“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

July 5, 2018
Shannon Thompson, Platoon Leadership Team

There’s this saying my father, a US Navy veteran, said to me as a child: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I live by this saying. It’s what motivated me to enlist in the military at the age of 17 to earn a college education, and it’s what inspired me to see what else I was capable of after completing 12 years as an airman.

It’s what inspired me to serve again with The Mission Continues.

My transition into civilian life catapulted me into a world that didn’t understand my military career. My new civilian job didn’t challenge me at all, and I didn’t have anything outside of my routine. It all felt so mundane.

I knew something was missing. I knew I could do more, be more, and offer more to others. I needed to get out of my comfort zone again and grow; The Mission Continues and volunteering gave me the opportunity to do just that. Continue reading ““A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.””

Stepping Up to the Plate: Breaking Records in Baseball

May 19, 2017

On May 26-29th, two teams of amateur baseball players, including military veterans, will gather in the St. Louis, MO area in an attempt to break the world record of the “Longest Marathon Baseball Game” ever played. The game is being held in support of The Mission Continues in order to raise awareness for veterans. We empower veterans to reintegrate into civilian life through community service, and are excited about this opportunity to share our message with the greater population. The players will try to establish a new record of over 72 uninterrupted hours of baseball, surpassing their 2015 record of 70 hours, 9 minutes and 24 seconds.

You can join in on the fun by bidding in the silent auction or supporting the players! Prizes include a Big Cedar Lodge Get-a-Way and a Breckenridge Cabin Get-a-way. Continue reading “Stepping Up to the Plate: Breaking Records in Baseball”

Making a Mural for My Community and for Myself

October 6, 2016
By Aaron Skapik, Fellow

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I see art as a valuable tool for anyone to express ideas, create conversations, and heal. For veterans, art can change their life by giving them a sense of purpose, giving them a platform to say something about their time in the military, and to heal through the therapeutic properties of art.

Two semesters ago the art department at Pittsburg State University offered a mural painting class. Having been inspired by murals I’ve seen of artists like Thomas Hart Benton and Michelangelo, as well as the murals near Route 66 close to where I live, I jumped at the opportunity to learn such fascinating craft.

After the class I was so inspired that I came home, took out a pad of sticky-notes and began writing down goals and giving myself small challenges to get me out of my comfort zone. At that point I had been ready to drop out of school and see if I could make it as an artist by selling my artwork. But the mural class made me stay. I decided to change my degree program from Art Education to General Studies and finish school by building a degree that would allow me to be an artist and give back to my community. Continue reading “Making a Mural for My Community and for Myself”

Our Return to the Ferguson-Florissant School District

May 2, 2015

It could not have been a more beautiful day. The Mission Continues returned to the Ferguson-Florissant School District for the second service event this month (we had a blast during our Bravo 2015 orientation project). This time the team served alongside more than 40 hardworking volunteers from our friends at PNC Bank.

In just under five hours, the team tackled several much-needed projects around the Ferguson-Florissant’s Early Childhood Center to foster a safer and more vibrant place for local youth to learn and grow.

The team built raised gardening beds

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Repaired the playground storage shed

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Painted walkways

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Beautified a green space

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And planted new trees surrounding the outdoor playground

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“I was overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiastic support and boundless energy for the many-faceted project at our center,” said Joy Rouse, Director of the Ferguson-Florisssant Early Childhood Center. “Right this minut,e a class of 3-year olds is outside with big buckets of water dipping in their sprinkling cans to water trees. Your efforts have brought nature closer to us and given our children authentic ways to learn.”

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Taking Action, Today and for the Future

May 1, 2015

The only thing bluer than the bright April sky was the t-shirts that the volunteers wore. On a sunny day, more than 100 veterans from The Mission Continues converged on a park in North St. Louis. They came from all points across the country to revitalize a valuable outdoor educational space for kids from the Ferguson-Florissant School District. In a community still healing from discord and disunity, this diverse group of men and women joined forces to contribute to its restoration and renewal.

Continue reading “Taking Action, Today and for the Future”

“Not Bad for One Day’s Work”

April 23, 2015

Bravo15_100Bravo Class Fellows and platoon leaders following the service project at Little Creek Nature Area.

The newest class of Mission Continues Fellows and Service Platoon Leaders joined community volunteers on Saturday, April 11 for a day of service at Little Creek Nature Area. The nature area serves as an outdoor learning facility for the Ferguson-Florissant School District near St. Louis, Missouri. Although the project took weeks to plan, volunteers had just one day to execute as a group. Their collective response – bring it on.

