It’s not controversial at this point to say that our nation is undergoing transformation, and the fight to define the path we take is having an enormous impact in every community around the country.
In our best moments as a nation, we’ve tapped military veterans as central players in those transformations, leaders at every level, from national strategy to community service. The time is here for another cohort of military leaders to enter the arena, to put their collective fingers on the scales and help define a path forward for the nation, to help work towards a more unified future.
By Daniel Coleman, Service Leadership Corps Alumnus
I’m not sure what your name is, but I have a good idea of who you are. At some point, you felt the call and served in the military. Your experiences trained you to be a leader, a team member, and a strategic thinker, to be mission-oriented and focused on solutions rather than problems. You returned home to find your community in need of connection, investment, support, organization, and action. Maybe you had a smooth transition back, maybe your transition is rougher. Either way, you see some good that needs to be done in your community, and you want to be the change you hope to see. This post is for you.
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.
For over five years The Mission Continues has been an integral part of my life. Volunteering has always been important to me, but with TMC I found that sense of purpose I had lost when I separated from service. It seems that part of my life came full-circle once I joined The Mission Continues because it mirrored my decision to join the military.
Looking back, both experiences have taught me lessons which will always be a part of me, and these decisions came at critical moments in my life. In both circumstances I was lost, and I can honestly say I found my way back thanks to serving with The Mission Continues and the military.
By Heather Byington, Service Leadership Corps member
When I left home in 1993, I vowed I’d never come back for anything longer than a visit. Home was Detroit. What I didn’t realize until I had some separation was that the negative feelings I had about the city were a result of my home life and the fact that one of my friends had been carjacked. He was murdered at 19, and his killers were 15 and 16-years old.
Allison Sage is an emerging leader of the veteran yoga community in Denver, Colorado. Allison began practicing yoga in 2012 after returning from a combat tour in Afghanistan. She views her yoga practice as a fundamental component of her recovery from PTS and depression. Her mission is to share trauma-informed yoga with fellow veterans who are struggling to adapt back to civilian life.
Part of Allison’s interest in our Service Leadership Corps program was to further improve her community outreach, as she hopes to bring trauma-informed yoga classes to her public classes as a way to empower everyone to find healing through yoga.
We interviewed Allison to get a deeper understanding of her perspective as a woman veteran.
On paper, I’m one of those vets who lack job stability and goal attainment after serving. Nearly four years after retirement, I’m back to square one. I wear many part-time hats: platoon leader, personal trainer, student, and Lyft driver. It’s not the traditional definition of success, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the launch of our newest program, the Service Leadership Corps, 50+ veterans gathered in Newark, New Jersey to engage in innovative leadership training and community service. The weekend marked the beginning of their commitment as they embarked on our 6-month program to tackle some of our nation’s toughest challenges by partnering with community organizations on a local level.
We’d like to thank our sponsors, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Boeing, and CarMax, for making this program possible.
It was truly an energizing experience to have so many impact-minded veterans gathered in a professional setting. Conversations were productive. Connections were purposeful. Outcomes and goals were concrete.
The weekend was about the same three things that The Mission Continues is all about — connectedness, community impact, and personal growth.