By Eric Greitens, Founder and CEO, The Mission Continues
To celebrate Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama - along with daughters Sasha and Malia - went to the Capital Area Food Bank to serve nutritious meals for hungry families alongside post-9/11 veterans who were reporting for duty in their community.
The men and women working by the first family's side had all served before - some of them under fire. Today, as members of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program, these same veterans use the strength, skills and abilities they developed in the military to continue their service here at home:
Vu Nguyen provided operational support for 220 service members during their deployment at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. When he returned from Afghanistan, he helped launch the National Veteran's Center, providing career training to disabled veterans.
Ryaja Johnson Rhone deployed to Afghanistan, where she oversaw $40 million in equipment supporting 1,200 deployed U.S. Air Force and Coalition Forces. Here at home, Ryaja volunteered with Dress for Success, supporting disadvantaged women in their search to launch new careers.
Connor Mallon deployed twice to Iraq, where he trained soldiers in combat readiness and led troops into combat. After the war, he deployed to the Smithsonian National Zoo, where he used his talents as a photographer to create a promotional media library. The pre-Thanksgiving Day service project was led by The Mission Continues D.C. Service Platoon, which has made its mission to spend the next year fighting hunger and malnutrition in our nation's capital. "This was one of the most special days of my life," said Platoon Leader Vu Nguyen. "Not only did the President and the First Lady thank us for our service to the country in the military, but they also thanked us for our continued service here at home."
Vu and the dozen veterans who joined him are not alone. Service platoons are springing up in communities across the country. Led by The Mission Continues Fellowship alumni, they are patrolling the streets in Phoenix, Ariz. registering the homeless for services. They are building playgrounds for disadvantaged children in Orlando. They are planting football field-sized community gardens in San Diego.
This Thanksgiving, let's be thankful for all that our veterans have done in service for our country. Let's also remember to be thankful for all they still have to give.