The Mission Continues, Washington, D.C. 1st Service Platoon
Who are the ultimate 24/7/365 community servers? Members of our armed services, of course! These men and women put the needs of others ahead of their own as a matter of course and, along with their families, make sacrifices many of us will never know. To me, they are so noble not just for their strength and skill, but for their heart and devotion to a collective purpose. Missions are not in terms of "Me's", but on "We's", "Us's" and "Them's". The military itself is a community working together for the benefit of a bigger community and, hence, makes them the ultimate servers in my book!!
The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Veterans are "deployed" on new "missions" in their communities, so that their actions will inspire future generations to serve. It also keeps veterans, who may feel alone after returning home, connected to a familiar community of fellow veterans. Could there be a better mission? This is a national organization with service platoons in many cities, including 5 in Washington, D.C. ...
Today, I served with the 1st Service Platoon (ignore the flag that says it's the2nd) whose focus is on neighborhood revitalization. This platoon focuses on the Congress Park apartment complex in Congress Heights located in SE Washington (not far from St. Elizabeths Hospital) and has already made such a positive contribution there. "Operation New View" is the mission's name as they for residents to have a "new view" of their home - adding beauty and reducing blight. Among other things, they have already built a playground with KaBOOM (another favorite nonprofit), painted murals, improved the open space surrounding a vacant elementary school, and more. Most importantly, they have truly connected to many of the residents in this neighborhood and all of their work in the community is done in full partnership with the residents. This is soooo up my alley as it resembles much of my prior work at the Community Law Center where we worked tirelessly to revitalize and reclaim neighborhoods in Baltimore City (with an added legal component). Today's agenda was more of a planning session for upcoming events. We toured the areas they wanted to improve, which included making a butterfly garden within an apartment complex, erecting murals on nearby walls, designing a teen room in the community center, etc. Children and adults were gathered from the community to submit mural suggestions as well as ideas for the teen room. Some work was hands on as a Mission Continues veteran and I lead some of the kids in a neighborhood clean up while others helped to organize a needed storage room. I'm anxious to roll up my sleeves and execute some of the ideas next month during Phase 2.
My Takeaways: (1) While today may have been less active than I had hoped or expected, I did get a lot out of it by watching and interacting with my fellow volunteers. Sadly, I haven't put myself into many situations to socialize or learn from veterans and here I had a great opportunity. Though I was very impressed by the backgrounds and service of individuals, I was overwhelmed by the true sense of community veterans as a group seem to have. If someone needs help, it doesn't seem to occur to them not to help. In fact, many of them travel great distances to serve others in disaster relief or in other cities where The Mission Continues (TMC) serves. Many of them brought their children with them and so their service of raising good citizens is also admirable. (2) There is one individual I must "salute" - the leader of the 1st Platoon, Jacqueline. Not only did Jacqueline's leadership today impress me, but she is so inspirational on a personal level as well. When I first reached out to inquire about participating in an event, she could not have been more welcoming or supportive of me and my project. She did a great job of conveying the need for TMC and really seems to truly understand community organizing the way I appreciate it to be done. She is a great example of a strong and inspiring military woman, mother, and citizen.
Thank you for having me 1st Platoon - MY MISSION will certainly CONTINUE!