The stagnant economy has been tough on many Americans, but none more so than our nation’s veterans. Far too many military men and women come back home from overseas only to find a place almost as inhospitable and unwelcoming as the one they left. On top of a dire job market, many have problems receiving benefits from Veterans Affairs. Thousands of others struggle to come to grips with their post-traumatic stress, sometimes leading to tragedy.
Iraq vet Ian Smith nearly succumbed to his own trauma before a friend intervened and got him involved with Mission Continues, a veteran service centered in St. Louis. There Smith found new meaning in life by volunteering on local projects, such as cleaning up community centers or helping with disaster relief. After a six-month fellowship he joined the staff as a service project coordinator. Now completing a degree in international studies from Washington University, Smith credits Mission Continues with renewing his sense of purpose. “I was blown away by how much better I felt,” Smith says. “And I thought, man, if I could just capture a little bit of that and hold it close to my heart, I think I could do all right. Things could get better.”
According to a recent study of Mission Continues, 86 percent of Smith’s fellow vets reported a positive life-changing experience following their service. Seventy-one percent went on to receive further education while 86 percent said the program helped them translate their military skills into the civilian world. This data is especially incredible given that 64 percent had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. Mission Continues and other organizations like it are growing in cities across the country. Their goal seems like a win-win for society: improving lives for veterans and communities through service. Visit www.missioncontinues.org for more information.
- Why is it important to provide special help and training to returning veterans?
- Should returning veterans be given preference in hiring decisions?
Source: Joe Klein, “Can Service Save Us?” Time, July 1, 2013. Photo by Adam Bindslev.