Military member shaking hands with a cilivian with an American flag in the background

Blue Cross Recognizes and Supports Veterans at Work and in the Community

Military service called to Lori Galloway as she was growing up in an isolated small town in Michigan. She had family members who had served – and as she was graduating high school, she seized the opportunity.

“I felt a duty to my country,” Galloway said. “I’m proud of being an American.”

Galloway became the first woman in her family to join the military, serving with the U.S. Navy for five years. It was 1985, and she was 19. She started in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she worked the flight line launching and recovering aircraft, and on the dive team. For Galloway, the experience was eye-opening.

“I had never left Michigan, and here I am talking to pilots that were from all over the world,” Galloway said.

She went on to serve as a dental hygienist with the Navy in San Francisco, before coming back to Michigan to earn her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and graduate degree from Central Michigan University.

Galloway said her military experience taught her how to work with people from all walks of life – and the true meaning of discipline – which served her well as she was gaining her degrees, and in her 24-year career at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Galloway is one of more than 200 people at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan who are part of the Veterans Employee Resource Network, an employee-led group working to make the company supportive of and welcoming to veterans. Galloway serves as the co-chairwoman of the group.

The Veterans Network is facilitated by the Blue Cross Diversity and Inclusion department and led by employee volunteers. Blue Cross created Employee Resource Networks to bring together employees based on their common interests and diverse points of view.

“I’m a veteran myself with nearly eleven years in the Air Force, and I consider my time in the service an honor and a privilege. Today, I’m also proud to work for BCBSM. We’re a mission-driven organization, similar to the armed forces, and we actively recognize and support the veterans in our workforce,” said Bill Plies, vice president of strategy at Blue Cross and executive sponsor of the Veterans Network. “It’s important to thank veterans and their families for their heroism and sacrifice, which too often can be overlooked.”

Having an in-house support network for veterans is especially important, as the transition from military to civilian life can be stressful and a shock to the system, Galloway said. She was first hired into the human resources department at Blue Cross, and now works in underwriting.

“They focus so much on respect in the military, and there’s so much structure. You get so used to that, and when you get out it’s like shell shock,” Galloway said. “There’s not a lot of structure out there – it’s the civilian world. Being so young, you almost need somebody to help you transition.”

The Veterans Network launched in late 2015 with just 20 members. Now several hundred people are a part of the network – including veterans, non-veterans and family members of employees who are actively serving, are serving in the reserves or who otherwise have a military status. For non-veterans, joining the Veterans Network can be a way of honoring someone they know who previously served or is actively serving in the military.

The group strives to support the veteran community inside and outside the company, with employee engagement and outreach efforts, education, community events, recruitment, retention efforts and mentoring opportunities.

“Blue Cross is about community. We are out there in the community,” Galloway said. “The employees are out there participating – they want to help. They always want to roll their sleeves up and come together.”

The Veterans Network was a sponsor of the 14th annual Detroit Veterans Day Parade, which took place Nov. 10. The network also sponsored the fourth annual 4Star 4Mile Run, put on by the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition on Nov. 10 in Detroit.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency has a way of recognizing employers that commit themselves to recruiting, training and retaining military veterans with gold, silver and bronze-level distinctions as Veteran-Friendly Employers.

Blue Cross was first recognized as a bronze-level employer in 2015. This September, thanks to concentrated efforts by Blue Cross’ Human Resources Talent Acquisition Team and the Veterans ERN, the MVAA upgraded Blue Cross’ status to a silver-level Veteran-Friendly Employer.

Part of that is due to a new mentorship program that will pair new veteran hires with a mentor. Galloway is excited about the promise the program holds in helping younger veterans make that transition from military to civilian life.

“In the military, it’s a chain: you have a job to do. And it’s your job to continually help others,” Galloway said. “If someone is weak in something, you stop and help them.”

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Photo credit: CatLane

 

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