“I Always Dreamed of Being a Hero and Catching Bad Guys”

February 27, 2015

Jonas Jones was thinking about service and justice even as a little kid. “I dreamed of being a hero and catching bad guys,” he says.

Jonas was born and raised in Hazelwood, Missouri just north of St. Louis. He was taught at a young age “to take care of the people who take care of you,” as he puts it. At 29 years old, this particular life lesson brought him to the office of a U.S. Army recruiter.

“I joined the military because I wanted to create a better life for me and my family. I wanted the best in life. The Army gave me the opportunity to fight with the best, and be the best man I could be – someone who reflected respect and good character.”


Jonas served nearly four years as an Army infantryman. In 2010, his unit deployed to Afghanistan. Jonas served on the front lines as a gunner in his unit’s weapons squad. He led soldiers in combat, and in operations to capture prisoners of war.

His childhood dream of “catching the bad guys” became a reality.

During the same deployment, while returning from a mission, Jonas’s truck was struck by an IED. The truck commander and an Afghanistan local who had accompanied Jonas’s troop on their mission were thrown from the vehicle, and Jonas, along with three other soldiers, were stuck inside.

“That blast was so intense, I blacked out,” he says. “When I came to I felt extreme pain running throughout my whole body and a sergeant screaming asking if we were all okay inside the truck.”

Jonas sustained a traumatic brain injury and deep lacerations from the explosion, earning him a Purple Heart. A few weeks later, his deployment ended and Jonas returned home. Initially, he began training for his next deployment but later decided it was time to hang up his uniform.

Jonas needed to decide what to do next. He had a passion for law enforcement and serving his community, so he decided to pursue an education in criminology and psychology. Meanwhile, his wife introduced to The Mission Continues Fellowship Program.

Jonas Jones (orientation)

In September 2014, Jonas was awarded a six-month Mission Continues Fellowship at the St. Louis County Police Department. As a Fellow, he serves alongside Sgt. Jeremy Romo, who leads the department’s Crisis Intervention Team Program. The program connects individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders to the right resources, which helped steer them away from the correctional system.

“Most of our work is done with the community. We work with the elderly who are battling Alzheimer’s, the homeless, veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress or substance abuse issues, and youth who are fighting mental health issues,” says Sgt. Romo.  “We connect these individuals to resources that keep them out of jail or the justice system, because they don’t belong there.”

Jonas is about one month away from completing his fellowship. During the last several months, he devoted 20 hours a week to enhancing the Crisis Intervention Team Program. From attending community meetings, to engaging in productive conversations with city officials, and educating more than 55 Police Officers on veterans’ mental health issues, Jonas has served as a tremendous asset for the St. Louis County Police Department.

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“Jonas has incredible work ethic. He’s punctual, respectful and one of those guys you can tell is truly enjoying himself every day – he is just so service oriented” says Sgt. Romo.

Recognizing that Jonas repeatedly went above and beyond the call of duty, Sgt. Romo nominated him for the department’s Citizen Service Citation award, which recognizes a citizen who plays a crucial role in empowering the police department to give back to the community.

“Similarly to military soldiers, police officers are often told to separate their emotions from work and ‘toughen up.’ Well, Jonas was here while the events in Ferguson took place, which put a tremendous strain on police officers and the St. Louis community as a whole,” says Sgt. Romo. “He would share stories of his military experience, which really helped build morale and provide support for the officers. He also grew up in North County, near Ferguson, and was able to offer a unique perspective on the community.”

Sgt. Romo and the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissions presented Jonas with the Citizen Service Citation on February 11.

Jonas Jones Outstanding Citizenship Award (3)

“I was truly pleased, honored, and humbled to receive the Citizen Service Citation award from Sgt. Jermey Romo,” says Jonas. “He has also been a great mentor to me. The St. Louis County Police Department treated me like family and instilled in me the passion to continue to always fight the good fight, especially for those who cannot do it for themselves.”

Jonas recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and psychology, and is currently enrolled in graduate school. He plans to pursue a career in law enforcement, and get back to “catching bad guys” combatting crime in the cyber security sector.

“None of this would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for The Mission Continues and Moses Maddox who is another great mentor of mine and works with The Mission Continues,” says Jonas. “My fellowship gave me the encouragement and the blueprint to be successful in any endeavor.”

How to Take Flight at your Fellowship

Toby Magavero walked into the building without knowing a thing about condors. He left with a mission to conserve their part in a fragile ecosystem.

