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Veterans and Military Families

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Madison Street Veterans Association began about three years ago with a group of homeless veterans living in an emergency shelter in Phoenix. The veterans decided that they should band together to improve the conditions in the shelter for themselves and any veterans who showed up in the shelter. What a difference they made!

As America's heroes return from deployments abroad and transition back into civilian life, many are facing challenges in finding employment. With the unemployment rate among recently returned veterans hovering around 12 percent, these men and women who volunteered to courageously serve our country should not have to return home with bleak opportunities in sight.

As America's heroes return from war zones and transition back into civilian life, many are facing
challenges finding work. Last month, more than over 857,000 veterans were unemployed, and the
jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans is 13.1 percent.

Many years ago, I stepped off a plane from Iraq and onto the tarmac at Pope Airfield in Fort Bragg, NC.
The scene was filled with open arms, cheers, the sound of muffled grunts of joy as weeping kids
jumped into the arms of their parents, and spouses' soft cries of love and longing. The sounds of
reunions were deafening as they bounced off the high walls of the hangar -- it was a sound that I
welcomed, and remember to this day.

My grandmother lived in Texas, and she would remind me that everything was bigger there -- including their hearts. The work of one person, empowered by a Corporation for National and Community Service program, demonstrates how thousands of people are making a Texas-sized impact on the lives of our nation's veterans.

Helping homeless veterans get off the streets feels like work Duane Magee was made to do, and his
tireless quest puts him behind the wheel for thousands of miles each year to find them. He is living
proof to vets that recovery from homelessness and incarceration is possible because their story is his
story, and his quiet mission to assist them led to his nomination for a 2012 Martin Luther King Drum
Major for Service Award.

Today, a group of young men and women, many of them veterans, will stand up and pledge to “get
things done for America”. They will join a legion of more than 750,000 Americans who have served in
AmeriCorps and become the first class to also serve as VetCorps members.

As military deployments became more common for National Guard and Reserve troops, the emotional
strain hits children left behind especially hard. Operation: Military Kids (OMK) supports military youth
age 5-18 with outreach programs to help them cope with the stresses of being away from their parents
serving far from home.

The transient nature of military life can make life difficult for students in military families, and many are
stationed at Fort Leonard Wood for less than two years or experience parental deployment. They often
have challenges with making new friends, fitting into social groups, and connecting with the
community.

As President Obama said in his proclamation declaring November as Military Family Month, behind each service member "stands a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse -- proud family members who share the weight of deployment and make profound sacrifices on behalf of our country."

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