The Miami Service Platoon Rescues a Reef

While Miami’s 1st Service Platoon has been dedicated to environmental conservation and stewardship, most of it has been done on land. They wanted to branch out to water-based efforts as well. They didn’t have to look far. Given how integral the water is to life in Florida and the ecosystem of South Florida, they decided to help in one of the places it’s needed most: dying coral reefs. 

Coral reefs are the bedrock of life for many species of sea life, and are largely hailed as the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Their health is crucial, which makes any effort to help them all the more crucial as well.

The Miami 1st Service Platoon partnered with the University of Miami’s Rescue A Reef scientific team to send 40 veteran/active duty platoon members out on two coral reef restoration dives in Biscayne National Park. The group emplaced over 225+ corals and activated a new wave of veteran citizen scientists!

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Operation El Morro

We wrapped up an incredible week in Puerto Rico for our two-day long service project, Operation El Morro: Independence Restoration on July 2nd-3rd.

The week started with a partnership gathering co-hosted with the National Parks Conservation Association. We wanted to bring together all current partners and our veteran leaders in Puerto Rico to celebrate our collective impact and discuss future projects. 

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Finding A Veteran Community After “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

By Tracey Cooper-Harris, volunteer

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.

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Planting the Seeds of Service

By Quinton Goffinet, former platoon leader

The attacks of September 11, 2001 happened when I was a teenager. At the time, I believed our enemies had proved they were going to bring the fight to us. I wanted to bring the fight to them – on our terms, not theirs. This motivated me to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.

I separated from the military in 2007. By that time my wife and I wanted to start a family, and I wanted to pursue a different career, one in which I could build and create. Chemistry, physics, engineering – I loved it all.

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Why Detroit? Why The Mission Continues? It’s Easy—These Are My People

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.

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My Transition Was Easy, Finding Meaning After Service Was Not

By Heather Byington

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.

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Including Women in our Stories of Service

By Aryanna Berringer, volunteer

No one’s story should be suppressed or ignored, but all too often, that is the case for women veterans. We strive to empower women veterans to be leaders in and through our programs. We want to highlight one such story in anticipation of our 4th annual Women Veterans Leadership Summit and in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Aryanna Berringer is a Women Veterans Leadership Summit attendee and an active volunteer with our Pittsburgh service platoons. Here is her story as told by her. If you’re as inspired by these stories as we are, consider donating. Your support empowers women veterans to realize their full potential as civic leaders.

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Is it Enough? A Piece of Justice Blues

By David Riera, platoon member

I can remember being in school when Columbus Day was still on the calendar and MLK Day was celebrated as part of Black History Week. Now in 2019, almost 22 years after my last Black history report in U.S. History class, and 12 years since I received my honorable discharge, I reflect back and note that a day or a week was not justice at all.

As we completed our 2019 MLK project at Brownsville Middle School in Miami, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many other civic and community groups come to lend their strength, ‘cause three hours of raking dead leaves is no laughing matter, but at the end we all had smiles on our faces.  

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