SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Scott Cooper is trying to give new meaning to the phrase, thank you for your service. He's founder of Vets for American Ideals. And he's launched a new campaign called #ServiceDoesntStop. He hopes that, once again, he can give service to his country. Scott Cooper joins us in our studios. Thanks for being with us.
SCOTT COOPER: Good morning. Thank you for having me.
SIMON: What are you trying to do with this campaign?
COOPER: Well, I think we came out of a pretty divisive election. And that's followed by Veterans Day, which is the day that we constantly thank our veterans. And yet, I would submit that, this year, it's pretty important that we find a way to overcome that polarization.
And one of the ways we can do that is when the country seems to thank us and revere us as veterans, that we can use that platform to be a bit of a civilizing force. So, rather than marching in parades this year, we're gathering in communities around the country to do some community service.
SIMON: Where will you be? What will you be doing on Veterans Day?
COOPER: I'll be in Charlotte, N.C., and I'll be joined by some recently resettled refugees, among them a couple interpreters that served with us in Afghanistan. And we'll be placing flags at a local cemetery.
SIMON: You're an aviator by training, I gather.
COOPER: I was, indeed.
SIMON: And served - do I have this right? - completing five tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan...
COOPER: I did.
SIMON: ...Before you retired. Why is the goal of a civil society so important?
COOPER: You know, I was just recently watching these election results, and one of the people that I was with was actually a refugee that was resettled when she was 10 years old from Bosnia. And she marveled at the fact that we have an election that is free and fair that we accept the results of.
And I look around my country, and I see how polarized we are. We need to figure out how to come together. I look around my communities, though, and I'm hopeful. I see communities that come together, that don't ask what tribe you belong to but need to get busy knowing your neighbor and helping your neighbor.
SIMON: Having covered wars, including U.S. troops in wars, I think I understand how you can work alongside someone with whom you have great differences on other issues because nothing is more important than the job that you have in front of you and looking out for each other. How do you do that in civilian life?
COOPER: I think, in civilian life, one of the things that we're finding is that people are not required to talk to people that they disagree with. Among the ways that you do that is you gather. We're gathering to conduct service. And so if you're working at a homeless shelter, if you're working to help former incarcerated youth, if you're helping in a low-income neighborhood, no one's asking you what your political philosophy is. You might well find that that person supported a different candidate than you did. And then, from that opportunity to work together, I think, perhaps, we can find some common ground.
SIMON: Scott Cooper. He's founder of Vets for American Ideals. Thanks for being with us. And, this time, when I say thank you for your service, I mean in the past and in the future.
COOPER: Well, what a pleasure to be here, Scott. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.