Continue reading ““Not Bad for One Day’s Work””

“I Always Dreamed of Being a Hero and Catching Bad Guys”

February 27, 2015

Jonas Jones was thinking about service and justice even as a little kid. “I dreamed of being a hero and catching bad guys,” he says.

Jonas was born and raised in Hazelwood, Missouri just north of St. Louis. He was taught at a young age “to take care of the people who take care of you,” as he puts it. At 29 years old, this particular life lesson brought him to the office of a U.S. Army recruiter.

“I joined the military because I wanted to create a better life for me and my family. I wanted the best in life. The Army gave me the opportunity to fight with the best, and be the best man I could be – someone who reflected respect and good character.”

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Jonas served nearly four years as an Army infantryman. In 2010, his unit deployed to Afghanistan. Jonas served on the front lines as a gunner in his unit’s weapons squad. He led soldiers in combat, and in operations to capture prisoners of war.

His childhood dream of “catching the bad guys” became a reality.

During the same deployment, while returning from a mission, Jonas’s truck was struck by an IED. The truck commander and an Afghanistan local who had accompanied Jonas’s troop on their mission were thrown from the vehicle, and Jonas, along with three other soldiers, were stuck inside.

“That blast was so intense, I blacked out,” he says. “When I came to I felt extreme pain running throughout my whole body and a sergeant screaming asking if we were all okay inside the truck.”

Jonas sustained a traumatic brain injury and deep lacerations from the explosion, earning him a Purple Heart. A few weeks later, his deployment ended and Jonas returned home. Initially, he began training for his next deployment but later decided it was time to hang up his uniform.

Jonas needed to decide what to do next. He had a passion for law enforcement and serving his community, so he decided to pursue an education in criminology and psychology. Meanwhile, his wife introduced to The Mission Continues Fellowship Program.

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In September 2014, Jonas was awarded a six-month Mission Continues Fellowship at the St. Louis County Police Department. As a Fellow, he serves alongside Sgt. Jeremy Romo, who leads the department’s Crisis Intervention Team Program. The program connects individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders to the right resources, which helped steer them away from the correctional system.

“Most of our work is done with the community. We work with the elderly who are battling Alzheimer’s, the homeless, veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress or substance abuse issues, and youth who are fighting mental health issues,” says Sgt. Romo.  “We connect these individuals to resources that keep them out of jail or the justice system, because they don’t belong there.”

Jonas is about one month away from completing his fellowship. During the last several months, he devoted 20 hours a week to enhancing the Crisis Intervention Team Program. From attending community meetings, to engaging in productive conversations with city officials, and educating more than 55 Police Officers on veterans’ mental health issues, Jonas has served as a tremendous asset for the St. Louis County Police Department.

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“Jonas has incredible work ethic. He’s punctual, respectful and one of those guys you can tell is truly enjoying himself every day – he is just so service oriented” says Sgt. Romo.

Recognizing that Jonas repeatedly went above and beyond the call of duty, Sgt. Romo nominated him for the department’s Citizen Service Citation award, which recognizes a citizen who plays a crucial role in empowering the police department to give back to the community.

“Similarly to military soldiers, police officers are often told to separate their emotions from work and ‘toughen up.’ Well, Jonas was here while the events in Ferguson took place, which put a tremendous strain on police officers and the St. Louis community as a whole,” says Sgt. Romo. “He would share stories of his military experience, which really helped build morale and provide support for the officers. He also grew up in North County, near Ferguson, and was able to offer a unique perspective on the community.”

Sgt. Romo and the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissions presented Jonas with the Citizen Service Citation on February 11.

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“I was truly pleased, honored, and humbled to receive the Citizen Service Citation award from Sgt. Jermey Romo,” says Jonas. “He has also been a great mentor to me. The St. Louis County Police Department treated me like family and instilled in me the passion to continue to always fight the good fight, especially for those who cannot do it for themselves.”

Jonas recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and psychology, and is currently enrolled in graduate school. He plans to pursue a career in law enforcement, and get back to “catching bad guys” combatting crime in the cyber security sector.

“None of this would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for The Mission Continues and Moses Maddox who is another great mentor of mine and works with The Mission Continues,” says Jonas. “My fellowship gave me the encouragement and the blueprint to be successful in any endeavor.”