Why I’m Passionate about Veteran Community Leaders

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.

Nitza interviewed by the press for her Veterans Day 2018 service.

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.

Planting and Clearing Garden Beds at Seeds of Faith Community Garden

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.

Continue reading “Why I’m Passionate about Veteran Community Leaders”

How I Learned to Select a Diverse Team (And Why it Matters)

August 28, 2018
By Mary Beth Bruggeman, VP of Program Strategy

At The Mission Continues, diverse teams are representative of the veterans and the community members that we serve.

Why bother to build diverse teams in the first place, and how can you do it effectively?

If you’re wondering why diverse teams matter, I’ll break it down in terms that translate to everything we (and others) do. Diverse teams — in race, gender, identity, experience, age and many other factors– are proven to make better decisions.

There is ample evidence that companies with the higher percentages of racial/ethnic diversity are more likely to have higher financial returns than companies with less diverse teams. Among other benefits, organizations that embrace diversity have employees that are more likely to feel connected to others in the workplace, which fuels collaboration and innovation.

Veterans at our 2018 Women Veteran Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

It matters in our work at The Mission Continues, because diverse teams are representative of the veterans and the community members that we serve, along with being generally more effective decision making bodies. Continue reading “How I Learned to Select a Diverse Team (And Why it Matters)”

A Platoon Leader Continues Mission After Tragedy

August 15, 2018
By Kristle Helmuth, Platoon Leader

This year marks the 6th year that I have been part of The Mission Continues in one capacity or another. From the fellowship, to being a platoon leader, to now with my new role as an external affairs intern. The journey hasn’t been an easy one, but what’s a journey without a little adventure, right?

I first found the organization years after I got out of the Army. I had spent several years caring for my husband who was wounded in Iraq, and I felt like I had lost myself in that. I was looking for something, anything I could grab onto that would be mine, something I did.

I felt like I had not accomplished anything since I got out, and I felt useless.

My Mission Continues Fellowship gave that pride back to me, along with a rekindled love for service, something that would become a part of the new me in ways I couldn’t anticipate. It also gave me some new skills and the confidence to make things happen. Continue reading “A Platoon Leader Continues Mission After Tragedy”

Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities

July 31, 2018

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.

Thrust into a different culture and language was challenging — but she pushed herself to adapt to her new environment. For five years she worked during the day and completed English as Second Language classes (ESL) at night. Continue reading “Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities”

How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations

July 27, 2018
By Melissa Maskulka, Platoon Member

My most vivid memories of my grandma are those in which she exemplified engaged citizenship, a can-do attitude and showcased how powerful a woman could be. She was the first in her family to go to college, valedictorian of her high school class, while working in the restaurant her immigrant parents owned after school and on weekends.

For as traditional as she was, she was also unconventional. She didn’t marry until she was nearly 30 years of age – almost rebellious in the 1950s. Her husband, a World War II Army Air Corps vet and firefighter, passed away after less than a decade of marriage.

Left with two small children to care for, my grandmother went back to school to get her master’s degree in education and spent nearly the next 25 years of her life teaching elementary school while pushing two successful young adults to pursue their dreams.

She did this while proving she didn’t need to subscribe to the traditional family structure of the time – husband, wife and 2.5 kids. She fiercely proved her independence and place in society even when others questioned her ability to do so.

Through years as a public school teacher, dedicated volunteer at the Historical Society, Garden Club and Ronald McDonald House, and her consistent involvement in local politics, it was easy to have a commitment to service ingrained in my lifestyle. I had seen it consistently for 33 year of my life.

We lost her one year ago, after she quietly made a profound difference for 96 years on this earth. It wasn’t until after I had finished cleaning up from Baltimore’s first #HerMission project on May 20th that I realized it had been a year since she passed. Exactly one year since her memorial service. Continue reading “How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations”

“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.””

A Veteran Mother, Embarking on Her Post-Military Career

May 13, 2018
By Sarah Silva, Fellow Alumna

My fellowship with The Mission Continues has had an incredible impact on my life. I spent five years in the Marines. During that time, I met my husband, and we had our two sons.  When I left the Marines in 2011, I was lucky to be able to spend a few years at home with the boys while they were still tiny.

Once they were both in school, I went back too, finally completing my bachelor’s degree. However, as I reached my final year of college, I was no closer to figuring out what I wanted to do with my degree once I had it.

Since moving here, one of the things my family has loved the most about San Antonio is its parks. In particular, we spend a lot of time at Hemisfair, a downtown park that is being redeveloped.  We watch movies on the lawn, attend festivals, and the kids see how filthy they can get between the splash pad and the sand area. We’ve spent a lot of amazing Saturdays together there.

I saw on Facebook that the Hemisfair Conservancy, which handles philanthropic support for Hemisfair, was looking for a veteran to spend six months assisting them in their mission and learning from them as a Mission Continues fellow. Continue reading “A Veteran Mother, Embarking on Her Post-Military Career”

One Team. One Mission. #HerMission.

May 5, 2018

The Mission Continues - Women Veterans Leadership Summit 2018

Meet the group of exceptional women veterans who are on the frontlines of community change. There were a total of 75 participants attending the Women Veterans Leadership Summit, and while every woman who attended is a rockstar, we wanted to share a sample cross-section of 10 participants from across the country as examples of the variety of backgrounds, experiences, and stories that are represented at our summit each year.

This is #HerMission.

 

Continue reading “One Team. One Mission. #HerMission.”

Why I’m Looking Forward to Women Veterans Leadership Summit 2018

April 24, 2018
By Karen Quiles, Platoon Member

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

Mission Continues volunteers Karen Quiles and Frankie Perez in Puerto Rico

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.

I enlisted a little bit after 9/11 with the Marine Corps and had an opportunity to travel and live in other countries. The military was my ticket out of my negative environment. Enlisting opened so many doors that would have otherwise never been available to me. Continue reading “Why I’m Looking Forward to Women Veterans Leadership Summit 2018”