Rebuilding Purpose Through Community Service

Many veterans struggle to find the same purpose at home as they found in the mission, camaraderie and structure of the military. Life as an active duty service member is a total commitment of self to mission and unit. It is, in essence, a purpose-drive life. So when the time comes to transition to the civilian world many veterans, including myself, are left wondering, “What now?”

I served in the United States Marine Corps from 2003 – 2008. In the transition to civilian employment, I was recruited to make parts for different aircraft because of my experience in the military as an airframe mechanic. The job was not what I wanted to do, but because of the limited options available at the time I accepted the offer. I quickly found myself working for the paycheck and nothing more. There was no feeling of accomplishment, or reason to be proud of what I was doing. Where was the mission? Where was the purpose?

I did not realize at the time that my transition to civilian life could be characterized as normal. In a study of recently returned OIF/OEF veterans, only 13% “strongly agreed that their transition home was going well.” Nearly nine out of ten agreed that Americans could learn something from their example, but only half considered themselves leaders in their communities as a result of their service. Yet, the study found veterans were still overwhelmingly eager and willing to continue serving their country at home.

The organization I now work for, The Mission Continues, challenges post-9/11 veterans to rebuild purpose through community service. Through 26-week community service fellowships, veterans volunteer at the nonprofit organization of their choice. Fellows are awarded a cost-of-living stipend to offset living expenses and in return commit 520 hours of service to their community.

Following my time as an aircraft technician and an even shorter stint as a secretary, I stumbled upon a listing for The Mission Continues Fellowship Program. I was awarded a fellowship in 2010 and chose to work in The Mission Continues office, recruiting other veterans who were stuck in similar situations as I had been, to recommit to a life of service. By providing a challenge to others, I had again found purpose.

Today, I serve as the Fellowship Recruitment Manager. I have seen firsthand the positive impact of a fellowship for over 200 other veterans. A study conducted in partnership with the Center for Social Development at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work found 71% of Fellows have furthered their education since joining the program, 86% have transferred their military skills to civilian employment, and 100% would recommend the program to a friend or family member.

I wake up every morning knowing I am going to make a difference is someone’s life. I may no longer put on the uniform of the United States Marine Corps each day, but my service to my country is far from over.

The application deadline for entry to the Mission Continues 2012 Fellowship Class Bravo is March 1. For more information about the Fellowship Program, please visit our site or email fellowships@missioncontinues.org.

Tiffany Garcia is the Fellowship Recruitment Manager of The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit that engages veterans to serve as community leaders. She served in the United States Marine Corps from 2003-2008. She is also an alumna of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program.

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4 Comments to “Rebuilding Purpose Through Community Service”

  1. GENE says:

    Back in 1985, I was discriminated at the Savannah River Site. I came home disabled and according to the system, I was priority. Here in Aiken, SC you can forget that idea. They have there cronies running that place just like DC and my priorities were just forgotten about. Instances like mine need to be looked into also and correct the bs that goes on at these installations.

  2. Ronald P. Matonti says:

    Any non-profit help available for medical malpractice at the VA hospital that left me completely disabled?

  3. Tiffany,
    Was impressed with your comments. Would be interested in putting the Mission Continues on our website. Please let me know what you think via email.

    Semper fi,
    Bob Swick
    Chairman/CEO
    Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance
    A 501 (c)(3) veteran nonprofit organization

  4. JOHN B YAGER says:

    YOU ARE RIGHT, IT’S NOT THE SAME. I FEEL THAT I NEVER CAME HOME. WHEN I CAME HOME FROM RVN NO BODY WANTED US. EVEN TODAY OUR GOV HAS SWIPED US UNDER THE RUG. WHEN I GO TO THE VA AND SEE THE VETS, THEY ARE STILL FIGHTING THE WAR, FIGHTING TO STAY ALIVE. BUT WE ARE STILL DYING.