Patrick Ryan Alban officially joined the Army in January 2010. His decision to enlist, however, came years earlier when he was in high school. For Alban, the question was not why, but when. He enrolled as a political science major at Webster University and graduated in December 2009.
Alban said he decided to serve for two reasons — his experience volunteering alongside military personnel on humanitarian missions, and his internship with the nonprofit organization The Mission Continues, based in St. Louis.
The Mission Continues encourages veterans of post-9/11 wars who are disabled or injured to continue serving their country through community service. The organization also promotes service projects between veterans and civilians.
“(The veterans) have given so much of themselves,” Alban said. “(What convinced me to join the Army was) all the incredible people I’ve worked with. There is so much strength that comes through service in the military.”
Eric Greitens founded The Mission Continues in 2007. After serving as a Navy SEAL in Iraq, Greitens visited Marines at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. Greitens said when he asked the injured Marines what they planned do post-military, each expressed the desire to continue serving the American people. Inspired by the soldiers’ commitment to their country, Greitens started the Mission Continues.
A signature feature of the Mission Continues is the Fellowship Program. The program partners injured post-9/11 veterans with a local charitable organization. Through this avenue, veterans use the skills they learned in the military to serve the community. To date, 171 veterans in 31 states have fulfilled their fellowships. Greitens hopes one day when veterans return from combat, there will be an expectation of them to continue serving their country at home.
“You know how in St. Louis, the first question you are asked is ‘Where did you go to high school?’ ” Greitens said. “For veterans, we want to change the country so that people ask veterans both, ‘Where did you serve in the military?’ and ‘What is your serve your post-military service?’ ”
Tiffany Garcia is an alumna of the Fellowship Program. Garcia joined the Marine Corps in 2003 and worked as a aircraft mechanic for five years During her time in the Marines, Garcia fell from an aircraft, injuring her neck and back. She persevered through the pain and continued serving until her tour ended in 2008.
While attending St. Louis Community College-Meramec, Garcia learned about The Mission Continues. She applied and received a fellowship working for The Mission Continues in 2010. In her fellowship, Garcia processed 15 fellowship applications of veterans like herself. Garcia said her community service not only aided veterans, but herself.
“It has just helped me grow professionally and personally in a lot of stuff I need to work on,” Garcia said.
Garcia now works for The Mission Continues as a Fellowship Program Associate. She said she loves watching veterans find confidence and purpose through their service.
The Mission Continues is planning 300 service projects nationwide. Those interested can sign up at www.missioncontinues.com.