Village Vets Connect in DC
Editor’s Note: In April, 80 DaVita Village Veterans traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in Veterans to Village, a new pilot program within DaVita University.
We were in Arlington National Cemetery, in our nation’s capital. In that somber and reflective space we met one another for the first time; eighty Village veterans—teammates in every sense—surrounded by precisely arranged rows of headstones, marking fallen and departed servicemembers and veterans. As living veterans, their legacy rests in our hands, and we honored them with our toil.
Our labor was humble—tending gardens and washing monuments, but every drop of sweat that fell on the ground and mixed with that sacred soil was an honor to the sacrifice of those that had preceded us, both in service and in life.
We worked side-by-side, as if we’d known one another for years; when there was a break in the work, we visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and witnessed the Changing of the Guard. In this way, the Arlington service project launched the April, 2017 Veterans to Village experience.
Veterans to Village (V2V) is a DaVita University pilot program designed to honor, energize and connect our veteran teammates. Any teammate with previous or current military service is eligible for V2V.
Officially, I don’t believe veterans are fundamentally different than other teammates; every teammate has a story and a unique set of adventures and experiences. In reality, however, it really felt as though something unique was happening with our Village veterans. For instance, event staff finally asked the V2V participants to leave the dining hall two hours after dinner on the very first night of the program. These eighty strangers simply were not ready to end the conversation, and truthfully, they could no longer even be described as strangers.
It seems connections often come easily between those with a military background. As a veteran, or servicemember, it’s difficult to know what our civilian counterparts understand or expect from our military service. But in that room of veteran teammates, the expectations were clear: You did your part, glamorous or not, and you served something bigger than yourself. That is enough.
The intensity and honesty of the conversations in the following days further suggested something special was indeed happening. The program invites participants to engage in the kind of honest reflection that can foster real growth. Furthermore, teammates had an opportunity to examine where their military leadership experience best fits with The Village, while additionally exploring those practices that are perhaps best honored and left in the past. And always, there is opportunity to learn more and to serve as leaders in new ways.
As a program facilitator I shared the journey with each and every V2V participant. Similarly, I felt my veteran teammates shoulder my emotional pack with me, during my more raw moments. I am humbled by the power of the connection we shared, and the trusting space we created. I will forever cherish the time I spent with my sisters and brothers. I am so thankful to The Village for creating this opportunity to connect and grow.