On the rare occasion that 50 women gather together in the military, their male counterparts hover anxiously outside the room, wondering what conspiracies they must be plotting within. So you can imagine the awe and great personal fulfillment I felt when 52 women veterans from The Mission Continues – representing all five branches of the military – came together for the first time in April to share stories, to laugh, and to learn.
This past weekend, our Bravo Class of 2016 mobilized in Seattle, Washington for their Mission Continues orientation. This class is 81 Fellows and 16 platoon leaders strong. The fellows will be serving at a diverse set of nonprofits, from The National Parks Conservation Association of Miami, Florida to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Atlanta. Our platoon leaders will be stationed from Nashville to Jacksonville to Portland, Oregon, and tackle issues including childhood hunger and public lands conservation.
Bravo Class of 2014 alum Mark Coffin provided welcoming remarks and talked about his experience as a fellow. We’d like to share his story and words of wisdom here.
When I went to my fellowship orientation there was a mix of excitement and anticipation and maybe even a little bit of nervousness, but I can tell you that throughout that event, meeting everyone, working together, and preparing to return to our respective non-profits was a great experience.
I believe in the mission of this organization, the way it opens up opportunities for veterans, and how it lets them to choose to do something you have a passion for, and get to actually do it.
My parents and grandparents were hardworking folk who sought not only to improve the lives of their family, but also help others around them. Whether that was cooking meals for the sick and shut in, volunteering at their church, to sharing their crops with those in need. I saw their example for years, and it inspired me to serve others, as well as my Christian faith.
I attended a small liberal arts university called Elon in North Carolina. After two years I ran out of money to pay for school, but was able to get a two year Army ROTC scholarship to finish my college education. Toward the end of college, I had to choose how I fulfill my military obligation. I could apply for active duty, reserves or National Guard.
At the time I had no true idea of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, no resumes written, no job prospects, so I thought, let’s go active duty – I can do my four years of active service on my head and then get out and finish in the reserves and move on with my life. But life sometimes has a funny way of making other plans.
I served in a variety of positions with various responsibilities throughout my career. My first assignment was in South Korea as a Platoon Leader running three remote intelligence monitoring sites along the DMZ. Before long I had completed my four years, and I found myself enjoying the travel and jobs and had no desire to get out.
So I continued. I went through a variety of staff assignments at the company, battalion, division and corp, and even got to command in a Special Forces group. I deployed overseas and did tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but my absolutely best assignment ever with the Army is when I got to break and enter legally around the around the world for 3 years with the Army Red Team.
Next thing you know, I have 20 years of military service. Never ever thought I would have done that! So when I hit 27 years, I was good to go. I decided to retire. Time to do something different, time for a change.
As I prepared to exit from the military, I found the most challenging part to be “what next”? I was proud to have served my country and my desire was to continue some form of that service in the local community.
I started volunteering regularly for Habitat for Humanity, and one day the staff asked me if I had ever heard of The Mission Continues. I hadn’t, so I checked out the organization, and saw the Mission Continues Fellowship as a wonderful opportunity to pursue my passion.
During my fellowship, I served on the construction and rehab division of Habitat and I was also asked to be the Veteran Outreach Coordinator in an effort to bring more veterans from the community out to serve, as well as making those veterans aware of the services that Habitat had to offer them through their homeownership and home repair programs.
Through my fellowship experience, I learned land acquisition and development, family selection and training, volunteer management and coordination, public outreach and engagement, as well as on site construction and rehabbing of homes.
I chose to continue on the path of service after my fellowship, not only with Habitat, but also with several other non-profits. I represent The Mission Continues in Omaha at military career fairs, I work with the State Foodbank to help feed kids who are food insecure, and I deploy with Team Rubicon to conduct disaster assistance across the nation.
This fellowship facilitates your journey to find out who you are, what you want to do, who you want to be, what mark you want to make in this world. You all as fellows are the movers and shakers, and you are the ones who can effect positive change.
Don’t think everything will change overnight. It is a process that you will go through. Some of it may seem daunting and overwhelming. You might not be able to see your destination from where you are now, but you are embarking on a journey of discovery personally, socially and professionally.
So jump in head first. This is your chance to develop new contacts, build your network, ask questions, empower yourself, and refine and learn new skills. Really use your monthly fellowship assignments as a means to develop your goals and objectives, and most of all, enjoy yourself! What greater thing is there than to be able to work in an area that you are passionate about?
I will end with this quote from Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
On Saturday April 2nd, we had the opportunity to sit down with Tony Horton to share why he chose to supports service members and veterans through Beachbody’s all-new 22 Minute Hard Corps program.
