Transforming Communities in New York — And Beyond

by Natasha Srour

Members of the Mission Continues New York Service Platoon work with Kaboom to build a new playground at the Kings Bay Y in Brooklyn.

I discovered The Mission Continues after a friend lent me the book The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens. I had just moved to New York to begin a documentary photography program at the International Center of Photography and was interested in covering veterans issues. After reaching out to The Mission Continues, they kindly invited me to attend one of the New York Service Platoon’s operations: rebuilding a playground in Brooklyn. Members of the platoon, in collaboration with Kaboom, rebuilt a playground destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in one weekend. Their work would benefit kids in the neighborhood for years to come.

From left to right: Dia Beshara, the Brooklyn platoon leader at his studio in Brooklyn, NY. “Organizations like the Mission Continues made it so easy to transition back into it and into service.” Jennie Fisher is a member of the New York Service Platoon and hopes to work with The Mission Continues to spread events to local schools and education based projects in her community. Tom Smoot works to rebuild a house in Brooklyn damaged by hurricane Sandy through his fellowship at the New York Disaster Interfaith Services.

Over the next few months I attended several platoon events and interviewed multiple veterans. I discovered The Mission Continues gives veterans a sense of purpose and community that many experienced while in military service, yet sometimes were challenged to find in civilian life. This work not only benefits veterans, but also the broader community. They build playgrounds, pass out meals to housebound seniors, and participate in a variety of volunteer activities in and around greater New York. And their work extends across the country.

From left to right: Members of the New York Service Platoon prepare meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House in New York City. Roxanne Yolande completed her fellowship at Brooklyn College where she tested samples of soil from in and around New York City. She began her fellowship with The Mission Continues because she “wanted to incorporate the volunteering experience while working toward her education goals.”

It is inspirational to see an organization like The Mission Continues function on multiple levels, benefiting all those involved. I met and photographed incredible veterans who shared their stories with me. Many veterans had been through difficult experiences, but the various service opportunities offered through The Mission Continues unify veterans under the common purpose of helping those in their community. This drove them to want to do more and continue to serve as they had in the military. These veterans inspire or instill in those around them with a desire to do more and truly lead by example.

From left to right: Roman Baca, who completed his fellowship with The Mission Continues in 2012, helps package food that will be delivered as thanksgiving meals to over 600 house-bound seniors in Jersey City. Yasin Jackson completed her fellowship at the New York Chamber of Commerce.
Natacha Castelly paints pumpkins with children at the Bronx Service Platoon’s launch at the Hayden Lord Playground.

Natasha Srour is a photographer based in New York City.

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