#OperationWestsideSurge: An Interview with Chris Atkinson, Atlanta Platoon Leader of The Mission Continues
June 20, 2017
To the average person, “Charlie Mike” may sound like nothing more than perhaps someone’s name, but to the veterans involved in this month’s Operation Westside Surge, this military phrase means something far more meaningful: Continue Mission.
The Mission Continues is a national organization that empowers veterans adjusting to civilian life find purpose through community service projects. Since its inception in August 2007, The Mission Continues has spent hundreds of thousands of hours serving local communities through its “Service Platoon Program,” with more than 20 platoons actively working in 36 cities across 21 states.
On June 10, the Atlanta Platoon kicked off its 5-day Operation Westside Surge, a “mass deployment” of 100+ veterans and community volunteers of all ages and backgrounds tackling some of Westside Atlanta’s most challenging beautification projects. Working tirelessly from dust to dark, rain or shine, volunteers made significant progress on projects at Mattie Freeland Park, Truly Living Well, The Atlanta Beltline, the Bellwood Boys and Girls Club, and Quest Veterans Village.
We took some time to speak with Chris Atkinson, Platoon Leader and organizer for Operation Westside Surge, to learn more about how he got involved with the Mission Continues, how he thinks service can impact veterans and his hopes for the Westside.
How did you first become involved with The Mission Continues?
Back in February of 2015, I actually lost my job. I was looking for something to do and needing some direction…”
What does a day in the life of a Platoon Leader look like?
A lot of what a Platoon Leader does is actually behind the scenes. We manage the platoon on a day-to-day basis… we manage membership, we get people involved, we actively recruit. And then on the other side we plan both service projects like the major one you’re seeing here with Operation Westside Surge. Our platoon will [also] do smaller projects on a quarterly basis.”
What do you think projects like this do for veterans in the community?
Leadership from veteran to community is a natural transition. Through our Platoon Leaders, through our Platoons, we are able to connect vets together as a group and then we’re able to take that group and connect them to the community that they live in, in a way that empowers the vets to really get involved in their community focus.”
What has been the most rewarding part of the work that Operation Westside Surge has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time?
Meeting the people is by far the best thing that’s happening… Its just gratifying to know that I’ve got that support from my Mission Continues family, that they’re willing to give up a week of their lives and work their butts off in any kind of weather. We’ve had everything from 100 degrees hot, to Monday which was pouring rain all afternoon. They laid sod in the rain.
The best part is the people. I’ve met a lot more people in the community and have made more connections so that we can help English Avenue/Vine City get back on their feet.”
What is your hope for the Westside?
I’m hoping the Westside comes back to what it used to be, which is a family neighborhood where people want to live and raise their kids.
We need to get the people out. We need to get the people involved, and make this community back into the cohesive community it used to be.”
For more information on The Mission Continues and to see how you can get involved, visit their website.