Scott AFB members give back to veterans of Saint Louis
By Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade, 375th Air Mobility Wing, Public Affaris
/ Published October 28, 2011
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill --
In the heart of Saint Louis with paintbrushes and tools in their hands more than 350 Team Scott and community members volunteered to rehabilitate a building for local veterans Oct. 27 as part of the two month "Celebration of Service" campaign.
The national campaign chaired by Home Depot and the Mission Continues, enhances the lives of U.S. military veterans and underscores their needs and opportunities they face.
Josh Eckhoff a native of St. Louis is a wounded veteran and fellow member of the Mission Continues also gave back. He was wounded in 2008 during patrol in Bagdad and returned home with a traumatic brain injury and discharged from military service. He said it was important for him to give back to the community to help him and others for the future.
"For a lot of us returning from war, we are unserviceable," Eckhoff said. "I knew when I returned, I still had a lot to give and Mission Continues is helping me do that."
The Celebration of Service Campaign includes 200 service projects aimed at improving veterans' homes, facilities and community centers nationally.
St. Louis Marine Corps Recruiting Command kicked off the event by presenting the colors and official spokesperson remarks followed.
Scott Air Force Base volunteers centered their contributions on upgrading and renovating a donated church dormitory for veterans' use.
Senior Master Sgt. Robert Madrigal, 375th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant, said people hear a lot about veterans as a whole but not about the St Louis veterans specifically--the ones who live and work here every day.
"We are improving this facility to help them go out and become more valuable members of the community than they already are," he said. "It is important to give back while we can."
Throughout the day, volunteers built wheelchair ramps, installed flooring and window treatments, installed new fencing, and painted the entire inside of the building and constructing a patio area with new landscaping in the front and back of the facility.
Madrigal said he also learned a valuable lesson from the day--there's no more infinite value in having just as many paint brushes as you can when you have a lot of volunteers.
At the end of the day, the donated facility was transformed into a technology training and resource center for veterans allowing them a place to transition from military into civilian life. The new facility will provide veterans with instruction and skills training to prepare them for employment.
"It helps veterans to know they are appreciated everyday especially for our freedoms today," said Master Sgt. Vince Short, 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
He said this project reminds them that when veterans return whether they're disabled or not able to remain in the military, their hard work is still being rewarded.
Celebration of Service is intended not only to help veterans, but also to give them the opportunity to continue to serve as leaders in their local communities by encouraging veterans to participate in events throughout the year.
"We always aim to have a combination of veterans, civilians and active duty military at the project because they bring a really unique aspect," said Mallory Rusch, Mission Continues communications director.
"We hope the veteran volunteers can see how they can be reintegrated back into their community and still serve," she said. "For civilians, we hope they can really look at the retired and active duty population and see how much of an asset they are. We can really use them in initiates like this to improve places where we live and work.
"It's been amazing to have the support of Scott Air Force base today because the active duty volunteers are such skilled and incredible leaders who motivate so well, she added.
"Today, we are really showing the community that our veterans not only deserve to be served but also reminding them that veterans can still serve," said Home Depot foundation coordinator Frederick Wellman. "Veterans always have more to give their communities and that they can come out to projects like these and lend the skills they learned in the military to helping their communities."
"We love having active duty at our projects they bring a special energy and the volunteers enjoy working with them too," he said. "There's all this talk about the civilian and military divide--we are bridging that every day."
Rebuilding Together - St. Louis is a non-profit that revitalizes neighborhoods in partnership with the community by rehabilitating the houses of low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and the disabled, so they may continue to live independently in comfort and safety.
The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization that has committed to transform the lives of post-9/11 veterans by challenging them to serve again as civilians. Founded in 2007 by former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, the organization offers paid service fellowships to wounded and disabled veterans, awarding over 180 fellowships in 30 states.
For more details and volunteer information please visit www.missioncontinues.org. and www.rebuildingtogether-stl.org.