Now Accepting Mass Deployment 2018 Applications

February 5, 2018
Mass Deployment Applications are Open

If you want to spend an intensive week volunteering alongside civic-minded veterans from across the country, Mass Deployment is the service opportunity for you!

Join us June 21-28 2018 as we bring veterans together to show how veteran determination and skills can make a positive difference in a community in need. From this week you will forge bonds with fellow volunteers, learn and grow, and reignite your sense of purpose.

Applications are now open for our third annual Mass Deployment, Operation Watts Is Worth It.

We will select 80 veterans from across the country to help lead this mission. Throughout this week of high-octane volunteerism, emerging veteran leaders such as yourself will give their all as they take on tough community challenges in the Watts area. Continue reading “Now Accepting Mass Deployment 2018 Applications”

Our Next Mass Deployment: Operation Watts Is Worth It

The Mission Continues -- Operation Watts is Worth It

Next Stop: Watts, Los Angeles

On June 21-28 2018, we’re deploying 85 veteran leaders to Watts in Los Angeles for our third Mass Deployment, Operation Watts Is Worth It (OWW).

Veterans are a powerful force when called upon to serve. Since leaving the military, tens of thousands have continued to serve in their local communities. They bring hard-earned leadership, exemplary training, and a mission-focused work ethic that is in short supply today.

For the veterans who attend, Mass Deployment is a week of personal growth and community impact. They forge new connections that become lifelong bonds of friendship and support. They undergo technical skill training and team building exercises.

And June is just the beginning of their impact. These leaders will deploy back home and get to work in their own communities.

We’re making an ongoing commitment to Watts — and the more than 500 local veterans of The Mission Continues — who will be at the heart of sustaining our progress.

The Mission Continues veteran volunteers
The Mission Continues veteran volunteers in Watts.

Mass Deployment in a Nutshell

The Mission Continues’ Mass Deployment program is a team-based event that mobilizes veterans alongside local partners and volunteers in a single city for a week of community impact.

We select areas that will benefit from an influx of resources, and that have the potential for sustainable change, ensuring our efforts have a long-term impact.

The Mission Continues volunteers
Youth volunteers at a service project with The Mission Continues in Watts.

Why Watts?

A community with a history older than the state of California, Watts has been called the most powerful neighborhood in Los Angeles. As with many urban areas in America, residents face daily trials related to under-resourced schools, depopulation, disinvestment and underemployment.

The capacity and resources of social services organizations in the area are spread thin, so those who need assistance most often find it hard to access help.

Through it all, Watts has maintained a unique and vibrant identity and its residents deserve a brighter future.

Now more than ever, reasons to hope abound. City officials, corporate leaders and philanthropic organizations are coming together to make investments in the neighborhood and positive progress is on the horizon.

Local community groups have been actively engaged in creating a better tomorrow for themselves and the families who live there.

Now, veterans are responding, too. By reporting for duty alongside The Mission Continues, residents can take part in creating solutions to address these challenges and ensure positive progress continues.

Los Angeles Platoon
The Los Angeles Platoon

Here Are the Facts

  • Watts is a community in transition, yet decades after the 1965 riots, it remains a community still dealing with poverty, unemployment and crime.
  • Watts — a historically black community of roughly two square miles and home to about 40,000 residents — has grown more multiracial. About 70 percent of the people here are Latino, 28 percent are black or African-American, and 2 percent are from other ethnic groups.
  • Roughly 1 out of 4 current Watts residents holds a high school diploma or GED, resulting in underemployment and limited economic opportunities.
  • Unemployment in California has improved since the latest recession, recently averaging about 5.8 percent. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate around Watts has lagged, hovering around 7 percent.

How to Get Involved

Applications for veteran participants open February 2018. Interested in applying? Visit missioncontinues.org/deployments to sign up for application alerts.

For information on how to make a financial contribution to OWW, please contact development@missioncontinues.org.

Operation Westside Surge: What Was Our Impact?

July 28, 2017

One month ago we brought 70+ veterans to Atlanta’s Westside for a week of service. Today we release our full Impact Report. These veterans from all over the country answered the call to serve again, this time with a different uniform, The Mission Continues uniform.

This week of service, which we call Mass Deployment, brings us to a different city each year, one where we have been working directly with local nonprofits and their communities. We listen to their mission and goals, ask them what they need, and figure out how we can deliver.

Most of the crew had never gone on a Mass Deployment with us before, and some hadn’t even heard of us before this. Luckily for them, we had 10 Ambassadors — veteran volunteers who had been to our previous Mass Deployment a year prior — join us to lead teams during projects and be a general resource for newcomers throughout the week. Continue reading “Operation Westside Surge: What Was Our Impact?”

