Military veterans from across the nation are in St. Louis this weekend to receive training and take part in community improvement efforts.
The more than 80 veterans were joined by hundreds of community volunteers on Saturday to spruce up the Boys and Girls Club in north St. Louis City, building a picnic area, installing a new track and putting a fresh coat of paint on community areas.
The event and training is sponsored by The Mission Continues, a local non-profit with a mission to help post 9/11 veterans reintegrate into civilian life through volunteerism. Eric Greitens is the organization’s founder and CEO and says many veterans have a hard time transitioning into civilian life after experiencing an intense sense of service to their fellow soldiers.
“You have imagine a 23-year-old United States Marine, he’s waking up every morning in Afghanistan, he’s got a mission in front of him, he’s got a team that’s counting on him, he’s got a purpose every day,” Greitens says. “When veterans come home a lot of them are looking for that same sense of mission, that same sense of service that, that same sense of purpose and camaraderie.”
To help bridge the gap, veterans participating in this weekend’s events and training will be given six-month fellowships by the Mission Continues, which includes a stipend while they volunteer for non-profits in their communities.
Greitens says the program helps veterans reconnect with their community and regain a sense of purpose while they transition back into the civilian workforce or head back to school.
Air Force veteran and St. Louis resident Jamie Hatfield is taking a break from his job in information technology to take part in the program. He says he hasn’t felt the same sense of camaraderie since he left the service.
“It’s reintroducing me back into that feeling of teamwork and actually being able to obtain a goal,” Hatfield says.
Hatfield will volunteer for Mission St. Louis, a non-profit that helps low income residents fix up their homes and provides job training programs along with other community building services.
Before the Cardinals game at Busch Stadium on Sunday, veterans participating in this weekend’s events will take an oath of service to their communities.
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd