Now a Veteran, Chicago Native Volunteers to End Gun Violence

May 16, 2018

Rogelio was born and raised in the South Side of Chicago, and found his sense of purpose when he joined the Army National Guard in 2005. Three years later he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

As a gunner Rogelio’s primary job was to be the eyes and ears for his truck team, and first line of defense for his convoy. However, the most challenging part for him during his deployment was being separated from his two young daughters. To push through, he focused on his mission and duty to his team.

However, the most challenging part for him during his deployment was being separated from his two young daughters. To push through, he focused on his mission and duty to his team.

After six years of service, Rogelio was honorably discharged from the US Army in 2011. “Some of the challenges I faced reintegrating back in the civilian life were pretty rough,” Rogelio recounts. “My second daughter was only about 7 months old when I deployed. I came back a year later she didn’t know who I was, and would run away from me when I tried to hug her.”

When Rogelio returned home to Chicago he also struggled to find work. He said, “I needed a mission in my life to help me deal with my personal issues, one of these being PTSD.” Motivated by his sense of civic duty, he found a new mission volunteering as a mentor at the YMCA’s Urban Warriors program, which connects at-risk youth with veteran mentors. Continue reading “Now a Veteran, Chicago Native Volunteers to End Gun Violence”

Why Are We Losing Our Veterans to Deportation?

May 12, 2017
By Carlos Luna, Fellow

Carlos Luna at Alpha 2017 Orientation

You wouldn’t think veterans, their families, and Gold Star families are being deported — but they are.

What spurred me to speak to Chicago’s City Council about this is a story that’s been in the news recently about Miguel Perez Jr.. Miguel is a United States Army veteran who, after serving time for drug-related charges, is facing the possibility of being deported to Mexico, a country he hasn’t seen since he was eight. He deployed to Afghanistan twice, and has relative experience with combat and weapons. He and his family fear he will be forced to serve cartels and gangs if sent to Mexico because of his expertise.

As a veteran and President of League of United Latin American Citizens – Green Card Veterans chapter, I am driven to talk about this issue. Although we are often led to believe that this is an issue that only affects the Mexican community, the fact is that this fight for justice and equality is one that transcends ethnic differences.

When veterans return home, they are met with unemployment, reintegration challenges, lack of support, and lack of purpose. Because of this, veterans are routinely preyed upon by financial institutions, so-called educational institutions, and, in cases like Miguel, by organized crime for his knowledge of weapons and combat. Continue reading “Why Are We Losing Our Veterans to Deportation?”

The Legend of Abner Garcia

August 19, 2016

I want to be remembered as a legend, the person who made a positive difference in people’s lives. – Abner Garcia

AGarciaAbner Garcia, a United States Army veteran and alumnus of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program, was shot and killed on Saturday, August 13, 2016, a mile from his home in southwest Chicago. He was 23 years old.

Abner joined The Mission Continues just over a year ago as a member of our 2015 Charlie Class. Our team asks each veteran entering the program where he or she would like to serve the fellowship. For Abner, the choice was an organization that bridged his experiences as a veteran and as a child of Chicago.

Urban Warriors, a program of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative, pairs military veterans with urban youth in mentor-based relationships. The program is built on a mutual understanding of trauma and perseverance, and empowers participants to take positive action in their communities. Continue reading “The Legend of Abner Garcia”