Mass Deployment: “Just another op? I thought so, until it wasn’t”

July 6, 2017
Peggy Schnack, Fellow Alum

Not long after our Mass Deployment to Atlanta, the impact of their weeklong service intensive was apparent to our crew of volunteers. One crew member, Peggy Schnack, shared through our Operation Westside Surge Facebook group a poem about this experience and the impact volunteering has had on her life. Today on the blog we share that poem with our entire Mission Continues family.

I was in a dark place.

A place of despair.

I did not eat

exercise

talk.

Continue reading “Mass Deployment: “Just another op? I thought so, until it wasn’t””

Operation Westside Surge: Listening to the Voices in Atlanta

June 2, 2017

Panelists, including Kimia Flournoy, talking with The Mission Continues staff about revitalization efforts in Atlanta.

With our second Mass Deployment just a week away, we wanted to check in with some of our troops based in Atlanta. Just like last year’s Operation Motown Muster, this year’s Operation Westside Surge is built from the bottom up, based on the needs from within the community and local nonprofits. The work that 75+ veterans will be accomplishing is going to give the work already being done a big boost, and help set the service platoon on the path to even greater impact in the Westside.

Kimia and fellow platoon members at a service project in Atlanta.

Perhaps the people most apt to describe what a program like Operation Westside Surge represents someone like Kimia Flournoy. She is a Westside resident, Atlanta 1st Service Platoon member, and current Mission Continues Fellow. As an Atlanta resident, Kimia feels a strong connection to Operation Westside Surge.

“When I first moved to Atlanta, I was in the Westside. I stayed in that area for a couple years, and now I know the in’s and out’s, I know the kids, I know what can be done. Mission Continues is saying, ‘we’re coming to help you do what you’re already doing, but we’re going to give you a boost up, and help you have more pride in your community.’ Once Westside Surge leaves, we will continue to make our community better — I hope we can keep the momentum up.” Continue reading “Operation Westside Surge: Listening to the Voices in Atlanta”

5 Ways You Can Help Us in Atlanta

April 17, 2017

Have you ever heard about a group of 75 veterans from across the country gathering in one city to use their leadership and teamwork skills to help revive a community? Probably not. Because it’s only been done once before. After a successful first Mass Deployment, as we call it, The Mission Continues will be deploying again this June! We are coming to Atlanta’s Westside to amplify and reinforce revitalization efforts there. We’re joining forces with a few outstanding community organizations, racing against the clock to complete some ambitious service projects.

Here’s a quick rundown of each of our five projects, where you can join in on the fun. That’s five different ways you can help our team of volunteers in Atlanta! 

Continue reading “5 Ways You Can Help Us in Atlanta”

Now Accepting Applications for Operation Westside Surge

February 10, 2017

The Application for Operation Westside Surge is Live!

We had a fun and impactful week in Detroit last spring for Operation Motown Muster, and we are rolling with its momentum straight into the next Mass Deployment June 8-15, 2017. This year’s Mass Deployment has been dubbed Operation Westside Surge, and it will bring us to Atlanta, one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the country today.

Just like last year, this service opportunity will have you spending a week digging, drilling and dining alongside 70+ like-minded veterans from around the country.

The application for newcomers is open from February 3 until March 31. The earlier you apply, the better!

Continue reading “Now Accepting Applications for Operation Westside Surge”

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.

Continue reading “Here’s One Deployment We Can’t Get Enough Of”

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

July 22, 2016
By Shannon Doty, Platoon Leader

0N0A4181 copy (1)

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, there was the added benefit of coming home looking like you spent a week street fighting because you’ve got bruises everywhere.

I have been volunteering with The Mission Continues for about a year and a half now. Engaging with other veterans has been essential in maintaining happiness and balance in my life. When I disengage from the veteran community, I disengage from life — and that is when I fall into depressive episodes and let my health slide.

Illness, injury, surgeries and recoveries have dominated my life for the past 11 months. I could do the service projects I found with the Minneapolis 1st Platoon when I was sick, weak, and recovering from these injuries. I didn’t have to be in a perfectly healthy mental place, I could be engaged at any level I was comfortable with and still be a part of the work.

It was exactly what I needed. I found the monthly projects were a constant that I could count on, something that I could look forward to and be engaged with my community and fellow veterans. As I got better physically and emotionally, I became more engaged, and looked for more ways to get involved.

Enter Operation Motown Muster, a pilot program where 70 veterans came from all over the country to do five days of service in Detroit. It was competitive. I had to apply, do a phone interview, and sit on pins and needles (or just checking my email compulsively) until I found out I had gotten in.

