LOS ANGELES - Though often rivals when it comes to fighting for fair contracts, hot scripts, top talent and big audiences, Hollywood's power players are united in their support for American veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Movie studios, TV networks, talent agencies and the entertainment unions, together with a host of nonprofit groups, have created the "Got Your 6" initiative, a multipronged effort to support military veterans and their families.
"It's an opportunity for all of us," said Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer, who announced the campaign Wednesday. "I can't think of anything more important than supporting the troops that are coming back from active service."
More than a million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to return to the U.S. over the next five years, said Chris Marvin, director of Got Your 6.
"Got your six" is military lingo, an expression of solidarity that means "I've got your back and I know you've got mine," Marvin said.
"It means we're watching out for each other and we're all in this together," he said. The saying originated with pilots engaged in dogfights before expanding throughout the military, but Marvin said it applies perfectly to the alliance of entertainment powerhouses that adopted it: "These different entities all agree that the way we work with and deal with our military veterans and their families is crucially important to the future of this country."
Through scripted story lines, celebrity public service announcements and employment and education outreach, Got Your 6 aims to ease veterans' return to civilian life by encouraging Americans to recognize them as valuable community leaders.
The effort was inspired by Michelle Obama's Joining Forces campaign and conceived with the support of the Clinton Global Initiative.
"The entertainment industry captures our imaginations, opens our eyes and touches our hearts, and I'm proud to work with them on our Joining Forces initiative," the first lady said in a statement Wednesday. "By sharing the stories of strength and resilience that define our military families, we can motivate even more Americans to honor these courageous individuals in new ways."
The entertainment industry has the power to influence everyday Americans, Marvin said, and he hopes to see programs that portray veterans as more than just heroes or victims of post-traumatic stress, but skilled leaders ready to contribute to their communities in myriad ways.
Public service announcements featuring stars including Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker and Michael Douglas will begin airing Thursday, and the industry's commitment to Got Your 6 is ongoing.
"It will take time, and the sooner we do it and the sooner we start it, the better," Meyer, a former Marine, said in an interview Wednesday. "This is one (cause) that's important for everyone. This is very real and very much here and one we can beat... This is one we can do something about right now."
Among the elements of the campaign is a promise from Disney and Comcast to hire 1,000 veterans apiece. Besides hiring, Meyer said to expect the entertainment industry's efforts to come through on screen.
"As corny as it sounds, we're storytellers. We have the ability to get the message out in so many ways," he said. "We can get the message out through talent or through story."