the civilian workforce, as well as research on the lasting consequences of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. Schultz and his wife, Sheri, are making the gift in hopes of catalyzing "a contagion of commitment and an epidemic of understanding" for the 2.5 million post-9/11-era veterans — a group that experiences unemployment rates nearly twice the national average.
In an interview with CBS News, Schultz said that in addition to funding research on post-traumatic stress disorders, which fully 20 percent of combat veterans experience, the gift will support "a comprehensive mechanism for job training." Last November, Starbucks announced that it would hire ten thousand veterans and spouses of active duty service members over the next five years.
"[T]he 99 percent of Americans who never served in the military must find more ways now to match the contribution that the uniformed 1 percent have made," Schultz wrote in the Journal. "Businesses can do this by hiring veterans....Citizens can do it by building more programs to help veterans apply their remarkable skill set — leadership, grace under pressure, teamwork under the most complex circumstances — to civic life. Think of how our neighborhoods, our cities, and our national politics could change if we put more veterans in charge."
Schultz also hopes the gift will raise awareness of the problem and lead others do more to bridge the "empathy gap" between civilians and veterans. After meeting a 21-year-old veteran who had lost both legs, Schultz told CBS News, "[Y]ou ask yourself, ‘If that was my son or my daughter, how would we respond?’ And I think my responsibility now is I have seen things, and I've heard things, and I've met these people and their families, and you just can't be a bystander. You have to do everything you can to tell their story and help them."