Through his experience with The Mission Continues, a Navy veteran helped other veterans tell their stories while crafting his own.
I served my country for more than nine years in the United States Navy, and after my discharge, I worked in the corporate sector for a number of years before going back to school full time. As I finish my graduate degree, I now begin the daunting task of re-entering the work force as a filmmaker. Recently I became acquainted with The Mission Continues.
Their fellowship program allows veterans to volunteer at non-profit organizations and serve causes we’re passionate about. When I attended the fellowship orientation with 90 other veterans, one thing became absolutely clear. Being in a room with veterans who were excited about community service and about using our training and military experience to make the world a better place was the first time since leaving the military that I felt like myself again.
As a Mission Continues Fellow at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, I have interviewed veterans from every branch of service and from all walks of life. Whether officer or enlisted, tank commander or bomber pilot, navy cryptologist or army infantryman, each story has been a unique learning experience, one that I hope will resonate in the amazing stories we were able to capture.
One challenge we faced when working with veterans is our ability to draw out stories that connect on a human level. As veterans we are all versed in the ability to be succinct and provide only relevant information. I have learned about patience, respect, and the ability to be present with an interviewee in order to make a personal connection. In so doing, we have been able to access those stories of veterans’ experiences that may not otherwise have come to light.
The opportunity to focus on a piece of our nation’s history has helped me re-contextualize my own story and reflect on my future goals. The perception is that there is only one path to a successful filmmaker career – Hollywood. Being present with veterans who are interested in sharing a piece of their history has reminded me of the countless stories out there waiting to be told.
I believe preserving the stories of U.S. military veterans goes beyond historical importance – it is a unique form of inspiration that provides motivation for future generations to serve their country. My experience as a Mission Continues Fellow has helped me renew my commitment of service and focus on contributing to something bigger than myself.
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