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The Mission Continues St. Louis oath ceremony.

The Mission Continues is an organization that helps veterans transition from military service into their civilian lives. The Mission recently held an event at Busch Stadium in St. Louis where 80 veterans reaffirmed their commitment to their communities. We had the chance to interview Meredith Knopp, an Army Military Police veteran of eight years and current V.P. of Programs for The Mission Continues, about the program.

Can you tell us about The Mission Continues and its goals?

The Mission Continues is a national veteran's service organization that helps post 9/11 veterans in their transition from their time in the military to a leadership role back at home in their communities. We do this by providing the tools, directions, and resources through a six-month fellowship program where veterans serve for 20 hours a week for six months, 520 hours total, at a non-profit organization in their hometown.

What's the benefit of community service for veterans?

What we found, through our program and having some independent evaluations at Washington University, is that their service during the fellowship program really helps them find a new mission. It helps them with setting and achieving goals and building a network. All of those things are indicative of military service, and having a very clear sense of mission and purpose helps them rebuild those networks here at home.

So community service helps with the transition process?

Absolutely. Not only can they then take their leadership skills and use them to positively transform and benefit their communities, but it also gives them a chance to get out, to network, and to meet other people. It's also gives them a wonderful sense of giving back, something which military men and women are accustomed to doing.

What was the event in St. Louis all about?

Last weekend we welcomed 80 new veterans form all five branches of service to The Mission Continues fellowship program. They were from 26 different states and came in for a weekend of leadership training and development as well as a community service project we performed at the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club. We did everything from construction of benches and planter areas, landscaping, painting, fixing fences, to really help that organization and what they do for children in the St. Louis area.

Then on Sunday, they ended their weekend with taking their oath of continued service as citizen leaders in their communities on the field of Busch Stadium before the Cardinals versus Padres game. It was a wonderful weekend and a wonderful way to really demonstrate their commitment to service and to really be out there in the St. Louis community.

Does the leadership training help them be community leaders or give them more focus during their transition?

It helps them do a few things. It absolutely does help them with their focus, but it also helps them to translate their military skills and leadership into comparable civilian roles. Sometimes there's an opportunity there, so we hone their skills and try to identify what they already have. We try to heighten that, and their awareness, and take it to the next level to make a great impact.

Can you talk about any particular exercise that helps them on that road?

I think one of the first things they did was have smaller breakout sessions with other veterans in the community. They got to hear stories of people like them – not only in terms of their service and where they've been, but The Mission Continues is really more about where they're going. They're learning about the non-profits they're going to be serving and what they're going to be doing. It's really a chance for them to be inspired by one another. It's kind of laying down a challenge, like peer to peer challenge and accountability. They're saying, "this is what I'm doing in my community, what are you going to do?"

So there's a bit of a competitive aspect to it?

Yeah, it's always fun.

What are some of the benefits to having an event like this in the public eye?

It does a couple of things. For veterans, obviously, it builds that camaraderie and esprit de corps – these men and women now become a new unit which is very important. For the public, it's important for them to see our veterans as leaders and assets in their community. It really gives them a chance to not only see them but, if they came out to the service project, to serve alongside with them – to see the work ethic and the values that our veterans possess. There's a lot of amazing companies out there that are looking to hire veterans right now. Getting the chance to get out there and serve alongside these men and women is really important.

What are some of the best ways for veterans to get involved with their community?

Through community service such as the fellowship program we offer. If they're looking for ways to reconnect with other veterans, there are ways they can get involved with us through social media and connect with other veterans that have either gone through the program already or are alumni of our program. They can also contact people who are currently serving just to start up a conversation. There are great ways for them to get involved initially with other veterans who've already taken the first step, and to let them see and know that they're among friends and family with the military.

Some veterans have difficulty putting their skills and work experience down on a resume. What do you think they can say to an employer if they take part in The Mission Continues community service programs?

There are two parts to that. First, yes their service and what they're doing will help because we work with all of the hose sites to really explain, before they begin, what their quantifiable goals and outcomes will be while they're serving. We want them to be very tangible outcomes that will then look wonderful on their resume. They can say, "I serviced at this organization, and I was able to lead this new program, drive this new impact, improve this metric."

So it's something that will be more identifiable to civilian employers and also again with the leadership curriculum we put them through, we have them go through resume writing and job interviewing skills. We do help them in that translation of skills so they can understand and maybe rework some of their vernacular so they're not using military acronyms all the time. They'll use words that employers will easily be able to identify and relate to.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a transitioning veteran, what would it be?

Go to www.themissioncontinues.org.

If you'd like to know more about The Mission Continues, visit their website where you can look and sign up for one of their fellowship programs, or find out how to donate. You can also text "veteran" to 80088 to donate $10 to The Mission Continues.

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