2013 to 2014

There is a Sea of Goodwill‖ that flows along many paths, at varying rates or speeds, which ebbs and flows into almost every community and neighborhood. The Sea of Goodwill is not a specific Department of Defense (DoD) initiative or government program, but rather a description of the desire across the country to support Service members and veterans. This paper briefly discusses the background of the Sea of Goodwill and then focuses on ideas and tasks that have a meaningful impact on building public awareness, encouraging community involvement, and promoting community services for Service members, veterans, their families, and the families of the fallen.


“Our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home.”  - President Barack Obama

President Obama’s message is accurate. We, the citizens of the United States of America, have a responsibility to support our Service men and women for life. However, his comment should not be misconstrued as an indictment that Americans have not been doing so. The highest levels of government are so committed to this support that warrior and family support efforts are now incorporated into the national security decision making process during monthly Interagency Policy Committee and routinely held Deputy and Principal Committee meetings. Today, unlike any generation in history, citizens across the country are supportive in word and deed of the American Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman. Our nation is so full of support for our Service members it is difficult to illustrate all the organizations and individuals trying to do their part to support our veterans. Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls this a “Sea of Goodwill” of American support. He notes, “The challenge…is how do you connect that sea of goodwill to the need?”


Returning Service members require support as they integrate back into the communities they left to serve our nation. All across the United States, organizations have sprung up as people do their part to welcome these brave men and women back home. Grassroots efforts often make all the difference in people’s lives and families by providing essential care, resources, and guidance at a critical time.

These organizations operate in what I like to call a sea of goodwill – a widespread atmosphere of support for and pride in our vets – within which groups seek to match donors with needs. However, such efforts can be uncoordinated, missing opportunities to leverage resources and experience across government, non-profits, communities, and institutions of higher learning, for greater impact.

I recently took part in a unique workshop that convened a variety of actors in the military education space seeking to find ways to address this challenge. It was an important moment in which organizations came together, broke down silo walls and began to imagine what powerful collective impact we can have for our active duty military, our veterans and their families.

This white paper follows directly from that workshop and is the beginning of an important conversation across the public, private, and civic sectors to find ways to work together.

Our nation owes the best it can give to our returning service members, and I am confident that through this effort we can find ways to fulfill our promise to them.

Admiral Michael Mullen
U.S. Navy (Retired)
17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Imagining Collective Impact

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