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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


Shinseki Extols Value of Volunteerism

May 15, 2010, 08:00:00 AM

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Volunteers “Priceless” to VA, Country

WASHINGTON – Random acts of kindness are nice, but Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki told graduates at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) that the world needs more “people who are regularly, habitually and deliberately kind.”

“We can no more put a value on kindness than we can put a price on heroism,” Shinseki told nearly 1,300 graduates.  “People who make caring for others a personal devotion, a part of their everyday lives, that’s what’s needed – people who are willing to serve the needs of others.”

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Shinseki noted, about 140,000 volunteers help Veterans at VA’s hospitals, Vet Centers and cemeteries.  Conservatively, VA prices their time as worth $240 million, while the volunteers also contribute more than $80 million yearly in gifts and donations.

“There are some things they do that we can’t put a price on.  Not everything can be reduced to a dollar value,” Shinseki added. “What’s the price of a Thank you?  How about an hour of patience?  What’s the going rate for dignity and respect for a combat Veteran?  Such values cannot be calculated.”

The VA Secretary noted that Veterans in the class of 2010 were the first to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the largest improvement in the traditional educational program since its inception in 1944.

“By time [the original GI Bill] ended in 1956, it had profoundly transformed America economically, educationally and socially, catapulting our economy to the world’s largest and our nation to a global leader and a victor in the Cold War,” Shinseki said.

He saluted the UMUC staff for their programs tailored to the educational needs of the men and women on active duty.  About 60,000 of the school’s 100,000 students are military personnel.  The school operates on 130 military installations, including four in Iraq and four in Afghanistan.

“UMUC and the military have long shared a vital partnership in education,” said Shinseki, a retired Army four-star general. “Wherever the Army went campaigning, UMUC went with us.”

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