By Raul Juarez, Service Leadership Corps member
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.
When I first decided to join the military I had a desire to serve my country and find a deeper purpose, had no clear sense of direction, and lacked the discipline I needed to succeed. I knew I wanted more than what my current situation was offering — at that point I had already dropped out of two colleges and knew my job would not truly take me anywhere significant.
My time in the military taught me the value of life and sacrifice. I was challenged in ways I never had before, and as a result I became more independent as an individual, and at the same time learned how to rely on my brothers/sisters to accomplish a common goal. Most important, I started believing in myself — which was always a struggle for me growing up.
One example which comes to mind which demonstrates how the military changed my outlook in life has been in my educational career. This May, I am proud to share I will graduate from the University of Miami with a Master’s in Sports Administration. This will be my third Masters in five years, but considering I am a first generation Mexican-American, the first/only male to graduate high school in my family, and a two-time college dropout, it speaks to how hard I have worked to get to where I am today. Furthermore, I am extremely proud to share that I have been accepted into various doctorate programs.
I am excited and thankful beyond belief because I just never in my wildest aspirations thought any of these opportunities would be possible someone like me, a kid from Newark, New Jersey. Growing up, I was content with living into my 30’s—as warped as that may sound. Tragically, many of my friends never even experienced 20 years of life.
After the military, I learned of The Mission Continues through a fellow veteran in 2013 and I was immediately interested in learning more and becoming a volunteer. I decided to join because I have always been actively involved in various advocacy projects (i.e. Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Rape Crisis Center). But what I found truly special about The Mission Continues was how it was designed to provide veterans find a purpose during and after service.
The strong The Mission Continues friendships/relationships I have cultivated and gained over the years have been instrumental in my growth as an individual in many respects. Having the opportunity to serve as both a Fellow five years ago and now a Service Leadership Corps member, I have been able to learn more about community service and development. Being able to serve in communities has opened doors for me personally and professionally.
Similar to my military service, I have been challenged and learned a lot about myself along the way. I believe this is a major reason why I have been successful in other areas of my life; for instance my educational and professional goals. Thanks in large part to The Mission Continues, I have been able to work and network with veterans and organizations across the country.
I have been able to help others, and this is what drives me each day. I am specifically passionate about advocacy issues which help veterans heal socially and emotionally, and also assist them in their higher education goals/transition after service.
I am very excited about the future of The Mission Continues and look forward to being a part of this next wave for many years to come.