is national director of The Mission Continues
As an Army officer, I led a platoon of Black Hawk helicopters into combat in Afghanistan. After I was seriously wounded in a helicopter crash while conducting combat operations, I feared my time in service was over. I'm glad to say I was wrong.
Over the next four years, I carried out a new assignment from the military: recovery. After 10 major surgeries and thousands of hours of physical therapy, I was medically retired from military service, with a permanent disability rating.
But in spite of my hardships, I never lost the desire to serve my country. Although I could no longer serve in uniform, I was able to stay engaged through a different kind of service.
Last year, I did more than 1,500 hours of volunteer service through The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that engages wounded veterans in service here at home. Now legislation known as the Serve America Act, which is on the Senate floor this week, could help veterans across the country continue their mission of service. The Senate should pass it.
People join the military for different reasons, but most of them are motivated by the desire to serve. The success of AmeriCorps has demonstrated that there are many ways to serve our country outside of military service. The Serve America Act, which passed the House last week, would combine the worlds of civilian and military service by connecting service opportunities with veterans and military families, engaging those who have shown a willingness to serve.
The Serve America Act would triple the size of AmeriCorps and create new corps focusing on clean energy, education, health, and veterans. Closest to my heart is the Veterans Corps, which would allow returning veterans to continue their service in the community, much as I have.
The Veterans Corps would not address veterans' issues exclusively. It would capitalize on the skills and leadership veterans gain in the military to strengthen our communities and, in turn, our country.
At The Mission Continues, we know returning veterans have unique skills and abilities that can benefit our communities. Most of the veterans we approach are willing to continue serving, but they may not be aware of the opportunities. The Serve America Act would provide these opportunities, and it would draw national attention to the value of service.
Neither my combat wounds nor my disabilities are stopping me from accomplishing my goals. This fall, I will begin studying for an MBA at the Wharton School. But I would not be at this point had I not been given the opportunity to continue serving after my time in uniform.
I have been able to help other veterans continue their mission of service through volunteering, and that gave me the physical and mental strength I needed. The Serve America Act would provide that opportunity to countless others.