The Decision I Made, 15 Years Ago Today

September 11, 2016
By Brandi Peasley

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I vividly remember the day I left active duty. It was October 1999 and I’d completed my 5-year commitment in the United States Army after graduating from West Point. I signed the paperwork to switch to a Reserve commission and assume my placement into the Individual Ready Reserve. At the time, I thought it was odd how much it bothered me to take off the uniform but I was very determined to go find success out in the civilian world.

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For Veterans, Their Mission Continues in National Parks

September 8, 2016
By Rose Feroah, Platoon Member

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With a September’s breeze on this late summer night, we will soon be reminded of sacrifice and service.  It is in this honor and service that we will be at Fort Battery Ricketts—Mile Marker Zero of the Hiker Biker Trail, all hands on deck, doing what we do best.  Having worked along the Trail throughout Southeast DC, we are going to hold our biggest project yet on 9/11 at its trailhead.  

Who are we? We are volunteers from The Mission Continues, veterans who are stepping up to serve our communities.

Since its inception, The Mission Continues’ 4th Platoon in DC, funded by Boeing and partnered with the National Park Service, has been caring for and connecting its veterans, members and communities to the culturally rich parks in the Northeast and Southeastern quadrants of the city.  Working the land in these parks has allowed veterans to connect to our military heritage, reminding us of the salt and grit from which we were forged.

Historically, there has been a divide—a divide between veterans and civilians.  In the military, our bonds grew through blood and sweat, earning our place among our brothers and sisters, trusting those to our right and left to hold the line.  Selfishly, we show up to The Mission Continues projects because we want to see and support each other; we like the reminder that our country still needs us; we are fulfilled knowing we are still working towards the greater good.

It is absolutely refreshing to show up to an event and know that we can be ourselves in all of our flaws and patriotism.  Yet, something else is happening too.  We are finding ourselves bleeding and sweating again, but this time we have our community members getting down and dirty with us, reinforcing our lines.

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While digging holes, we start chatting and the conversation moves casually from light-hearted to stories of casualties from the broken hearted, as pain and tragedy knows no civilian-veteran divide.  Building tables and garden beds seems mundane, yet we all eventually bleed our own history over the course of the day, recognizing that all of our blood is red, white and blue.

At the end of the project, our new friends offer to shake our hands, saying thank you for your service; we decline the handshake and pull them in for a hug, saying “Thank you for your service today,” and imploring them to come to the next.  Guess what? They always do, eager to get down and dirty, eager to show their own grit and salt.

In our first year, DC 4th platoon has had the fortune to serve with new and faithful partners on various projects:

  •   For Earth Day, we laid siege to Fort DuPont’s Community Gardens under torrential rains with the Wounded Warrior Project, the Student Veterans of America, and the bravest community gardeners, our favorite Rangers kicked us off; we created and maintained garden plots, installed pallet compost bins, and restored a bee farm.
  •   On National Trails Day, we cared for those spawning and spanning Fort DuPont with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Student Conservation Association.
  •   We joined So What Else? collecting heaps of garbage from Anacostia Park and river.
  •   We have also installed fitness equipment along Fort Mahan, making eager friends in the community throughout the day.  

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For Memorial Day this year, we held an event at the Battleground National Cemetery where we tended the hallowed grounds, gathering at the end to remember their honor and sacrifice.  We closed out the event with Taps—crooning from the rostrum, our lone bugler brought a patriotic mist to every eye.

It was here, with perfectly placed placards of words not to be forgotten, with our Park Rangers imparting the past upon us, that my children started to learn and appreciate the history that created the city they call home.

It was here, with the bowed head of veterans and their families, with flowers and wreaths being laid upon headstones, that my innocent daughters started to understand why their mom chose to become a United States Marine.  These national cemeteries and memorials, though part of a landscape collectively, are individual beacons of perseverance, prompting us to share their history and importance to the curious young minds inquiring.

On the Fourth of July, we were back at Fort DuPont celebrating our independence and enjoying the fruits of our labor with a banging BBQ. Each time we go back, we smile at our contributions, rewarded when we see people walking the trails we cleared and created, or bringing vegetables to the BBQ from the Community Gardens we personally nourished.

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My children and I love going back, whether on a drive to Fort DuPont’s skating rink or to roam the very trails we’ve tended.  They point out “Mommy! That’s where the snake pooped on me!” or “Hey! That’s where we went mountain biking and I finally made it up the hill without stopping!”  The adventure and pride in theirs eyes reassures me that being part of the National Parks along with our community service is giving them something that only nature and the parks can provide.

