Flush with important skill sets and valuable experiences, military veterans can be counted among a community's greatest assets. Unfortunately, one barrier they face when out of uniform and in a civilian capacity is a feeling of disconnection from the very people they wish to serve.
So says a a 44-page report, All Volunteer Force: From Military to Civilian Service [pdf]. Published last November on Veterans Day by public policy firm Civic Enterprises, it presents the findings of a first ever nationally representative survey focusing on veterans' homecoming transition and civic lives.
The survey found that "only 13 percent of veterans strongly agree their transitions are going well. Yet those veterans who said they had volunteered since returning home had better transitions than those who had not." More:
- Nearly 9 out of 10 veterans said Americans could learn something from their example of service, yet only half considered themselves leaders in their communities as a result of their military service.
- Nearly 7 in 10 veterans had not been contacted by a community institution, local non-‐profit, or place of worship after their return home.
- 92 percent of OIF/OEF veterans agreed that serving their community is important to them.
- Veterans said a diverse range of issues was important or very important to them: helping military families (90 percent), being involved with disaster relief (88 percent), working with at-risk youth (86 percent), and being involved with the environment/conservation (69 percent).
- 7 in 10 non-volunteering veterans said they do not have enough information of meaningful service opportunities.
In extended, a portion of the report's statistic-heavy intro.
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
It is estimated that almost 3,000 OIF/OEF veterans have sought assistance from the U.S.Department of Veterans Affairs or National Coalition for Homeless Veterans agencies for homelessness. Given the age of these current veterans, these early numbers do not bode well for the future.
The unemployment rate for veterans who have served in the military since September 2001 outpaces the adult unemployment rate, jumping to 11.3 percent in August 2009, up from 9.8 percent the month before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Volunteering provides veterans with an opportunity to hone skills, or to develop new skills, as well as networking opportunities that can assist in finding paid employment.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that among 1 million veterans who have served in the military since 9/11, nearly 72,000 are paying more than half of their incomes in rent, instead of building equity in homes. According to the Defense Commissary Agency, military members and their families redeemed food stamps last year at nearly twice the civilian rate. More than $31 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2008 — an increase of more than 25 percent.
After long absences from home, OIF/OEF veterans also face challenges with their families. One in five service members have filed for divorce since 2001. More than 27,000 service members filed for divorce in 2004, a 44 percent increase from 2001.
In addition to being members of our active duty military, national guard, and reserve, these veterans are also husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and neighbors and community members. Yet, almost no attention has been focused on their civic lives: how they re-integrate into their neighborhoods, what roles civic and religious institutions play in their transitions home, what their attitudes and interests are in continuing to serve on the home front, and what America can do to utilize their talents and skills as they move from military to civilian life.
Neuroscience tells us that improving a person's civic health can improve his physical and mental health. Studies have shown how participation in service efforts can boost job prospects. Civic connectedness also can provide additional support to families as they adjust to the transition of having their loved ones back home. Furthermore, veterans are untapped national assets, having acquired experiences and skills while serving in the military that have significant value in the workplace and in communities. They are beacons of hope that can encourage our next generation to serve their country in the military, in government service, in national service, or in traditional volunteering.
As our country welcomes home this generation of veterans, we must pay close attention to, and act upon, OIF/OEF veterans' perspectives on their civic lives. In doing so, we can improve the veteran's transition home, engage them in meaningful work and service on the home front, and hold them up as the leaders that they have become to a grateful nation. ...
The primary purpose of this report is to spark a national effort around the civic engagement of our nation's veterans. We hope this endeavor will promote that dialogue and action in earnest so that we as a nation can look back on this moment as when we truly rallied around veterans — not just with parades and yellow ribbons or job training and health care, but also by unleashing the civic talents of these extraordinary Americans for their own benefit and the benefit of the American people.
Download [pdf], read and then do.
- The Process(ing) of War: Creative Public Spaces for Veteran Storytelling and Reintegration
- Quick Impressions from the Survivor Corps Veterans Community Reintegration Summit
- Renaissance by Fire: Returning Veterans, Society & the Forging of a New Enlightenment
- Join Chicago's Vet Art Project in Fostering Creative Military Veteran and Civilian Artist Collaborations
- National Council Magazine Reports on Community Programs Providing Support for Military Families