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Jacksonville Week of Valor

February 18, 2013

Jacksonville (FL) is a city where one in every four residents is connected to the armed services. The military presence supplies an estimated $12.2 billion in annual economic impact to the city and an average of 900 veterans transition out of the service to establish residency in Jacksonville every month. With these kinds of numbers, the marching orders wrote themselves.

As city officials planned a weeklong celebration of the military and veterans community, Mayor Alvin Brown was clear that he wanted to go well beyond a simple “thank you” to create partnerships and programs that had a greater potential to set best practices. The result was the Week of Valor, a series of events rising through the “all hands on deck” cooperation of Jacksonville, the Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL, the NCAA and the Department of the Navy to focus on the issues for service members, veterans and their families.

“I went into this thinking that we had a substantial opportunity to set the tone for how any military city should act around Veterans Day,” said Brown. “It’s not just a nice thing to do or a responsible thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. And I think we made inroads to begin addressing major issues like benefits access, continued education and affordable housing. The Week of Valor represents the start of something greater.”

Active duty service members and veterans volunteered to talk about civic responsibility in more than 40 public schools. A Veterans Summit brought together local professionals to address challenges like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury with a goal of developing a blueprint for local human resource professionals to work with veterans in the job market. More than 100 companies committed to hiring veterans during a job fair where Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus attended to be keynote speaker.

“Throughout the Week of Valor, we saw Jacksonville step forward in many ways to enhance the strong bond Jacksonville enjoys with the military and Veterans community. The job market represents an area where many other cities throughout the U.S. should pay attention to what city government here is doing,” said Deutsche Bank Jacksonville Managing Director Michael P. Fleming, a leading participant in the city’s Jobs for Veterans partnership. “Jacksonville’s efforts aren’t just about employment assistance; they serve an educational function for all companies to understand the many benefits of hiring a veteran.”

The NFL Network featured the Thursday night game between the Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts to showcase the league’s Salute to Service. And after much planning and coordination with the NCAA, the Navy and the city, Naval Station Mayport became a highly unique sight as the Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas faced off aboard the USS BATAAN for the 2012 Navy-Marine Corps Classic college basketball game.

“The Navy is grateful to Jacksonville for hosting the 2012 Navy Marine Corps Classic and the Week of Valor, and for Jacksonville residents who proudly support our military,” said Rear Admiral Jack Scorby, commander of Navy Region SE. “We look forward to continuing the close relationship enjoyed by the military and our Veterans.”

The Week of Valor drew big crowds from Jacksonville and throughout Northeast Florida. With more than 5,000 participants and 50,000 onlookers, Jacksonville’s Veterans Day parade ranks as one of the nation’s largest. More than 1,000 people attended the annual Chamber of Commerce military appreciation luncheon as well.

Since taking office July 1, 2011, the mayor’s leadership in military affairs has gained attention. The administration’s Jobs for Veterans partnership gained Pro Patria honors from the Florida chapter of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. The mayor also had a role in the Robin Hood Veterans Summit in New York by invitation from broadcaster Tom Brokaw to explain his approach.

“Jacksonville’s 2012 Week of Valor gave our terrific citizens many opportunities to say thank you to all those who serve, and those who have served our country. It really was a week of quality programming to build bridges of understanding,” said Rear Admiral (U.S. Navy/Ret.) Victor Guillory, the mayor’s director of Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services. “As we gain a better grasp on the needs of today’s veteran, it’s clear that we have a great opportunity to do a lot of good.”