As encouraged, platoon members frequently attend every event offered by The Mission Continues, creating a reliable, well-oiled machine.  And we have logged enough hours digging holes to have nearly exterminated the width and breadth of hole-jokes, however we persevered and have yet to run out.  We are all about #ReportingForDuty!

We epitomize honor when we serve the very roots our country sprang from—doing as the founding fathers and mothers intended, to connect communities with the playful environments that surround them.

With luck on our side, we get to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service with the communities that surround them.  If we do it right, we have the opportunity to turn strangers into friends, and to inspire the next generation to keep our National Parks alive while continuing the bonds we have forged with the community—our community.

 

Rose is a post-9/11 Marine Corps veteran, and a leader in The Mission Continues’ Washington, DC4th Platoon.  She is an entrepreneur and a small business owner, as well as the mother of beautiful twin girls. This post was also published on the National Park Foundation’s blog.

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and twitter.

Inspiring Service through Art

July 27, 2016
By Doug Aldrich, Artist

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As an artist supporting The Mission Continues Service Learning Project series with Democracy Prep Harlem Middle School in Harlem, I learned as much about service from the students as much as they’ve learned from me. I volunteered and led three classes of 6th grade students to create a mural through their own visual and literary submissions.  Continue reading “Inspiring Service through Art”

The Mission Continues, Community Partner of The Year

June 10, 2016

Last year we teamed up with Partnership for L.A. Schools (PLAS) to help youth in underprivileged neighborhoods. The Mission Continues was recently recognized for this work as “Community Partner of The Year,” a distinction given to a PLAS partner who “passionately and generously works to develop and strengthen the school community.” The award was given at the Up Awards, which are hosted by PLAS annually to honor parents, teachers, and leaders in the community that support PLAS Schools.

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The Mission Continues 2nd and 3rd Service Platoons in LA served in the Boyle Heights and Watts communities, respectively. Platoon Leaders Richard Krykew and Majken Geiman have lead the way in both leadership and heart to make this partnership flourish.

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Blazing Trails in Our National Parks

June 8, 2016

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Our nation’s national parks were originally protected by the military, and for the past few months, The Mission Continues New York 3rd Platoon has continued to do just that. The platoon has sustained involvement with the largest national park in New York, Gateway National Recreation Area, which is home to both wildlife and historic forts.

Together, they have protected New York Harbor for over 200 years. Today, they remain among the oldest military installations in the country. To preserve this rich history, platoon members have worked over the past few months to rehabilitate a nature and history trail within the park. This trail, which has not been open to the public for decades, can now be used in educational tours that are the backbone of interpretation at the park. As the summer tourist season is about to begin, the opening of this trail could not have come at a better time.

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Partaking in a Cycle of Service at Democracy Prep

May 31, 2016

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Earlier this month, The Mission Continues worked alongside 1st grade students at Democracy Prep in Washington D.C. to put together a Teacher Work Room. Our regional Executive Director Mary Beth Bruggeman and service platoon member Johanna Ciezczak joined the project, which took place on the last day of the school’s week of service.

The week of service was implemented by teachers who wanted to build a culture of community service for students. While there, we had a chance to talk to 1st grade students about the importance of service and tell them our story. Most important, we shared how much we enjoy serving at their school and why we do it. Continue reading “Partaking in a Cycle of Service at Democracy Prep”

Mother And Son Team Up To Serve Others

May 8, 2016

“Mom, they don’t even know me and they come here to make me smile. That is just like what you do, and I want to help too.” Jaiden Henry, eight years old and the son of Chicago’s 1st Platoon Leader Kim McGraw,  had fallen ill and was temporarily hospitalized. To his amazement however, volunteers kept coming by to keep his spirits up.

He has since worked hard alongside his mother to inspire others to do the same.

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Pantry 84

May 5, 2016
By Eric Weiss, Platoon Leader

It was Cinco De Mayo, my first platoon social event. I had just taken on the role of Platoon Leader, creating the 2nd platoon in Orlando FL, and was trying to figure out how it could best help the community.

As it turned out, we had bought too much food for everyone to eat that night. Throwing out the food would be a complete waste — all leftover food could easily feed 30 people!  After a few internet searches we found a women’s shelter in the Orlando downtown area that accepted food donations. So I packed up the food and took it to the shelter.

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