They say that the clothes make the man, and nowhere does that seem the case more so than for the men—and women—in uniform. More than just what they wear everyday during their time of service, those uniforms signify so many things that all tie into their identity: their devotion to their country, their belief in freedom, their courage, and their willingness to sacrifice their own lives for the greater good.
But what happens when they no longer put on those uniforms? For many, that change of clothes is a challenging time—not only as they try to forge a new identity for themselves, but also as they go out on the search for a job. Knowing the very real struggle faced by the countless men and women separating from active duty service in the military each year, Suits for Soldiers helps ease that transition by collecting gently-worn suits and business attire and donating them to vets in the process of beginning their new life in the civilian world. More than just a simple suit, these donations do more than clothe their recipient—they instill a sense of confidence and readiness for the mission ahead, one that many vets would otherwise be unable to afford or be fully prepared to face.
“Receiving these suits does everything for their confidence as well as easing their fears of being professional enough,” says Eric Horton, CWDP of American Job Center and Workforce Essentials, who works directly with the soldiers at Fort Campbell to coordinate their transition into a new career field. “The suits are also an expense that many of them have none of the funds to pay for, so the fact that these suits have been donated for them to have free of charge is an immense burden lifted from their shoulders.”
“When someone enters into the interview process, everyone must look good and have confidence in themselves; and I believe that being well-dressed for an interview truly will build confidence,” adds Greer Carr Agency insurance agent Marcalee Baxter. A representative for Farmers Insurance in Clarksville, Baxter has been at the fore of the area’s Suits for Soldiers program since its Clarksville launch in 2016. Now in its third year of collecting and donating suits and business attire, Baxter’s office has seen the amazing impact that “suiting up” can have on the very special—and very brave—individuals who receive them.
“First impressions are very important to the interview process, and we’re able to make that first impression a great one,” Baxter says. “Hearing stories of the success that some of these suits have brought is the very reason that I continue to do what I do, and it’s amazing to see the kind of support we receive from the community of Clarksville in making it all possible,” she continues. “Last year, we donated more than 250 pieces of business attire to the American Job Center and Workforce Essentials; and we hope to give them more this year.”
Photo Courtesy of Travis Baxter
With such close ties to the military community because of their proximity to Ft. Campbell, the people of Clarksville feel honor-bound to do everything in their power to serve the men and women who have so faithfully served them. But more than a duty, it’s also a privilege, as Suits for Soldiers is a simple way of giving back, a way of equipping them for the new mission they’re facing—and the community couldn’t be more willing to open up their closets and join in that mission.