Our Next Mass Deployment: Operation Watts Is Worth It

The Mission Continues -- Operation Watts is Worth It

Next Stop: Watts, Los Angeles

On June 21-28 2018, we’re deploying 85 veteran leaders to Watts in Los Angeles for our third Mass Deployment, Operation Watts Is Worth It (OWW).

Veterans are a powerful force when called upon to serve. Since leaving the military, tens of thousands have continued to serve in their local communities. They bring hard-earned leadership, exemplary training, and a mission-focused work ethic that is in short supply today.

For the veterans who attend, Mass Deployment is a week of personal growth and community impact. They forge new connections that become lifelong bonds of friendship and support. They undergo technical skill training and team building exercises.

And June is just the beginning of their impact. These leaders will deploy back home and get to work in their own communities.

We’re making an ongoing commitment to Watts — and the more than 500 local veterans of The Mission Continues — who will be at the heart of sustaining our progress.

The Mission Continues veteran volunteers
The Mission Continues veteran volunteers in Watts.

Mass Deployment in a Nutshell

The Mission Continues’ Mass Deployment program is a team-based event that mobilizes veterans alongside local partners and volunteers in a single city for a week of community impact.

We select areas that will benefit from an influx of resources, and that have the potential for sustainable change, ensuring our efforts have a long-term impact.

The Mission Continues volunteers
Youth volunteers at a service project with The Mission Continues in Watts.

Why Watts?

A community with a history older than the state of California, Watts has been called the most powerful neighborhood in Los Angeles. As with many urban areas in America, residents face daily trials related to under-resourced schools, depopulation, disinvestment and underemployment.

The capacity and resources of social services organizations in the area are spread thin, so those who need assistance most often find it hard to access help.

Through it all, Watts has maintained a unique and vibrant identity and its residents deserve a brighter future.

Now more than ever, reasons to hope abound. City officials, corporate leaders and philanthropic organizations are coming together to make investments in the neighborhood and positive progress is on the horizon.

Local community groups have been actively engaged in creating a better tomorrow for themselves and the families who live there.

Now, veterans are responding, too. By reporting for duty alongside The Mission Continues, residents can take part in creating solutions to address these challenges and ensure positive progress continues.

Los Angeles Platoon
The Los Angeles Platoon

Here Are the Facts

  • Watts is a community in transition, yet decades after the 1965 riots, it remains a community still dealing with poverty, unemployment and crime.
  • Watts — a historically black community of roughly two square miles and home to about 40,000 residents — has grown more multiracial. About 70 percent of the people here are Latino, 28 percent are black or African-American, and 2 percent are from other ethnic groups.
  • Roughly 1 out of 4 current Watts residents holds a high school diploma or GED, resulting in underemployment and limited economic opportunities.
  • Unemployment in California has improved since the latest recession, recently averaging about 5.8 percent. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate around Watts has lagged, hovering around 7 percent.

How to Get Involved

Applications for veteran participants open February 2018. Interested in applying? Visit missioncontinues.org/deployments to sign up for application alerts.

For information on how to make a financial contribution to OWW, please contact development@missioncontinues.org.

Catching the Rain: Local Veterans Protect Hawaii’s Water

August 4, 2017

A delicate breeze. A glistening ocean. A beaming sun.

To most Americans, this is our picture of Hawaii. What we don’t picture is all the effort by its residents to keep the islands as beautiful as we imagine they are. But as inhabitants and stewards, it is clear to local Hawaiians that a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle is the best for the islands and future generations of residents.

Christina Finley, Platoon Leader for the Honolulu 1st Service Platoon is on a mission to protect Hawaii’s water. Luckily, she’s not alone — other organizations like Plastic Free Hawaii, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, and Clean Water Hawaii all share the same vision. Meeting with them, as she said, inspired her “to help with all that they do to protect the waters of Hawaii. My vision is to lend a helping hand with these projects and assist in the solution of these problems.” Continue reading “Catching the Rain: Local Veterans Protect Hawaii’s Water”

In My Service Platoon, I Can See the Impact I Have Is Real

June 20, 2017
By Majken Geiman, Platoon Leader

When people ask me why I joined the Army, I usually talk about my desire to serve, wanting to challenge myself, and the satisfaction and pride that I feel being able to help my soldiers learn new skills and develop as leaders. I could gush for hours about happy I am that I signed on the dotted line at 17 years old.

