I’ll Come Home Different

September 2, 2014
David Rogers

David Rogers is the Fellowship Program Director at The Mission Continues.  He is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the United States Air Force Reserve in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Are you worried about coming home different?”  It was just two days before I was deploying to Afghanistan and my best friend Angela was supportive, but concerned.  I was grateful for her question and I thanked her for her honesty.  Many of my loved ones had no doubt wondered the same question, though none had asked.  The question might have made me uncomfortable, but it didn’t because I had thought the same question to myself many times.

“I will come back from this deployment different,” I told her.  I have seen the challenges firsthand that veterans of my era have faced both through their military service and upon their return.  We have made many sacrifices in our service.  We have put our mission first.  Our families, our safety, and our personal needs came second.  As a generation, learning to take care of ourselves after the military and learning how to navigate the civilian world hasn’t been easy.

I explained this to Angela that night, and shared the stories of the men and women that I know from service in the Air Force Reserve and my civilian role at The Mission Continues.  After more than a decade at war, these veterans have faced immense obstacles.  But the men and women who have served by my side have also demonstrated an incredible resilience.  They are a generation of veterans who view their military service as an asset.

David Rogers_Ill Come Home Different_3

David welcoming Mission Continues Fellows at Alpha Class Orientation in January 2014

These veterans have transitioned from leading infantry squads to mentoring elementary school children.  They have transitioned from commanding aircraft carriers to building houses for the homeless.  They have transitioned from repairing fighter jets to running community gardens.  These veterans are harnessing their innate spirit of service by volunteering across the country through The Mission Continues’ Fellowships and Service Platoons.

In just a few short years, veterans serving with The Mission Continues have contributed more than a half million hours of volunteer service to more than 600 nonprofit organizations.  Their volunteer service has defined a generation of veterans that are better equipped to tackle pressing issues at home.  Eighty five prevent of them report that they have become leaders in their communities1 and 91% believe now that they have the ability to make a difference in their communities1.  Additionally, almost half of the veterans reported that their health status improved 1 and they have enriched and strengthened their family life2 through their volunteer service.

Veterans that have served our country in the years since 9/11 have continued to overcome obstacles in their transition out of the military, yet are committed to continuing their service and continuing to have a positive impact on the lives of those around them.

David Rogers_Ill Come Home Different

I will return home from Afghanistan later this year, transitioning from building bombs for the Air Force to once again leading these veterans in service at The Mission Continues.  When I return, my transition may not be easy.  But I will have a new mission, and I will have many more veterans beside me.  Together we will channel our passion, commitment and leadership so that our shared legacy as a generation of veterans will be one of action and service.

I will come back from this deployment different.  I will come back stronger.  And my mission will continue.

 —–

1 The Mission Continues: Reexamining engagement of post-9/11 veterans in civic service

2 Reexamining impacts of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program on post-9/11 veterans, their families, and their communities

August News Roundup

August 31, 2014

1st Platoon NYC in Harlem

Veterans from the New York Service Platoon in East Harlem volunteering with Play Streets on Thursday, August 28, 2014

From The Mission Continues

Navy veteran Jerrod Howe helped other veterans tell their stories while crafting his own / Newman’s Own Foundation

Navy veteran moves inland to help Joshua Tree National Park / The Desert Trail

From the Veteran Community

Interviewing as a Wounded Warrior / Military Officers Association of America

First Rule Of This Fight Club: You Must Be A Veteran / NPR

Continue reading “August News Roundup”

Advice for Veterans: Get into Equilibrium

August 30, 2014
Seth Gordon

Seth Gordon is the Director of the Veteran and Military Center at Wright State University and has a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership with a focus on Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University.

 “It felt like a slap in the face,” a Marine said to me during a college consultation with his wife. He was considering returning to school and had been an NCO in the Marine Corps. He had a decent job, but felt his prospects were limited because he did not have a college degree.

Continue reading “Advice for Veterans: Get into Equilibrium”

One Fellow’s Feedback

August 29, 2014

 

I have gotten a sense of worth back. Going to school is much easier. I have the drive to go to class everyday and get my education because I know it will benefit not just me but a lot of people in my community. As a professional I hope to start my own organization and help others. And because of The Mission Continues, I really believe in myself and I know I can do it.

