Veterans Leadership Network (VLN)

VLN Mission

Steve and JuliaFormed in 2009, the Veterans Leadership Network (VLN) is committed to bringing together the community of veterans at Lilly and to promoting the understanding of the service culture within the company.

Our Mission

  • Enhance the leadership culture at Lilly by actively promoting the understanding of military/service culture
  • Support veterans in transition by providing networking opportunities, education and family support
  • Provide networking and educational opportunities to the community of veterans and service members at Lilly
  • Develop and maintain strong ties to the military and veteran community in the city of Indianapolis
  • Support alignment with corporate objectives by working with Lilly management to promote effective partnership with military stakeholders

Events & Initiatives

  • American Corporate Partners: Lilly partners with American Corporate Partners (ACP), which provides veterans with career guidance as they transition back to civilian life. Many top Lilly leaders and VLN members participate as mentors.
  • VLN annually hosts an event called “Boss Lift,” which gives a select group of Lilly leaders a taste of military/service culture. The event promotes an understanding of this culture and the leadership traits and experiences that veterans can bring to benefit Lilly and its patients. The event is held at Camp Atterbury in Indiana.
  • Military service recognition: VLN hosts events to recognize the military service of employees who have recently returned from active duty. The most recent event included special guest speaker General Martin Umbarger, Indiana National Guard, and Chairman & CEO John Lechleiter.
  • Veteran observances: VLN coordinates employee observance events for major holidays such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

To view the Veterans Leadership Network photo gallery, click here.

Lilly’s Military Ties Run Deep

John C. on VLNSince Sept. 11, 2001, more than 107 active Lilly employees have been mobilized with the U.S. military reserve or National Guard. In the last 10 years, mobilized Lilly service members have spent more than 1,762 months serving in combat operations, nation building activities and humanitarian relief efforts in the U.S. and overseas.

Colonel Eli Lilly, founder of the company, enlisted in the Union Army at the outset of the American Civil War. In December 1864, Col. Lilly was captured by Confederate soldiers and held as a prisoner of war until the end of the war.

Lilly has a long history of supporting programs that help veterans and those currently serving in the military. For example, we support a number of initiatives for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and HVAF of Indiana, Inc., to help stem the epidemic of homelessness among veterans.

In addition, the Lilly Foundation provided a grant to Give an Hour and the American Psychiatric Foundation to address the unmet mental health needs of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The grant was used to recruit and educate volunteer mental health professionals to create a network aiming to bridge the gap in mental health services for soldiers returning from service, as well as their families.

Veteran Military History

Lilly’s long-standing connection to the military goes back to our founder. Colonel Eli Lilly enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 at the outset of the American Civil War. In December 1864, he was captured by confederate soldiers and held prisoner until the war ended in January 1865.

As a veteran of the war and also a pharmaceutical chemist, Colonel Lilly was frustrated by the poorly prepared, often ineffective medicines of his day, and in May 1876 he founded what would later become the global research-based company, Eli Lilly and Company.

The company and Colonel Lilly’s son, J.K. Lilly, Sr., played a part in the military history of World War I, when in 1917 the company donated $25,000 to the Red Cross to establish a base hospital for the U.S. Army. Later, J.K. Lilly, Sr., also donated $15,000 and, with additional funds from the Red Cross, expanded Base Hospital No. 32 to 1,500 beds in a hotel in Contrexeville, France. He also became director of the War Chest Board and Chairman of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion.

Colonel Lilly’s grandson, Josiah K. Lilly, Jr., left for France in September 1917. He received a commission as First Lieutenant in the Medical Supply Section of the Sanitary Corps and was detailed to assist in organizing the Medical Supply Service for the American Army in France. He later rose to the rank of captain in charge of all medical supplies of Is-sur-Tille.

World War II saw significant mobilizations of Lilly personnel with many KIA and two Lilly employees still listed as MIA. More than 1,000 employees served, many making the supreme sacrifice. The efforts by Lilly to contribute -- including war bonds, offering no cost/low cost life-saving medications like penicillin and providing for the families of deployed employees -- was annually recognized by President Roosevelt and the War Department with the coveted Minuteman award. Lilly won this prestigious award each year of that protracted war.

During Korea and Vietnam, a similar large number of Lilly employees were called to service. Large letter writing campaigns were organized by the company as well as blood drives, and mailing Christmas gifts and regular care packages. Throughout the tenure of these conflicts families were communicated with and if necessary provided for in many ways. Employees who were mobilized were recognized in the company newsletter and regrettably too many were eulogized there also.


"Each person is unique, and everyone’s views and opinions are valuable. That is why we should be inclusive of all in our workplace and embrace our differences to make life better for people around the world. For example, the Veterans Leadership Network provides important efforts in the recruitment of veteran employees, service to our community, aid of veteran causes and support of employee service members. These types of activities through our employee resource groups encourage employees to welcome and accept diversity at Lilly."

Maria Crowe
President, Lilly Manufacturing and Executive Sponsor of the Veterans Leadership Network

VLN Gallery

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