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Defending the homeland: President Bush's call for a renewed sense of community service is right in line with VFW philosophy and objectives. (Volunteering for America).

The President says Americans need to "fight evil with acts of goodness." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) believes we should engage in "a cause larger than ourselves." In short, this all means defending the nation through volunteerism.

If there is any organization geared to heeding this call it is VFW. With a network of nearly 10,000 Posts in place worldwide, our association is perfectly suited for community service. Of course, over the past century we have demonstrated this time and again.

In his State of the Union address, the President challenged each and every one of us to commit to two years, or 4,000 hours, of lifetime volunteer service. Many VFW members have probably already met this noble goal. But for those who have not, now is the ideal opportunity to rise to the occasion.

Created by executive order, the new USA Freedom Corps will bring under one umbrella three existing volunteer programs (the Peace Corps, Senior Corps and AmeriCorps) and establish a new national agency, Citizen Corps. It will work directly to counter potential acts of terrorism.

Proposed initiatives will recruit new members and expand the numbers of Americans available to report suspicious activities. A sort of nationwide Neighborhood Watch, Citizen Corps will undertake duties reminiscent of World War II, when civil defense on the home front was a top priority.

The Medical Reserve Corps is to include a backup of first responders--retired doctors, health care workers and emergency, medical technicians. They would be on call to assist full-time responders in the event of another World Trade Center or Pentagon disaster.

Coordinating from the White House, USA Freedom Corps' executive director is John Bridgeland, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council. To fund this new domestic security arm and expand other programs, Congress will have to appropriate $560 million in FY 2003.

One of the expanded programs of particular interest to VFW members is Senior Corps. Composed of foster grandparents and companions, it may receive $50 million next year. To recruit 100,000 new retirees, the participating age may be lowered from 60 to 55. Financial incentives--such as transferable earned scholarships--are being considered, too.

Of course, many locally based volunteer efforts exist. Judging from the amount of volunteer hours reported by Posts annually, VFW members are taking full advantage of them. But there is always room for more or different initiatives.

Tapping into the nation's renewed sense of patriotism is the right thing to do at this juncture of our history. Whether it is civil defense, building or tutoring, community service is more important now than ever.

National Volunteer Week (April 21-27) is the perfect time to step forward. If you have not already done so, perform an act of kindness. If you would like to learn more about opportunities offered by USA Freedom Corps, please visit its Web site: usafreedomcorps.gov and/or call 1-877-USACORPS.

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Article Details
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Author:Goldsmith, James N.
Publication:VFW Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:479
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