Veteran group ‘deploys’ into DC for community service in Wards 7 and 8

Volunteers with The Mission Continues at a service deployment recently.(Courtesy The Mission Continues )
A military veterans’ nonprofit group is in the midst of a weeklong community service “deployment” in D.C. called “Operation District Drilldown.”

The aim of the group’s operation is to help beautify underserviced areas in community, while also giving their volunteers purpose in their post-military life.

“We’ve got folks who are ready to serve and have an enormous amount of potential energy, and we’ve got communities that need them,” said president and CEO of The Mission Continues, Mary Beth Bruggeman. “So we’re just matching them up!”

Bruggeman is a D.C.-area native and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. She grew up in Northern Virginia, and attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis. She told WTOP it means the world to her to be able to help improve the area she calls home.

The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit, with branches all over the country, Bruggeman said, in addition to local service projects they do across the country — they select one city, or area for a “mass deployment” every year, which sees hundreds of veterans converge for a week of acts of service. This year, that area is Wards 7 and 8 in D.C.

“We installed fencing and built like 30 benches and raised beds in the Fort Dupont Community Garden on Thursday,” Bruggeman said. “We’re doing things like painting, building and landscaping, and much more; projects that it probably would’ve taken these gardeners or the National Park Service years to complete on their own.”

“We come in with a lot of resources which makes it easier to do the work we do, and it feels incredible to be welcomed into these neighborhoods year after year,” she added.

But it really is a benefit that’s twofold for their volunteers.

“I felt needed when I was serving in the Marine Corps,” Bruggeman recounted. “And then, when I took my camouflage utilities off for the last time, I felt like I’d taken off my purpose. I see that story reflected in many of the veterans who serve with us, who engaged in very purposeful work when they served, and can feel like that part of them goes missing when they have to adjust back to civilian life.”

“We can make a huge difference through the projects we do in these communities. But we’re also helping veterans restore a sense of purpose. It can literally save lives,” she added.

The Mission Continues will be at Kramer Middle School, Anacostia High School and Anacostia Park to round out their week of service. Local leaders say the projects these volunteers work on are like a “shot in the arm” for each community and go a long way in bringing neighborhoods together.

Matt Kaufax

If there's an off-the-beaten-path type of attraction, person, or phenomenon in the DC area that you think more people should know about, Matt is your guy. As the features reporter for WTOP, he's always on the hunt for stories that provide a unique local flavor—a slice of life if you will.

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