From Feeling Lost to Building Homes and Running Miles

August 23, 2016
By Peggy Schnack, Fellow

7CF7374A-761E-4DDA-84DB-7FBC8A6E98A4Peggy (right) arrives at the Charlie Class 2016 Orientation service project on July 23, 2016 in Minneapolis.

Peggy Schnack is an Air Force veteran, a 2016 Charlie Class Fellow serving with Habitat for Humanity, and will run the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) with Team Mission Continues on October 30, 2016.

As I sit here watching the Olympic Games, contemplating what The Mission Continues means to me, I realize that like the Olympics, Mission Continues brings diverse people together to achieve things that they may not have thought possible.

A year ago I did not know what I was doing or where I was headed.  I had graduated from seminary, but depression quickly took over my life.  I did not identify with being a veteran or much of anything else.  Part of my healing has come from rediscovering and reconnecting with who I am.  

While I floundered I sought connection and community, but did not know where to find it.  I needed somewhere that it was okay to be broken; where people would not pressure me to be anything I was not feeling up to at the moment but would be there for me when I needed support.  

The Legend of Abner Garcia

August 19, 2016

I want to be remembered as a legend, the person who made a positive difference in people’s lives. – Abner Garcia

AGarciaAbner Garcia, a United States Army veteran and alumnus of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program, was shot and killed on Saturday, August 13, 2016, a mile from his home in southwest Chicago. He was 23 years old.

Abner joined The Mission Continues just over a year ago as a member of our 2015 Charlie Class. Our team asks each veteran entering the program where he or she would like to serve the fellowship. For Abner, the choice was an organization that bridged his experiences as a veteran and as a child of Chicago.

Urban Warriors, a program of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative, pairs military veterans with urban youth in mentor-based relationships. The program is built on a mutual understanding of trauma and perseverance, and empowers participants to take positive action in their communities.

Abner’s fellowship asked him to support Urban Warriors on multiple fronts. As a mentor he worked one-on-one with young men from the community and organized outings and activities for Urban Warrior participants to attend. He also helped build a recruiting pipeline of veterans to join the program as mentors, and developed an alumni and support network for his veteran peers.

Leading Peace Circle2Abner, front left in blue hat, leads a discussion at Urban Warriors.

At 23 years old, he was often separated by just a handful of years from the young men in the program. The small gap in age however belied a reserve of perspective and maturity that Abner had forged between his time growing up in the streets of Chicago and his years of military service. So when a mentee needed a ride or something to eat, he was there to help, and when they needed advice or motivation, he felt compelled to act.

The Mission Continues Reaffirms Commitment as Non-Partisan Organization

August 17, 2016

The Mission Continues empowers military veterans who are adjusting to life at home find purpose through community impact. That is our sole purpose. We were founded nearly 10 years ago as a nonprofit, non-partisan organization. Everything we do is designed to help veterans build new connections while making a positive difference in their communities.

“We are proud to be backed by a diversity of supporters who are united in their belief that veterans are leaders with much more to give to help make our country great,” said Spencer Kympton, president of The Mission Continues. “We work to help veterans and underserved communities– not political parties or candidates.”

How Having a Son Made Me a Feminist

August 12, 2016
By Ian McCall, Alpha 2016 Fellow

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As the first boy born in two generations, I grew up doted on by superwomen. I was raised by my mother, her sisters, and their mother – Grandmama, the most fearless one of all.

Grandmama was basically a Marine Corps Sergeant. She didn’t really sleep, she just laid down – usually last – and was always the first one up the next day.

Here’s One Deployment We Can’t Get Enough Of

August 8, 2016
By Mary Beth Bruggeman

13502557_10153725693838170_7969695873164870499_oMary Beth Bruggeman, left, serving at Operation Motown Muster.

The word “deployment” has so many emotional associations for military veterans that it can be difficult to explain to a non-veteran why we miss them. Few relish the time spent away from family, missed birthdays and anniversaries, first steps and even the birth of their children. They don’t miss the fear, the discomfort, the flies, the hole in the ground that serves as a shared toilet, or the pain and sadness from the loss of their comrades in arms. But sure enough, through the joy and the excitement of homecoming, there often lingers an unsettling desire to be back out there with our brothers and sisters, committed to a difficult mission that, by its very nature, tries us and unites us in common purpose. And in a twist of psychology that defies all reason, we miss it when it’s over.

I was part of one combat deployment in my Marine Corps career, a 5-month deployment in the spring of 2003, where I led a company of Marines into Iraq on the first days of the invasion. We spent years training for the duties we would perform in a combat environment, and executing that mission was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.

In 2007, when I left active duty, I thought my deploying days were done. I was wrong, and I’m so grateful for that.

A Letter to Candidates on Respecting Gold Star Families

August 3, 2016

Letter to Candidates on Respecting Gold Star Families

 

August 1, 2016 (Updated August 2, 2016)

To the military and veterans communities, nothing is more sacred or honored than the families of those who are grieving the death of their fallen military hero, a member of our armed forces who has died while serving their country.

More than a hundred years ago, the President of the United States wrote reverently to a grieving military mother, “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Regardless of religion, race, or creed, their sacrifice, the loss of a family member is unimaginable. Their loved one’s body is laid to rest under the American flag, in our national cemeteries, and their death is honored and remembered each Memorial Day by a nation grateful for their service.

In 2004, United States Army Captain Humayan Khan was killed by a suicide bomber when he rushed forward to protect his soldiers and nearby civilians. As with so many families across the United States, the loss and sacrifice of the Khan family has earned them the right to ask hard questions of all those seeking elected office, whether at the local, state or national level.

As Republican, Democratic, and Independent military, veterans, family members and survivors, we ask that all candidates, at all levels, demonstrate the character demanded of the offices they seek, and respect not only those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom but also their families who have borne such a loss to protect our liberties.

Again in the words of Abraham Lincoln as he spoke to a nation divided by a great civil war, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

Thank you all for honoring America’s fallen heroes by respecting their families.

Inspiring Service through Art

July 27, 2016
By Doug Aldrich, Artist

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As an artist supporting The Mission Continues Service Learning Project series with Democracy Prep Harlem Middle School in Harlem, I learned as much about service from the students as much as they’ve learned from me. I volunteered and led three classes of 6th grade students to create a mural through their own visual and literary submissions. 

From Dusty Roads to City Streets: I’m Reporting for Duty Again

July 22, 2016
By Shannon Doty, Platoon Leader

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I recently had the unique experience of being a part of The Mission Continues first Mass Deployment, to Detroit. One week, five days of service, four project sites: 4000+ hours of service. A couple of other fun statistics: three amazing roommates, 70 other incredible veterans, countless national staff that coordinated and planned the whole thing, and approximately five hours of sleep every night. Plus,

An Open Letter from Spencer Kympton, President of The Mission Continues

July 15, 2016
By Spencer Kympton

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OUT OF MANY, ONE – designed by Muriel Stockdale, constructed in 2011 by the diverse community of Charlotte’s Place in memory of 9/11

Last week was very painful for me. I understand that it may have been for you too.

It was painful for me because it began with great hope – but ended with such sadness. The hope came from hearing the many stories of renewal and restoration and relationship-building at The Mission Continues’ week-long deployment to Detroit for Operation Motown Muster. It was a tough week, but the impact was real. We had great successes, and we made mistakes. We found joy, and we experienced hardships. But through it all, we were reminded that when we work together – with our neighbors and fellow citizens – our best days may still be ahead.

This hope turned quickly to despair when the tragic events of last week brought the hard truth of life in America back into full view: we remain a country divided.

My heart hurts over the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. My heart hurts over the shooting deaths of the five law enforcement officers in Dallas: Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officer Michael Krol, Sgt. Michael Smith, Officer Brent Thompson, and Officer Patrick Zamarripa. I mourn for all of their families, and for all of their communities. My soul aches over the fact that racial divisions and inequalities and injustice and fear are winning, while real people are losing. While real people are dying. No one in this country – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, age, profession, or any other way we choose to identify ourselves – should fear for their lives. And yet, many do.

Site Visit: Detroit & Operation Motown Muster

July 8, 2016

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After a non-stop week in Detroit, we’ve completed our inaugural mass deployment, Operation Motown Muster. This large scale service project consisted of five consecutive project days at four different locations including Central High School, the Osborn neighborhood city parks, Priest Elementary School and Recovery Park.