April 27, 2016
This past weekend, our Bravo Class of 2016 mobilized in Seattle, Washington for their Mission Continues orientation. This class is 81 Fellows and 16 platoon leaders strong. The fellows will be serving at a diverse set of nonprofits, from The National Parks Conservation Association of Miami, Florida to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Atlanta. Our platoon leaders will be stationed from Nashville to Jacksonville to Portland, Oregon, and tackle issues including childhood hunger and public lands conservation.
Bravo Class of 2014 alum Mark Coffin provided welcoming remarks and talked about his experience as a fellow. We’d like to share his story and words of wisdom here.
When I went to my fellowship orientation there was a mix of excitement and anticipation and maybe even a little bit of nervousness, but I can tell you that throughout that event, meeting everyone, working together, and preparing to return to our respective non-profits was a great experience.
I believe in the mission of this organization, the way it opens up opportunities for veterans, and how it lets them to choose to do something you have a passion for, and get to actually do it.
My parents and grandparents were hardworking folk who sought not only to improve the lives of their family, but also help others around them. Whether that was cooking meals for the sick and shut in, volunteering at their church, to sharing their crops with those in need. I saw their example for years, and it inspired me to serve others, as well as my Christian faith.
I attended a small liberal arts university called Elon in North Carolina. After two years I ran out of money to pay for school, but was able to get a two year Army ROTC scholarship to finish my college education. Toward the end of college, I had to choose how I fulfill my military obligation. I could apply for active duty, reserves or National Guard.
At the time I had no true idea of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, no resumes written, no job prospects, so I thought, let’s go active duty – I can do my four years of active service on my head and then get out and finish in the reserves and move on with my life. But life sometimes has a funny way of making other plans.
I served in a variety of positions with various responsibilities throughout my career. My first assignment was in South Korea as a Platoon Leader running three remote intelligence monitoring sites along the DMZ. Before long I had completed my four years, and I found myself enjoying the travel and jobs and had no desire to get out.
So I continued. I went through a variety of staff assignments at the company, battalion, division and corp, and even got to command in a Special Forces group. I deployed overseas and did tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but my absolutely best assignment ever with the Army is when I got to break and enter legally around the around the world for 3 years with the Army Red Team.
Next thing you know, I have 20 years of military service. Never ever thought I would have done that! So when I hit 27 years, I was good to go. I decided to retire. Time to do something different, time for a change.
As I prepared to exit from the military, I found the most challenging part to be “what next”? I was proud to have served my country and my desire was to continue some form of that service in the local community.
I started volunteering regularly for Habitat for Humanity, and one day the staff asked me if I had ever heard of The Mission Continues. I hadn’t, so I checked out the organization, and saw the Mission Continues Fellowship as a wonderful opportunity to pursue my passion.
During my fellowship, I served on the construction and rehab division of Habitat and I was also asked to be the Veteran Outreach Coordinator in an effort to bring more veterans from the community out to serve, as well as making those veterans aware of the services that Habitat had to offer them through their homeownership and home repair programs.
Through my fellowship experience, I learned land acquisition and development, family selection and training, volunteer management and coordination, public outreach and engagement, as well as on site construction and rehabbing of homes.
I chose to continue on the path of service after my fellowship, not only with Habitat, but also with several other non-profits. I represent The Mission Continues in Omaha at military career fairs, I work with the State Foodbank to help feed kids who are food insecure, and I deploy with Team Rubicon to conduct disaster assistance across the nation.
This fellowship facilitates your journey to find out who you are, what you want to do, who you want to be, what mark you want to make in this world. You all as fellows are the movers and shakers, and you are the ones who can effect positive change.
Don’t think everything will change overnight. It is a process that you will go through. Some of it may seem daunting and overwhelming. You might not be able to see your destination from where you are now, but you are embarking on a journey of discovery personally, socially and professionally.
So jump in head first. This is your chance to develop new contacts, build your network, ask questions, empower yourself, and refine and learn new skills. Really use your monthly fellowship assignments as a means to develop your goals and objectives, and most of all, enjoy yourself! What greater thing is there than to be able to work in an area that you are passionate about?
I will end with this quote from Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and twitter.