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Since September 11, 2001, thousands of Americans have returned from military service with physical or mental wounds. As a nation, it is essential that we express gratitude for their sacrifice. But we must do more. Our returning veterans are not a liability, but an asset. America needs their strength. Though their time in uniform may have been cut short, their service to the nation can, and should, carry on. At The Mission Continues, we challenge returning veterans to serve our country once again – here at home – in our communities.
The Mission Continues, a 501©(3) nonprofit organization, was founded in 2007 after CEO Eric Greitens returned home from service in Iraq as a Navy SEAL. Upon his return Eric visited with wounded Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. Eric asked the Marines what they planned to do now that their time in the military was over. Without exception each Marine expressed an unwavering desire to continue serving his country, even if he could no longer do so in the military. One young Marine even said this: “I lost my legs – that is all. I did not lose my desire to serve, or my pride in being an American.” Inspired, Eric used his own combat pay and two friends pitched in their military disability checks to found The Mission Continues. Today, The Mission Continues strives to provide returning veterans like these Marines opportunities for continued service here at home.
The Mission Continues challenges wounded and disabled veterans to serve once again in their communities through our Fellowship Program. Our goal is to provide service opportunities for wounded veterans who still have the desire to serve their country, but whose disabilities prevent them from continuing to serve in the military. We accomplish this goal by awarding fellowships for volunteer work to post-9/11 veterans who have suffered severe or traumatic injuries. A typical fellowship covers 14 weeks, during which the Fellow serves at a local charitable organization for 40 hours per week.
Each Mission Continues Fellow is awarded a monetary grant that enables the Fellow to offset cost-of-living expenses while he or she volunteers. Fellows also receive mentoring and support so they are fully capable to serve their community well and achieve long-term personal and professional success.
In addition to fellowships for wounded and disabled post-9/11 veterans, The Mission Continues encourages veterans and other citizens of all backgrounds to perform service projects in their communities. We believe that the leadership experience that veterans of all eras have gained from military service can and should be transferred into community volunteerism. Service projects might include a group of Iraq and Vietnam Veterans who renovate the home of a disabled woman or university students who clean a littered park in honor of a fallen veteran. Service projects with veteran leadership are eligible for small “Challenge Grant” funding (starting at $50) to pay for supplies.
Reshaping the National Conversation
According to a recent survey , 92% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans believe that serving their community is important. Because of this data and our own experience with veterans, The Mission Continues is leading the effort to fundamentally reshape how our nation welcomes home our veterans. We are partnering with national organizations such as Civic Enterprises to conduct research on how veterans can have a tremendous impact in our nation’s civic prosperity. We are also partnering with academic institutions like Washington University in St. Louis to determine the mental and physical benefits for veterans who serve in their communities.