As part of his six-month Fellowship with The Mission Continues in 2013, Toby served in Boise, Idaho at the Peregrine Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to saving birds of prey from extinction. It was a long way from Kosovo and Iraq, where Toby served a tour as a cavalry scout in each country.

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Stumbling Upon a Passion to Serve

October 6, 2014
Katie Hector


Jeremy Bailey stumbled across The Mission Continues — literally.

He was on the discovery engine Stumble Upon, which recommends web content to users surfing the Internet, when he discovered The Mission Continues.

The timing couldn’t have been better: After launching and operating a business for six years following his separation from the Navy, Jeremy realized there was a void in his professional life.

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Project Zowie – The Mission Continues at Good Shepherd Shelter

October 1, 2014
Astrid Quinones

Closing Ceremony Mission Continues

The Charlie Class of 2014 reported for duty on Saturday, September 13th at the Good Shepherd Shelter (GSS). Veterans in blue t-shirts from all over the country poured out of their buses to embark on what the GSS staff called “Project Zowie.” The sun beamed down on Los Angeles, showing no mercy, but the Mission Continues Fellows were ready and eager to get to work.

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We’re Leaving Our Mark in Cities Across the Country

September 26, 2014

Veterans from The Mission Continues are building a legacy of service and leaving their mark in the communities they serve here at home. 

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In St. Louis, veterans renovated an early childhood education center serving undeserved youth in North St. Louis.


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More than 100 veterans and community volunteers redeployed to a domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles. Together, they repaired sheds, rehabbed facilities and refurbished a children’s playground – providing families with a peaceful place to call home.
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The Mission Continues Chicago Service Platoon fights hunger and combats food deserts on Chicago’s south side. They’ve constructed a community garden which provides fresh produce to local residents.


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Across the country, veterans rehabilitated Hart Middle School in Washington, D.C.’s Congress Heights neighborhood. They even painted a much needed three-point line on the school’s outdoor basketball court.


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A team of veterans from the Jacksonville Service Platoon help clean up the city’s downtown area during “Jacksonville’s Day of Impact” service campaign hosted by a local homeless resource center.


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Mission Continues veterans and community volunteers came together to transform a nature preservation center in St. Louis. Together they serviced trails, removed invasive species, reconstructed ponds and built a fire ring and seating area for public programs.


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In San Antonio, a team of veterans transformed a community center that promotes healthy lifestyles, leadership skills and self-sufficiency to individuals and families in the local area.


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Veterans combat child hunger in our nation’s capital – harvesting more than 1000 pounds of fresh produce at Bread for the City’s 2.75 acre orchard and distributing meals to families who need it most.

Strengthen your community and join The Mission Continues today. 


September 24, 2014
Matthew Thompson

As a kid, the reason you join the military is usually born of some desire to have an adventure or escape; that was my reason at least. Being a teenager in Philadelphia with limited opportunities for college atop wanderlust and a shortage of an appropriate fear response, the military was all too appealing. I was sufficiently satisfied with my first experience in the military: five years in the United States Navy aboard a giant floating city that seemed ever deployed to blue-green seascapes and foreign shores.

I was truly sad to separate from the life I had cultivated in the Navy. It was a world steeped in tradition, romance and adventure but I felt as though I had done what I came to do and now I should be moving on to things that were “normal”.  However, after just a few months of “normal” I found myself meeting with an Army recruiter.  I sat across the desk of a man who was anything but camouflaged in the all-gray maze of cubical partitions and Army recruitment posters. He feverishly tip-tapped on a computer looking for an opportunity that benefitted both the Army and myself — but mostly the Army.

Matthew Thompson
Matthew Thompson takes The Mission Continues Fellowship Oath in July 2013 – pledging life-long service to his community.

I had a difficult time trying to bridge the dissonance as to why I was there. Why would I again be joining the military? Was I bored, directionless, poor? Well, yes, all of those. But there was something buried deeper that I was less prepared to articulate, and still find to be almost entirely indescribable. So there I was, two weeks later in Fort Knox, Kentucky, sweating to death and violently slapping the mosquitos from my flesh as I marched, ran, crawled, jumped and charged through “HIP-DUCK” confidence course, up “Misery” and down “Heartache” cursing myself with each bursting blister. Why!? Why was I volunteering to do this to myself? I knew I was going to get deployed, I knew there was nothing but variations of hard road ahead, I knew this — all of it, I knew — yet still I put pen to paper, made my mark, and shook the hand of a giant green-clad recruiter and smiled in relief.

