September 2, 2014
David Rogers is the Fellowship Program Director at The Mission Continues. He is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the United States Air Force Reserve in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Are you worried about coming home different?” It was just two days before I was deploying to Afghanistan and my best friend Angela was supportive, but concerned. I was grateful for her question and I thanked her for her honesty. Many of my loved ones had no doubt wondered the same question, though none had asked. The question might have made me uncomfortable, but it didn’t because I had thought the same question to myself many times.
“I will come back from this deployment different,” I told her. I have seen the challenges firsthand that veterans of my era have faced both through their military service and upon their return. We have made many sacrifices in our service. We have put our mission first. Our families, our safety, and our personal needs came second. As a generation, learning to take care of ourselves after the military and learning how to navigate the civilian world hasn’t been easy.
I explained this to Angela that night, and shared the stories of the men and women that I know from service in the Air Force Reserve and my civilian role at The Mission Continues. After more than a decade at war, these veterans have faced immense obstacles. But the men and women who have served by my side have also demonstrated an incredible resilience. They are a generation of veterans who view their military service as an asset.
David welcoming Mission Continues Fellows at Alpha Class Orientation in January 2014
These veterans have transitioned from leading infantry squads to mentoring elementary school children. They have transitioned from commanding aircraft carriers to building houses for the homeless. They have transitioned from repairing fighter jets to running community gardens. These veterans are harnessing their innate spirit of service by volunteering across the country through The Mission Continues’ Fellowships and Service Platoons.
In just a few short years, veterans serving with The Mission Continues have contributed more than a half million hours of volunteer service to more than 600 nonprofit organizations. Their volunteer service has defined a generation of veterans that are better equipped to tackle pressing issues at home. Eighty five prevent of them report that they have become leaders in their communities1 and 91% believe now that they have the ability to make a difference in their communities1. Additionally, almost half of the veterans reported that their health status improved 1 and they have enriched and strengthened their family life2 through their volunteer service.
Veterans that have served our country in the years since 9/11 have continued to overcome obstacles in their transition out of the military, yet are committed to continuing their service and continuing to have a positive impact on the lives of those around them.
I will return home from Afghanistan later this year, transitioning from building bombs for the Air Force to once again leading these veterans in service at The Mission Continues. When I return, my transition may not be easy. But I will have a new mission, and I will have many more veterans beside me. Together we will channel our passion, commitment and leadership so that our shared legacy as a generation of veterans will be one of action and service.
I will come back from this deployment different. I will come back stronger. And my mission will continue.
1 The Mission Continues: Reexamining engagement of post-9/11 veterans in civic service
2 Reexamining impacts of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program on post-9/11 veterans, their families, and their communities