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Troops Counted in President's Praise of Volunteers

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2003 – Service members are among volunteers President Bush singled out in his radio address here today in praise for their community service.

"Some of the men and women I have met are members of the armed forces, who volunteer time in their communities on top of their service to the nation," the commander in chief said.

Bush noted that overall 63 million Americans were volunteers this year, about 4 million more than in 2002, setting a fine example for the country. They gave an average of 52 hours a week, the president pointed out, adding that the increase in volunteering is "evidence of the new culture of service we are building in America, especially among young people."

Bush said he created the USA Freedom Corps to continue the momentum generated by the countless acts of kindness after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He asked every person in America to commit 4,000 hours over a lifetime - or about 100 hours a year - to serving neighbors in need.

"The response was immediate and enthusiastic, and has remained strong," he said. "Over 75,000 service organizations now work with USA Freedom Corps, and a growing percentage have answered the call to service."

The president said Americans volunteer in every region of the country, and in nearly every part of the world. He said many communities have Citizens Corps Councils to train neighborhoods in emergency response. About 50,000 people are enrolled in AmeriCorps, which carries out "vital work in education, the environment and homeland security," he added. Also, Bush noted, the Peace Corps expanded to more than 75,000 volunteers in 2003 - the highest level in almost three decades.

Bush asked every American "to look for a challenge" in his or her community and "step forward to lend a hand. Many Americans volunteer with their families, allowing them to spend time together while improving the lives of others.

"The high level of volunteerism in our country is encouraging - though not surprising," he added. "America is a compassionate and generous land. With their good works, volunteers are living out the spirit of the season. And year round they are showing the heart and soul of our people - which is the greatest strength of our nation."

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