I joined the military because I wanted to do something better than staying in a city that I knew I would not survive in. I dreamed of seeing new places and meeting new people. I knew I had to take a leap in life and leave the security of my family.
A renewed sense of purpose, a real impact on issues in my community, and a post-service legacy my daughters can be proud of — these are just a few of the reasons I’m proud to have chosen to continue serving with The Mission Continues.
On the morning of May 19th, 2010, I lost my right leg to a Russian legacy mine while defending Bagram Air Base from an infiltration attack involving suicide bombers in American uniform. It rocked my world and completely changed the trajectory of my life. Everything I had sacrificed to become a captain in the Army seemed wasted. I had a very difficult transition in to ‘the new normal’ and really felt like I was a floundering veteran.
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.
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.
As the holidays came to a close, I took some time to reflect. I am truly grateful for my ability to continue to serve.
When I was discharged from the military, I went through numerous financial, professional, academic and even spiritual setbacks. The few holidays I can remember without having my family, not being in a comfortable bed, or eating my mom’s home cooking, was not ideal.
My time in the U.S. Navy seems both far and close at the same time. Yet I felt being able help and mingle with different people, especially when the holidays roll around, gave me a sense of purpose. But the holidays when I was with my brethren was spent in unfamiliar waters and lands, surrounded with mostly familiar faces was uplifting.
I rediscovered my esprit de corps when I joined The Mission Continues, and continue to flourish, to be more involved, and to improve others’ lives and the environment.
After 2 years of working at Edison High School, Philadelphia 1st Platoon is expanding their operation to include additional schools throughout the district.
In order to ensure that the expansion and growth is done in a strategic, human-centered way, our staff (City Impact Manager Stephanie Grimes and Regional Project Specialist Marvin Cadet) traveled to Philadelphia to facilitate a visioning and design session with stakeholders from the Philadelphia School Districts Office of Special Education and leadership and JROTC students from Martin Luther King High School.
I loved being a soldier and I am proud to be a transgender person. No one deserves to endure what I did.
I had the desire to join the Army as a result of two driving forces. The first, my grandfather was a disabled World War II Veteran who fell madly in love with my grandmother, an Army nurse who treated his wounds. As you can tell by that quick anecdote, military service was deeply rooted into my family’s framework.
The second motive to enlist was that I desperately needed to feel a connection to something. I needed some sense of belonging. I needed a community. My childhood was fairly grim and clouded. Being transgender but not being able to identify my feelings to an actual concept caused me to have crippling social anxiety and overwhelming sorrow.
I isolated myself, and fell into a deep, daunting, depression. It was as if I was drowning.
I needed to belong to a group and contribute to a cause larger than myself. I had no time to waste–I left home for the United States Army at the age of 17, a few days after my high school graduation.
My flight landed at 6pm on a Thursday night. I was coming from a very cool New York City climate to a very humid, tropical Puerto Rico. Luckily, a lot of people in Puerto Rico speak English so it wasn’t too much of a challenge to get around at the airport.
My first observation of the island was how dark it was particularly on the highway. Not too many of the streetlights were operational; one of the many effects the island was experiencing in the wake of the Hurricane.
Though the hurricane affected the streetlights; it did not have much of an impact on the food. I was able to grab some of the best tacos I’ve ever had from a local food truck in Carolina, a San Juan neighborhood. A medley of spices and flavors unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
My reason for visiting the island was to assist the Puerto Rico Service Platoon with a service project they were planning in remembrance of Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria is the 10th most intense Hurricane to occur on record. The project would support folks that were affected by the hurricane a year prior in a little town called Humacao.
By Mohan Sivaloganathan, Northeast Executive Director
You don’t have to be world-famous to make an impact – you just have to dedicate the time, energy, and effort to work with your community from the ground-up and lead by example.
Derrick Clark, Navy Veteran and The Mission Continues Platoon Leader
For generations, our veterans have inspired people to affect positive change. Here in New York – a city that prides itself in coming together to advance the greater good – our veterans are continuing to step up on behalf of children and families.
From promoting healthy lifestyles to developing youth leadership to creating safe recreation spaces, veterans who serve with The Mission Continues are reclaiming a sense of purpose and gaining recognition as one of the city’s most vital levers for social impact.
As we look forward to 2019, we see that we’ve reached a tipping point for our work in New York City. In the coming year, we will activate more veterans than ever and truly position veterans at the forefront of the city’s service movement.
On Sunday, November 11th the Tampa Platoons brought together volunteers to transform the home of disabled Air Force veteran Gary Westmoreland in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Hillsborough County.