My father Daniel Edelman was a World War II veteran who transitioned successfully from military to civilian life to establish Edelman as a global communications agency. As we honor our veterans tomorrow, I have a much deeper appreciation of his military service after participating in the week-long Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC) in late October. Established in 1948, it is the U.S. Defense Department’s oldest public liaison program that enables American business and community leaders to participate in an immersive experience with their military.

Over five days, our delegation of 39 business, academic and community leaders spent time with the Space Force, Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines. Each branch organized distinctive activities, including briefings from senior military leaders, hands-on activities, and meals with service members, among other opportunities.

Some highlights:

  • Marine Corps graduation from the Marine Recruiting Depot in San Diego, highlighted by the return of platoon flags to drill sergeants that symbolizes the conclusion of the 13-week boot camp and the transition of recruits to Marines (that happens for 17,000 recruits annually). We rode on a V-22 Osprey during Marine Day and a highpoint was dropping 60 feet while cinched to a rope from Marine Tower, which is part of the recruits’ physical training.
  • Visit to Space Force operations where we watched the constant monitoring of a 32-satellite network that informs our military leadership 24/7 with ongoing monitoring and intelligence and provides ongoing GPS connection for all of us on the ground.
  • Visit to the San Diego Coast Guard Joint Operations Center, which handles roughly 17 incidents a day ranging from smuggling to boating accident rescues, plus a ride on a Coast Guard high-speed boat.
  • Tour of the 100,000-ton Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier operated by a crew of 5,500 and will host an NCAA basketball game between Michigan State and Gonzaga on Nov. 11.
  • Visit with Navy Seals, including a visit to the commemoration wall with the names of Seals who died in service.
  • Visit to the Pentagon where Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to us.
  • Transportation to several military bases on a C-130 military aircraft.
  • A look at advanced military aircraft on Air Force Day including F-5s and Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs).
  • Participation in an Army obstacle course, and wore a 30-pound Kevlar vest and helmet during our Army Day activities

While each of these activities proved impressive — contributing to my increased respect and appreciation for our military — the most meaningful aspect of my week was my conversations with our men and women in uniform. During my meals with them, I sought to understand how the military produces great leaders like my father and so many others. I asked what leadership means to them, and several themes emerged: commitment to mission, problem-solving, initiative, empathy, and trusting your team. These are important lessons we all could use in today’s world. I thank the Department of Defense for providing this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It generated a deeper sense of appreciation and respect for our military. And while I already was an advocate for veteran and military spouse employment, I commit to redoubling my efforts. Less than one percent of Americans serve in the military, but they provide us the liberty and freedom to live the lives we do.

Having experienced firsthand the military branches in action and talked to our men and women in uniform, I am even more inspired to do what I can to support them once they transition from the military. I better understand the strong foundation my father received in the military to establish Edelman. As with my father, I anticipate that today’s military personnel will be tomorrow’s leaders building a brighter future for us in whatever careers they pursue.

John Edelman is Managing Director, Global Engagement Corporate Responsibility and executive sponsor of Edelman’s employee group, Forward, focused on fostering a veteran-friendly workplace and community.