Nov 08, 2012 • By

Committed to those who serve

Every day, I pass several display cases illustrating moments in General Mills’ history. The cases showcase our brands, and they remind me why I came here 15 years ago.

Another part of the display highlights technology created by our teams, some of which helped our military in times of need.

As a marketer and ex-U.S. Army officer, they both make me feel at home. As an American, they trigger pride to work in a place that has stood by America over the years.

This week, I saw the opening of a new chapter in the long-standing commitment of “The General” to those who serve. We launched the Veteran’s Network, an employee group committed to making General Mills and communities stronger by tapping the talents of veterans.

I was lucky to have a front row seat on the journey to this launch. A few passionate people came together about a year ago. We each knew of individual efforts over the years to support veterans. We wanted to bring energy together, to create a place where people can join the cause.

One of us worked to secure ‘Yellow Ribbon’ status for General Mills, reserved for organizations with best-in-class culture, policies and support programs for veterans and military families.

This afternoon, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton bestowed this honor on the company, during a visit here at our headquarters.

“I’m just in awe of the courage and patriotism that it takes for men and women to serve, to choose to serve and return to service – it’s just phenomenal,” said Gov. Dayton. “But even harder to deploy is to return … I just can’t overstate the importance of today and my gratitude for General Mills, Ken Powell, and your senior leadership time for spearheading this effort. This will be an ongoing [program] for veterans serving this great country for years to come and will be needed for years to come, given the challenges of reintegration. So I wish you the best and look forward to seeing you succeed.”

Dayton presented Powell, our Chairman and CEO, with the Yellow Ribbon designation.

In addition to today’s event, General Mills also was just named one of the 2013 Top 100 Military Friendly Employers, by G.I. Jobs Magazine.

Employees are a crucial part of the company’s effort to make a difference with veterans. One went from ‘zero to 60’ to create a mentor program that links employees with veterans forming career and job search plans. (I said 60, but it is ‘66’ to be precise – 66 mentorships as of this week). While another is just starting to think how we can better reach and recruit veterans looking for a career in our industry.

These efforts come at an important time. As conflict ends, thousands of veterans will be leaving the service with equal doses of anxiety and hope.

Both the veteran and their country have a role to play. General Dempsey, America’s ranking officer, put it this way:

Veterans of the past decade are you, or at least that’s what they want to be. Each in their own way has served heroically, but they’re not all heroes. Many have experienced real horrors of war, but they’re not all victims. All have served America and want to continue to serve her as they transition into your civilian communities.

On the expectation that it’s in our shared interest – you and I, in and out of uniform – that we allow this generation of veterans to contribute, to bring the strengths that they bring, to bring the passionate curiosity that I’ve described, notwithstanding the pressures that they’ve felt – to the extent that we should agree that we all want a stronger America, then we ought to find a way to make sure that these veterans are part of it. And we ought to work together with them – not for them; with them.

Nourishing lives has many facets at General Mills. Rising to General Dempsey’s challenge is just one of them.

Through the Veteran’s Network, those of us working for another “General” can now nourish our communities and the lives of those who have served.

Editor’s note: Learn more about our commitment to veterans at GeneralMills.com.