May 20th, 2016
By Vanessa Thomas, Fellow Alum
As our nation honors military service and sacrifice on Armed Forces Day, I find myself thinking about one veteran in particular: my father.
He served 24 years in the United States Air Force. We were constantly on the go, moving eight times throughout my childhood. It wasn’t always easy, but the older I got, the more I understood that being a Master Sergeant wasn’t just a job for him, it was a purpose. The example he set ignited something within me too. While many of my classmates were dreaming of growing up to be a doctor, lawyer, or professional athlete, I had something different in mind.
I wanted to serve.
When the time came for me to act, I deferred college and chose the Air Force, just like my father. I was stationed in San Antonio and served as a dental technician before deploying to Iraq in 2007. I later deployed to Guyana for two weeks providing dental treatment to more than 5,000 local residents.
In 2011, after eight years of service, I hung up my military uniform for the last time, but I was still eager to help others. At the same time, I was on the move, again. My husband, who is still in the military, received orders for North Carolina. I realized that I needed a new mission. I still wanted to serve.
That’s why I knew The Mission Continues was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I chose to serve my fellowship at the Boys and Girls Club and implemented a curriculum that emphasized positive decision-making and living a healthy lifestyle. Many of the students came into the program feeling defeated, so my mission became focused on delivering a single lesson to my students every day: believe in yourself.
By the end of the fellowship, not only had my students embraced the curriculum but so too had the other volunteers. The experience was the most fulfilling thing I have done since leaving the military. It reminded me of why I raised my right hand at 18 years old and swore an oath of enlistment. It reminded me that service before self, especially when it comes to our children, is what matters most.
That’s why I was compelled to continue my journey of service in the classroom as a Mission Continues Fellow, and will continue to do so for years to come. Just recently I was offered a position to be a full-time high school English teacher.
I ask that you make an investment in the veterans who are reporting for duty, again, in our classrooms, parks, nonprofits and community centers nationwide. My father inspired me as a kid to follow my dreams and serve our country. With your donation, my fellow veterans can continue to pursue their dreams, too, while finding new missions of service here at home, and inspiring the next generation.
You can support The Mission Continues by donating here.
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.