Members of AlixPartners’ Military and Uniformed Service Team (MUST) employee resource group are united by a common purpose to serve those who served. Often, this passion grew out of a personal experience with the sacrifices and challenges that current and former servicemembers face.
Martin Simpson, a Director in AlixPartners Digital Practice based in London, has been a part of this world his entire life. His father was a 35-year veteran of the police force, and he was sponsored by the Royal Air Force through high school and college, so many of his friends served in Britain’s armed forces.
Through these relationships, he developed an intimate understanding of the mental health challenges within the veteran community and a drive to help in any way that he can. When he joined AlixPartners two years ago, Martin immediately joined MUST and started working with Combat Stress, a long-time nonprofit partner of the firm that provides mental health services to UK veterans, a mission that resonated with him.
“Mental health is important to me, especially mental health within our veteran community,” he said. “Attention to this issue ebbs and flows over time, so what stands out about Combat Stress is they have a focused mission, which is to provide quality mental health care to as many vets as they can.”
For Combat Stress’s centenary, AlixPartners was the primary sponsor of the Living Archive project, a video series of veterans sharing powerful, first-person accounts of their experience to encourage understanding about the impact of living with military trauma.
Martin and other MUST members also launched a veterans’ scholarship program with the UK’s Open University, which he hopes can contribute to an enduring legacy for its recipients.
“To be able to help someone achieve the dream of getting a degree which opens doors in a civilian life is something we as a firm should be really proud of. We are materially contributing to people’s lives and what they can go on to be,” he said.
In AlixPartners’ Southfield office, MUST established an initiative with a similar goal to help bridge a service career with a civilian one. The team worked with Michigan’s National Guard Battalion 3-126 IN, providing career coaching, interview training, and resume review services to battalion members. Several participants started their own businesses or launched careers in new fields.
Lee Reed, an Administrative Senior Professional based in Southfield, was one of the MUST members who worked on the program. She grew up in a military family—12 of her family members served—and, like Martin, seeing first-hand how they were affected by their experience instilled a life-long commitment to help vets.
Lee believes MUST’s biggest impact internally is creating a community where veterans and their allies can be open with their experience and have that experience recognized. And her work with MUST’s community partners has the same aim.
She and Debbie Toundaian, a member of AlixPartners’ Learning & Development team based in Southfield, started a donation program with the John Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit for homeless vets, which they agreed was a straightforward way to honor their sacrifices. Again, a personal experience helped bring clarity and a sense of purpose to their efforts.
“I had a friend come back from a tour who had a really difficult time adjusting. He had a family and a structure to come home, and it was still a challenge,” Debbie said. “I know that a lot of veterans don’t have that, so offering these things to provide some comfort is just logical”
While championing veterans’ organizations remained a priority for MUST over the past two years, the pandemic forced the group to shift its approach to focus more on charitable giving rather than direct in-person support. But with the steady reopening underway, MUST members see an opportunity to expand their reach.
Personal engagement is particularly important for veterans’ organizations, considering the strong bond and camaraderie between people that served.
In late October, Martin attended a Combat Stress fundraising dinner that he said reenergized the team and hopes will be a catalyst to provide more active support with Combat Stress centers around the UK.
“I think particularly for people with a military background or a connection with the military, getting together in 3D is just really important to establishing those personal relationships,” Martin said. “I’m looking forward to build our network to see how we can contribute to those that serve more widely.”