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A National Call to Service!

by SofS Staff - January 19, 2009

Our Pre-Inauguration Rally on USS Midway in Support of President Obama’s Call for Renewed National Commitment to Service

“We are not just asking the American people for one day of service.  We are asking you to make an ongoing commitment of your time… Because that’s how we’re going to rebuild this country and meet our great challenges – together.”

President Barack Obama

About the Event Video Clips Letters of Support  Program 

Stories of Service National Spokesperson Edith Shain calls on America to respond to President Obama's National Call to Service

Participating/Partner Groups:

- Stories of Service/Digital Clubhouse Network
- USS Midway Museum
- ServiceNation
- Young Marines
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- National Service Learning Partnership
- American Veterans Center
- U-Haul International
- California Volunteers

- American Legion
- National History Day

- Veterans Holiday Celebration, Inc.
- Volunteer San Diego
- Reality Changers
- Father Joe's Villages
- Social Advocates for Youth
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- Shakti Rising
- Maritime Museum of San Diego
- Interfaith Community Services
- Archies Acres
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society/ Miramar   
- United Through Reading
- Heroes to Hometowns  
- Veterans Employment Committee of San Mateo County
- Association of the United States Army 
- Veterans of Foreign Wars  
- Cal-Diego Paralyzed Veterans Association 

- San Diego POW Chapter

- Military Order of the Purple Heart

- We Thank Our Troops

- Veterans of Foreign Wars

- United Veterans Council of San Diego

- Navy Nurse Corps Association of Southern CA

- USO San Diego

- American WWII Orphan Network

- AmericanGold Star Mothers - San Diego Chapter

- Pacific American Education Scholarship Foundation

- Patriotic Hearts


More than two dozen non-profit agencies, veterans service organizations, and individual volunteers gathered on the historic USS Midway on Monday, January 19, 2009 to hold a rally in support of President Barack Obama’s call to Americans of all ages to renew their commitment to volunteerism, civic engagement and service to community.

The purpose of the National Call to Service Rally was to bring organizations and individuals together to network with each other and lay the foundations for greater collaboration during the coming year.

Held on Martin Luther King Jr., Day, immediately prior to the inauguration of our first African-American president, the Rally not only was a called Americans to service, but it brought entire community together to celebrate this special moment in American history. A special video, "Sojourn to the Past", produced by one of the first Stories of Service students was played at the Rally to mark the occasion.

“What makes this Rally so unique is that it is providing an opportunity for everyone to learn more about each other’s mission and role as agents of positive change.  In so doing ,  we can develop ways for better leveraging each other’s skills and resources by working together in common cause to build a better community for all,” said Linda Laurie, Stories of Service Special Events Coordinator.  

One of the highlights of the Rally was a special guest appearance by National Stories of Service Spokesperson Edith Shain, 90, who became an iconic figure of hope when a Life Magazine photographer took a picture of her being kissed by a joyous sailor in Times Square on the day World War II ended in August 1945.   (A 25-ft 6,000 lb statue of “the kiss” stands in front of the Midway. )  

A video message from National Stories of Service Spokesperson Ernest Borgnine was also shared during the Rally.

“I want to urge every American to take part in the revival of our country by getting behind our new President and doing what each of us can to deal with the major problems we are facing,” said Ms. Shain.  “I hope the example set by people of Mr. Borgnine and my generation who lived through the Great Depression, won World War II and led the effort to rebuild our shattered world in the postwar period, will help inspire people to come together again to deal with the challenges of this new century.”

The Rally began with a series of early morning televised interviews with Edith, our team, and members of the Temecula Valley Young Marines, who are the official escorts for Ms. Shain and Mr. Borgnine at national events.

Edith Shain and the Young Marines interviewed in front of the statue of her famous kiss, in front of the USS Midway.

The official program kicked off at 11:00 AM with a press conference in the Hanger of the USS Midway, under a National Call to Service banner featuring the logos of national, state and local participating partners. 

Following the presentation of the colors and the pledge of allegiance led by the Young Marines, Warren C. Hegg, founder and president of the Digital Clubhouse Network and Stories of Service National Program Supervisor spoke on behalf of the coalition of national partners that are promoting the “service agenda” throughout America.

