I’m a helper; therefore, helping others has always been an integral part of my life. In my encounters with veterans, many are naturally inclined to help others. They also like working with a team and achieving missions, no matter the purpose. But when the contract is up, where does one go to find that team atmosphere and the purposeful mission?
Volunteer work may hold the key to grounding veterans in search of a new purpose and a caring community. The Mission Continues (TMC) provides one opportunity for veterans who want to continue their service to be part of a movement to transform communities. My first encounter with TMC was at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event. I met many young veterans eager to help Learn and Serve Tampa Inc. and other partnering nonprofits as we cleaned up a city park. They worked alongside youth, families, corporate volunteers, and other veteran volunteers with organizations like the Travis Manion Foundation.
The mission of TMC is to connect veterans with under-resourced communities and deploy veteran volunteers to work alongside nonprofit partners and community leaders. Their purpose is to improve educational resources, tackle food insecurity, foster neighborhood identity, and more. I asked the Tampa Platoon Leader, Tara Tilson, a U.S. Army veteran, how volunteering had impacted her platoon members. Tilson says, “Veterans that come out find that new or rejuvenated sense of purpose.” She added that the volunteer assignment might allow them to utilize the skills they focused on for so long during their military careers, furthering that sense of purpose.
Tilson says the scariest thing for many veterans, when they leave the armed forces, is not knowing what comes next, feeling alone. You’re no longer part of a team. Volunteering with a group like TMC allows veterans to rejoin a team of people from the same background. The name, The Mission Continues, says it all. They can continue to use their skills, make an impact, and be part of a team.
Volunteering is a way for veterans to learn new skills, build a new team, and be productive members of society. It can also give a veteran a reason to live. Tilson says, “I believe that having a sense of purpose or reason, no matter how small or large, for you to get up each day, put on your pants, and walk out your front door, is super important.” She has heard firsthand that being a part of a volunteer mission, being invited, and joining a team has saved lives.
So, make a goal this year to volunteer, and invite other veterans to volunteer with you! You might save a life.
Written By: Dr. Kristy Verdi, Learn and Serve Tampa Inc.