Michelle Obama launches Mission Serve, a network aimed at linking veterans to community service groups, as part of efforts to aid their transition to civilian life. President Obama and the first lady honored veterans' service Wednesday.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
First Lady Michelle Obama wants Americans to recognize the sacrifices of the nation's veterans by contributing to a grass-roots volunteer and community service network that will expand services for veterans and, supporters say, enrich American society.
At a Veterans Day event Wednesday, Mrs. Obama announced a new military-oriented community service organization called Mission Serve, an offshoot of the public-service group ServiceNation.
Since arriving in the White House, Mrs. Obama has been using her star appeal to bring new focus to the lot of military members and their families after eight years of war. Her efforts are seen as genuine but also politically astute. She is drawing on deepening concern that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan could create a generation of veterans like Vietnam's – some nursing war afflictions, others lacking opportunity, and all potentially feeling alienated from the rest of society.
Only 13 percent of veterans returning to civilian life say the transition is going well, according to a new study released Wednesday, and nearly 2 in 3 veterans say they have skills to offer but that no one in their community has reached out to them. At the same time, a higher percentage of veterans are unemployed.
The idea of Mission Serve is to join groups already engaged in community service programs with veterans who have a desire to perform public service. A former Marine, for example, could have leadership skills to volunteer or work at a high school. A retired soldier could work with troubled youth. But there is no organized group bringing the skills to the need.
"We need that energy," Obama said to a rousing crowd of students and veterans at George Washington University Wednesday. "Whether it's running a rural health clinic or rescuing a community struck by a natural disaster, our veterans have what it takes for success."