Melanie Martin (center) and I-Ride participants.
After graduating college, I took a job as a retail store manager, but I quickly realized that I was looking for something more. While it was fun, it didn’t bring me the joy and feeling of accomplishment that I wanted. One day I heard the “Be All You Can Be” slogan on a radio advertisement for the U.S. Army, and it really piqued my interest. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be or do with my life and, as impulsive as it may seem, I went right to the recruitment station and signed up for the Army. I’m glad that I did!
The military provided me with everything I was looking for and more. It challenged me both physically and mentally and pushed me to limits I never imagined I could reach and achieve. It was empowering! It also gave me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills, which prepared me for my role as an officer. I learned so many lessons in the military and made many good friends — it’s an experience I will never forget!
Finding My Way in the Civilian World
After eight years of service, I left the Army and settled back into civilian life. I joined Independence Blue Cross but found the transition to a corporate environment very challenging. I was used to the structure and pace of the military. I also missed being around other service members.
I left Independence, but returned in 2015. Upon my return, I was very pleased to learn that they had launched the IVets, an associate resource group for veterans.
Being part of the IVets has been such a positive experience for me. They make me feel supported at work — knowing that there is a group of people who understand my unique experiences and challenges as a veteran and are there for me is very comforting.
Besides offering comradery, it also allows me to give back to the veteran community. We support several veterans organizations including the Women Veterans Center, The Veterans Group, and the USO Christmas in July Program. We also host recruiting and networking events for veterans and help raise awareness to veterans’ issues, such as suicide awareness.
Exciting New Initiatives
As the current president of the IVets, I am pleased to say that we have more exciting initiatives planned to continue supporting our veterans, including the launch of our first mentorship program for veterans. It’s called the IVet to IVet Partnership Program (IIPP), and it begins in May 2019. This program will match veteran associates in mentee and mentor roles. Together, they will support and help each other navigate their career paths.
We also launched a wellness program called I‑Ride with IVets. Through this program, associates can sign up to take bi-weekly group bicycle rides throughout the city with members of the IVets — it not only allows associates to explore the city, but also gives them to opportunity to network with fellow associates.
Support From Fellow Associates
Our first ride was on April 17, and we were thrilled at the support we received — 17 Independence associates signed up for I‑Rides! The weather that day was perfect, too (65 degrees and sunny). Everyone was really excited and energized, so we ended up extending our trip and riding past Boathouse Row. We are looking forward to more great rides this summer!
The ultimate goal of the I-Ride program is to build the comradery, endurance, and experience necessary to participate in the Project Hero Honor Ride in September 2019, which benefits veteran’s rehabilitation services. If the support we’ve received thus far is any indication, I think we’re in good shape!
I’ve been back at Independence for four years now, and I’m so appreciative of the men and women who are part of the IVets…they’re like family. I look forward to being a part of the group and helping to support new veterans to the organization who may be struggling to readjust to civilian life. After all, I know what it feels like! Most importantly, I look forward to helping provide hope and support for so many veterans in the community.