“Stories of Service is honored to be able to produce this Rally on behalf of USAService, ServiceNation, the Corporation for National and Community Service, HISTORY, National History Day, and our other national partners,” said Hegg.  “We hope that today’s Rally here on the West Coast echoes all across America on the eve of the Inauguration of our new President and send a message that the groups and individuals gathered here today are ready to do our part to help rebuild America.”

Excerpts from letters of support:

“I am pleased that the Stories of Service initiative and a coalition of other great service groups are working together to spread President-elect Obama's call to action. The need for volunteers, especially to help care for our Veterans, is great and growing - so now is the time to get involved!”

U. S. Representative Bob Filner
CA District 51
Chairman, House Veterans Affairs Committee

Entire Letter | Website

“I congratulate Stories of Service and the Digital Clubhouse Network for their ongoing work on behalf of the community and for organizing the West Coast Community Rally in response to President-elect Obama’s call to all Americans to unite to address the many challenges that face our nation.  As we move forward together with a vision of hope and optimism, the values of service and volunteerism will inspire people, both young and old, to be a part of this growing movement for change.”

US Representative
Michael W. Honda,
CA District 15

Entire Letter | Website

“This event presents an important opportunity to recognize those participating in the National Call to Service for their commitment to engaging to build communities, create opportunities to serve and make an ongoing commitment to our communities. Our nation faces many challenges today, creating a critical time in our history to come together as Americans in a shared purpose to tackle the common challenges we face.”

Lieutenant Governor
John Garamendi
State of California

Entire Letter | Website

“I am thrilled that the Young Marines... are in partnership with Stories of Service. Our nation has survived numerous conflicts because America’s citizens wanted to preserve the many freedoms we have come to expect of our men and women in uniform. The stories are many, most of them untold. The experiences of our brave men and women run deep, and need to be chronicled to ensure their legacy.

“I look forward to a long and successful partnership with Stories of Service and would like to announce today that this will become a part of our National Campaign to honor America’s veterans from all wars and conflicts.”

Michael Kessler
National Executive Director/CEO
Young Marines of the
Marine Corps League

Entire Letter | Website

Messages of support from California Lt. Governor John Garamendi, US Representative Bob Filner (District 51), and US Representative Mike Honda (District 15), were read into the record .

Sue Carter (L), Volunteer San Diego & California Volunteers, with Edith Shain

Sue Carter, Executive Director of Volunteer San Diego and a Board Member of California Volunteers ( part of the Office of the Governor), welcomed the nonprofit agencies and VSOs in attendance.

In her remarks, she described the several hundreds of community projects that were being conducted throughout the City of San Diego and across the state of California as part of a special Day of Service.

Barry Gershenson, President of the Board of Veterans Holiday Celebration, Inc., reminded the attendees that America’s veterans of all era’s represent the “gold standard” of service to community.

Barry Gershenson of Veterans Holiday Celebration, Inc., speaks as Linda Laurie looks on.

“That is why for the past 16 years, our organization has hosted a special holiday event each year in December at the West Los Angeles VA  to express our appreciation to these men and women who have been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country."  (The 2008 all-volunteer event included free dinners for more than 3,000 veterans and their families, with live entertainment featuring Jim Belushi and Dan Ackroyd.)

Helen Wong, board member of the AMVETS California Service Foundation, expressed the appreciation on behalf of all veteran service organizations for the efforts of non-profit agencies that support our nation’s men and women in uniform.

Helen Wong (L) of AMVETS with Edith Shain and a fellow AMVET
“As a veteran with extensive background working in the VA system,,” I am deeply grateful for the work of organizations like Barry’s and others who support our service men and women, both when they are serving and when they return to civilian life.,” said Wong.  “Events like today’s Rally remind us why we chose to serve  to protect this great country and help build better communication between VSOs and the other members of the nonprofit community.”

USS Midway Museum volunteers lend their support

Scott McGaugh, Marketing Director of the USS Midway Museum, which hosted the Rally, and provided pro bono support, thanked the other participating partners and explained how the Midway was the ideal venue for an event dedicated to promoting service to community. 

