These past few months have been very productive and transformative for The Mission Continues West Region. Shortly after Mass Deployment in Los Angeles, we said farewell to Regan Turner as the Executive Director and welcomed back Doug Pfeffer (former Seattle City Impact Manager) to the role as West Region Executive Director.
Here’s an update on what’s happening in the West Region from Doug himself!
I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Doug Pfeffer, and I am honored to assume the role of West Region Executive Director. Regan Turner was a huge influence on this region, as well as across the country.
Although I am trying to fill some pretty big shoes, I plan on doing my best to not only maintain the current form that has generated so much success in the West, but to see it taken to an even higher level, as we continue to impact communities across the West, and activate veterans across the entire region.
In partnership with the National Park Service and the National Parks Conservation Association, Operation #FixOurParks took place on the weekend of July 27-29.
The last weekend in July was the final weekend of our Summer Service Slam series. The West Region ended it with a bang, getting busy at three national parks: Grand Canyon National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and Mount Rainier National Park!
We are The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact, offering a variety of ways for military-connected folks to get involved in volunteering. Volunteer opportunities range from the casual one-timer to the serious — and we mean serious — community-leading volunteer.
Our 2018 Summer Service Slam was a nationwide series of service projects during the month of July, enlisting 250+ veterans across the country who were interested in rolling up their sleeves to volunteer in service of their country — this time in a different way.
August 10, 2018 By Lori Respicio, Nonprofit Partner
About a little over 11 months ago, Errol Ingram Jr. reached out to the Hale Pono Clubhouse and expressed an interest in becoming a volunteer. He shared his passion for helping and mentioned that he was volunteering through The Mission Continues. Surprisingly, the mission of The Mission Continues was right along the lines of the Boys & Girls Club movement.
Errol was volunteering five days a week, and our youth, especially our teens built a positive rapport with Errol. He even became Coach Errol to our basketball youth and has since continued to mentor our youth on and off the court.
The impact he was making became more than noticeable, and one member in particular took to him. One of our male members age ten did not have much social interaction skills, causing him to display certain behaviors. He signed up for our basketball season — and was placed on Errol’s team.
In the beginning, this member expressed his frustration, but with the help our staff and Coach Errol, he stuck it out the whole way through. As time went by, I noticed a change in his behavior. This member displayed a higher level of social skills and was able to express himself in a more positive manner!
Inspired by her childhood in Mexico, Carolina was destined to become a fashion designer with a purpose. Carolina said, “I used to observe my mother making clothes for my siblings and myself. Seeing her transform fabrics into garments intrigued me to the point that it motivated me to come to the United States.”
At the age of 18, Carolina left everything she knew in the hopes of attending design school in the United States. “The simple pleasures that most natives took for granted like simply understanding a movie in English was a daunting task,” she describes.
The veterans’ nonprofit seeks to create ongoing improvement to strengthen historic LA neighborhood with its third-annual Mass Deployment, “Operation Watts Is Worth It”
LOS ANGELES (PRWEB) MAY 31, 2018 — More than 80 veterans from cities nationwide, as well as corporate partners, professional sports teams, city officials and local organizations, will come together June 21-28 for a series of high-impact projects to create a lasting, visible impact in Los Angeles’ Watts community.
The veterans are volunteers with The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans to find growth, purpose and connection through community impact. Although the nonprofit has been active in the neighborhood for years, the week-long service marathon, dubbed Operation Watts Is Worth It, will provide a surge of resources to benefit under-resourced schools, aging public housing, under-utilized community spaces and much more.
I have been a medic, a nurse, an electrician, a drug dealer and a chaplain. That last career change was, of course, the most substantial. This is the story of how I overcame drug addiction and am now helping others do the same.
I don’t remember a time when my mother was not on drugs, and I do remember being hungrier than I should have been. Though my mother struggled, she taught my siblings and me how to love others even when she was not very good to herself. I moved out when I was 16 years old, forging paperwork to sign myself into high school as a minor.
Once I was in the military I soon found a camaraderie and acceptance I had been looking for. I wasn’t the poor kid, I was an equal. There was no black or white or brown, we were all green. (Or blue, or tan, depending on which uniform we were wearing, but you get the idea.)
Then came 9/11…Afghanistan…Iraq. I had no idea what to do. What I found is that all of the people getting deployed with me to a war zone were regular human beings like me. We banded together and did the job, but the job was ugly.
I was a Naval Hospital Corpsman deployed in support of the Marines to Al Qi’Im, a city in Iraq near the border of Syria. We received mortar fire, but much worse were the casualties from the patrols in town.
I ate breakfast with friends and then saw them die on my table hours later. We banded together and we did the job, the ugly job, and we decided to bottle it up and feel it later.
May 17, 2018 By Jason Kucinski, Platoon Leadership Team Member
Why Conservation is Important to Me
I grew up in the outdoors — the mountains, the woods, the lakes. I’ve had the privilege to see places most people look at on a postcard or in National Geographic. And even now, I spend every chance I get to hit the trails and hike (or as John Muir called it, “sauntering”).
I’m also a 14-year Air Force veteran. Like many veterans, I battle with those inner demons and have physical issues. Going hiking and spending time on the trail and in the National Parks is my outlet. If I stopped moving, I think I would hurt more.
