Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative (REI)

photo of soldiers saluting

"I work full time. I am a Black mother of two Black boys, and my husband is an active-duty officer. We will move again in less than a month to a new neighborhood, and I am more fearful now than ever about whether the neighborhood will accept my boys and my family."

– Black Military Spouse

“My kids experienced racism a lot and did not feel accepted in school or their community. Teachers and other students called them ‘Negro.’ They picked fun at my daughters for their dark skin. They had little to no kids around them who looked like them. One daughter has low self esteem and is very socially underdeveloped, because other parents would even tell their kids not to play with her.”

– Black Army Veteran

What is REI?

The Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative (REI), led by Blue Star Families, is a multi-dimensional, cross-sector, collective-action effort to improve the service experiences of military-connected families of color. Through five impact areas — Research & Advocacy, Training, Leadership, Collaboration, and Community Impact — the initiative will gather new resources and focus the energy of Blue Star Families and a broad assembly of corporate, foundation, and nonprofit partners to ensure our country meets its obligation to deliver positive, fulfilling experiences to all families who serve.

Progressing the Initiative: WHAT ARE WE DOING TODAY?

We have launched several important efforts as initial steps of the Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative.

Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee (REIC)

To root the Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative in strong leadership, we enlisted the support of an extraordinary group of leaders and trusted advisors — men and women who have experienced life in a military-connected family, and who have important perspectives to share. The Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee comprises high-ranking military leaders from all branches, wounded warriors, caregivers, and military spouses. This committee has been meeting regularly since this summer. Their perspectives, guidance, and governance are the bedrock of REI.

together collaborate of hands teamwork at park outdoor photo
Military patches photo

DEPLOY Fellows

Existing research and data indicate military families of color are more likely to experience financial distress and less likely to hear about support and resources. Importantly, the leadership teams of the organizations who serve them — MSOs and VSOs — are disproportionately white.

Therefore, we launched the DEPLOY (Diversify and Expand the Pipeline Of Leaders for Your military community) Fellows Program. This program seeks to train a new cohort of racially diverse leaders for MSOs and VSOs.

These leaders will serve for one year in Chapter-based or national roles here at Blue Star Families while they receive training in MSO/VSO leadership curated by several of our key partners.

Their fellowship work will focus on improving experiences and increasing representation of military families of color in community settings across the country. Upon graduating, they will continue that work in positions of leadership within the MSO/VSO space.

Collaborative Partners

We have announced an initial group of collaborative partners — organizations that are dedicated to the goals of this initiative and are invested in its success. These partners are providing not only the needed financial sponsorship to make this work possible but also additional resources and leadership training in direct operational support of REI's five impact areas. Our growing list of nonprofit partners will also contribute to training and leadership development programs and serve as potential hiring organizations for leaders who will graduate from these programs.

photo of handshake

How It Works

Five Impact Areas of REI


Conducting research via focus groups, applying new lenses to prior surveys, and launching new surveys to further understand the unique experiences of military families of color.

These findings will then be paired with data-driven policy recommendations geared to meaningfully improve experiences.


Assembling and engaging a committee of established leaders who will help inform strategies, programs, and outcomes of the initiative, and provide thought leadership on racial equity to the entire military and Veteran family support sector.


Building a fellowship program that aims to train new cohorts of racially diverse leaders who will help lead efforts to improve the service experiences of military families of color. These comrades of REI will immediately provide leadership at the local and national level, so military-connected families of color can see themselves represented in the support organizations that seek to serve them.


Harnessing the involvement of a cross-sector group of organizations to create collective action, share programs, and drive change across a broad set of stakeholders.

Community Impact

Building programs and engagements that focus directly on improving the experiences of military and Veteran families, fostering inclusion, and increasing the sense of belonging in communities nationwide.

Announcing the launch of REI

On December 16th, 2020, Blue Star Families, members of REI, and our partners and supporters joined together for a special event announcing our efforts to better serve military and Veteran families of color.

tune in to the Behind the Mission Podcast

Behind the Mission with PsychArmor thumbnail image

BTM07 - Kathy Roth-Douquet and Sinclair Harris | Blue Star Families' Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative

February 23rd, 2021

Length: 24 minutes

Listen for free
Learn about the podcast

Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families, and retired Navy Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris join the Behind the Mission Podcast to talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and Blue Star Families' Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative.

Read more about the launch

Organization Launches $1 Million Racial Equity Initiative

February 2021

Read the article

The launch of REI was featured in an issue of Military Influencer Magazine. In it, you will learn more about the story behind the launch of this initiative — as told by key stakeholders.


USAA logo
JPMorgan Chase & Co logo
Macys Transparent Logo
craig newmark philanthropies logo
Lockheed Martin logo
Robert McCormick Foundation logo
Starbucks siren logo transparent
Comcast Logo Transparent
Amazon Logo
bae systems logo
REI Co-Op Logo
OptumServe logo
Leidos transparent logo


IntelliDyne, LLC


American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces logo
Bob Woodruff Foundation logo
Institute for Veterans and Military Families logo
George W. Bush Institute logo