As the holidays came to a close, I took some time to reflect. I am truly grateful for my ability to continue to serve.
When I was discharged from the military, I went through numerous financial, professional, academic and even spiritual setbacks. The few holidays I can remember without having my family, not being in a comfortable bed, or eating my mom’s home cooking, was not ideal.
My time in the U.S. Navy seems both far and close at the same time. Yet I felt being able help and mingle with different people, especially when the holidays roll around, gave me a sense of purpose. But the holidays when I was with my brethren was spent in unfamiliar waters and lands, surrounded with mostly familiar faces was uplifting.
I rediscovered my esprit de corps when I joined The Mission Continues, and continue to flourish, to be more involved, and to improve others’ lives and the environment.
If you’re reading this, then you have likely received an email from our Research & Evaluation team requesting your feedback on our third Annual Survey. In the past, we asked about what brought you to The Mission Continues and how your participation has impacted you.
You helped us develop the Empowered Veteran Index framework and focus our programming on connectedness, personal growth, and community impact.
Your insights also helped our programs become better. We listened to what is working and what is not to make improvements to our existing programs like Mass Deployment. It also led to the launch of our Service Leadership Corps when we saw the desire of our veterans wanting to serve in a new way.
In short, survey respondents have helped us to become stronger as an organization, to strengthen our programs that are empowering veterans as community based leaders, and to become even more inclusive as an organization.
In Columbus, Ohio, veterans and dedicated community members are on a mission to end food insecurity on the Southside. On January 26, 2019, the Columbus 1st Service Platoon continued this effort while honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service. As Dr. King emphasized, “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
One year ago the Columbus 1st Platoon held their first service project on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This year, the project was their largest to-date, and for the 45 participants (42 adults and 3 youth), including 26 veterans, it was a great opportunity to embody the values of Love and Selflessness that Dr. King lived daily.
In August of 2018, we applied to the Seattle Seahawks to be named their Salute to Service partner for 2018. Every year, the National Football League hosts their Salute to Service month (November), where several veteran-specific events are held, along with game presentations and Veterans Day mentions. Of all of the teams in the league, the Seahawks are well known as one of the most active participants in the program. So much so, that they even partner with a non-profit of their own, which becomes the beneficiary of an outpouring of Seahawks love.
This is what we applied for, and this is what we were selected for. What we received blew our mind:
A highlight of service projects in eight cities that embodied Dr. King’s core values.
This year’s service campaign built on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service, centering around his eight core values. Dr. King is important to us throughout the year, not just in January — in our communities, in relation to the issues we aspire to solve, in the partnerships we forge, and in the way we run our service projects. Thank you to every person, young and old, veteran and non-veteran, who stepped up to serve! You made the impact possible.
Nearly a year ago, I made a public pledge to you as our partner: a commitment to transparency, honesty and openness. I promised that despite the turbulence of 2018 stemming from the unauthorized use of our donor list, that The Mission Continues would honor our commitment to veterans and our mission above all else.
Today, I’m pleased to share with you that on December 28, 2018, the Office of the Missouri Attorney General officially closed the investigation into The Mission Continues in matters related to the misappropriation of our resources and unauthorized use of our donor list. In keeping with the previous findings by the City of St. Louis and Missouri House of Representatives, the Attorney General of Missouri found no evidence that warrants an enforcement action against The Mission Continues, its leadership, employees or Board of Directors.
After 2 years of working at Edison High School, Philadelphia 1st Platoon is expanding their operation to include additional schools throughout the district.
In order to ensure that the expansion and growth is done in a strategic, human-centered way, our staff (City Impact Manager Stephanie Grimes and Regional Project Specialist Marvin Cadet) traveled to Philadelphia to facilitate a visioning and design session with stakeholders from the Philadelphia School Districts Office of Special Education and leadership and JROTC students from Martin Luther King High School.
When my son was younger, I loved reading him a children’s book about a community in Chad, Africa. Following the rainy season each year, neighbors came together to rebuild the local school, which they’d made the previous year from mud bricks. The bricks eroded in the rains, and people of all ages joined hands to erect a new building. It is a beautiful tale of shared experience and purpose.
I’m drawn to stories of collective action: modern “barn raisings” where communities come together to build playgrounds in urban centers, revitalize and restore our schools, and repair homes for those in need. It’s both the outcome(structures that are needed by the community) and the process (endeavors that bring people together in sweat, challenge, and joy) that make these stories inspiring.
As a country, we seem to have lost our way in this regard. As we succumb to the many forces that divide us, we lose out on both the structures, and the bonds, that result from shared experience and shared purpose.
The good news is that there are ways to restore this human characteristic and long-standing aspect of our country’s history. With your help, The Mission Continues is building a veteran-led movement to recapture unity. By locking arms in support of shared missions, veterans and their neighbors are addressing important needs in under-resourced communities across the country.
I loved being a soldier and I am proud to be a transgender person. No one deserves to endure what I did.
I had the desire to join the Army as a result of two driving forces. The first, my grandfather was a disabled World War II Veteran who fell madly in love with my grandmother, an Army nurse who treated his wounds. As you can tell by that quick anecdote, military service was deeply rooted into my family’s framework.
The second motive to enlist was that I desperately needed to feel a connection to something. I needed some sense of belonging. I needed a community. My childhood was fairly grim and clouded. Being transgender but not being able to identify my feelings to an actual concept caused me to have crippling social anxiety and overwhelming sorrow.
I isolated myself, and fell into a deep, daunting, depression. It was as if I was drowning.
I needed to belong to a group and contribute to a cause larger than myself. I had no time to waste–I left home for the United States Army at the age of 17, a few days after my high school graduation.