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AmeriCorps

As we celebrate the 4th of July, we celebrate our patriotism and the millions who have shown their love
of country by wearing the uniform. There are a few Veterans among us -- 16,000 so far -- who came
home and volunteered for a second time and served their communities though AmeriCorps.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) just announced a tremendous commitment to support veterans and military families at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. From expanded grants to increased “people power” in areas of need, we are ready to stand with our soldiers to provide opportunities that will help them continue their service here at home while we serve their special needs.

African American History Month has ended, and while the official celebration is over, our contributions
to society don't end on any given particular day. Likewise, our African American service members
continue to contribute and make history, even after they take off their uniforms for the last time.

Of the 130,000 veterans in Idaho, more than 30,000 are registered with the Idaho Department of Labor
to receive employment resources and job training. Budget cuts, however, have put this program in
jeopardy.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Growing up, I had dreams of what my future would look like. But reality taught me that achieving a dream and building a future is a learning process and can't be done alone.

Having just wrapped up National AmeriCorps Week, another big week for celebrating service is on the horizon: National Volunteer Week. Happening April 15-21, 2012, National Volunteer Week is an opportunity for nonprofit organizations and national service members and alumni to be recognized and celebrated for their efforts. It's also an opportunity of AmeriCorps Alums to tell their story of service, and shine a light on the value of national service in our nation.

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