A Generational Approach to Service: They Were There for Us; Let’s Be There For Them.

As tens of thousands of young veterans return from terms of service spanning the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, America’s young adults are provided with a unique opportunity to help one another, and the impact could turn out to be much bigger than one might think.

This process begins with fostering a sense of camaraderie amongst each other—instilling a sense that we are in this together. Indeed, we face many of the same challenges. For instance, young adults today, whether veterans or civilians, face a dire outlook in terms of employment prospects, and in this sense, we have more in common with each other than we like to think.

According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics released in March 2011, young male veterans (18-24 years old) who served during the Gulf War-era II had an unemployment rate of 21.9 percent. Their civilian counterparts suffered from an unemployment rate of 19.7 percent.

Even those of us with jobs are making less in real dollars than the generations before us. In short, we are forced to do more for less, do more with less, and have less opportunity to do what we need to, just to get by.

Yet despite all the struggles that we face collectively as a generation, we fail to act as a collective. Instead of working for each others benefit, we are forced to compete against each other for the few opportunities that exist.

We should challenge this status quo. We, America’s young adults, should demand more for each other, from each other.  This begins with helping young veterans returning from their service.

While young veterans face many of the same challenges of their civilian counterparts, they also face many unique challenges. Some studies have shown that more than one-in-four Iraq and Afghanistan war-era veterans likely suffer from mental health conditions. Furthermore, the population of young homeless veterans is growing.

How can young American civilians help their veteran counterparts?

There are traditional options, such as volunteering with veteran service providers, but I challenge my fellow young Americans to go further. We are a generation of entrepreneurialism; a generation of creativity.

It is this thinking that has driven me and several graduate student colleagues of mine at the University of San Francisco to recently create VetSTRONG—a student driven initiative that connects young veterans both with each other and with the services and service providers that aid the transition back into civilian life.

We’re working to rally the young veteran community across San Francisco, strengthen the ties between these young veterans, and create a modern, tech-savvy environment for young veterans to find ways to improve their lives.

This is just one example, however, of how you can get involved. Looking for other ideas? Ask around.

One of the best ways to find out how to help young veterans is simply by asking them about the struggles they face. Don’t know any veterans? Some of your friends probably do. Figure out how you can have the largest impact, and do it.

Remember, we’re in this together.

They were there for us. Let’s be there for them.

VetSTRONG is a student driven initiative focused on helping young veterans transition back into civilian life and bringing attention to the issues faced by the young veterans community.

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