It’s my version of Ecotherapy. If you haven’t heard of Ecotherapy, or know very little about it, let me explain. Ecotherapy is the name given to a wide range of treatment programs which aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through doing activities in nature. Connecting with nature in this way can have lots of positive health benefits, and is being used to help veterans. Continue reading “Essential to My Wellness Is My Mission to Protect National Parks”
November 30, 2017 Majken Geiman, Former Platoon Leader
For a long time I let the fear of disappointment hold me back. Life in Chicago’s south side as the eldest child of a single mother was what you’d imagine. I attended a large public high school, spent hours every day commuting on the bus and subway, failed multiple classes, pawned 35 cents off my friends daily so that I could buy reduced-price lunches, and never intended to pursue education beyond a high school diploma.
Even if I made it as far as college, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay for it.
All of that changed when I stumbled upon the United States Army’s website. Free college and a commission as an officer? I was sold. By some incredible stroke of luck, I made the cut. That unusual success changed my entire attitude toward life.
I suddenly had people telling me I could be a leader—that I had the ability to inspire others. Being afraid to try was replaced by a belief that I could lead and change the world.
After transitioning from active duty into the National Guard I didn’t have the same type of discipline or feeling of empowerment in my life. But then a Marine friend invited me to attend a service project with The Mission Continues in Pittsburgh.
It was incredible–for the first time I found myself surrounded by people who knew what I was going through and who I could talk and joke with veterans as if I’d known them for years. Finally that sense of purpose and leadership came back.
When I decided to move to Los Angeles I didn’t know anyone, but I did know how to look upthe local platoon. I ended up joining the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon, which focuses on youth development and education in Boyle Heights, a low income neighborhood in East LA.
The opportunity to lead the platoon came in 2015. My time as a platoon leader transformed me in ways I never expected. I no longer let fear hold me back; instead I remember my strengths as a leader.
After two years of dedication, we have strong connections with several schools and organizations in Boyle Heights, and regularly hold service projects with and for the students.
I’ve taught a group of teenage girls how to use a drill, and saw their faces light up when they built a bench completely by themselves. I’ve talked to students about college and shared my own experiences. I’ve put veterans and kids together in charge of things when they weren’t sure they knew how, and watched them crush it!
When I look at the youth in Boyle Heights, I see myself. I see kids who have the drive and ability to make it, but who might be afraid to try.
The military helped me push myself at a time when I needed it the most. In the same way my mentors did, I hope I can look the youth of the next generation in the eye and tell them, genuinely, “you can change the world.”
With your support today, veterans like myself can make an impact in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights across the country. I serve and will continue to serve all of them. Please join me by giving this year.
As every Army officer knows, the best job you’ll ever have is Platoon Leader.
No matter how far up the ranks you travel, no command or staff position would ever rival what it was to be a young lieutenant with soldiers not much younger than yourself – and with NCOs who are older, wiser, and tougher.
If you have ears to listen, those sergeants will train you while calling you “sir” or “ma’am” – and they will even brag on you if you become a squared away LT because they know that you are a reflection of them.
Gaining their trust is the name of the game, for what truly makes a leader is people’s desire to follow.
I learned those leadership lessons in the military and I kept them close this past June, as I stepped into service as a Mission Continues platoon leader for Los Angeles. No matter how much I thought I might have to offer, I needed to first learn what this platoon was all about from the volunteers who had built it up long before me.
This would present a different challenge than I faced during my 2016 Mission Continues fellowship, when I had to learn how to fit into a civilian workforce again. As a Mission Continues platoon leader, I had to represent the operation within the community, which I could not do without understanding just what those operations were.
Thankfully, I was fortunate to fall in on a strong leadership team, beginning with my predecessor and fellow soldier, Majken Geiman. Majken took me on a right-seat ride of a service project at Roosevelt High School, which she had begun planning but would fall on me to execute even before my official induction at Charlie Class Orientation.
From Majken, I learned how to do a site visit and to make the principal’s priorities for the school our own – and I saw how much she cared about the work and the platoon. I knew I would have some big shoes to fill, and I resolved to do my best to maintain the standard for the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon.
Since June, I have now served as platoon leader for two successful service projects, including our combined 9/11 Day of Service at Carver High School, which attracted some 170 volunteers.
Yet the truth is that we have had several outstanding leaders who helped to ensure their success, like my CIM, Behkie Aguilar, and 2nd platoon’s indispensable man, Chris Barreras.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then the Mission Continues family has picked me up through my platoon leader infancy and nurtured me through the growing pains as I’ve gotten my service legs under me.
As I look forward to my third service project scheduled for MLK weekend in January, I am ahead of the curve and further along in the planning process than before – and I know it is because of the great support The Mission Continues and the 2nd Platoon has afforded me.
It is a special thing to be part of a team and to have others invested in your success as you are invested in theirs.
The mission of the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon is to serve public schools in Boyle Heights, and I am thankful for a job that takes me to neighborhoods in my city that I never knew of before. I am humbled by the work of the dedicated educators and volunteers I have met, who strive every day to provide a quality education for the children in Los Angeles.
But above all, I feel blessed to be part of something bigger than myself again, which demands connection, commitment, and community.
In this week of Thanksgiving, I am truly grateful for this opportunity to continue to serve – and I hope when it’s my time to pass on the guidon, I can pay it forward to the next platoon leader as my teammates did for me.
It was a cold wintery morning in Fort Benning, Georgia. I had just gotten done with my turn shooting when the Drill Sergeant came up to me and ordered, “Clear your weapon and leave it pointed down range, then head over and eat breakfast, be back in 20 minutes.” Continue reading “The Hardest Lesson I had to Unlearn”