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Volunteer service gives vets a second purpose

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - The transition back home for veterans who serve overseas is rarely easy. It helps when they still have a purpose.

A former Navy SEAL, Eric Greitens understood that. A suicide truck bomb attacked his team in Ira, destroying their Fallujah barracks. Greitens recovered, but many of his teammates were severely injured and their military careers over.

Eric Greitens
Eric Greitens CBS News

"What I knew from working with these men and women was that they wanted to find a way to continue to serve," Greitens said.

So he took on a new mission helping veterans transition to civilian life through community service, like renovating a Los Angeles community center.

"When people come home we're saying to them thank you," he said. "What they also have to hear is 'we still need you.'"

Greitens has a resume that could land most any job. He's a Rhodes Scholar, has a PhD, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, he's even written three books -- one a best seller. Yet he took his savings from combat pay and founded The Mission Continues.

The new recruits -- all veterans who served after 9/11 -- gathered in Los Angeles for training. All commit to serve six months at non-profits in their local communities. They get a modest stipend of about $300 a week, some job skills and a healthy dose of tough love.

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"Yes, people have come back with post traumatic stress, yes people have been disabled," Greitens told a group of vets. "We have to decide whether or not we're going to be looking for an excuse or we're gonna be willing to accept a challenge."

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Jamie Magallanes survived a sniper's bullet that pierced his body armor, but six concussions from these roadside bombs forced him out of the military he loved. The transition to civilian life was not easy.

"We all got PTSD and guess what? There's certain things that happen in combat that you just can't get away from," Magallanes said.

Vets participating in The Mission Continues get a pep talk.
Vets participating in The Mission Continues get a pep talk. CBS News

Through The Mission Continues, he's finding his way back, coaching at a Boys and Girls club near San Diego.

"When these men and women leave their Mission Continues fellowships, they go on to full employment, they go on to full time education and, for those of them who've had post traumatic stress disorder, their symptoms go down," Greitens said.

Almost 700 Mission Continues veterans now have served in 45 states, proud to report for duty again.

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