Ever since I joined Boy Scouts, my ultimate goal was to reach the rank of Eagle Scout — the highest rank in Boy Scouts. One of the many requirements for this rank is to complete a service project.
This year, at the age of 16, I was able to become an Eagle Scout by leading a service project in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood in collaboration with The Mission Continues’ Hazelwood Service Platoon.
This summer 250 veterans from across the country are putting an end to #summerdaze and reporting for duty with The Mission Continues to kick-off our first ever Summer Service Slam!
We’re hosting eight events in all five regions coast to coast. This July, for three consecutive weekends veterans will deploy to cities within their regions for a weekend of impact, personal growth and camaraderie. Our goal for these veterans is to leave the weekend with new skills, motivation and an expanded network of civic leaders to continue their mission of service at home.
July 5, 2018 Shannon Thompson, Platoon Leadership Team
There’s this saying my father, a US Navy veteran, said to me as a child: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I live by this saying. It’s what motivated me to enlist in the military at the age of 17 to earn a college education, and it’s what inspired me to see what else I was capable of after completing 12 years as an airman.
It’s what inspired me to serve again with The Mission Continues.
My transition into civilian life catapulted me into a world that didn’t understand my military career. My new civilian job didn’t challenge me at all, and I didn’t have anything outside of my routine. It all felt so mundane.
While many Americans are aware that there is a “proper” way to raise, fold and store the American flag, not many actually know the rules by heart. Air Force veteran Angel Gual is one exception. Recently, Angel noticed that the Boys & Girls Club where he volunteered had an old flag pole — with no flag. Just in time for Independence Day, Angel helped the Club obtain a flag, but he just didn’t stop there.
Motivated by his love for the American flag and his desire to share it with the youth at his local Boys & Girls Club, the Nan Knox Club, it was important for Angel to teach them about the flag’s history and significance. And so began Operation Raise the Flag.
Angel worked tirelessly to secure a flag donation and coordinated with the fire department to install it. He then held a workshop explaining how to raise, lower, and fold it properly, and organized an art project where veterans from the Broward County 1st Service Platoon in Florida joined youth to paint the American flag on their hands.
“I taught them that the flag represents all of us as Americans. That men and women from all walks of life and cities wake up every day under this flag to protect their rights,” said Angel.
“It meant so much to see how truly excited the kids were at the opportunity to learn about the flag and how to handle it and what it means. I could see how gently they held the flag with the sole purpose of not letting it fall out of their hands.”
City Impact Manager Matthew “Mateo” Tanner for The Mission Continues explains, “The Nan Knox Club, where Operation Raise the Flag took place, is located in a historically black community known as the Sistrunk Boulevard. This small community faces the daily challenges of extreme poverty and lack of local businesses and resources for residents.”
Angel’s commitment to youth goes way back. Growing up, Angel regularly volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club in his hometown of New Jersey. It’s even where he landed his first job at the age of 16, and maintained good relationships with the youth and their families over the years. “I helped take care of and mentor younger inner-city kids. The staff there helped mold me into the man I am today.”
The reason Angel returned to volunteering after 20 years of military service is because without it, “I felt lost and empty. For several years I searched for a new mission.”
That new mission came to him when he found The Mission Continues, a volunteer organization for veterans looking to help under-resourced communities. When he joined The Mission Continues’ Broward County 1st Service Platoon as its platoon leader, “I felt complete again.”
As its platoon leader, Angel collaborated with Mateo to build a relationship with The Boys & Girls Club, advocating for it to become the platoon’s operational partner. This meant that the platoon would work primarily with and through The Boys & Girls Club for the benefit of the community.
For Angel, it’s all about coming full circle. “For me, returning to help the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs after all these years feels like I’m coming back home and doing what I love.”
To volunteer alongside veterans like Angel, sign up for the Broward County 1st Service Platoon’s next project! You don’t have to be a veteran to volunteer with us – non-veterans are most welcome too.
Contributing Sponsors of the Broward 1st Service Platoon are All Within My Hands and The Henry & Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation. We thank them for their support, which makes stories — and impact — like this possible.
Although my father has passed, he has always been a great influence on my life and his words of wisdom, ignored in my youth, still resonate with me today. Now at the tender young age of 40, I am finally going to be a father myself and want to pass along my experiences in service to my soon-to-be-born daughter. Continue reading “Teaching My Daughter the Importance of Service”
On Saturday, April 28, veterans from The Mission Continues Puerto Rico Service Platoon partnered with Panamericano Hospital for an impactful day of service they dubbed Stars of Hope.
Since Hurricane Maria struck the island, veterans and community members from The Mission Continues Service Platoons in Puerto Rico, Miami and Orlando have been working hard to provide support and service to the individuals, families and communities impacted by the hurricane’s devastation. Continue reading “Veterans Create Stars of Hope in Puerto Rico”
May 17, 2018 By Jason Kucinski, Platoon Leadership Team Member
Why Conservation is Important to Me
I grew up in the outdoors — the mountains, the woods, the lakes. I’ve had the privilege to see places most people look at on a postcard or in National Geographic. And even now, I spend every chance I get to hit the trails and hike (or as John Muir called it, “sauntering”).
I’m also a 14-year Air Force veteran. Like many veterans, I battle with those inner demons and have physical issues. Going hiking and spending time on the trail and in the National Parks is my outlet. If I stopped moving, I think I would hurt more.
It’s my version of Ecotherapy. If you haven’t heard of Ecotherapy, or know very little about it, let me explain. Ecotherapy is the name given to a wide range of treatment programs which aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through doing activities in nature. Connecting with nature in this way can have lots of positive health benefits, and is being used to help veterans. Continue reading “Essential to My Wellness Is My Mission to Protect National Parks”
“I remember when I was in Afghanistan and Iraq, I used to hope that those who wanted to leave and find better lives would find them,” said City Impact Manager Doug Pfeffer, an Army veteran.
Once he came back to the United States, Doug dedicated his career to helping veterans. But joining The Mission Continues has expanded his mission to more than that — he works with service-minded veterans to make a difference in the lives of others too.
As a City Impact Manager, Doug leads multi-year operations empowering veterans to build stronger communities. Through Operation Back to the Beach, Seattle 1st Service Platoon helps under-resourced neighborhoods and supports a number of nonprofit organizations looking to do good. One such place is the Ethiopian Community in Seattle (ECS), which serves refugees and immigrants of Ethiopia and various African descents.
May 3, 2018 By Kazimieras Urbonavicius, Platoon Member
My experiences in the military and transition back home has been anything but easy. It’s been a constant struggle dealing with the demons in my mind, and the environment back home that surrounds me.
Everyone’s experiences in the military are different, but many result in the same outcome: lost. Lost in life, lost in understanding, just good plain old lost. And since leaving the military, service has been the only way that I have found happiness and contentment. Continue reading “Bringing Peace to a Mind at War”
77 dynamic women veteran leaders will gather in DC for this weekend for our 3rd annual Women Veterans Leadership Summit. Together they’ll engage in communication and writing workshops, experience inspiring speakers, and grow their personal and professional networks.
This is a unique forum to exchange ideas and solutions around the challenges women veterans face while developing pathways to increase women veteran leadership within their communities.
As we countdown the days to the summit, we want to highlight some of our participants and how they came to The Mission Continues. Here’s Karen Quiles’s story.
How the Military Empowered Me
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I grew up in a very humble environment and I had a simple upbringing. Growing up in Puerto Rico was hard for me in many ways. I felt like a lot of programs were out of reach. I started working when I was 15 and became homeless in my late teens, on top of a lack of educational opportunities, family problems, and an unstable government.