Veterans’ nonprofit announces Operation Charm City Charge, sending over 80 volunteers to create meaningful change in Maryland’s largest city for their fourth annual Mass Deployment
BALTIMORE, June 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — The desire to be of continued service is driving more than 80 U.S. military veterans from across the country to Baltimore for Operation Charm City Charge. The veterans are volunteers with The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans to continue their service and empower communities with veteran talent, skills and preparedness to generate visible impact. Operation Charm City Charge is the organization’s fourth Mass Deployment, a team-based program that mobilizes veterans alongside local partners and volunteers in a single city for a week of community impact.
When I signed up for the Army during my senior year in high school, I wanted to break free of my protective parents. As an only child, they had high expectations of me, but ultimately wanted me to be independent and self-sufficient. I thought the Army would be a great way to have the freedom as an adult I didn’t have as a teen, plus a responsible means of traveling the world without my parents worrying about funding my educational goals. They already had a lot to deal with, as my mom’s progression with Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative neurological condition, was starting to worsen.
I was enjoying the freedom, traveling opportunities, and my job as an Animal Care Specialist in my first overseas assignment in Germany. This was the life I was hoping for, and I was planning on making the Army a career.
But I discovered during a night of revelry that kissing one of my best friends was a earth-shattering experience. It wasn’t planned, it was just young adults messing around, but that night changed my life forever.
I realized that I liked women, and that was something incompatible with my military service in 1992. I still had 7 years left on my enlistment, and the military had a zero-tolerance policy on homosexual conduct.
I joined the US Army in September 2005, 12 years after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was signed, the military’s former policy in which lesbian, gay and bisexual members could serve only if they hid their sexuality.
In the military, being your authentic self can be a challenge, and identifying as queer can be even more challenging. I served during the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” I learned fast that even though the policy changed, the people didn’t change.
I joined the military because I wanted to follow in my cousin’s footsteps in the service. I served in the U.S Army as a medic. I studied, I worked hard, I deployed, and I have provided care to soldiers in Afghanistan and Garrison.
I was verbally harassed by other soldiers from basic training all the way to my first unit. A Sergeant would put an M4 in my face and threatened me to sound off like a man; Sergeants and Officers would make sexual advances at me to the point where I was even sexually assaulted. I received a lot of inappropriate questions about who or what I was intimate with, if I was sleeping with so-and-so, and I was called gay because queer was an identity my peers did not understand.
We need you to serve alongside us this June in celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Together, we’ll honor the service of LGBTQ+ veterans and show our support for LGBTQ+ communities across the country.
The number of LGBTQ+ individuals that have served and continue to serve in our military is uncertain, but their commitment to serve here at home is not. Despite many serving under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and other institutional challenges, their contribution to our country continues in TMC blue.
Veterans served in projects across the country for Earth Day. Protecting the environment is important to us as an extension of protecting the people who live in it. Clean air, clean water, and access to green spaces are all essential for current and future generations to thrive.
See what veterans and non-veteran community members accomplished for Earth Day!
This Mother’s Day I will be in my third trimester with my fourth child, who will be born while I am still serving in the reserves. In the 17 years I have served, the policy for pregnant women has changed dramatically for the better, though the demands of being a mother in the military was probably the greatest challenge I have faced.
Mary Beth Bruggeman, vice president of program strategy, had the opportunity to speak at the NationSwell Summit West last week. She shared her story of service from the Marine Corps to The Mission Continues, and how the opportunity to find a new mission filled a need in her post-military life.
You can watch the full speech above, or read the transcript below: