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”
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?”
I want to be remembered as a legend, the person who made a positive difference in people’s lives. – Abner Garcia
Abner 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”
“Mom, they don’t even know me and they come here to make me smile. That is just like what you do, and I want to help too.” Jaiden Henry, eight years old and the son of Chicago’s 1st Platoon Leader Kim McGraw, had fallen ill and was temporarily hospitalized. To his amazement however, volunteers kept coming by to keep his spirits up.
He has since worked hard alongside his mother to inspire others to do the same.
Charlie Class 2015 brought Fellows and platoon leaders together from all over the country. Scholars from the Pat Tillman Foundation joined our ranks for a great service project. Check out some of our best photos below.
The Chicago 2nd Service Platoon is on a mission to fight hunger and food insecurity.
Through repeat projects at the Jesse Brown Food Pantry and a longterm effort to help transform an abandoned building into a new community center, the platoon works hard to improve the quality of life of Chicagoans in need. The platoon recently deployed in support of the food pantry by walking in the 30th Annual Hunger Walk on Saturday, June 20th. The Greater Chicago Food Depository donated 150 pounds of food for every walker registered with the platoon.
In the words of platoon leader Lucas Waldron, “This is a huge opportunity for us to bring home the bacon (literally).”
Service platoon members sort food items at the Jesse Brown Food Pantry.
With more than 122,000 Chicagoans living in food deserts with little access to healthy food options, The Mission Continues 1st Platoon Chicago is enhancing the health and wellness of low-income neighborhoods. 1st Platoon Chicago recently partnered with community volunteers from Delaney’s Greenhouse to build a community garden at RTW Veteran Center on Chicago’s south side. The fresh produce from the garden will provide convenient, affordable, healthy food options for the local community.
Together, volunteers built 36 raised planting beds, six hoop houses to extend the growing season during Chicago’s cold winter months, three compost bins and a row planting space which will be used during Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy sessions for veterans. The photos below highlights the magnitude of their impact.
Photo credit: Ken Jacobs
Are you a veteran interested in making an impact in your local community? Join a Service Platoon in your city today.