Somewhere in my write-only memory there is a note that the older one gets the more tears will roll down the cheeks.
Have a couple of tissues handy when you read Joe Klein’s cover story “Can Service Save Us?’ in the July 1, 2013 issue of TIME magazine, also billed as “Our Annual National Service Issue.”
I admit it. I have worn out a dozen or more soap boxes on the subject of national service, insisting that our great country is missing an essential element to stay great; namely, a system, program, call it what you will, in which every citizen is required to serve his or her country. Doesn’t have to be in the military, and doesn’t have to be for more than a year or two, but by not having such a requirement we miss having a citizenry that understands what it means to serve and we do a disservice to the memory of those who served before us and gave so much.
Without trying to repeat everything in Klein’s thoughtful and superbly written article, here are a few highlights:
In increasing numbers, our returning combat veterans are suffering from PTSD. Also in increasing numbers, many of them are defeating that horrible illness by engaging in service projects that help others; e.g., helping the Oklahoma tornado clean-up.
A group known as “The Mission Continues,” based in St. Louis and founded by Eric Greitens, “…is at the heart of a growing community service activism among this generation of combat veterans.”
A group known as “Team Rubicon,” based in Los Angeles, “…has a roster of about 7,000 veterans ready to do disaster relief around the world.”
First Lady Michelle Obama has begun a program called “Joining Forces” to help and support veterans.
42% of Americans have not done any volunteer work in the past year, but 57% favor a national service program for people to serve our country in a military or civilian capacity for a year or more.
Klein wasn’t satisfied to simply write about service. He spent Memorial Day weekend with 60 Team Rubicon volunteers helping with the Oklahoma City tornadoes clean-up. The group was led by Michael Washington, a former Marine Master Sergeant (ret.) and Seattle firefighter. Known as Top to the group, he told Klein about the son he lost in Iraq and the new purpose he found in working with Team Rubicon. “I’m in this for good,” he told Klein, “I’m anywhere they want me.”
At a Memorial Day service in the Home Depot parking lot on Southwest 19th Street, Top led the event reading the Gettysburg Address. He ended with the words familiar to all of us:
“That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
And then the group went back to work. And that’s when I reached for another tissue.