In a thought-provoking essay in Time magazine titled “How Service Can Save Us,” writer Joe Klein makes the case that the time is right for a national service program utilizing our nation’s veterans.
His piece profiles The Mission Continues, one of many organizations springing up across the country which are helping combat veterans transition from the military to civilian life by way of community service activism.
These groups are building houses, working in health care, teaching, counseling, farming and taking care of their more seriously wounded comrades. Some are focused on disaster relief and others help homeless veterans.
These organizations are making a difference in many veterans’ lives by helping them transfer their military skills to civilian employment. But perhaps more importantly, they are giving them a renewed sense of purpose by allowing them to continue to serve — this time at home in their communities.
Approximately 2.5 million veterans have or will be coming back from the global war on terror which began over a decade ago. Many of these veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. Some estimates put the percentage as high as 40 percent for veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Veterans Administration is straining to provide the necessary treatment and counseling. The sad fact is that many veterans are still waiting to get help and some probably will never receive the appropriate treatment to cope with this complex and debilitating condition.
Organizations like The Mission Continues are filling the void by providing fellowship, camaraderie and direction for many veterans struggling with the challenges that can affect re-entry into civilian life.
All of this is accomplished by putting veterans back to work in community service projects where they are able to use their military skills to serve their communities.
The programs are working both for veterans and for the communities where they are deployed. The results are inspiring. So why not create a similar program for civilians, Klein asks in his essay?
If community service is therapeutic for veterans why not do the same for all Americans who are looking to give something back and a way to reconnect with their communities?
Or as Klein puts it, would it be so bad if the rest of us become more attuned to the values and can-do spirit our veterans have brought home from the military?
We don’t think it would be bad at all.