When she returned to the United States from Iraq, former Army sergeant Rachel Gutierrez struggled with depression and PTSD. Luckily, she found assistance and is now feeling better, thanks to The Mission Continues, a St. Louis-based non-profit organization that mobilizes veterans to help other veterans.
The Mission Continues organizes platoons of veterans and active duty servicemen and women to work together to solve problems in their communities. For example, there’s a Phoenix platoon that focuses on chronic veteran homelessness, while the Washington, D.C. platoon works to fight hunger among children. The Orlando, Florida platoon mentors at-risk youth.
Gutierrez is the leader of the 1st Platoon Phoenix. Tina Rosenberg of the New York Times highlighted a late-night mission Gutierrez led to find veterans sleeping on the street in Phoenix and register them for services last October. The volunteers located 75 veterans, of which 40 agreed to apply for housing. At Christmas, the service platoon follow-up with the vets, visiting their new apartments and bringing holiday gifts.
Former Navy Seal Eric Greitens founded The Mission Continues in 2007, offering vets a stipend in exchange for them spending 20 hours a week on a six-month service mission. Last year, he expanded the organization’s programs to the service platoon model when he realized it could help more people and involve more vets.
Serving with The Mission Continues has had a major impact on Gutierrez’s quality of life. “So many of us have problems with PTSD and such. This makes us realize that regardless of what’s going on, we are strong enough to still serve others and motivate others with our stories and compassion.”