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.
On Earth Day, TV personality and veteran advocate Jon Stewart joined Mission Continues volunteers to help restore the Bronx Forest. We worked with Bronx River Alliance, New York City Parks, and community volunteers to remove invasive species, add reinforcements to native species, blaze a new path in the Bronx Forest, and clean the Bronx River.
Jon Stewart welcomed the crowd of volunteers, saying, “Our country – our world – has so many problems, veterans and first responders are solutions waiting to happen. When we can combine veterans and first responders to our problems, we can do anything.”
It was heartening to see veterans from across New York City gather to protect the Bronx Forest’s natural landscape. This service project was one of many led by The Mission Continues where veterans mobilized together to solve challenges specific to their communities. In the Bronx, The Mission Continues’ local New York 2nd Service Platoon is committed to neighborhood beautification and arts development.
In 1972, the American Institute for Public Service created the Jefferson Awards to recognize ordinary people who do extraordinary things for our country. Founded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Jefferson Awards have become one of the most prestigious organizations dedicated to celebrating public service. Oprah Winfrey, Cory Booker, Ruth Bader Ginsburg are just some of the past honorees.
The Mission Continues had the honor this Veterans Day to march in America’s Parade alongside members of the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Guard.
The Bronx Service Platoon kicked off the morning with a neighborhood beautification project. In just three hours, veterans and community volunteers prepared a garden for the winter, created mosaics, enhanced over 20 tree pits, and removed and relocated over 2.5 tons of stone.
Meanwhile, 1st Platoon New York joined thousands of veterans in the annual Veterans Day Parade.
“I’m delighted to see that there are organizations like The Mission Continues that really provide a path and opportunity for veterans, especially this newer generation of veterans to really giveback to our communities,” said Jamal Othman, deputy director at the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs. “As veterans we joined the military because we wanted to give back to something larger than ourselves.”
Veterans Day has come and gone. The parade and the project served as an opportunity to inform New York City as well as the rest of the country that this generation of veterans is leaving the military and finding new ways to serve. It’s vital that the nation understands this all year round, and not just on November 11 every year. Our commitment and service is ongoing.