“The USS Midway stands as an enduring symbol of service to country, as does the legacy of its years as a commissioned air craft carrier on the front line of the defense of America,” said McGaugh.  “Today, the museum is manned by hundreds of volunteers who make it possible for the story of the USS Midway and what it represents to continue to educate and inspire future generations.”

SSGT Michael Guiles and the Temecula Valley Young Marines
Staff Sergeant Michael Guiles, Unit Commander for the Temecula Valley Young Marines, spoke about the importance of mobilizing the youth of America to be leaders in the cause of service.  “The Temecula Valley Young Marines have shown a strong commitment to excellence in community service and have been recognized on a national level by Young Marines National HQs as the 2006-2007 Unit of the Year for their dedication to honoring America’s Veterans, community outreach and youth drug demand reduction education.” Said Guiles.

SSGT Guiles read a message from Colonel Mike Kessler, Young Marine National Executive Director and CEO,  announcing the new partnership between his organization and Stories of Service to spearhead the national campaign.

Following the press conference, attendees were invited to stand in front of an enlarged photo of “the kiss” calling on America to “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive!” where they video taped personal messages and best wishes to President Obama and Vice President Biden and their families.    

Anthony Palmiotto, a teacher from Palo Loma High School, volunteered to tape the videos and produced a short “digital story” documenting highlights from the Rally that was posted on YouTube later in the evening, so that it could be shared with the President-elect the morning of his Inauguration.

Doug Roegiers thanks Edith with a song at the close of the press conference.

Roger Reed, a professional videographer and veteran, moved through the crowd interviewing the nonprofits and VSOs, and giving them an opportunity to video tape a brief description of their organization’s mission.   Roger provided this service pro bono on behalf of the United Veterans Council of San Diego County.

James Provance, a professional freelance photographer, graciously donated his time and expertise to capture the key moments of the day for posterity and for a special "Guest Book" for the President (see below).

Sample digital stories from the Stories of Service archives were screened during the afternoon to introduce the program to the approximately 2000 people who visited the Midway during the day. 

Stories of Service National Youth Director Robert Corpus and Senior Youth Producer Anthony Zappia conducted a program workshop for the Young Marines and students from local area high schools who will be joining the program this year in time to be eligible to attend the Memorial Day Rally in Washington, D.C. on May 23-25.

The attendees assembled under the National Call to Service banner at the close of the Rally to take a group “family photo” as a memento of the day, and to send their congratulations to President Obama. 

Hear the birthday greeting to Mr. Borgnine!

The group also took this opportunity to sing “Happy Birthday" to Mr. Borgnine, who celebrated his 92nd birthday on Saturday, January 24. 

Mr. Borgnine will be joining the 2009 Stories of Service Memorial Day Rally in the nation’s capitol, where he will be honored at the Legacy of Service banquet, lay a wreath at the Navy Memorial, do a book signing of his new autobiography “Ernie,” and lead the Nation’s Memorial Day Parade as a Grand Marshall.

“It was an absolutely incredible day of networking for the numerous volunteer agencies that were present.” said Ms. Laurie.  “Now that we have created a model, we look forward to making this an annual tradition. It is our hope that every year on Martin Luther King, Jr.  Day our nation and our communities make a renewed commitment to service in the cause of building an even better America for all.”

Ms. Laurie is creating a special Commemorative Gift Book, consisting of letters of support, photographs, and other memorabilia documenting the Rally that will be sent to the White House as a memento of the day.

*  *  *  *  *

Video Clips

Additional Images:

The Young Marines present the colors to open the press conference

Two members of America's Greatest Generation meet during the Rally

The statue of the famous kiss, seen from the flight deck of the USS Midway

Young Marines are promoted on the flight deck of the USS Midway

The Young Marines pose in front of the statue depicting the famous "Kiss"

A Young Marine sends a greeting to the new Commander in Chief.

Signed 2009 calendars from the American Veterans Center were presented to Rally partners

Team members Nancy Whiting, Linda Laurie and Doug Roegiers celebrate a successful Rally!

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