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Ford Extending Legacy of Helping U.S. Veterans

By Ted Ryan, Ford Heritage Brand Manager and Archivist

Last week, I was fortunate to present the heritage of Ford and the Military at the “Proud to Serve: Bronco Off Roadeo.” Ford used this event to celebrate veterans and the military community. We invited more than 150 guest from U.S. Service Organizations, including Blue Star Families, Guitars 4 Vets, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Travis Manion Foundation, Team Rubicon, and members of Ford’s Veteran Employee Resource Group.  These groups learned how drive Ford Bronco SUVs at the adventure driving school in the Texas heat. Driving the Bronco on the course was almost as inspiring as hearing the stories of the attendees, as we all came together to honor both the men and women who serve as well as their families.

The heritage of Ford Motor Company with the armed forces and veterans is an inspiring one that is not too well known. After the U.S. entered WWI, Ford used its industrial might to produce material for the armed services. Model Ts were easily converted into ambulances and put into service in France.  

Ford also built 50 Eagle Boats which were used as submarine chasers. In the wake of WWI, with a generation scarred and a nation yearning for normalcy, Henry Ford himself, a pacifist at heart, recognized the debt owed to returning soldiers. He offered them jobs, understanding that meaningful work could be the greatest healer. 

After being approached by the National Commander of the American Legion in 1923, Edsel Ford pledged that veterans would be admitted to The Henry Ford Hospital for treatment at no cost. Hundreds received medical care.  

In 1922, Henry Ford donated 50 Model Ts to the National Convention for Disabled Veterans, giving veterans an opportunity to attend and making Ford the longest corporate partner of the DAV.  

When WWII began, Ford once again sprang into action, providing war material producing tanks, Jeeps and ambulances for the war effort. The crown jewel of the Arsenal of Democracy was the Willow Run plant, conceived and brought to life by Edsel Ford. This plant used an assembly line to manufacture B-24 Liberator Bombers at a peak rate of one per hour. Many of those bombers were built by women who had gone to work in the factories. The iconic image of Rosie the Riveter was based on Rose Will Monroe, who was employed at Willow Run.

As WWII was ending, Ford announced a public commitment to secure jobs for returning veterans. “Every man who left our employ to go to the armed forces has his old job, or another job, if his old job has ceased to exist, waiting for him when he is honorable discharged from the service.”

Ford’s commitment to employing veterans went beyond simply filling vacancies. We recognized that many returned with both visible and invisible wounds. Disabled veterans, often marginalized by society, found open doors and adapted workplaces at Ford. 


The decades that followed saw Ford continue to champion veterans' causes.  We actively recruited from military bases, recognizing the discipline, work ethic, and technical skills ingrained in those who served. Scholarship programs were established, ensuring that the children of veterans had access to education and a brighter future. 

But Ford’s support extended beyond employment and financial aid. We partnered with veterans’ organizations, offering resources and raising awareness for issues like PTSD and veteran homelessness. Ford understood that the transition back to civilian life could be fraught with challenges and was committed to easing that burden.

Ford instituted an “earn while you learn” program for auto mechanics. Veterans received six weeks of intensive training at the Rouge Plant and were then brought into one of Ford’s nationwide dealerships for a two-year planned employment and training program in association with the government’s Veteran’s Administration. 

That legacy continues today. 


Ford is committed to hiring Veterans and their family members. Recently we partnered with and to help identify, track and streamline the application process. We also recently signed the PAYS Act, which guarantees any member of the active-duty military an interview for an open position at Ford. We received a gold level certification as a veteran friendly employer.   

Today, Ford’s dedication to veterans remains as strong as ever. We are actively involved in initiatives to hire veterans transitioning from active duty, recognizing the valuable skills and experience they bring. Our employee resource groups, like the Veterans Network Group, provide a supportive community within the company, fostering camaraderie and understanding.