Taking a page out of military strategy, The Mission Continues plans to surge several dozen volunteer veterans into Detroit later this week in an effort to jump start a series of service projects in struggling communities.
But this time, instead of slow-developing embeds with the locals, the veterans advocacy group is opting for shock and awe in the form of seven days of revitalization projects with local charities and organizers, followed by the same long-term community commitment afterwards.
"It's a larger scale and ambition than we've tried before, and we're hoping it will be an intense experience for both the veterans coming in and local volunteers," said Laura L'Esperance, a senior vice president for the group.
Projects include landscaping and renovations at a pair of impoverished inner-city schools, laying the groundwork for parks and open spaces in the Detroit's Osborn neighborhood, and helping set up an urban farm that local activists hope can one day be both a community center and job creator for the area.
And it's also a chance to show city residents the immediate impact of veterans who decide to continue their service beyond their military duties.
Veterans will work alongside students at the schools to paint murals and playgrounds, and discuss longer-term projects with neighborhood organizers as the initial work is finished.
Courtney Sloat, an Army Reserve staff sergeant who served two tours in Iraq as a medic, said the week of work is the first veterans group event she has taken part in since returning to her hometown to attend Central Michigan University.
"I'm ready to meet people, I'm ready to get that network of veterans," she said. "But more than that, I want to help make Detroit a stronger city. So I'm excited we're here."
The Mission Continues officials hope to do similar city surges in years to come, coordinating the shows of force with group alumni's already-started work in those communities.
About 75 veterans with The Mission Continues will travel to Detroit this week for a series of service projects dubbed "Operation Motown Muster."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Mission Continues
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.