Service Member to Student: Breaking Down the Barriers

August 29, 2014
Chris Merkle

Chris Merkle is United States Marine Corps veteran and Mission Continues Fellow. In this post, he reflects on how engaging in campus activities enriched his life as a student veteran.

IMG_0705

I enlisted in the military when I was 17-years old. I served for 14 years in the Marine Corps, two years in the Army Reserve and spent an additional five to six years overseas security contracting. To say I was “still institutionalized” when I got out of the military is an understatement.

Continue reading “Service Member to Student: Breaking Down the Barriers”

Service Member to Student: How I Learned to Love Life on Campus

August 27, 2014
Kristina Catuiza

Upon enrolling into college, being an active duty service member in the U.S. Navy was the only lifestyle I knew. I found comfort in that way of living. The men and women I served with weren’t just coworkers. They were family. We had built such strong camaraderie. We supported and confided in one another.

After my contract was up, transitioning from military to civilian life wasn’t an easy journey. I tried to fit in at a community college where most of the population was about twenty years old. I couldn’t relate to the people around me and I felt lost in a new city where I had no family or friends to turn to for advice or support.

My first semester at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles was a challenge for me. My grades didn’t suffer, but I had anxiety. My car became the place I spent breaks, had lunch and studied. I became anti-social and secluded myself from anything that was outside my comfort zone.

Kristina SVA

It wasn’t until I found the Veterans Resource Center (VRC) and joined the Student Veterans Association (SVA) on campus that I began to feel more comfortable on campus. Spending time with like-minded individuals allowed me to open up more and venture outside my norms. Being part of the Veterans Association made me feel welcomed and happy, especially because I finally had friends in the Los Angeles area I could relate to.

I enjoyed being around other veterans. I became more involved in the SVA and with the VRC. I began to volunteer for events and felt so proud when the focus was on veterans. I loved hearing other veterans stories and took pleasure in the fact that some would come to me for advice. As I realized my passion for veterans, I started looking into organizations outside of school.

Kristina Catuiza

I joined the American Legion, Team RWB and The Mission Continues. The Mission Continues Los Angeles Service Platoon gave me a chance to work hand in hand with other veterans and give back to the L.A. community. I was able to continue to serve and make a difference even though I was no longer in the military.

This was the drive I was looking for. When it came to selecting a new major, it wasn’t a hard decision. I realized working with other veterans and making them feel comfortable came natural to me. I had a special connection with them. I could relate to them. I decided to pursue a career empowering veterans. I have a better understanding of their struggles and their desires. I wanted to listen and give advice to them on a professional level. I want to help them the way the counselors and social workers at the VA helped me. I truly believe working with veterans is what I was born to do.

Kristina Graduation

I recently earned my associate’s degree from Santa Monica College. My focus now is to earn my bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola Marymount University. It feels so right. I love the fact that I can relate stories I’ve heard or people I’ve met to the lessons I learn in class.

Not every student veteran has trouble with the transition into college life; some want nothing to do with the fact they were in the military. I believe they are missing out on some great opportunities that could change their life and impact their career. They might even be missing out on that passion they never knew existed within them.

I never knew I wanted a career working with veterans or giving back to my community. In fact, I first came to college majoring in dental hygiene.  I changed course after volunteering with the veteran community. I found a passion and drive I had never felt before. I truly enjoy what I’m doing – to the point where it doesn’t feel like work at all.

If I hadn’t taken advantage of the resources available to me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I can say in all honestly, I am enjoying my life as a student veteran.

Kristina Catuiza (2)

A Message to Student Veterans: Never Stop Serving

August 25, 2014
Barry Mattson

Barry Mattson is a veteran of the US Air Force and the US Army, with a combat deployment to Iraq in each service. He is now the Regional Director at The Mission Continues, Houston office, where his passion for fighting poverty is matched with his appreciation for veterans.

In this post, Barry answers the question “How can our nation ensure that veterans don’t need to return to the military in order to find a meaningful sense of purpose?” Continue reading “A Message to Student Veterans: Never Stop Serving”