Years After Fellowship, Veteran Recalls Renewed Purpose

Once told by doctors she’d never be able to work, this veteran defied expectations by volunteering daily with The Mission Continues.

One serendipitous day at church, Howard Kympton met a veteran named Meeka McWilliams. After some chatting, they discovered they had something in common: The Mission Continues!

It turned out that Howard was the father of the president of The Mission Continues (Spencer Kympton), while Meeka had participated in its Fellowship Program in 2017. After hearing all that Meeka overcame as a veteran, Howard concluded that her story was “nothing short of remarkable.” He told us, “She’s an amazing young woman with a marvelous experience to share.” Today we share with you Meeka’s fellowship story, as told by her.

Continue reading “Years After Fellowship, Veteran Recalls Renewed Purpose”

My Transition Was Easy, Finding Meaning After Service Was Not

By Heather Byington

On paper, I’m one of those vets who lack job stability and goal attainment after serving. Nearly four years after retirement, I’m back to square one. I wear many part-time hats: platoon leader, personal trainer, student, and Lyft driver.  It’s not the traditional definition of success, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Continue reading “My Transition Was Easy, Finding Meaning After Service Was Not”

Including Women in our Stories of Service

By Aryanna Berringer, volunteer

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.

Continue reading “Including Women in our Stories of Service”

Why I’m Passionate about Veteran Community Leaders

What was at first a volunteer passion project has turned into a career.

By Nitza Rivera, volunteer

I have been able to see first-hand how something that may seem so insignificant to one person, can improve the quality of life for another.

Nitza interviewed by the press for her Veterans Day 2018 service.

I truly believe that veteran leadership in our communities is just as important for the veteran as it is for the community it’s impacting.

With all my military moves through the different parts of this country and abroad, one thing remains constant, and that is the lack of leadership within our communities. It doesn’t necessarily mean that communities don’t care, I think that a lot of the times community members don’t know who to reach out to or where to look for guidance.

Planting and Clearing Garden Beds at Seeds of Faith Community Garden

For me, and other veterans, leaving the service left a void in our passion to serve others. Having the opportunity to use our leadership experience to serve and help mentor members in our communities fills that void. It also provides a platform of peer support for other veterans within the community, and the opportunity for the community to interact and learn about veterans.

Continue reading “Why I’m Passionate about Veteran Community Leaders”

How I Learned to Select a Diverse Team (And Why it Matters)

August 28, 2018
By Mary Beth Bruggeman, VP of Program Strategy

At The Mission Continues, diverse teams are representative of the veterans and the community members that we serve.

Why bother to build diverse teams in the first place, and how can you do it effectively?

If you’re wondering why diverse teams matter, I’ll break it down in terms that translate to everything we (and others) do. Diverse teams — in race, gender, identity, experience, age and many other factors– are proven to make better decisions.

There is ample evidence that companies with the higher percentages of racial/ethnic diversity are more likely to have higher financial returns than companies with less diverse teams. Among other benefits, organizations that embrace diversity have employees that are more likely to feel connected to others in the workplace, which fuels collaboration and innovation.

Veterans at our 2018 Women Veteran Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

It matters in our work at The Mission Continues, because diverse teams are representative of the veterans and the community members that we serve, along with being generally more effective decision making bodies. Continue reading “How I Learned to Select a Diverse Team (And Why it Matters)”

A Platoon Leader Continues Mission After Tragedy

August 15, 2018
By Kristle Helmuth, Platoon Leader

This year marks the 6th year that I have been part of The Mission Continues in one capacity or another. From the fellowship, to being a platoon leader, to now with my new role as an external affairs intern. The journey hasn’t been an easy one, but what’s a journey without a little adventure, right?

I first found the organization years after I got out of the Army. I had spent several years caring for my husband who was wounded in Iraq, and I felt like I had lost myself in that. I was looking for something, anything I could grab onto that would be mine, something I did.

I felt like I had not accomplished anything since I got out, and I felt useless.

My Mission Continues Fellowship gave that pride back to me, along with a rekindled love for service, something that would become a part of the new me in ways I couldn’t anticipate. It also gave me some new skills and the confidence to make things happen. Continue reading “A Platoon Leader Continues Mission After Tragedy”

Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities

July 31, 2018

Inspired by her childhood in Mexico, Carolina was destined to become a fashion designer with a purpose. Carolina said, “I used to observe my mother making clothes for my siblings and myself. Seeing her transform fabrics into garments intrigued me to the point that it motivated me to come to the United States.”

At the age of 18, Carolina left everything she knew in the hopes of attending design school in the United States. “The simple pleasures that most natives took for granted like simply understanding a movie in English was a daunting task,” she describes.

Thrust into a different culture and language was challenging — but she pushed herself to adapt to her new environment. For five years she worked during the day and completed English as Second Language classes (ESL) at night. Continue reading “Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities”

How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations

July 27, 2018
By Melissa Maskulka, Platoon Member

My most vivid memories of my grandma are those in which she exemplified engaged citizenship, a can-do attitude and showcased how powerful a woman could be. She was the first in her family to go to college, valedictorian of her high school class, while working in the restaurant her immigrant parents owned after school and on weekends.

For as traditional as she was, she was also unconventional. She didn’t marry until she was nearly 30 years of age – almost rebellious in the 1950s. Her husband, a World War II Army Air Corps vet and firefighter, passed away after less than a decade of marriage.

Left with two small children to care for, my grandmother went back to school to get her master’s degree in education and spent nearly the next 25 years of her life teaching elementary school while pushing two successful young adults to pursue their dreams.

She did this while proving she didn’t need to subscribe to the traditional family structure of the time – husband, wife and 2.5 kids. She fiercely proved her independence and place in society even when others questioned her ability to do so.

Through years as a public school teacher, dedicated volunteer at the Historical Society, Garden Club and Ronald McDonald House, and her consistent involvement in local politics, it was easy to have a commitment to service ingrained in my lifestyle. I had seen it consistently for 33 year of my life.

We lost her one year ago, after she quietly made a profound difference for 96 years on this earth. It wasn’t until after I had finished cleaning up from Baltimore’s first #HerMission project on May 20th that I realized it had been a year since she passed. Exactly one year since her memorial service. Continue reading “How One #HerMission Project Inspired Future Generations”

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

July 5, 2018
Shannon Thompson, Platoon Leadership Team

There’s this saying my father, a US Navy veteran, said to me as a child: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I live by this saying. It’s what motivated me to enlist in the military at the age of 17 to earn a college education, and it’s what inspired me to see what else I was capable of after completing 12 years as an airman.

It’s what inspired me to serve again with The Mission Continues.

My transition into civilian life catapulted me into a world that didn’t understand my military career. My new civilian job didn’t challenge me at all, and I didn’t have anything outside of my routine. It all felt so mundane.

I knew something was missing. I knew I could do more, be more, and offer more to others. I needed to get out of my comfort zone again and grow; The Mission Continues and volunteering gave me the opportunity to do just that. Continue reading ““A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.””