Today, continuing Obama family tradition, The First Family, their extended family, and many friends packed and handed out food bags at the Capital Area Food Bank in preparation for Thanksgiving. This year, the family was joined by volunteers from The Mission Continues, who exemplify the continuing service of our Nation’s veterans. The First Family will also be donating two turkeys and canned goods to the Capital Area Food Bank.
For many of our Nation’s veterans, their desire to lend assistance to others extends well beyond their service in the military. Through The Mission Continues, post-9/11 veterans are awarded community service fellowships that allow them to engage in projects throughout the United States and continue the strong sense of purpose and mission they found in the military. These veterans are using their skills and leadership to take on tough challenges like homelessness, poverty, and educating our youth. Together, they are making a significant impact and building relationships with their local communities. Today, Joining Forces is proud to highlight several veterans from The Mission Continues who participated in the Thanksgiving service project with the First Family.
Connor Mallon is an excellent example of a veteran who has answered the call of continuing service. Connor served as a squad leader during two deployments to Iraq. After completing his military service, Connor enrolled in college and applied for a Fellowship with The Mission Continues. Connor’s passion for wildlife photography helped him secure a fellowship with the Smithsonian National Zoo as a photographer. During his fellowship, Connor created a professional portfolio of images for the Zoo to use in news releases and digital media.
Ryaja Johnson Rhone served for seven years in the United States Air Force and deployed to Afghanistan. After learning about The Mission Continues, Ryaja was eager to become a fellow. She earned a fellowship with Dress for Success, a non-profit organization that provides disadvantaged women the support they need to find meaningful employment. As a fellow, Ryaja’s goal is to provide more than 345 women with the services and support to put them on the road to great careers.
Vu Nguyen enlisted in the Navy during his senior year of high school and served for four years. Vu was crucial to the operational readiness of the Squadron during their deployment to Bagram Airfield in 2008. After his military service ended, Vu returned to school but had a desire to continue serving, which led him to The Mission Continues. Vu earned a fellowship at the National Veteran’s Center, which provides career-oriented employment and community-based job training to veterans with significant disabilities. He served as a program manager where he utilized the skills he learned in the military to keep the program organized, moving forward, and serving veterans.
This Thanksgiving, the First Lady is thankful for our veterans who have chosen to continue their service at home as community leaders and volunteers through organizations like The Mission Continues. On behalf of the First Lady, we encourage every American to follow the example of these veteran volunteers and find ways to serve. From volunteering at a local charity, to sending a military service member a holiday card, there are many ways to support our military communities during the holiday season. To learn more about getting involved in your local community, visit serve.gov.
Commander Cara LaPointe, US Navy, is a White House Fellow in the Office of the First Lady