Tony Horton’s passion for our military didn’t just start with his 22 Minute Hard Corps workout or even the P90X workout – in fact, it began way before he even started his fitness career. Tony was the son of a military service member, and spent years moving around the country, gaining an appreciation for the work our service members do in their communities and around the world.
Tony told us, “the beginning was my father. It was all really because of him.” His father’s commitment to serving built the foundation for his support of the military, veterans, and The Mission Continues, for whom through the launch of his new fitness program 22 Minute Hard Corps, he has helped raise over 600k since March 1st.
Tony’s reconnection to service came during his work with Beachbody, when he heard that military bases were doing P90X, and was invited to meet General Shepro and 400 service members at the Andrews Air Force Base. During his visit, Tony said, “It was awesome to see the commitment that everybody had.”
This first experience inspired another visit, and then another. Now, Tony has been to 47 bases domestically and abroad, from Kosovo to South Korea.
Reminiscing on those visits, Tony recalls his trips to Okinawa, Nellis and Hawaii, where he had several flying experiences and couldn’t keep his lunch down! Tony laughs, “It was awesome yet awful.” He was also introduced to challenge coins, and enjoys growing his collection.
Because of Beachbody’s long-time involvement with active duty members and veterans, Tony said, “we thought, maybe it’s about time to make a bootcamp style program.” Tony took the lead in creating what is now the 22 Minute Hard Corps workout with Beachbody’s CEO, Carl Daikeler.
For Tony, being able to raise funds for The Mission Continues and ultimately funding over 60 veterans’ fellowships, is immensely rewarding. Tony beamed, “you have an idea and that idea turns into something so spectacular, it’s pretty amazing.”
Tony holds dear the notion that changing people’s lives starts with understanding “the power of good behavior.” Getting people off the couch and taking care of themselves can change their life. For some, exercising and eating well sparks improvements in their personal and professional lives. Tony explained, to be able to fully participate in life, people need to make a jump and commit to something challenging. Making a decision to do something different is key.
Tony said, “It’s not about ‘us,’ it’s about ‘we,’ and collectively we can make some great changes. When you change behavior, things get done.” For the veterans we serve at The Mission Continues, that decision to challenge oneself and renew one’s commitment to serve comes in the form of the Fellowships or the Service Platoons.
Tony sees this as a beautiful application of his philosophy and as a great opportunity for Beachbody to support veterans in a productive way. As a proud supporter of those on active duty and veterans, Tony wanted to make a stronger connection between everyday people and veterans by translating the public’s sentiment into real impact through the partnership between Beachbody and The Mission Continues. The partnership has brought more than just the opportunity for veterans to serve in the community but has also helped share stories about how veterans are continuing to give back across the country.
Today we are putting the spotlight on a platoon that cares for the earth year-round. The Washington D.C. 4th Service Platoon has aligned its mission to be in support of National Park Service (NPS), which preserves natural and historical resources for this and future generations to enjoy. For their special Earth Day project, the D.C. 4th Platoon is teaming up with NPS and platoon supporter, Boeing.Continue reading “Blue Goes Green for Earth Day!”
Last weekend in New Orleans, close to 60 women veterans from all over the country gathered to discuss everything from how to get out of debt, to owning your identity as a woman veteran, to starting a business, to making sure you get the full range of women’s health services offered by Veterans Affairs.
The summit was filled with valuable lessons, professional networking, and leadership training. Attendee Meosha Thomas applauded the summit, saying, “weekends like this help change the narrative of what women veterans look like.”
A member of the Los Angeles 1st Platoon breaking down walls for the Stevenson Project.
We are days away from the inaugural Women Veterans Leadership Summit in New Orleans. Soon 50 women leaders from the Mission Continues network will gather to share insights, challenges, and wisdom with other women “in the trenches” of service and business. Today we are taking a closer look at what inspires and drives our peers to be leaders in their communities. For Army veteran and Service Platoon Member Nicole Thomas, attending the summit is a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded peers. Continue reading “Gearing up for Women Veterans Leadership Summit”
When I was in the Marines, we were taught to have attention to detail. It was a matter of life and death measured in seconds and the more attention we paid to the small things, the more we had a chance to survive. The emphasis on attention to detail also taught me to appreciate the little things like the biweekly paycheck, the honor of serving my country and of course, my prize possession, a Sony Boombox (yes you read that correctly…a Sony Boombox.)
I knew there was more to life than what my small town had to offer. I wanted to see things I read about in school books and escape the small town mentality of being trapped as a product of my environment. I thought college could be my way out, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me. So I joined the Navy, and eventually retired with 20 years of Service.
When I separated from the military in 2013, I found the most challenging part was identifying and finding my purpose again. My only child had just graduated from high school, so I felt my purpose of being a needed mother was gone. I was going through a divorce, so I felt my purpose of being a wife was now gone as well. I was empty and depressed.