When I got the acceptance email, I actually screeched at work. Trying to explain Motown Muster was like trying to explain the nuances of the commerce clause to my dog Frodo. One thing was for sure, they were excited for me simply because of how excited I was.

13498083_10153723294808170_8140630806666338901_o

As we got closer to the date, and more information came to us, I found out I was going to be a Team Leader for some projects every day. I had moments of panic because I certainly did not feel prepared to have any responsibility at all. After my initial panic and self-doubt, I turned to my old reliable method of coping: I figured I could use false confidence until I figured out what I was going to do.

I have served in a leadership role for the past 11 years in the military as a non-commissioned officer since I was 21 years old. I am familiar and comfortable in that structure. It felt so much different when I had to lead people who were my equals. I couldn’t rely upon my rank alone. I knew I was going to have to find ways to motivate and lead people I had just met.

I brought in a bit of my attorney training for this challenge. I decided to fake my confidence until I started to feel it. It took time. The last day was when I finally found it. When given an amazing group of people with natural leaders in it, it is so easy to stand back and let them work. Our goal was to construct five benches and five picnic tables, lay mulch and anchor the picnic tables and benches in the ground. We did all of that and built an additional five picnic tables.

While my team members were building, measuring, and teaching some local volunteers how to use power tools, all I had to do was ensure they had what they needed. Seeing them working so hard and so well together without the need for constant guidance from me made me significantly more proud than if I had sat there and did all of the work myself.  

This moment is better understood with some context about myself. I left Iraq in April 2008 and Afghanistan in September 2012 feeling like I had done nothing. It is important for people to understand that this was a feeling of personal failure, not commentary on the wars themselves.

Whenever I had the opportunity to interact with the women and children in Afghanistan, (which were ample because I was a medic and a woman), I left those situations feeling as if I had failed. I had failed to provide them better medical care, I had failed to be a better advocate for them in our mission debriefs. I had failed in ways I hadn’t even figured out yet.

I saw that these women and children had no bright future simply because of the place and time they were born into. I wasn’t taking my privilege and using it to help these women. I left Afghanistan disappointed in how I had handled myself as a woman as an advocate for other women.

I saw destruction, disease, and women and children being ignored and used as political pawns. I saw entire cities and towns left in pieces. I saw schools destroyed, leaving an entire generation of children without education, an entire generation of children growing up ignored. There was no urgency or desire to rebuild, because as long as the war was still going on there was always the chance it was going to be destroyed again.

When I got home, I saw so much of the same here, in the very country that I left to protect against what I saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was incredibly disheartening. Failing schools, disenfranchised populations, a small group of people thriving while the rest fight for survival.

I felt as if I had gone from a forgotten war to a country that had forgotten to take care of its people. I wanted to do something to start supporting my community, but I didn’t know how. It was too much for me to take on alone. When I found The Mission Continues, it was like finding a family, other people with the same desire, but with focus, resources, and a common goal.

Detroit is the perfect example of how we have neglected our own country, our cities, our children, the most vulnerable of our citizens. Getting an opportunity to go and be a part of the healing and rebuilding of Detroit gave me a chance to address those feelings of disappointment in myself that I had harbored for so long. I was not there with 70 other people to “save” Detroit, I was lending a hand, providing manual labor and supplies to the people already working to bring their city back to the glory it was.

2012-06-12 23.47.06

Detroit is alive, Detroit has never been dead. There are people there that never left, they never gave up on Detroit, even when the country turned its back on the city that single handedly equipped us for World War II with its manufacturing capabilities. When Detroit comes back it will be because of the people that stayed in Detroit and kept it alive.

I must take what I saw in Detroit and bring it back home with me. I must take the joy, love, energy and enthusiasm from all the other Mission Continues veterans I met in Detroit and channel it to begin to work in my community. The same problems that plague Detroit are all over our country, and I know we have many of the same issues in my home of Minneapolis.

As I unpack what I learned, and what I can bring to 1st Platoon here in Minneapolis as the new Platoon Leader come August, I will remember that no matter how desperate things may look, there is nothing that cannot be achieved when you get 70 highly motivated people together and give them a mission, 94% of the supplies, and love.

I will always remember seeing the people from the neighborhood come out as we were working, and asking us what we were doing, and seeing them sitting on those picnic tables while talking to my fellow veterans. That was the moment I truly started to understand how much of an impact my time in Detroit would have — not just immediately, but long term. I didn’t need to tell them exactly what we accomplished that week. They will see it, they will eat at the tables, play on the playgrounds, and walk the halls of the school.

 

Shannon is a member of the Wisconsin National Guard and volunteers with The Mission Continues Minneapolis 1st Platoon. She will be a Platoon Leader starting August 2016.

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.