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National Service and Veterans

by Erwin Tan

On Veterans Day, we honor the brave men and women who have risked their lives to protect our freedoms. As Americans, it is our solemn obligation to not only honor them with our words, but to support them through our deeds. Veterans and the families that support them deserve our respect, gratitude, and service – on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

The Corporation for National and Community Service, we are committed to expanding our work with veterans and military families. Building on years of experience, and consistent with the Serve America Act, we are increasing of support of programs that serve veterans and military families, or that engage veterans in service. We are learning a great deal from existing programs and pilots. Here are a few examples:

  • The Washington Commission on National and Community Service worked with the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs to establish an AmeriCorps veterans corps. The success of this program has led to similar veterans corps being funded by State Commissions in California, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
  • Thousands of Senior Corps volunteers assist elderly and disabled veterans, help military retirees acclimate to life after active duty, and provide transportation to former service members in need of medical treatment.
  • We are in the second year of a partnership with the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) and their Call to Service Consortium. Through this AmeriCorps VISTA program, the ALA serves as an intermediary engaging 14 other organizations in veterans-related national service. These veterans service organizations have a long and proud history of serving veterans. We have much to learn from them, just as we have much to offer.
  • Students in Learn and Serve America programs send letters and care packages to troops overseas, create education exhibits, and conduct interviews with veterans to document their war experiences.

There is still much more to do. As we celebrate Veterans Day, I’d like to engage the entire national service field in an intentional strategy of growing the number of organizations who can leverage national service resources to engage veterans and impact military communities. One big opportunity to do so is the 2011 AmeriCorps grant competition, which has made veterans and military families a funding priority.

In addition, I would like to encourage everyone to honor our nation’s veterans by participating in service on Veterans Day. Mission Serve, an initiative of ServiceNation, has worked with nonprofits, national service programs, and veterans’ service organizations across the country to develop Veterans Day service projects that benefit and engage military communities. You can search for a Veterans Day opportunity on Mission Serve’s website or on Serve.gov.

I also encourage you to explore the new veterans and military families page on Serve.gov. This site provides a listing of service opportunities to support veterans throughout the year and project ideas for citizens to support our troops, veterans, and military families. You can learn more about the Corporation’s work with veterans and the military community here.

Erwin J. Tan M.D. is the Director of SeniorCorps and Strategic Advisor for Veterans and Military Families at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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