by Vivian Greentree, Director of Research and Policy, Blue Star Families
I am very excited to be attending this year’s National Conference on Volunteerism and Service as a representative of Blue Star Families, a national military family support organization.
Along with attending all the amazing sessions (and exploring New Orleans!), we will also have booth space to share our program, Operation Honor Card, with the other participants of the conference.
A part of Joining Forces, Operation Honor Card is a joint project between Blue Star Families, the American Red Cross, and ServiceNation: Mission Serve with the support of The Corporation for National and Community Service, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The program allows citizens to pledge volunteer hours in honor of the service of military families, veterans, and service members in order to create an atmosphere of shared service and the high level of community engagement seen during WWII, when ‘all gave some.’
Those coming by our booth at the conference will be able to pledge service hours and write notes of support and encouragement to the military community, which we will then distribute among our membership and partnering organizations.
Both the community service hours pledged and the cards written and given out to our military families through Operation Honor Card are much treasured personal, tangible gestures that our civilian counterparts can perform to support and engage our military community.
Someone famous once said,
“Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciative heart.”
As a military spouse who has both given and received just such letters, I can tell you that finding out someone who doesn’t even know me cared enough to take a moment and say “I’m thinking of you” was priceless at a moment during a long deployment when I needed a little encouragement.
I’m also excited to meet other organizations who will be attending the conference to find out ways we can work together to promote civic engagement and interaction between public and private organizations looking to get involved with the military community.
While there is little data on the particulars of volunteerism within the military community, sixty-eight percent of respondents to our 2010 Military Family Lifestyle Survey had volunteered in the past year and research shows that veterans who volunteer have more successful transitions home than those who do not.
There is a therapeutic quality to helping others that many of our military parents and spouses say help get them through deployments and make them feel satisfied that they have ‘paid it forward’ from the help they received when they were newbies.
Military families are also in a special position to encourage others to donate their time, energy, and spirit to make this country a better place to live for ourselves and our future generations.
While our military members are most noted for protecting our rights and freedoms, their service also demands from us the responsibility of making this country a land where freedom engenders a sense of duty to do what one can to strengthen our communities and truly encourage the democratic principles of commitment and service.
Civic engagement and volunteerism are what sustains civil society and allows us to see past our differences to our commonalities as human beings.
In the military community, we know that we are only as strong as our weakest link and that it is a group effort to maintain strength and resiliency on both the forefront and the homefront.
Our relationships are forged through our collective experiences of mutual sustainment and, I believe, we are stronger for it.
So, I’m excitedly awaiting the conference and looking forward to meeting wonderful people and sharing innovative ideas (along with great food!) to build a stronger nation through volunteerism and service.
I hope that if you are interested in learning more about the military community, you’ll stop by and see us at our booth or in one of the sessions.
We are stronger when we work together!
Vivian, a Navy veteran, is the Director of Research and Policy for Blue Star Families. She is currently completing her dissertation on public service motivation for her PhD.