September 22, 2016
By Jessica Herring, Fellow Alum
How My Story Began
It was February of 2003 when I learned my first trip to see the world would be to a giant sandbox, and unfortunately it wouldn’t be to build sandcastles. I had joined the military partially to see the world, and partially to continue my family legacy of service. I was in basic training when the attacks of 9/11 occurred. It was then that I knew I might be deployed. But little did I know that serving at the time I did and deploying to the middle east would change my life in more ways than I can count.
Being in the military allowed me to push up my curls and pull on my boots, and ensure that everyone saw the badass I believed myself to be. But while I was on deployment, my convoy was hit by an IED, and I sustained injuries which sent me out of country in January of 2004, and eventually lead to my medical retirement in 2006.
In many ways, I had a successful transition back to civilian life. I found a civilian job and had a family. But my battle with PTSD and TBI was my achilles heel, and I fell into a rather dark place. Feeling alone, lacking usefulness, and feeling lost and unsure of the path I should be taking in life, was soon my norm.
Luckily, a fellow veteran recommended I try out The Mission Continues service platoons as an outlet, and that they partner with other nonprofits and communities to amplify everyone’s impact. Who knew that hammering nails and digging holes with a bunch of mouthy vets would be what I needed?
Serving Again, with Nonprofits who Partner
My first real introduction into the importance of giving and caring for others and the foundation of my life’s ambitions comes from my mother. After divorcing my father, my mother took care of me and my three siblings, and took in local children in need of a place to stay, ensuring they had everything they needed to get by on a daily basis. That same spirit of caring for others I saw growing up came back into my life with my volunteer work.
After several years of serving with my local service platoons, a fellowship opportunity with a local nonprofit came up. Again, partnering with other nonprofits seemed to be a win-win all around — for myself, The Mission Continues, their partner nonprofits, and the communities we all were serving. Being aware of my desire to ultimately work with nonprofits, my platoon leader thought I’d be a perfect fit for Hemisfair Conservancy, as they were willing to teach me all the gooey innards of nonprofit management, and I would be able to experience how urban development could have a positive impact on the local culture and community.
I earned a fellowship, and I quickly fell in love with Hemisfair, its mission, the work it does and the people who ensure it’s a well-oiled machine. This park is a place to go for those who cannot afford to go to Seaworld or Six Flags or travel out of the state, or even out of the city. It is wonderland for many. It is a place of adventure for children and one where they have access to free books, activities, games and time with their friends and family in a safe and fun environment.
Being part of Hemisfair Conservancy contributed to my overall self-growth and gave me the ability to work on the goals I had set with Mission Continues, and ultimately with myself.
Even though they were able to accomplish so much, the Conservancy was still suffering from the one thing that plagues most nonprofits: a lack of funds and manpower. With an office consisting of just two employees, my entrance empowered the Conservancy to utilize my skills, freeing time for them to work on researching, writing and completing grants and funding options for the park and its programming.
This partnership allowed both organizations to help each other achieve their goals: The Mission Continues helped veterans find a place in the world, the Conservancy gained the manpower they needed to make their organization more efficient and impactful.
It is wonderful to be able to tell myself that I will not go back to bed and cover my head, hiding from the world. Rather, I will work to get everything I can out of life, the world and its people. Through my fellowship with The Mission Continues at the Hemisfair Conservancy, I was able to build a solid framework for myself, one that I can always build upon.
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.