"I've got your six" quite literally means that you have someone's back, that you have them covered in any situation and you'll be there for them no matter what. While this phrase is used often in the military, the Got Your 6 national campaign has extended the phrase to civilians, urging the American public to lend their support to veterans returning home. We may recognize the sacrifices veterans have made, but many don't carry that recognition over to inspiration, oftentimes allowing their political leanings to interfere. Launched June 2012, Got Your 6 pulled Hollywood in to further their cause and get their name out there. From celebrities wearing their "6" pin on the red carpet to being mentioned in hit television shows, the campaign is progressing leap and bounds in changing the dialogue surrounding veterans.
The core staff of Got Your 6 happen to have service backgrounds and are veterans themselves, including David Gosling, the Director of Community Engagement for the campaign. Gosling was first commissioned through ROTC at the University of Colorado in the infantry branch, doing a year of training at Fort Benning in Georgia. There, he became a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne, Air Assault, and Ranger Schools. He was stationed with 2-14 Infantry Battalion out of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, New York, and from there served almost two years in the Baghdad area (from 2006 to 2008). After leaving the service, he transitioned as a National Guard and around this time last year, left to work with Got Your 6.
He became involved very early in the organization, around February 2013, after happening upon a link to a Gandhi quote he always admired, "Be the change you want to see in the world" — leading him to Boston's nonprofit organization Be The Change. "I saw that one of their subsequent programs was Got Your 6 and I was like, 'Oh, it's a military thing.' I took a look at it and found out they were actually looking for some people to come down and work for them through the AmeriCorps VISTA program," recalls Gosling.
The program had only been active for around six months prior to Gosling joining the team, and since has grown at an impressive rate — he attributes much of its rapid growth to the connection with the entertainment industry. Instead of blasting onto the scene, Got Your 6 chose a quieter launch and worked out a series of whisper campaigns. Until the celebrity-heavy public service announcement (seen above) was released, that is.
"You have all these huge names [in the PSA] and we landed a joint campaign with Macy's that ran in May and June, so basically any time you went into Macy's during that time — it was during their American Icon's Campaign - you would be asked if you wanted to donate to Got Your 6 when you went to the register," he says. "So all these people started to find out about us and it's been really great."
The connection with Hollywood actually happened a lot more organically than one would expect, with many entertainment industry leaders approaching Got Your 6 looking for ways to support veterans and their families. "It was really a combination of all of these leaders of the industry coming together and wanting to do this, and then finding the outlet for that through Be the Change — and subsequently Got Your 6," explains Gosling. "Got Your 6 is really an umbrella organization of, not only the entertainment industry partners, the guilds, the networks and the studios, but also the other side of that is all of our non-profit partners who basically benefit from the revenue that we generate."
The organization uses the entertainment industry to blast their message and when money comes in through donations and merchandise, Got Your 6 is able to send that money out to their lead activation partners working under the "6 Pillars" they focus on for veteran reintegration — Jobs, Education, Health, Housing, Family, and Leadership. "Basically, we bring in this money and we push it back out to these people who have programs that are really benefiting veterans in a really wide variety of ways."
One of the more recent ways Got Your 6 is helping veteran reintegration is with the help of their lead partners under the "Family Pillar": Military Child Education Coalition and Blue Star Families. The two organizations jointly launched the Reintegration Toolkit this past summer — which is an online platform full of resources for military families — and sent it out to 300,000 households.
"Before people would kind of do it ad hoc and just try to say hello and you know, pick up where they left off. I had that experience too and its very strange to come home," recalls Gosling. "One day you're there and literally the next day you're home, and then all of the sudden people are expecting everything to be the same and it just can't be. So it was really important to try to provide families with some resources to cope with that and to try to minimize the strangeness of that situation."
Not only does Got Your 6 actively support troops and veterans through funding programs that help them get back in the swing of things back home, they also engage society in a dialogue regarding the incredible assets veterans are to the community. "It's trying to convey the positive side of things, versus so many organizations concerned with [fixing] veterans because they're broke, trying to give them handouts or trying to just take care of them — when in reality, the vast majority of veterans, they don’t want any of that stuff," says Gosling. "They want to be challenged, like they were in the service, they want to be recognized as leaders and civic assets and they want to be pushed forward into new roles and new ways of being community leaders. It's really about trying to figure out ways people can interact better with veterans and bring them out of their shells, and just be more productive members of society in general."
If you're wondering about ways you can get involved, Gosling generally refers people to the local chapter of their nonprofit partners. They also have three projects going on for Veteran's Day that you can participate in. "Take a Veteran to School" is a national effort to bring veterans into the classroom to speak about what it means to serve in the military. "We are also hopefully going to have some video resources that teachers can provide their students with if they can't get a veteran to come in that do a really nice job of talking about what military service really means," says Gosling.
The second is a service project in Los Angeles, headed by one of their favorite partners Team Rubicon, that will involve cleaning up a specific area of the town near a school. In case you don't know what Team Rubicon is, they mobilize teams of veterans and respond to disasters where people need immediate help. "It really speaks to a lot of veterans because it's what we were doing [in the service]. It's an emergency situation, you're working in little teams, it's physical and somewhat dangerous — it’s a really good way to mirror what a lot of us experienced."
The other Veteran's Day project is called "Got Your 6 Storytellers" and will be taking place November 8 in New York City at Google headquarters. "We went out and found a whole bunch of veterans who are now doing amazing work in the civilian world and we wanted to do a TEDx-style talk," Gosling remarks. "We got eight vets who are really amazing in their specific fields to come in and give these short little six to 12 minute talks." The talks aren't just about being a military veteran though, they're about what people do afterwards and how they're excelling after service.
According to Gosling, veterans are a "very definitive subculture." Only .04 percent of the country are the ones doing the actual fighting over the past decade, meaning that an incredibly small portion of Americans are carrying a significant burden all by themselves. Regardless how one might feel about America's political landscape, Got Your 6 positively urges us to remember the people who have, and still are, fighting for their country. They want to bring more knowledge into the world about who these people are, what they did and what they can do, thus bridging the divide between military and civilian life. Projecting a message of unity and support, regardless of politics, is really a shining achievement few organizations are able to claim, but Got Your 6 certainly can.
Visit Got Your 6 and show your appreciation for all those who have served and continue to serve.