Thursday, July 25, 2013

Accepting the Challenge - My Mission Continues Orietation By Brian Harriett

The Mission Continues Orientation – St Louis
Charlie Class 2013

Day One (Friday, 19 July):  Traveling to St Louis for a scorching, but rewarding orientation for the Mission Continues (MC) Fellowship.  It’s going to be a hot one, and we’re getting special permission to wear shorts and hats for our service project at an inner city elementary school.  18 folks from the northeast sector (out of 82 total), but I’m the only one flying in from Philly – go figure.  Let’s get it on! BH

Day Two (Saturday, 20 July):  Arrived ok, met some ‘fellow’ fellows in the St Louis airport while waiting for the bus – more folks than I thought have been out about 8 to 10 years and felt the same yearning to come back to the veteran thing that I do.  Picked up and whisked to the Sheraton (nice) where we had several mixers and made lots of new acquaintances, both upstairs and down in the lobby bar.  Lots of folks with stories to tell - felt very much at home.  Got to chat up some folks about Operation College Promise (OCP) and how we were able to link up with Texas A&M to reach out to more veterans about their educational benefits.  As a side benefit, a number of the ‘fellows’ gave me their information on colleges they were working with – Ohio State, etc.  We’re merging the professionals who have completed OCP’s Certificate for Veterans’ Service Providers training with the A&M Military Friendly Listserv.  Details are in this link, check it out:

“Working Hard” as the MC core values state.  Everyone was fired up for the service project at the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club.  Had nearly 400 volunteers from Boeing, Fox Sports Midwest and even the STL Cardinals mascot!  Went great, although I got paint on my desert boots – hope it cleans up...  Had a great BBQ dinner at Boeing!  Was tired, but they had a great museum including a mockup of the Gemini space capsule – too small for me to fit in… BH

Day Three (Sunday, 21 July):  Very excited, after meeting many alumni of the program who told us their individual stories, (the MC headquarters is in St Louis so we the opportunity to meet the staff and see their digs).  The first ever Mark Weber Legacy award was presented to a deserving past fellow.  The award was named after Lt Col Weber, who mentored the MC fellows, even as he was given six months to live with stage four cancer.  His oldest son Matthew spoke with us and presented the award – not a dry eye in the house but very motivating. Even more pumped up to get back to Trenton and start at OCP.  Headed out soon to Busch Stadium to catch the Cardinal/Padres game – best part, getting to take our MC oath on the field before the game! It was very cool to take some pics on the field (see my tweets at #brianharriett or #missioncontinues). BH

Days Ahead (Wednesday, 24 July):  Started today at OCP.  What a great group!  Got to regale them will stories from St Louis – what a motivating experience, I highly recommend it to everyone.  Time to hit the road and begin the challenge!  BH

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Got Your 6 - Connecting the Pillars

Connecting the Pillars - Marvin Cadet
Jobs. Education. Health. Housing. Family. Leadership. –the six pillars that Got Your 6 focuses on in regards to veteran reintegration. Through this framework, GY6 and its non-profit partners demonstrate that veterans are leaders and, in fact, still have more to give to their country. In the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to this effort in a very unique way.
This past May, I was sworn into the 2013 Bravo Class of The Mission Continues. As a class, we made a commitment to making a positive impact in our communities by upholding the values we learned during our military service. The Mission Continues falls in in the leadership pillar of GY6.
Through The Mission Continues, I have connected with Operation College Promise (OCP), which is where I am serving my fellowship. OCP falls in the education pillar of GY6 and is a national education, research and policy initiative supporting the transition and postsecondary advancement of veterans and servicemembers. They support veteran service providers across the country with training and best practices for serving the contemporary veteran population.
Through OCP, I was given the opportunity to attend an event hosted by Give an Hour.  Give an Hour, which falls in the health pillar of GY6, is a non-profit organization that provides free mental health services to veterans and their families that were affected by the on-going efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of the work that they do is volunteer-based and they have a lot of amazing people that have stepped up to the plate to help veterans and their families.
This past June, Give an Hour screened a documentary film and followed it with a panel discussion featuring a combat veteran along with a mental service professional. The film was titled Hell and Back Again. It followed a young Marine Sergeant and the challenges he faced when returning home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
As an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran myself, the film touched on a lot of the same experiences I had upon coming from theater. The main one that comes to mind is the feeling that life in a war-zone is so much easier than the civilian world because of the sense of purpose that comes with carrying out a mission. Hell and Back Again was very well put together and is a must see for anyone who wants a better understanding of today’s veteran.
The work that the above-mentioned non-profit organizations are doing for veterans, with the support of GY6 is amazing, and I am very grateful to be a part of it.