ORLANDO, Fla. – For many, helping those who need it just comes naturally. But for others, that drive is born out of a need to heal.
For Marine Corps veteran Dustin Bird, helping other veterans find food during this pandemic is his biggest mission lately.
“That’s what we’re going to focus around, is just giving people food and taking care of their mental health because people are anxious and stressed, you know, and the community needs to see that we’re out here doing good stuff for them,” Bird said.
Bird has been spending a lot of his time volunteering through his organization, the Orlando 1st Service Platoon of The Mission Continues. It’s a veteran-based group that welcomes veterans from all branches of the military, and they’re teaming up with other local organizations to assist with food drives for those who need the help the most right now.
“People are definitely hurting right now. You can tell it. You can see the pain in their face. Some people are very grateful to receive the food,” Bird said. “Today we’re supporting the Soldiers’ Angels, which is a nonprofit that provides food to veterans in need. Our plan today is to serve hopefully 250 veterans with 75 pounds worth of food.”
It's not just about providing food, it's also about giving other veterans a safe way to come together for a common purpose and a connection.
"I think one of the beautiful things about my organization, The Mission Continues, was it reminded me how important that connection is," said Bird. "Prior to meeting The Mission Continues, I struggled with PTSD for many years, just had a rough separation from the military after leaving Iraq. And sadly, I met The Mission Continues 12 years after leaving service. And they reminded me how important that connection is. You know, getting around veterans, getting to speak with them. Those connections are important. They keep you sane, give you people to lean on when you're in crisis or in tough times."
Bird said volunteering at events like these can help those veterans heal from their invisible wounds of war.
“Definitely healing through helping,” Bird said. “I mean, veterans are well-accustomed to the seabag drag and, you know, working as a production line almost. So we know how to work together. We know how to get it done quickly and safely.”
Carol Adams from Soldiers’ Angels said the support from The Mission Continues makes all the difference.
“Dustin, he’s like a team leader for us,” Adams said. “He comes in, he sets up under his tent. He knows what to do. They help us package food, hand it out, clean up, set up. It seems like that we’re just giving food to veterans, but there is so much that goes into that before and after.”
And Bird said The Mission Continues will be there to help as long as there is a need.
“I try to spread some love and show them right here, we’re here for you,” Bird said. “And I know you’re going through some rough times right now, but we got your back.”