Post by Heather Margolis, ServeNext Organizer for Montana
Last Friday, several of us in Montana gathered at Great Falls College to see and hear from Senator John McCain – former Presidential Candidate, Navy Airman, POW, War Hero and champion for National Service. The Senator was the guest of Montana Congressman Danny Rehberg and had been invited to discuss Veterans issues and Sequestration. Of the two men, the former is a national service champion who has proposed expanding opportunities to serve in AmeriCorps while the latter has proposed AmeriCorps’ elimination. Justin meets Sen. McCain
Being at this town hall with fellow AmeriCorps alums Christina Barsky and Justin Isom, who is also a veteran, gave me hope that Congressman Rehberg would hear just how powerful an impact AmeriCorps has on Montana. Through hearing this, we then hoped he would restore the funding for AmeriCorps currently missing in his budget. If Congressman Rehberg could just hear Justin’s story, as a Veteran of the Marines and an AmeriCorps alumnus, we hoped the Congressman might better understand the value national service brings to our state.
Justin had serious challenges re-integrating into civilian life. But by finding AmeriCorps, Justin was able serve his country again, only this time at home in Montana. With his personal experience as a marine he helped establish the Veterans Center at Great Falls College of Technology in partnership with T.C. Knutson, a Montana Campus AmeriCorps Team Leader. Justin discovered that being able to continue his service domestically with AmeriCorps gave him purpose and motivation to be more engaged and committed to his own personal and academic success. He said whether is was planting trees, or making sure a fellow veteran was connected to support services they earned, it gave him meaning at a time when he was struggling to find purpose and self worth.
While Justin didn’t get a chance to speak to Congressman Rehberg, he did talk with Senator McCain after the event and thanked him for being a national service supporter and writing an article called Putting the “National” in National Service where he calls for the expansion of opportunities for Americans to serve their country. In addition, he asked Senator McCain to talk with Rep. Rehberg about the value of investing in national service programs like AmeriCorps and McCain said he would.
If I ever forget why I am absolutely committed to expanding national service, I just need to recall Justin’s story. He was able to continue his service to our nation and Montana through AmeriCorps and continues to put the skills and leadership he learned in the Marines to addressing challenges here in Montana.