Honoring those who continue to serve through national service
This Veteran’s Day, it’s important we honor veterans not only for their military service, but also for their continued national service. Our veterans have given much in service of this nation and I believe, as a veteran myself, that our nation has a sacred obligation to care for veterans and their families after they separate from service. I believe this to my core as a combat veteran having 10 years in the United States Army as a communications officer, including two tours in Iraq.
I answered the call to continue serving, now in national service as the AmeriCorps Senior Advisor for Wounded Warrior, Veteran, and Military Family Initiatives. AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and national service, shares my belief and has made serving and engaging veterans and military families one of its priority focus areas.
For veterans looking for new ways to serve, AmeriCorps can help connect you to communities that are looking for leaders to tackle local problems. I believe supporting successful veteran reintegration through national service will help make our communities stronger at the same time.
Veterans are civic assets and bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills to service
opportunities, and over 20,000 veterans serve in AmeriCorps every year. Whether responding to disasters, building homes, mentoring at-risk youth, or supporting other veterans, national service provides an effective way to tap the talent and leadership skills of veterans to solve problems at home.
Veterans who serve in AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors gain valuable professional, educational, and life benefits, and the experience can have a lasting impact. And we also recruit veterans transitioning
from military to civilian life into service opportunities that utilize military experience.
More than that, research finds service provides specific benefits to military service members
transitioning to civilian life—comradery, teamwork, and help addressing community needs, which, in turn, helps veterans re-connect to their communities. Further, studies show that veterans and their families are more likely to accept assistance offered by an individual affiliated with the military than a civilian volunteer, making the “vets helping vets” model particularly effective.
So to those who have served their country in uniform and continue to serve their country with the AmeriCorps A proudly displayed, thank you.
AmeriCorps also remains committed to serving those who have served our country. Last year, AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors engaged thousands of veterans in service and assisted 500,000 veterans and military families. For example, the Veterans Fire Corps (VFC) provides training and on-the-job experience for post-911 era veterans, ages 18-35, interested in entering careers and gaining experience in natural resource management.
After serving with the VFC, the majority of VFC members have been hired onto a wildland fire crew with a state or federal agency, found employment with a land management agency, returned to lead additional VFC crews, or continued into higher education for natural resource management.
Another great example of veterans continuing another tour of service can be found in Florida at South Florida State College. There are AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serving at Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1097 providing coaching and mentoring to incarcerated veterans, leading peer-to-peer PTSD counseling, transporting veterans to doctors appointments, connecting veterans and their families to crucial resources, and more.
To continue honoring this commitment, AmeriCorps encourages Veteran Services Organizations to apply to open funding opportunities so, together, we can continue to serve veteran communities that have already given so much to our great nation.
Mary Tobin is AmeriCorps senior advisor for Wounded Warrior, Veteran, and Military Family Initiatives.
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