Program Allows Wounded Veterans To Continue Service
(November 10, 2009)
|WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 4, 2009) -- “I lost my legs. That's all. I
did not lose my desire to serve, or my pride in being an American.”
Those words from a wounded warrior recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital from
injuries suffered in Iraq inspired Navy Lt. Eric Greitins and Kenneth Harbaugh
to found “the Mission Continues,” a new kind of veterans organization.
The Mission Continues co-founder and CEO, Lt. Eric Greitins, and current fellow Sgt. Eric Parry lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Oct. 31, 2009.
The organization allows wounded or disabled veterans from the current war in
Iraq and Afghanistan to become fellows. Once a fellow, the veteran is
awarded a monetary grant to cover cost-of-living expenses during a
fellowship working with a charitable organization, to provide 40 hours of
service weekly for an average of 14 weeks.
“For all of our Mission Continues fellows, this is a way for them to
reconnect to a sense of purpose, to use their strengths when they serve here
at home and it really allows them to know also that they are continuing the
mission of public service to those who have fallen,” Greitins said.
The Mission Continues serves as a challenge to veterans and can often act as
a way to gain skills that can lead to further opportunities, Greitans said.
Former fellows that worked with organizations such as Paralyzed Veterans of
America and Big Brothers/Big Sisters are currently on their way to become
licensed therapists and nurses, he explained.
Inspiration to serve
It was actually not just one veteran that inspired the program, Greitins
said. Many hospitalized veterans he met wanted to continue to serve their
country, even if they could not remain in the military due to the extent of
“As I went through the hospital, I asked each one of them what they wanted
to do when they recovered and every one of them said they wanted to return
to their unit,” Greitins said. “But it was also clear that a lot of these
men were not going to be able to return to their unit right away. So I asked
them what else they wanted to do and each of them said they wanted to
continue to serve their country somehow.”
“It became very clear to me that day that all of these men had a long stream
of visitors coming to say thank you for their service,” he continued. “But
they also had to hear we still need you. They had to hear that we had a
place for them when they came home and we wanted them to continue to serve.
They had to know when they came home they were not a problem. They were an
Greitins, a Navy SEAL who currently serves in the Reserves, recently
returned from Iraq at the time of his hospital visit. He was so inspired by
the veterans that he used his combat pay, along with two friends, who also
contributed money, to found the Mission Continues.
Honor fallen by living their values
The St. Louis, Mo.,-based organization now has several programs for
In addition to the fellowship, the Mission Continues also has a program
called Veterans Tributes. This program empowers citizens to complete service
projects on behalf of fallen servicemembers.
“In that way we help to continue the mission of the fallen by engaging
others in service in their name,” Greitins said. “I believe the greatest way
to honor those who have fallen is to live their values of service and
sacrifice in our own lives.”
The Mission Continues has thousands of volunteers across the country. In the
past year alone, they have contributed over 26,000 hours of volunteer
service, Greitins said.
Helping others while helping self
Sgt. Eric Parry, a current fellow, was injured in Iraq while serving with
the 1st Infantry Division. He was injured during a rocket-propelled grenade
attack and he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, sleep apnea, and
Parry is volunteering with the Metropolitan Police Girls and Boys Club in
Baltimore, Md., and also serves as a youth mentor in the Washington, D.C.,
“My belief is that we are all here to provide a service and the Mission
Continues allows me to do that,” Parry said. “I am able to share my story
and see how I'm able to encourage and be apart of someone else's life
through my learning and experiences.”
As the organization continues to grow and fellowship applications reach
dozens each month, the Mission Continues is looking toward the future,
“In the coming years,” he said, “we want to shape the way our culture
welcomes home our veterans.”
Article and photo by Nate D. Herring
Army News Service
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