DETROIT (AP) — Dozens of military veterans have come to Detroit to rebuild neglected areas of the financially distressed city.
It marks the latest — and largest — effort undertaken by St. Louis, Missouri-based The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that encourages and aids volunteerism by veterans to ease the post-military transition.
Teams of volunteers fanned out Monday to three locations in a neighborhood on the northeast side of Detroit. At a park, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Ben Eichel, 33, and others picked up trash and built benches.
"When you're not part of something that's bigger than yourself, you lose that identity. You become isolated, and a lot of us tend to go to dark places," said Eichel, of Denver, taking a break from trying to remove a rusted-out fence. "So, The Mission Continues was there and got me involved in the community. It helped me reintegrate in civilian society effectively, because I learned that I'm not just a veteran."
The Detroit deployment, which is known as Operation Motown Muster, got underway Saturday and will end Wednesday. In addition to park beautification, the volunteers will also convert a school classroom into an art gallery and clean vacant lots.
"We believe very strongly that military veterans are really uniquely poised to help try to solve some of these community challenges all over the country," according to group official Mary Beth Bruggeman, who should know. She was a combat engineer with the U.S. Marines and was part of the force that invaded Iraq in 2003.
Associated Press writer Corey Williams contributed to this report.