The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has been the foundation for American leadership in the world. That world still needs American leadership. But that leadership does not just require a strong armed forces.
The "National Service Coin" could symbolize the connective tissue our civil society needs, and could weave together important personal service narratives for the young men and women we need in order to sustain our great Republic.
AmeriCorps members don't take the easy road. We break tradition, and our parents' expectations, by taking a year on (it's not a year off). We serve, even if it's not the cool thing to do. We serve when it's hard -- probably because it's hard.
President Obama should feature national service in his 2015 State of the Union Address, requesting in his final two budgets sufficient funding to put AmeriCorps back on the trajectory a bipartisan Congress authorized.
In the aftermath of 9/11, we saw the volunteerism rate in the U.S. jump to 28.8 percent, support of governmental institutions was high, and many Americans felt connected to one another. But, moments of national unity can be transient.
Prior to 9/11, our reaction to national emergency had been national service. Regrettably, the reaction to our last great national emergency has been a decade-plus of war devoid of any collective responsibility as citizens.
Millennial social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and policymakers are forging a different path forward on national service, creating a new space for "post-partisanship" -- that is, instead of left or right, the best of both worlds.
Today, less than 1 percent serve in the U.S. military. Expanding national service to include more civilian service opportunities would increase the number of Americans who experience putting a mission first and sacrificing for the greater good.
Americans are lining up to serve, but too often lack the opportunities to do so. Between 2009 and 2011, applications for AmeriCorps positions jumped from approximately 360,000 to more than 582,000--a more than 60 percent increase in just two years.
Today's easy citizenship does not require much of us. Taxation enables us to support common projects and voting to elect candidates that a majority supports. But there are far too few experiences that bring us together in shared community and national purpose.
The good news is many Americans, including our colleagues at the Aspen Institute, realize the importance of service -- both for the wellbeing of our society and for the growth and development of those serving.
One year, one life completely changed, sculpted, molded...A year of service on the front lines, yet deep in the heart of an unknown country; full of dense jungle and far more pain, bravery, and grit then I will probably ever know.