Do you feel the need to keep serving? Before we begin, let me just say that I do not have a degree in psychology or social work. I do have two Master’s Degrees, but they are not in the humanities at all. What I do have is personal experience as a Veteran. I have a job which enables me to talk to and assist Veterans on a daily basis. Many of them just want to know, how can Veterans keep serving?
I have noticed, both in my life and in the lives of other Veterans, a continued need to serve after leaving military service. For instance, many will choose employment as first responders. While some are satisfied with a job just to make money (and that is okay), others have a need to continue making a difference in some way. Often it doesn’t even make a difference if they get paid for it or now. Veterans want to keep serving.
Collected here are 10 ways in which Veterans can give back to their community, assist those in need of help, and generally continue to serve after leaving the military.
1. Federal Employment
USAJobs.gov is the job site for the Federal Government. Veterans have experience that will often easily transfer to civilian jobs for the Federal Government, and many times may end up doing the same thing they did in the Military Service. More than one time I watched as a military member left work on Friday, and walked back into work on Monday as a civilian after retirement or ETS, doing the very same job they were doing on Friday but working for a different company.
However, it is also quite possible to find opportunities in other fields of work which you would be eligible for. You can go to USAJobs.gov and simply search by location, type of job or job code for a list of jobs currently open. One of the good things about Federal jobs is the ability to move between jobs without losing that Federal time. There are many Veterans who retire from the military service and then go on to a complete new career with the Federal Government for a second retirement.
There are hundreds of contracting companies supplying manpower for the Government. Chances are, no matter what your career field is there are positions open with a contractor company which you are eligible for. The money is usually fairly good, and you are continuing to work making a difference like you did while active duty.
Many contractor jobs may be overseas, but this doesn’t mean they are necessarily in combat zones. From Japan to the United Kingdom, and Africa to Afghanistan, Veterans can find jobs in almost any work field. The job sites are too numerous to list, but some of the larger contracting companies can easily be found doing a search on Google for US Government Contractor Companies. Wikipedia has a list of the top 100 federal government contractors.
3. Veteran Service Officer
Veteran Service Officers work to assist fellow Veteran and family members in filing paperwork with the Veterans Benefits Administration for Veteran Disability benefits or pensions. Accredited Veteran Service Officers do not usually charge for these services. Many Veteran Service Officers work for the county at the county Veteran Services department and are paid by the county they serve.
Veteran Service Officers also provide a ‘clearinghouse’ of information for local Veterans. Most VSOs have a very good idea of the Veteran Benefits afforded by their state, as well as local benefits for Veterans. They can therefore provide general information on Veteran Benefits such as education benefits, the VA Home Loan Guarantee program. They also usually know which local businesses provide discounts for Military Members and Veterans.
AmeriCorps is a federal agency which exists to tackle some of America’s most systemic problems. The Corps connects individuals with organizations working on issues ranging from homelessness to education, disaster response to Veteran assistance. The people who serve with AmeriCorps are often on the front line providing support to non-profits who are in the community wrestling with some of the toughest challenges in America. A position with AmeriCorps can be challenging as it places you in situations you have never encountered. However, the service is an opportunity to give back to the community and is definitely an eye opening first-hand experience of some of the systemic problems faced by many in our country.
5. Volunteer Opportunities – Helping Children
There are many volunteer opportunities for Veterans who want to continue serving in their community. First of all we will mention the Boy and Girl Scouts. Even though there has been a lot of controversy over the Scouts, there are other programs which provide a sound young scouting program. Trail Life and American Heritage Girls are both faith-based national level scouting programs which are often co-located with a church. If you want to know more about these excellent organizations, click on the names above. Local chapters are always looking for volunteers to serve as mentors for the young men and women in these programs.
6. Volunteer Opportunities – Community Support
Disasters happen. That is a fact of life. And, many organizations are prepared to take action to alleviate suffering and help with the emergency needs. We all know about Red Cross and many other large national and international organizations. But, there are also Veteran organizations which mobilize to assist in clean-up efforts, emergency response and disaster recovery. These organizations include Team Rubicon, The Mission Continues, and Sheep Dog Impact Assistance. These and others like them bring together Veterans, First Responders and others in a community effort of comradeship. Above all, these organizations provide dedicated and trained people to help during emergencies.
7. Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is well known for helping families build and/or improve homes. However, you may not know about Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Build. Veterans Build is dedicated to providing home repairs for military veterans. Along with this initiative, Habitat actively recruits Veterans in many positions. Along with paid positions, Habitat provides volunteer opportunities for Veterans to join in building and repairing. These opportunities bring Veterans together with neighbors and other Veterans in camaraderie and a sense of purpose.
8. VFW / American Legion
There is no doubt that membership in the VFW and American Legion has dwindled. Many younger Veterans see these organizations as being a last bastion of old men getting together to relive war stories and drink. While this characterization may be somewhat accurate at times, the VFW and Legion is much more. These two organizations are two of the largest and strongest voices for Veterans in Washington DC. They work to keep Veteran matters before Congress, fighting to keep and protect Veteran’s benefits. Membership also provides the camaraderie that many Veterans miss. If you are not a member currently, consider joining.
9. Driving Veterans
You don’t have to be a member of something to make a difference. There are many Veterans who are unable to get out and go to their medical appointments. They cannot easily go grocery shopping, or simply get out of the house for a ride. If you have the time and are looking for a way to serve, offer your services to drive Veterans to their appointments. Offer to take them for an outing to a nearby park, or to pick up groceries. Who knows, you may find a calling in a new type of volunteer service and make some wonderful friends at the same time.
If there is one thing I have learned in my job as a Service Officer, it is that often Veterans just want to be heard. I have had Veterans and/or family members come into the office and just want to talk. I wrote several months ago about the blessing of listening to Veterans. Letting a Veteran know that their stories matter, and that they will not be forgotten may be one of the greatest acts of service you can offer. And, as a Veteran yourself, you offer an understanding ear.
Your listening ear could do even more. The US Library of Congress has been working on their Veterans History Project for years. This is an effort to gather personal accounts of American War Veterans through visual materials, correspondence, and personal narratives of Veterans. If you are interested in taking part in this project, you can help add to the project as you meet and talk with Veterans. You can find more information on the Library of Congress webpage.
There you have it. This list of 10 ways to continue to serve is not exhaustive. There are many more ways. As a Veteran, your service still matters. There are hundreds of ways you can make a difference to your family, your neighbors, your community and the world.
If you have ideas for continuing to serve as a Veteran, please drop it in the comments below. We would love seeing lists of different ways for Veterans to make a difference.
As always, feel free to send us an email of you have a questions or comment.