A standout organization is working diligently to change the perception of veterans in the culture and in the media.
We’ve all seen the stereotypes — the broken vet, the crazed vet, the violent vet, the murderous vet, etc. These are the perceptions that Got Your 6 — a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., founded in 2012 — is combating through its 6 Certified program.
“Our research shows that most people either view veterans as broken or heroic. It’s this duality of extremes that really doesn’t represent any of us,” Executive Director William Rausch told LifeZette. “There’s this really dangerous and really misinformed area that Hollywood has been promoting, I think unknowingly. And part of our mission is combating that.”
The stereotypical portrayals of veterans “significantly influence public perception of veterans overall, yet are not representative of the actual veteran population,” the group further explains on its website.
The Got Your 6 program came about “as a result of several studios, writers’ rooms, producers, and entertainment partners all coming together and saying, ‘Hey, we want to help vets,'” said Rausch, a military vet himself.
Since its inception, Got Your 6 has introduced the 6 Certified program — a stamp of approval the organization gives to media that portray military members and veterans in proper and realistic ways. Recent recipients of the Certified 6 stamp include Clint Eastwood’s “Sully,” starring Tom Hanks as the pilot who made an unprecedented forced water landing on New York’s Hudson River; and the USA Network television show, “Shooter,” which is about a decorated Marine sniper who lives in self-imposed exile after a mission gone wrong. He re-enters society when he receives intelligence about an attempt to assassinate the president.
The process of influencing creators is quite inclusive, explained Rausch. “We connect with folks at literally almost every stage of the creative process,” he said. “We talk to directors, producers. The Hollywood piece is really critical because nobody has the ability to reach into living rooms as Hollywood does.”
The group has already partnered with Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony, and others.
Got Your 6 is invited into writing rooms and consulted throughout many productions. Other completed projects seek out Got Your 6 in the hope of becoming 6 Certified. One example of a latecomer was “Sully” — which Rausch said they were happy to endorse. In the film, Chesley Sullenberger’s military history is mentioned twice. Instead of the character being defined by his military service or scarred by it, the detail is used to add an extra layer of depth and humanity to Sully’s character; viewers got that and connected with it.
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The Hollywood aspect of Got Your 6, however, is only one piece of the organization’s “two-pronged approach.” Other programs run by Got Your 6 help veterans become more involved with their communities — and communities more involved with their veterans. One example is Storytellers. These are events held in different cities in which veterans are invited to tell their stories to groups to help connect with others.
“These are real folks telling real stories,” said Rausch, who added he has seen firsthand the benefits of the program and how it brings vets and people together.
The major goal of Got Your 6 — which is in reference to a military saying that means “got your back” — is to make citizens more aware of their veterans, and then to get those veterans more involved with and entwined within their communities.
“Realize we’re just like you,” Rausch said, as a message to civilians who may lack a strong notion of veterans. “We’re just as diverse as the country we serve. We’re more civically engaged because of our service,” he added. And the country “needs to put us to work.”
That need to engage, lead, and help others is what makes veterans a valuable resource, said Rausch, one not being properly used because of misconceptions about our veterans in the culture.
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“Frankly, a lot of us are adrift,” said Rausch of veterans who leave the military and then try to re-engage in civilian life. “That’s the opportunity the entire country has. We need another mission — and folks need help with real issues.”
Rausch added that this issue is why the Got Your 6 mission is so vital today. Others — corporations, small businesses, individuals, and more — “are not going to put us to work fully unless we can change their perception.”