About a year ago, Clear Channel Entertainment Enterprises president John Sykes was flying home from California to New York when a flight attendant asked if he’d like to sit next to a war hero.
“It was an army ranger whose everyday job was to jump from an airplane at 80,000 feet with oxygen and go behind enemy lines and be part of night operations,” Sykes tells Billboard, noting that the man had recently returned home and couldn’t find a job. “I was surprised that with his training there wasn’t something he could fit into.”
That experience inspired Sykes to approach Clear Channel Media and Entertainment chairman/CEO John Hogan and Clear Channel chairman/CEO Bob Pittman about starting a program to address veteran unemployment. The result is Clear Channel’s recent launch of iHeartRadio’s Show Your Stripes (showyourstripes.org), a wide-reaching public service campaign aimed at helping U.S. veterans connect with local businesses to find jobs.
“The bottom line is that over the next four years there will be well over 1 million vets leaving the military, and they’re going to be searching for jobs,” Sykes says. “These are smart young people who left their job to go to war on behalf of our country. Their biggest challenge coming back is to find employment.”
For the year-long campaign, Clear Channel will donate between $75 million and $100 million in radio, digital and outdoor signage. The company teamed with Military.com and Monster Worldwide to build a Website that helps veterans search for jobs and sharpen their résumé and interviewing skills. Additionally, artists like Elton John, John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins have recorded public service announcements, which will reach Clear Channel’s more than 240 million monthly U.S. listeners across 850 stations.
“These men and women are some of the most trained individuals in the world and we should be putting their skills to use in the work force,” Adkins tells Billboard. “They have a common ideology of service and bravery. Those qualities don’t disappear when they return from service.”