During the weekend of October 27th-29th, a group of 30 veterans and civilians converged on Everglades City, FL, a small fishing community of roughly 400 residents. With a quarter of the community’s homes destroyed and deeply damaged by Hurricane Irma, our volunteers arrived with donations, tools and an unwavering spirit of service.
For the past two months, Floridians have faced the adversity of preparing for and recovering from the destruction that Hurricane Irma left in its wake. Measuring 650 miles wide and with storm force winds eclipsing 185 miles per hour, Irma was the strongest recorded storm in the history of the Atlantic.
With millions of residents without power and shelter, and thousands more with homes damaged and destroyed, the veteran leaders of The Mission Continues showed us once again why they are our country’s heroes.
Recognizing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, veteran leaders and volunteers from our Service Platoons in Miami, Broward, Orlando and Tampa decided to join forces and pool resources to maximize their community impact in a community that is outside their normal purview.
In honor of Veterans Day, Miami’s 1st Service Platoon returned to Everglades National Park, which sustained damage during Hurricane Irma. While there was much to be done, they focused their efforts where it was needed most.
The park’s 3-in-1 Trail had been rendered unusable due to downed trees and other debris. This half-mile trail is most popular among school groups because it takes them through three different habitats that can be found in the park.
Mission Continues volunteers spent the afternoon clearing the trail of branches and brush — completing in under one day what it would have taken the park much longer to do with fewer people.
This project was apt because the operational focus of the Miami’s 1st Service Platoon is environmental stewardship. To that end, the platoon partners with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) to help alleviate some of the needs in Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park.
Jacqueline Crucet of NPCA explains the significance of the weekend’s project and the partnership overall. “Veterans stepped up when we needed them to defend our country, and national parks are there for them when they return, to help provide them solace.”
For this reason, she continues, “connecting our heroes to our shared heritage is really meaningful for our NPCA and National Park Service staff.”
Jacqueline explains how parks benefit from this relationship. “Parks need maintenance and protection, and our work with The Mission Continues has helped address the nearly 12 billion dollars of deferred maintenance backlog within the National Park Service. When veterans are enjoying their parks in service they form their own individual connection to that public space. Preserving our nation’s parks for tomorrow ties us all together. Together, we make sure parks are in pristine condition for the next generation.”
“I like to call it national parks and service.”
Another important aspect of protecting the parks is fostering new advocates for them. Matthew Tanner, City Impact Manager for The Mission Continues told us, “We have now had three Miami platoon members fly to Washington, D.C. over the past two years to speak with congress. This year, one of our members met with Secretary Zinke, himself a veteran, to discuss the importance of protecting and preserving our national parks for veterans and for all of us.”
Jacqueline praises The Mission Continues volunteers for speaking, as veterans, about the value of national parks. “Through lending your voice to NPS issues, you’ve certainly helped raise awareness among the veteran community, civilian community, and elected officials of the importance of the national parks to all.”
In January The Mission Continues will be hosting our Alpha Orientation for new fellows and platoon leaders in Miami, where we will gather for a large service project, so stay tuned!
October 27, 2017 By Justin Goldman, Platoon Member
October is an exciting time for the Washington D.C. 5th Service Platoon, whose spirited volunteers have dubbed themselves the “Fighting Fifth.” The tireless efforts of outgoing Platoon Leader EJ Delpero has been a key part of such an impactful year of service.
September 19, 2017 By David Riera, Platoon Member & Fellow Alum
This week is the Platoon Leadership Summit of 2017—a week of sessions in which Platoon Leaders and their leadership team members share experience, impart wisdom, and brainstorm new ways to create community impact.
Last year my platoon—the Miami 1st Platoon—was awarded Platoon of the Year for our work with the National Park Conservation Association. It was a truly special occasion for me, perhaps most of all, for the togetherness, camaraderie and sense of tradition.
People say that in the days that followed, an overwhelming sense of appreciation and love emanated throughout New York. Last Saturday, for the 16th anniversary of 9/11, we brought that feeling to Ellis Island, where we helped preserve a piece of our nation’s history for future generations.
Ellis Island teaches many of us about our heritage — how many of our ancestors came to this country, and what they overcame to make a better life for themselves and their children. For many, it is an enduring symbol of the American Dream and acceptance.
We all want to give back for important days of service like 9/11 and MLK Day, but few of us actually make it out day-of. Now is the perfect time to mark your calendar for the next big day of service, so when someone asks, what are you doing to honor 9/11? you can say: I’m going to serve.
The Mission Continues empowers veterans to make a difference, whether that’s building play spaces for youth, clearing trails in our national parks, or constructing houses for the homeless.
Veterans and their friends are out volunteering in their communities year-round through our Service Platoon Program, where a group of volunteers tackle a pressing issue in their city.
Capitol Hill is like a Roman Colosseum, complete with all the ornate statues, marble surfaces and fountains. Both attract the affluent and impoverished alike, the streets filled with merchants, guards, and citizens waiting to attend the “games.” Who would have ever thought I would find myself participating in these great political games?
I traveled to Washington D.C. with the National Parks Conservation Association to ask Congress to protect our public lands. I visited their home office, a two floor hub filled with everything an environmentalist and champion for the parks could ever hope to have in order to prepare for the lengthy battles ahead. Continue reading “I Became a Gladiator for the Environment”
The Everglades National Park is my home, both figuratively and literally. As a budding ecologist, environmental educator and advocate, I fervently believe that this unique ecosystem represents more than a biological stronghold. And even though the Everglades’ luster has been tarnished by human activities, my students, peers, fellow veterans, and I still believe it is one of the crowning jewels of this planet.
As a first-generation Floridian, I grew up throughout Miami-Dade County, and moved around frequently. The only consistency in my life was the Everglades, the National Seashores of south Florida, and numerous other state and municipal parks. Whether it was snorkeling with my godfather, hiking with my father, or working with park staff on environmental projects, I knew I was a part of these natural places and that these places became a part of me.
This fascination with nature, especially in Florida, followed me through my life, as a juvenile, United States Marine, college student, researcher, and now as a teacher. I have been fortunate enough to reacquaint and re-engage with such a critical piece of myself.Continue reading “I’m a Student, Scientist, and a Warrior”