How Philanthropy Can Help Support the Heroes of 9/11

  • Veterans

This Sunday, Americans will mark the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a time when the nation remembers the lives lost on that tragic day and honors the heroes who rose to meet the moment, including our nation’s first responders and military service members who subsequently served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year, Philanthropy Roundtable Digital Marketing Manager Kara Subach, also an Army veteran, wrote an article reflecting on what the anniversary of 9/11 means to her and her fellow veterans.

She also reflected on the critical role philanthropy can play in helping veterans heal and prepare for success after they leave the military.

“Philanthropy focuses on those in need, and right now, the needs of veterans are many,” Subach wrote. “Thankfully, there are some phenomenal organizations that have made it their mission to help veterans and their families with critical services.”

Today, as we remember 9/11, Philanthropy Roundtable would like to recognize the important work of five veterans service organizations.

The Gary Sinise Foundation: Always Doing “A Little More” for Veterans

The 9/11 terrorist attacks inspired actor and philanthropist Gary Sinise to deepen his long-standing commitment to supporting U.S. service members and first responders.

“After that terrible day, I decided to become much more active in devoting my time and resources to serving our defenders however and wherever I could,” Sinise wrote.

The mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation is to “serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need.” The foundation accomplishes this mission by “creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities.”

For example, through its RISE program, the foundation builds 100% mortgage-free specially adapted smart homes for the severely wounded.

The foundation also seeks to “bridge the gap” between defender and civilian communities, and provides essential equipment, emergency relief and training for first responders.

In 2021, Sinise and Home Depot co-founder and philanthropist Bernie Marcus also announced a partnership to build a network of mental health clinics for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

More than two decades after the 9/11 attacks, Sinise’s commitment to the military continues to grow. As he has said numerous times, “While we can never do enough for our defenders and their loved ones, we can always do a little more.”

The American Veterans Center: Preserving America’s Heroic Memory

“The mission of the AVC is to guard and preserve America’s heroic memory,” said Tim Holbert, executive director of the American Veterans Center (AVC), in an interview with the Roundtable.

“The AVC works to inspire and educate Americans through the people and stories that have defined us since our founding,” he added.

The organization’s main focus is historical preservation. AVC has recorded the oral histories of veterans from World War II through the present day. These stories are made available in documentaries on PBS, Netflix and other outlets, and are preserved by the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project.

AVC also features heroic military stories on its annual Emmy Award-winning show “American Valor,” which is broadcast nationally each Veterans Day weekend. These tales of courage, sacrifice and heroism are narrated by major Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.

AVC also hosts live events, including an annual Veterans Conference each November and a National Memorial Day Parade each May.

Hire Heroes USA: Empowering Veteran Success in the Civilian Workforce

As the Roundtable’s Erica Haines detailed in a blog published earlier this year, Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit organization that “empowers U.S. military members, veterans and their spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce.”

The statistics related to veterans’ employment may seem stark. “Each year the military discharges 270,000 service members. Eighty percent of them won’t have a job lined up,” according to Hire Heroes USA, which also notes the unemployment rate of military spouses is four times higher than the national average.

That’s why the services offered by Hire Heroes USA are so critical. Their team connects veterans and military spouses to resources that help them find meaningful and stable employment.

As Haines noted:

Through highly personalized sessions with an assigned transition specialist, Hire Heroes USA provides career mentorship, professional resume writing assistance, mock interviews and salary negotiation strategies, among other services – all at no cost. Hire Heroes USA also maintains a job board with thousands of postings, hosts quarterly virtual career fairs and partners with a network of employers dedicated to hiring veterans and military spouses.

To date, Hire Heroes USA has helped more than 65,000 veterans and military spouses secure meaningful careers.

Council on Criminal Justice: Tackling Problems for Incarcerated Veterans

The National Library of Medicine reports almost one third of military veteran respondents have been arrested and booked by law enforcement, a rate significantly higher than among civilians, indicating larger problems for many who have transitioned home after serving their country.

Despite the scope of this problem, Col. Jim Seward, director of the Veteran Justice Commission for the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), told the Roundtable there has been “shockingly little research and policy work” dedicated to improving criminal justice policies and practices” for military service members.

“Far too many veterans are incarcerated, and too few services are available to treat their behavioral health conditions, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions that contribute to the high rate at which they enter the civilian justice system,” he said.

That’s why CCJ has launched a “full-scale initiative to document the unique issues facing veterans in the civilian justice system – and build consensus for reforms that enhance safety, health and justice.”

“By elevating these issues and building support for solutions, we have a chance to make real change that can benefit veterans and their families,” said Seward.

Travis Manion Foundation: Reconnecting Veterans and Gold Star Families to Service

Service members who leave the military and families of the fallen, known as Gold Star families, often feel disconnected and isolated from the military community, leaving some of them lost and without a sense of purpose.

Founded by Janice Manion to honor her son Travis, who was killed while serving in Iraq, the Travis Manion Foundation addresses the challenges and transitions these groups are facing, bringing these communities together.

“We provide service opportunities for both veterans and families of the fallen,” said Molly Boyle, the foundation’s chief strategic communications officer, in an interview with the Roundtable.

“Veterans have a diversity of experience and thought, yet they have a special talent of being able to come together and accomplish a mission. And families of the fallen find comfort in redirecting their grief into serving others as a very healing experience,” she said.

The Travis Manion Foundation focuses on reconnecting veterans and Gold Star Families to service by helping them make a positive impact in their communities and for future generations. Their “character-based” programming offers leadership training, mentorship opportunities, service projects and expeditions to help communities in need.

At Philanthropy Roundtable, we express our condolences to those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001 and our continued gratitude to those who defend our freedoms. Click here for more Roundtable resources related to philanthropic support for military service members, veterans and their families.