As a retired 20-year Marine Lieutenant Colonel, I was honored to present our 2nd annual Lee Anderson Hiring Our Heroes Award for Excellence in Veteran and Military Spouse Employment to Comcast and NBCUniversal at our awards dinner at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week. This award recognizes the proven dedication of Comcast and NBCUniversal in addressing the challenges faced by veterans, transitioning service members and military families in their search for meaningful employment.
Comcast and NBCUniversal have been committed to our effort since Hiring Our Heroes began in March 2011. And they practice what they preach. In March of this year, they pledged to hire 1,000 veterans and military spouses over a three-year period as part of our Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign, launched by the National Chamber Foundation and Capital One. Since just March, they have already hired more than 700 veterans, which represents a 25 percent increase over their total in 2011.
And the reasons for presenting them with the award don't end there. The company has established a robust veterans' network and expanded efforts to encourage veterans to self-identify, adding 1,000 existing employees to their VetNet this year alone. They also launched a mentorship program that matches newly-hired veterans and military spouses with seasoned employees helping ease their transitions to corporate America. This holistic approach has increased retention rates among veterans in their company.
And personally, Hiring Our Heroes wouldn't be where it is today without the incredible support of Comcast and NBCUniversal. When we launched the program last March, I drove up to New York and searched out another old vet like myself, named Val Nicholas, Vice President Business Development, NBCUniversal. We brainstormed for hours and talked about ways to raise awareness and affect veteran unemployment on a national scale.
Val and his wife, Anne, who are active with their local American Legion post and the Auxiliary, believe in grassroots efforts in local communities and they rolled up their sleeves with us. While Val energized NBCUniversal's leadership, Anne worked with the local affiliates around the country to promote the hiring fairs so that veterans and military spouses would attend in greater numbers.
And that has made a huge difference — more than a quarter of all job-seekers who attend our fairs learned about them through the local media, and NBCUniversal has led the way in getting the word out. Now that is a force multiplier.
Earlier this year, they decided that they wanted to do just a little bit more. Over the course of five days in March, through unprecedented news coverage, they not only helped change the conversation about the value of hiring veterans and military spouses in the private sector, but they elevated the issue so that it was discussed at millions of dinner tables across America. It truly is a privilege to honor such a great company and we look forward to our continued work together to help military families in the months and years to come.