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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.

Paul Reickhoff, president and CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, has an idea about a great, untapped American resource. He believes national service models based on AmeriCorps to harness and leverage the skills of military veterans and can “help people think about us as the cavalry, not as a problem.

In the spring of 2011, a Marine stood on the porch steps of his new home in Annapolis, MD. He was not
thinking about the beautiful row house that he would now share with his wife and four children, but was
looking down at the porch that he helped build with his own hands. He was contemplating his spirit of
service with a renewed vigor and hope.

After defending our country in locations all around the world, many veterans find more battles await
them when they return home. A new initiative was announced today to support and ease the
reintegration of returning service members, veterans, and their families as they search for jobs and
support services.

Recently discharged veterans shouldn't have to struggle to find work when they return home from
service, but they often do. AmeriCorps VISTA Heather Hays is helping vets make the most of a program
that lets them serve their country in a new way while placing them on a pathway to permanent

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.

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.


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