Volunteers Bring Service Ethic to Veterans Day
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2010 Shovels flew and sod unrolled as volunteers turned out here yesterday as part of a Mission Serve Veterans Day kick-off event to help put the finishing touches on a Habitat for Humanity home.
Brig. Gen. Leslie A. Purser, deputy chief of the Army Reserve, joins volunteers to build a new house with Habitat for Humanity and Veterans Green Jobs as part of the nonprofit Mission Serve initiative, Nov. 10, 2010, Washington, D.C. Mission Serve has organized volunteer activities in more than 20 cities around the country to take place on or around Veterans Day. DOD photo by Karen Parrish
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Mission Serve, a nonprofit organization, has put together more than 20 Veterans Day volunteer events matching veterans with community projects in cities around the country. The initiative was launched on Veterans Day 2009 with support from First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden phoned volunteers here to offer her appreciation for their efforts.
“Thank all of you for all you’re doing … and have a happy Veterans Day. Thanks for all your service,” she said.
Army Reserve Deputy Chief Brig. Gen. Leslie A. Purser joined the crew of more than 40 volunteers from Veterans Green Jobs, Mission Serve, Habitat for Humanity and corporate sponsors Wal-Mart and Bank of America.
“The recipients of these homes are not necessarily veterans, but it doesn’t matter,” she said. “A person gets a home … it’s just about the spirit of volunteerism, and that’s what the military’s about.”
Purser said she was proud of the veterans who volunteered for the project.
“They spent time in the desert and put their lives on the line to defend our country, so we can have homes like this,” she said. “And yet here they are, helping to build a home. I think it’s really hooah that they’re out here doing this.”
Zack Bazzi, who served in the active Army and New Hampshire National Guard, is director of mid-Atlantic programs for Veterans Green Jobs.
“We’re a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to connecting veterans with job opportunities in a green economy,” he said.
Bazzi, whose enthusiasm wasn’t obscured by a light layer of sweat and dirt, said yesterday’s event and the Mission Serve partnership demonstrate the added contributions veterans can make to the nation.
“It’s very important that we view veterans as an asset, not a burden,” he said. “From a very practical perspective, the U.S. government has … invested in training servicemembers. It’s a crying shame to let that go to waste. It is crucial for us, in the midst of tough economic times … to take advantage of what these veterans have to offer.”
Ross Cohen, an Army veteran who deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, leads Mission Serve and said the event was a great example of what his organization works to achieve.
“We have active duty military here, we have reservists, we have military spouses and we have civilians, all working together to build a home,” he said. “We are really trying to show that veterans and military families are civic assets who continue to contribute to the country.”
Cohen said he learned two major lessons from the military.
“It was an incredible experience that taught me more about self-determination and leadership than any other experience I’ve had to date,” he said. “And it taught me that the civilian and military communities are far more disconnected than I had imagined.”
Mission Serve seeks to bridge that gap by identifying volunteer events where civilians can work on behalf of or alongside veterans and military families, Cohen said.
“We have added literally thousands of new volunteer opportunities,” he said. “Go to missionserve.org and type in your zip code, and find a way you can volunteer, not just on Veterans Day but throughout the year.”