What You Can Do for Your Country
At one time the method for keeping the armed forces supplied with young men was done with a draft in which some form of selection process required by law that young men just out of high school join the military to serve a term of service. But in the 1970s, the United States moved to an all-volunteer army and our nation has been defended by this type of military system ever since.
The truth is that for decades, the idea of volunteering to serve a stint in the armed forces was never in question in households in America. Until the problems of the draft relative to the Vietnam conflict, in most homes in America, parents taught their youth that going into the military was the natural next step after high school but before going into college. Many older Americans today can remember learning from their parents that it is a boy’s civic duty to serve their country in the military and that becoming a proud member of America’s fighting forces is what truly gave a youth his credentials to be “a man”.
While social change has reduced the awareness in the population that service in the military is actually the highest form of community service, the military continues to be a viable way that a young person can pay back this great country for the honor of their citizenship and start their lives as adults at the same time.
The problem with the perception that volunteering for military service is no longer a natural path of community service may come from the false perception that the military exists solely to fight wars. And while that is job one for any military unit, the ways that our military has been used especially in times of crisis to perform community service within the borders of this country has left a long history of achievement as its legacy.
Any young person that wants to join an organization dedicated to the single-minded pursuit of being of service to others cannot find a better place to do that than the various branches of the military. Because the military is generally well funded, well trained, housed full time in preparation for the crisis, and kept at a high state of train gin and readiness, they can be called in to help out when the community finds itself in need.
Each year as the hurricane season hits us, you see the military respond heroically. Nowhere was that more evident than the evacuations from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina that just could not have been possible without the tireless work of the military. But their efforts to keep America safe from the inside as well as the outside doesn’t stop when the hurricanes slow down. Whether it’s a tornado in the Midwest, fires in the west, volcanoes in the northeast, or any other disaster that might hit our population, the military always see to be the “first responders” to such a crisis.
This high calling of our military is even more evident in the reason for being of our various National Guard units. While it’s true that in the last few years, they have been needed with that difficult conflict we are facing in the Middle East, historically this has been a military force with the two-pronged mission of protecting the population at the local level and helping out when the community has a need.
It’s good to step back from our current view of the military because it can become distorted because of the emotions we all associate with the conflicts our country has been faced with in the last few decades. But getting a historic view and taking into account the heroic work all branches of our military have done to perform important community service at the local level, we can conclude that there is no better place for a young person to seek a way to follow that commission given by President Kennedy long ago to ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
Young Hands Making a Difference
What is the more important goal of any kid? Well if you are a kid or have a kid, you can guess the answer right away. It isn’t concerned about having enough to eat, where they will sleep, or whether the bomb will be dropped tomorrow. No the worse fate that can befall a kid is summed up in one plea – “What can I do? I’m bored!”
It may seem like an odd suggestion then, to both the kid out there and to the ones charged with battling this dread affliction of “boredom” in the kids in our lives that there is one medicine for boredom that you may not have given a chance. And that is community service.
Now, this may be a tough sell because, on the surface, community service isn’t a toy or a video game or something designed to entertain kids. It is something so much different from any of those repacked amusements. It’s for real. Lots of computer games are made to give you the feeling you created something whether it’s a city, an alien planet, or a spaceship. But when you turn off the computer, that creation is gone because it never was real.
With community service, you DO create something and not by talking to a pretend civilization on the computer screen. Oh no, what you create is real, it will be there tomorrow when you go back. And you are dealing with real people and solving real problems. All of a sudden, the kid isn’t so much a kid anymore. He or she is a valuable member of the community, just like an adult and there is no better feeling than that!
There are tons of other great reasons to get involved in community service this summer or as a hobby to replace the endless hours playing computer games. There is such a huge variety of things you can get involved with through community service that you can get your hands dirty on a hobby or an interest that you really want to be involved in. And you won’t be just enjoying that great interest by yourself because you will be working side by side with other youths, older kids in college or beyond, young dads and moms and even grandparents all who don’t want to sit home and be bored and would rather be out there being somebody for someone else.
Volunteering can even give you as much variety as playing games or fooling around with toys might give you and you don’t have to beg mom and dad to buy you a thing. In most towns or cities, there is a community service coordinating group that will have dozens and dozens of ways you can plug in and do something for someone else. Some of the great ways you can pitch in and help out might include…
* Helping stock food that will go out to famine victims or hurricane survivors.
* Serving meals at the homeless shelter to families who really need the help. In fact, after the meal is over, those homeless kids would like nothing more than to spend a few hours with some new friends enjoying a simple game, or just learning about each other.
* Help the Special Olympics put on one of their athletic outings. If you or your kids love sports, what better way to put that skill to work helping others than letting someone who isn’t as lucky as you know that great feeling of winning a race or sinking a basket.
* Reading to a shut-in or to the blind. Do you think it’s great hearing a story? You haven’t had a thrill until you read it to someone else who has never heard it and you see their face as they enjoy every new twist and turn of the plot.
Community service gives young hands a chance to really make a difference to others in the community. But maybe the most important thing it does is it opens kid’s eyes to how great it is to stop worrying about themselves and help someone else out for a little while. It is the kind of addiction your mom and dad will be glad you got into. And chances are you will never again complain, “What can I do? I’m bored!”