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Future leaders, today's role models.

When the youth scholarship program began in 2000, the DAV had high hopes that, in honoring one of our most fabled leaders, we'd establish a legacy of voluntary service for sick and disabled veterans and VA hospitals.

We could not have predicted at the time the impact this scholarship would have on the lives of thousands.

Time and again we've heard that volunteerism is a thing of the past. People don't have time. They won't take the time. They don't care.

Popular culture calls our young people the "Me Generation"--people who believe the world revolves around them.

When it comes to the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship recipients and candidates, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Through Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) programs across the country, America's youth are reaching out in record numbers to give their time and energy to our disabled veterans.

While the scholarship may provide the initial incentive for these young folks to volunteer, they're consistently exceeding--often doubling, and sometimes tripling--scholarship requirements and going above and beyond the call of duty.

The relationship they build in high school with America's veterans regularly extends into their college careers and adult lives.

In less than a decade, the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship has built bonds between tomorrow's leaders and those who've sacrificed to make a bright future possible for our nation.

Let the pundits say what they will about our youth, but you won't hear any complaints at VA medical centers where these generous souls are making a difference for disabled veterans.

If anything, let our future leaders be an example for the rest of us.

While they are giving their time after school and during their summer breaks, we find ourselves in constant need of help at hospitals.

The hallmark volunteerism we enjoyed from the Greatest Generation has ebbed as many of our fine senior volunteers are aging and passing on.

While our youth scholars are back to school, off to college or establishing themselves professionally, we need more great volunteers to lead the way.

The opportunities to help are endless. And, like our generous young folks, most people who volunteer for sick and disabled veterans find themselves returning again and again.

It's inspiring for us to see young people in hospitals. It gives us hope as a new generation returns from battle with wounds and illnesses that will require lifelong care.

It would be great if more of us could take more of our time to ensure all of our veterans get the care, attention and respect they've earned.

Edward E. Hartman, National Director of Voluntary Services
COPYRIGHT 2006 Disabled American Veterans
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Title Annotation:DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY
Author:Hartman, Edward E.
Publication:DAV Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Words:436
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