My flight landed at 6pm on a Thursday night. I was coming from a very cool New York City climate to a very humid, tropical Puerto Rico. Luckily, a lot of people in Puerto Rico speak English so it wasn’t too much of a challenge to get around at the airport.
My first observation of the island was how dark it was particularly on the highway. Not too many of the streetlights were operational; one of the many effects the island was experiencing in the wake of the Hurricane.
Though the hurricane affected the streetlights; it did not have much of an impact on the food. I was able to grab some of the best tacos I’ve ever had from a local food truck in Carolina, a San Juan neighborhood. A medley of spices and flavors unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
My reason for visiting the island was to assist the Puerto Rico Service Platoon with a service project they were planning in remembrance of Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria is the 10th most intense Hurricane to occur on record. The project would support folks that were affected by the hurricane a year prior in a little town called Humacao.
By Mohan Sivaloganathan, Northeast Executive Director
You don’t have to be world-famous to make an impact – you just have to dedicate the time, energy, and effort to work with your community from the ground-up and lead by example.
Derrick Clark, Navy Veteran and The Mission Continues Platoon Leader
For generations, our veterans have inspired people to affect positive change. Here in New York – a city that prides itself in coming together to advance the greater good – our veterans are continuing to step up on behalf of children and families.
From promoting healthy lifestyles to developing youth leadership to creating safe recreation spaces, veterans who serve with The Mission Continues are reclaiming a sense of purpose and gaining recognition as one of the city’s most vital levers for social impact.
As we look forward to 2019, we see that we’ve reached a tipping point for our work in New York City. In the coming year, we will activate more veterans than ever and truly position veterans at the forefront of the city’s service movement.
On Sunday, November 11th the Tampa Platoons brought together volunteers to transform the home of disabled Air Force veteran Gary Westmoreland in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Hillsborough County.
On Saturday, November 3, veteran leaders drove large-scale impact in Orlando, Florida in celebration of Veterans Day. Saturday’s event is just the beginning of The Mission Continues’ Veterans Day service campaign, in which 50 cities will be celebrating veterans by joining forces with them in community impact.
Fifty platoon members from Miami, Broward County, Tampa, and Jacksonville joined Orlando 1st and 2nd Service Platoons for a high-impact project. Volunteers built furniture for displaced Puerto Rican families resettling in central Florida.
Hurricane Maria forced more than 2,000 Puerto Rican families to evacuate to central Florida with only their most personal possessions in tow, leaving behind heavier items such as furniture.
We just may have what you didn’t know was missing.
By Sean Tyler, volunteer
One of the biggest challenges in my life was leaving the U.S. Army after over 15 years of service as an enlisted Infantryman and a commissioned Medical Service Corps Officer.
I medically retired in December of 2013, and for lack of better words, I was not prepared. In 2012 I was diagnosed with PTSD and had significant damage to both my hip and back; I received a total hip replacement that same year. My last two years of active duty were full of surgeries, medical, and mental health appointments. The combination of these ailments led to my medical retirement.
To me at the time, being non-deployable was a death sentence for my career, and a PTSD diagnosis was a death sentence for my soul. I felt as if I was broken beyond repair and obliged to fulfill my new moniker as a “dysfunctional veteran.” I dove head first into self-loathing and alcohol abuse to numb my emptiness and despair.
For the launch of our newest program, the Service Leadership Corps, 50+ veterans gathered in Newark, New Jersey to engage in innovative leadership training and community service. The weekend marked the beginning of their commitment as they embarked on our 6-month program to tackle some of our nation’s toughest challenges by partnering with community organizations on a local level.
We’d like to thank our sponsors, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Boeing, and CarMax, for making this program possible.
It was truly an energizing experience to have so many impact-minded veterans gathered in a professional setting. Conversations were productive. Connections were purposeful. Outcomes and goals were concrete.
The weekend was about the same three things that The Mission Continues is all about — connectedness, community impact, and personal growth.
Miami’s 1st and Broward’s 1st platoons have two unique things in mind: environmental stewardship and youth development. It is within this cross-sectional focus that the two platoons come together and literally build community, one nail and wooden plank at time.
As a member of this community, I have found strength, not through the force of hands; wisdom, not through the wealth of experience; and kinship, not through the number of bodies. I have discovered these attributes and more, like empathy, kindness and sacrifice through their capacity to accept me as I am.
What was at first a volunteer passion project has turned into a career.
By Nitza Rivera, volunteer
I have been able to see first-hand how something that may seem so insignificant to one person, can improve the quality of life for another.
I truly believe that veteran leadership in our communities is just as important for the veteran as it is for the community it’s impacting.
With all my military moves through the different parts of this country and abroad, one thing remains constant, and that is the lack of leadership within our communities. It doesn’t necessarily mean that communities don’t care, I think that a lot of the times community members don’t know who to reach out to or where to look for guidance.
For me, and other veterans, leaving the service left a void in our passion to serve others. Having the opportunity to use our leadership experience to serve and help mentor members in our communities fills that void. It also provides a platform of peer support for other veterans within the community, and the opportunity for the community to interact and learn about veterans.
On Saturday, April 28, veterans from The Mission Continues Puerto Rico Service Platoon partnered with Panamericano Hospital for an impactful day of service they dubbed Stars of Hope.
Since Hurricane Maria struck the island, veterans and community members from The Mission Continues Service Platoons in Puerto Rico, Miami and Orlando have been working hard to provide support and service to the individuals, families and communities impacted by the hurricane’s devastation. Continue reading “Veterans Create Stars of Hope in Puerto Rico”
77 dynamic women veteran leaders will gather in DC for this weekend for our 3rd annual Women Veterans Leadership Summit. Together they’ll engage in communication and writing workshops, experience inspiring speakers, and grow their personal and professional networks.
This is a unique forum to exchange ideas and solutions around the challenges women veterans face while developing pathways to increase women veteran leadership within their communities.
As we countdown the days to the summit, we want to highlight some of our participants and how they came to The Mission Continues. Here’s Karen Quiles’s story.
How the Military Empowered Me
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I grew up in a very humble environment and I had a simple upbringing. Growing up in Puerto Rico was hard for me in many ways. I felt like a lot of programs were out of reach. I started working when I was 15 and became homeless in my late teens, on top of a lack of educational opportunities, family problems, and an unstable government.