Visionaries series: The Mission Continues

Founder and Navy SEAL Eric Greitens has set out to make sure every returning veteran knows just how much they are needed.

In every field there are game changers. The Michael Jordans, the Apples, and now, the Warby Parkers. Led by co-founders Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa, Warby Parker is forever altering the way people think about buying glasses and giving back. Inspired by their work, we partnered with WP to recognize other outstanding socially conscious organizations in our second annual Visionaries Series. These are the innovators who aretangibly changing our world for the better.Check back weekly to meet the complete Class of 2013. May the way they see the world inspire you to do your part this season.

The Person: Eric Greitens

The Business: "The Mission Continues empowers veterans to serve their country in new ways."

The Idea: "Shortly after returning home from service in Iraq in 2007, I visited with wounded Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital. In talking with them, each Marine expressed a desire to return to their unit. The reality was that due to their injuries, many of them were never going to be able to return to the frontline. For some, their military careers were over. I realized that I was just one among many thanking them for their service. What these veterans also needed to hear—in addition to thank you—was 'we still need you.' They needed a new mission."

The Goal: "In twenty years, when Americans reflect on this generation of veterans, their legacy will be one of service with honor overseas, and continued service to build a stronger country here at home."

The Impact: "Since founding the organization in 2007, The Mission Continues has awarded 842 service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans and engaged thousands more veterans in days of service nationwide. Through their service, our Fellows are finding new missions here at home and building stronger communities. More than 500 nonprofit and community organizations have benefited from the leadership of a Mission Continues Fellow. This is real impact at the local level."

The Inspiration: "I’m inspired by the stories of veterans like Hiawatha Clemmons III. As a young man, Hiawatha was labeled a 'special needs' student, but he aspired to prove himself the toughest way he knew how, and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After four years of service, including a deployment to Iraq, Hiawatha returned home and served a Mission Continues Fellowship. Through his fellowship, he returned to his old middle school where he mentored other young men and women."

The Surprises:
"I’m continually surprised by the generosity of individual Americans. The Mission Continues is funded entirely by private donations along with the support of foundations and corporations. Their confidence in this generation of veterans makes our mission possible."

The X-Factor: "At The Mission Continues, we’ve dedicated resources to consistently measuring our programs. Our Fellows participate in an independent evaluation through Washington University in St. Louis, which provides us with detailed reporting on health and wellness, personal growth, and professional experience at various stages of the Fellowship Program. As a result, we are proving the effectiveness of our programs, and more importantly, we’re able to evolve our programs to best meet the needs of the veterans we serve."

The Goal: "The Mission Continues is committed to providing continued service opportunities for veterans in their communities. This year, we launched Mission Continues Service Platoons, teams of veterans working together to tackle tough challenges in their communities. In Phoenix, an Army veteran is leading her platoon to locate homeless veterans and connect them with resources to get them off the streets. In Orlando, a Marine Corps veteran is leading his platoon as they provide mentorship to at-risk youth. Our mission is to provide an opportunity for every veteran returning home to continue their service in their community."

The Visionary in His Eyes: "I’ve been lucky to have a number of incredible mentors and teachers in my life. While at Duke, I learned to box at a local gym with a trainer named Earl Blair. For Earl, each of us had strength and it was our duty to develop that strength. Sometimes that meant skipping rope properly. Other times it meant helping those in need. Earl was incredibly demanding of everyone at the gym and of everyone around him. Through his coaching he changed a lot of lives, including mine."

The Message: "The world needs you. Do your part to make it a better place."
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