Veterans in Solidarity: Operation Chi-Town Salute
Aug 3, 2022
One-on-One with The Mission Continues Chicago Platoon Leader Rogelio Villa
Our veteran-led mass deployment program mobilizes veterans alongside local partners and volunteers in a single city for a week of community impact. Operation Chi-Town Salute will deploy veteran leaders and community volunteers in Chicago over four high-impact days of service with five partner organizations.
Rogelio Villa always had an interest in joining the military, but when he became a father at 17 while still in high school, his life unexpectedly changed. He joined the Army National Guard and deployed in 2008 alongside the 1st Infantry Division in the Laghman province of Afghanistan. After Rogelio transitioned out of the Army National Guard, he held on to the desire to serve others that attracted him to join the military. While working with the YMCA Urban Warriors in Chicago on the weekends to organize group support sessions, he was introduced to The Mission Continues. Rogelio would go on to volunteer, and eventually earn a position as the Chicago Platoon Leader. Rogelio currently works as a Veterans Affairs certifying official for Kennedy-King College, helping veterans go back to college while supporting his partners in youth violence intervention.
Tell us about the sites that we will be supporting during Operation Chi-Town Salute.
The project sites that were selected for Operation Chi-Town Salute are within the Little Village community and Englewood. Those are the two communities that the Chicago Platoon has been working with together with local community partners. One of the sites in the Little Village community is Maria Salcedo Scholastic Academy, an elementary school that used to be a high school back in the seventies.
One of the other locations is Hope Manor II, which is part of the Volunteers of America, and provides housing for veterans with about a five-block radius of family and single units. Between the two locations of Kennedy-King College and Hope Manor II, we have Veterans Garden and Hermitage Garden.
Why did you choose these locations?
The Chicago Platoon had already done a lot of work in these locations, and established relationships with the community partners. All these locations provide essential services to veterans, hosting public events, and are always open to the community. We determined that these are great sites to support so they can continue doing what they do, which is engaging the community, providing services, inviting other local organizations to set up shop, and share information with the community. They are cornerstones of the community. They’re at the center of a lot of community engagement activities.
How do you think Operation Chi-Town Salute is going to help the community in the months and years to come?
The influx of resources and sweat equity that The Mission Continues is providing is a big plus. The other thing is having veterans come out, showing up in large numbers from all over Chicago and the United States. It’s really going to inspire and motivate the community as well as local veterans from Chicago. For Chicagoans to see how much people care, the time being contributed through volunteer work, and the transformation of a space that needs love and care, is really going to make a long-lasting change. More than anything, it will keep us motivated and inspired.
What is it that brings all these community members together?
As veterans, we are in a position to be able to bring in people from all over to one single place. I see us as the neutral group that everyone wants to support and so we are able to connect with local elected officials, the police department, community members, and organizations. We’re able to extend that invitation and they’re more than happy to come out and support us in solidarity.
How are you feeling? Are you ready?
I am really excited. First of all, I feel incredibly honored that our Chicago was selected, and I just can’t wait to get this work started. I love the fact that we have so many people coming out here to our city to do some work alongside us and to be able to see and to share the love between communities. I love the fact that we’re working at the two communities, Little Village and Englewood that need support. These communities really could benefit from having people from all over to work together in these places and inspire others, inspire the youth, inspire the community, inspire other veterans. In the long term, this is what’s going to stick around in people’s minds. I’m ready. I’m motivated. And more than anything, I’m excited. We’re going to show you what Chicago is all about.
Please visit missioncontinues.org/mass-deployments/ to learn how you can report for duty at one of the service projects.
Thanks to the following sponsors for their support:
- A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation
- The Weinberg Foundation
- A&E Networks
Thanks to the in-kind support of our partners:
- Windy City Tool Bank