Inaugural Military Service Initiative Summit Empowers our Nation’s Warriors

By Richard Rhinehart

Dallas, Texas, February 20, 2014 – More than 350 business, philanthropic, academic and non-profit leaders, including representatives from World T.E.A.M. Sports, participated in the first George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative Summit February 19.

The George W. Bush Institute.

The George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas hosted the Conference. Photograph by Van Brinson.

Hosted at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, the Summit provided an opportunity for organizations and businesses serving veterans to consider the needs and challenges of service members who have retired from active service, or who intend to retire soon. President George W. Bush, in a rare public speaking opportunity, showed his strong commitment to helping veterans. Attending the conference with his wife Laura, the President spoke for more than 20 minutes about post 9/11 veterans and the many challenges they are facing – from unemployment to homelessness to medical care issues. Post-Traumatic Stress was highlighted by the President, who encouraged dropping the “disorder” label from the condition.

World T.E.A.M. Sports cycling jersey at the Bush Museum.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum includes a World T.E.A.M. Sports jersey presented to the President at the 2012 Warrior 100K ride. Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.

Through the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, the President has been active since leaving office in 2009. His annual Warrior 100K mountain bike ride and Warrior Open golf tournament provide challenging sporting opportunities for injured post 9/11 veterans, including several World T.E.A.M. Sports athletes. A “Be Exceptional” World T.E.A.M. Sports cycling jersey signed by the team and presented to the President at the 2012 Warrior 100K is prominently displayed in the “Call to Service” section of the Presidential Library and Museum.

Following the address by President Bush, Dr. Jill Biden, the Second Lady of the United States and a Blue Star mother, spoke about education and military veterans, and the Joining Forces national initiative she and First Lady Michelle Obama created. The ongoing program assists military members and their families while in service and following retirement, in education, employment and medical wellness.

Van Brinson and Laura Bush.

World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson with former First Lady Laura Bush. Photograph courtesy Van Brinson.

The heart of the summit was three panel discussions hosted by journalist Martha Raddatz, the Chief Global Affairs correspondent for ABC News. Panelists included former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.); Stephen Schwarzman, the Chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group; retired Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli; Kenneth Fisher, the Chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation; D. Wayne Robinson, the Executive Director of Student Veterans of America, John Theil, Head of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management; Mayor Alvin Brown from Jacksonville, Florida; Jean Case, the CEO of Washington’s Case Foundation; Joe DePinto, the President and CEO of 7-Eleven; Kent Hance, the Chancellor of Texas Tech; and Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon. Each of these panelists provided valuable insight into veterans’ issues and challenges, as well as workable solutions.

The discussions, and thoughtful questions from members of the audience, considered the needs of today’s veterans, including healthcare, employment and education. Some noted concern that as American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is completed, national interest in veterans’ affairs will decline. The Military Service Initiative of the George W. Bush Institute reported it intends to continue to focus on veterans’ affairs through ongoing research, including releasing this April a detailed report about social, economic and healthcare statistics of post-9/11 veterans with Syracuse University, recognition of injured veterans through events like the Warrior 100K, and creating useful resources for veterans. Participating companies, institutions and organizations in the Summit were included as charter members of the Initiative’s Team 43, which will help establish a connected vision and cooperative focus for post 9/11 veterans.

Van Brinson and General Peter Pace.

World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO Van Brinson (left) and General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.), former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the conference. Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.

The Institute reported there are currently more than 46,000 non-profit organizations in the United States serving military members and veterans, a substantial increase from the 1990s, when only a few thousand organizations existed, including World T.E.A.M. Sports. The Initiative will organize this year an assessment program for non-profits, allowing veterans and their families to determine which organizations best serve their needs. Greater cooperation between team members is also anticipated, creating programs to better serve veterans.

World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson, USMC (Ret.), led the organization’s team at the one day conference on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Brinson looks forward to participating in the next Military Service Initiative Summit from the George W. Bush Institute this November.

Learn more about the conference: KERA News radio report and videos from the conference.

Materials from the Summit.

Mementos from the inaugural Military Service Initiative Summit hosted by the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas. Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.