Four years, several hundred ass-chewings, and a million miles of physical training later, I was out again. And dammit, I was at the recruiters office … again.  This time it was the Tennessee National Guard.  I would love to tell the story of how in the world I wound up in Tennessee, but I think the Internet has a word limit and the story just wouldn’t fit.  Regardless, there I was in the parking lot, just looking down the row of offices in the strip mall: Navy, Army, Marines and Air Force — all ducks in a row with skinny kids moving in and out of offices, some with parents in tow, some alone. I stood for a few moments trying to connect the dots that lead me here and it all started to fall into place. I felt responsibility.  Not a punitive responsibility like that of having to get a job done on time or face the wrath of an ornery platoon sergeant, but an urgent, magnetic pull to be present.

For a long time I thought the reason I was so compelled to be in the military was because it was all I knew, which, in its defense, was true.  But it wasn’t until recently that I was able to develop the language to properly describe that compulsion.  Even now, though, I’m still not entirely sure that the words I have can describe it justly.  Let’s just call it “accountability”.  We all know the golden rule: leave no soldier behind.  As cliché as it sounds, I felt that that is exactly what I was doing each time I would separate from the military; I was abandoning my comrades.  Without my knowing, the military had ignited in me a fire with an insatiable appetite to fight. Not just for a war but for those who fought wars. I had a tremendous and heartbreaking calling to be there for soldiers in every capacity. I could feel it tugging, if not tearing, at my insides. Someplace there was a young man or woman from nowhere U.S.A. who was confused and scared; who was embarking on a path that was unspeakably terrifying and I knew that I had a tested ability to guide them.

But could I do that from my couch?

Because of an illness related to my last deployment, I was considered no longer fit for military service. Needless to say, I was devastated. It took a very long time and extensive amounts of counseling for me to finally come to terms with the fact that I would no longer be able to serve, and for a while there I was utterly lost. Months started to pass and I would hear from my soldiers as they were preparing to deploy again. Correspondence would come from APO’s and AKO’s addressed to SSG Thompson and I would whimper as I read of firefights and IED’s, promotions and demotions, etc. I was totally impotent.

Through my own counseling and recovery, I eventually discovered there was a way I could still engage with soldiers in a way that was important and valuable: through counseling.  Through my own misadventures with Veterans Affairs, I became an expert in navigating the system and learning the benefits.  Soon I was meeting with other vets and helping them navigate the maze of benefits and programs.  Eventually I started to witness those men and women move from a place of stagnation and confusion into a life that was again meaningful and productive, and I found purpose.  Not only did I feel valuable again but I felt on fire with an immense passion for a whole new community.  I was able to deduce that counseling soldiers is really no different than counseling veterans.  The confusion and fear that existed in both communities was almost identical — and I could help.

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Matthew Thompson educates to students at Vanderbilt University Law School on veteran issues during his Mission Continues Fellowship.

Essentially what I’m trying to say is that the military taught me a lot more than how to clean a rifle and march in rank and file. It taught me that I had the ability to evoke change in people’s lives.  I feel that each of us who — for one reason or another — decided to raise our right hand has in us a courage and a purpose that could not be contained in a regular existence.  I know that inside me burns a fire that when properly focused could illuminate the lives of those around me. And I know that same fire exists in each of us who swore the oath.

I went to war and brought some of that fight home with me, and I’ll be damned if I don’t fight just as hard here and now as I did then and there.  I’m accountable, always.

Thompson, out.

Matthew Thompson is an alumni of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program. He served his fellowship with Operation Stand Down in Nashville, Tennessee.

My Fellowship: Connor Mallon

September 6, 2014
Connor Mallon

Connor Mallon

My name is Connor Mallon. I’m a photographer, an Iraq War veteran, and a Mission Continues Alpha Class Alumnus.  Sometime just before college graduation I realized that I was basically standing in the same place I was in fresh out of the Army four years earlier. I met people on a daily basis who drudged though dead-end jobs with nothing to show for it but a paycheck and a few measly days of vacation every year. I wasn’t positive that I was making the right choice when it came to career fields and I didn’t want to get stuck doing something meaningless and unfulfilling for the rest of my life, so I started thinking about what I DID want to do.

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Meet Fellow Brandy Baxter

August 8, 2014

We invite alumni of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program to speak at each pre-fellowship orientation. Fellow Alumna Brandy Baxter addressed the newest class of Mission Continues Fellows at their orientation in May of 2014. 

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“My Mission Continues Fellowship partnered me with a non-profit organization that teaches financial education to families with limited financial resources.  I had started teaching financial classes at our last duty station, so this was a perfect match for me.

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