War and after


Jason Mangone ’13MA, former chief operating officer of Service Year Alliance.

Age: 31.
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Infantry officer, Marine Corps, 2006–2010. Deployed to Iraq in 2007 for seven months.

Former Marine Jason Mangone ’13MA certainly doesn’t believe that every young person should enlist in the military. But the bonds he forged with his fellow Marines have motivated him to advocate a year of public service for all young Americans. While training police in Iraq and distributing food in post-earthquake Haiti, Mangone came to believe that in a country divided by economic inequality and prejudice, bringing young adults together will foster a sense of shared civic responsibility.

Until May, Mangone served as chief operating officer at Service Year Alliance, which seeks to establish public service as a rite of passage for young adults. Service would encompass anything from working for Habitat for Humanity or Teach for America to joining the Peace Corps or the Army (although military service requires more than one year).

“There are about 65,000 young people today that are doing civilian national service,” says Mangone. “In the next four years, Service Year Alliance has a very specific plan to go from 65,000 to 100,000 such civilian national service positions.”

Mangone predicts that “doing a year of service will eventually become a normalized part of life. I have an eight-month-old son, and I have a lot of confidence that when he leaves high school, he’ll know that he’s going to serve somewhere. Whether that’s in a school or joining the Marines, like I did, I don’t really care.”

Mangone says he chose military service partly out of appreciation for being an American. His grandparents had emigrated from Italy; his mother was an active-duty soldier until he started school, when he joined the Army Reserve. He also found inspiration reading the philosopher William James, who extolled the virtues of “manliness.” Most importantly, a bunch of Mangone’s Boston College rugby teammates were signing up.

The rigor of the Marine Corps influenced Mangone when he studied international relations at Yale. “I was a good student as an undergraduate, but I don’t think I was mature enough to understand how lucky I was to have my job be reading books and learning. So, number one, I took a very professional approach to learning.” He came to realize that, “no matter what the issue, no matter how much I know about something, the amount that I don’t know will always dwarf the amount that I know.” He says that the remedy for those deficits is collaboration with people from other disciplines.

While at Yale, Mangone met retired General Stanley McChrystal, a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute who chairs the board of the Service Year Alliance. McChrystal hired him.

When Mangone describes the sense of community that he hopes service will engender, he cites an essay by combat journalist Sebastian Junger. Junger notes that while humans, like other primates, are “intensely social,” many people now live alone. Marines, on the other hand, eat side by side, sleep at arm’s length, and work together day and night. Mangone wants other young people to experience this feeling of comradeship and shared responsibility.

“Thirty years from now, when our generation is ready to name itself, when we don’t want to call ourselves the millennials any more, it would make a lot of sense to me if we called ourselves the service generation.”

Although Mangone has left his job at the Service Year Alliance, he remains on its advisory board. He is now serving a stint as full-time father to his son, Joseph.

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