It would all be true, but it wasn’t why I joined. I usually leave out the less glamorous reality – I would likely never have served if it hadn’t meant free college through my ROTC scholarship.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago as the eldest child of a single mother. 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 lunch, and never intended to pursue education beyond a high school diploma – if I even made it that far.

I was mostly concerned that if I applied and was accepted into a university, I would never be able to pay for it. Parental assistance wasn’t a reality, and for a long time I let the fear of disappointment prevent me from considering that route.

All of that changed when I stumbled on the 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 my life. I suddenly had people telling me (as wrong as I was sure they were) that I could be a leader—that I had the ability to take care of and to inspire others.

From my first terrible APFT, at which all of the older cadets circled back and ran an extra two laps to finish with me, to graduating with the top GPA in my ROTC Battalion and being trusted to take over my own platoon, I found myself in an echo chamber of support.

Through the military, I learned about brotherhood and the importance of building up the people around you.

I have done my best to take that lesson with me from Chicago to Pittsburgh, to Missouri, and most recently, here to Los Angeles.

The Mission Continues Los Angeles 2nd Service Platoon is a volunteer group geared toward veterans, and is focused on youth development and education in Boyle Heights, a low-income neighborhood in East LA. When I took over as platoon leader in 2015 we were almost brand new. We had a few dedicated volunteers, but not many. We didn’t have an operation.

Two years later I barely recognize the platoon I stepped into. Now we have strong connections with several schools and organizations in Boyle Heights and have completed countless service projects both with and for the students. People reach out to the platoon when they need help – we rarely have to look hard for new projects or opportunities to serve the community.

When I look at the students in Boyle Heights, I see myself. I see kids who have the drive and ability to make it, but who might not yet have the confidence or the resources to try. I know they can get there.

I’ve taught a group of teenage girls how to use a drill, and saw the way their faces lit up when they were able to build a bench completely by themselves. I’ve negotiated with parents in terrible Spanish to be able to give their kids a ride to an LA Galaxy game to thank them for helping us revitalize their school campus. I’ve talked to students about college and shared my own experiences with them. I’ve spent 12 hours getting sunburned while waiting on Home Depot deliveries. I’ve painted murals. I’ve put volunteers and kids in charge of things when they weren’t sure they knew how, and watched them crush it.

The military helped me push myself past the limits I had set for myself at a time when I needed it the most. In the same way that my mentors did, I hope that I can look these next generations in the eye and tell them, genuinely, “you can change the world.”

I serve and will continue to serve for all of them.

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

Undocumented: How One Word Changed My Life

May 5, 2017
By Nestor Ramirez, Staff Member

Imagine you were barred from legally getting a job, a driver’s license, or if you wanted to go to college, financial aid. This was my reality for many years and it made me fearful and confused. I want to share my story with you to show you the struggles and experiences that led me to find my purpose in life which is to contribute to my community and country.  And I want to discuss how my experiences relate to those of immigrants in America.

I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. And when I was three years old, I was brought to the U.S. by my mother. She wanted a better life for me and my sister but she couldn’t bring us here legally. As a result, I lived the next 20 years of my life undocumented. A few years later my father reunited with us.

When I was seven years old my father casually told me at a family gathering that I was undocumented and that I was different from other people. His words seared in my mind. Undocumented.  How could one word change my life?  I didn’t feel different; I didn’t look different, but I was now set apart. Growing up I had a difficult time resolving in my head that I was undocumented and I was going to be legally barred from getting a job. At the same time, I had people around me encouraging me to do well in school. I remember in 7th grade my teacher told our class: “each of you has the opportunity to go to college and get a good job. You just have to work hard enough.” Continue reading “Undocumented: How One Word Changed My Life”

From Clashing Cultures in Baghdad to Building Bridges in Honolulu

March 29th, 2017
By Brayden Yoder, Fellow

Brayden with filmmaker Tobias Reeujwijk, the Princess of Bhutan, and HIFF Executive Director Robert Lambeth after the screening of Reeujwijk’s documentary film 1,000 Hands of the Guru: Saving Bhutan’s Sacred Arts

It was the desert that answered, years after I first heard the question: “Ohhh, Soldier,” we used to sing, “ where have you been?”  Those that have marched to this cadence can recite the answers of previous generations, who had been to Korea and Normandy, San Juan Hill, Lexington, and all around the globe, “fighting for liberty; dying for freedom.”  After 9/11, my brothers and sisters in uniform and I could contribute a new verse: I’ve been to Baghdad.

I felt proud that years from now, when my grandson asks me what I did in the great war on terror, I wouldn’t have to tell him, (to paraphrase General Patton),  “I sat on the couch playing video games next to Mama.”  Yet like many of us, I left Iraq and the military strangely unfulfilled by the war I always thought I wanted. Every question the desert answered about my abilities as a leader opened up others for me as a human being. Continue reading “From Clashing Cultures in Baghdad to Building Bridges in Honolulu”

Alpha Class 2017’s First Act of Service: Supporting San Diego Schools

January 24, 2017

160320-lamb-006

This weekend’s Alpha Class 2017 Orientation in San Diego is pretty special. As you may know, each class’s Orientation takes place in a different city, but this time, for our 20th Orientation, we are returning to San Diego, where we held our first ever Orientation back in 2012. Since then we’ve developed a lot of momentum and sustained service there. This class of Fellows and Platoon Leaders can look forward to spending a day helping the San Diego service platoons’ efforts with some of the city’s public schools.

San Diego has over 1 million residents, and over 100,000 of them are veterans. We’ve worked hard to establish a strong presence through the San Diego 1st and 2nd Platoons, both of which have dedicated members who are totally rockin’ it. They concentrate on City Heights, a densely populated area where 85% of K-12 students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

We work with the San Diego Unified School District to help enact community-based school reform so that City Heights can have the kind of quality schools every student deserves. Our goals are to help improve literacy, overall graduation rates, and to make the schools safe and attractive. So far the platoons have renovated and beautified a community garden, added playground features to Rosa Parks Elementary, and more. Continue reading “Alpha Class 2017’s First Act of Service: Supporting San Diego Schools”

Connecting Across Generations: Learning from Pre-9/11 Veterans

January 22, 2017
By Mike Plue, San Diego 2nd Platoon

rrm_1209

On the blog we’ve discussed the identity and experiences of post-9/11 veterans a lot. But we also want to hear from pre-9/11 veterans with their wealth of experience and dedication to service. The two generations share more in common than meets the eye. We interviewed Mike Plue, a stalwart member of the San Diego 2nd Service Platoon, to talk about his perspective and experience as a pre-9/11 veteran.

Over the years he has collected these inspiring takeaways:

The veteran bond transcends generation

rrm_1545
Mike volunteering with the San Diego 2nd Platoon

Throughout my civilian career I have come into contact with veterans, and regardless of branch or era, I have felt an immediate bond and higher level of trust. (I even was hired by my current employer based upon the referral of a veteran that I met over 10 years before.)

But what really solidified this lesson for me was when I had the honor of visiting the VA hospital in San Diego delivering care packages. I spoke with veterans who had their careers in the military and some who had only served for a few years. All who I spoke with had worked to establish successful civilian careers, and had raised families after coming home. At the end of the day, all agreed that the military was the greatest time in their life, and that enlisting was the best decision they could have made.

I’ve realized whether you are a pre-9/11 or post-9/11 veteran, there is always the common calling to get involved with something “bigger than yourself.” With time comes perspective, and like the veterans I visited at the VA, you realize the calling to serve whether it be to pick up a rifle or a paint brush. Even after we leave active duty, we are a band of brothers and sisters, and we are here to make the world a better place.

Continue reading “Connecting Across Generations: Learning from Pre-9/11 Veterans”

In Seattle, A New Platoon with a Mission

December 9, 2016

unnamed-1

The Seattle 2nd Platoon is one of The Mission Continues’ newest platoons. The Platoon and its Platoon Leader Matt Moroge, reported for its first service project in Marysville, WA at the Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School recently during our Veterans Day service campaign. The school’s student body is 95% Native American, so it was only fitting that this project tipped its hat towards the strong Native American culture that makes up the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading “In Seattle, A New Platoon with a Mission”

Defining Passion

June 13, 2016
By Rhonda Schlumpberger, Fellow

2016-03-04-3

Passion is the act of having a powerful or compelling emotion or feeling. We hear this word used often in today’s culture: “I’m passionate about rock climbing, music, photography, riding horses, cooking, travel….” The list is endless.

But what about a passion for serving?

Continue reading “Defining Passion”