Healing program allows vets to Continue MissionSep 02, 2022 11:34AM ● By Peri Kinder
After Sgt. Josh Hansen (US Army Retired) was injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007, he was hospitalized for months with brain trauma, and back and neck injuries. Hansen often felt he was a burden on everyone around him and thought it would be better for everyone if he wasn’t around.
But after one of his soldiers died by suicide, Hansen realized he was traveling that same, dark road, and wanted a different ending.
“After going to his funeral and seeing how it devastated the family and his kids, that was the turning point to say that’s not the answer,” he said. “We took care of each other during the war, we need to do that at home.”
Hansen and his wife, Melissa, founded Continue Mission in 2014, to provide a process to help veterans dealing with trauma. Based on his personal healing journey, the Continue Mission program, based in North Salt Lake, gets vets outside and interacting with each other.
Whether it’s hiking, paddle boarding, disc golf, pickleball or a ball game, the outdoor activities create bonds and friendships. Depression breeds in isolation, so physical interaction is a big part of Continue Mission.
“When you get this big network of individuals you can reach out to when you’re struggling, that can save a life,” Hansen said. “What worked for me might save others. Mother Nature is so healing.”
Many veteran programs are only available to military personnel who served after 9/11, but Continue Mission is open to vets of any era and service connection including National Guard, reserves and active duty personnel. The program also has numerous women participating, as well as LGBTQ or trans soldiers. Hansen wants the program to be all-encompassing and inclusive.
Continue Mission has grown with more than 3,500 vets participating this year, compared to 15 vets during the first year, and nearly 200 events. A recent river trip to Moab cost $10K but was offered at no cost to participants.
Continue Mission is funded through grants, website donations and a fundraising event organized by Blade HQ in Pleasant Grove.
“Running a nonprofit is not easy,” Hansen said. “We usually wing it and hope people find out about us and donate when we can. It’s stressful every year to know if we’re going to survive another year because of funding. But it’s been so rewarding.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Utah is one of the worst states for veteran suicide. Part of Continue Mission’s goal is to get people in touch with the VA to get assistance, mental health counseling and other support.
“The majority of veterans dying by suicide aren’t registered with the VA at all. They’re not even getting the help,” Hansen said. “I don’t want to wait until someone is in that dark place. I’d rather stop it beforehand. If we can get them out with our program and get their lives back again, and not let the tunnel get too dark, that will be the saving grace.”
As Hansen and his soldiers cleared bombs in Iraq, he’d say Charlie Mike, which meant they could continue mission.
“Here at home we need to continue mission in life and support one another,” he said. “It’s healing for me when I hear success stories. There are so many ways we can touch people's lives and not even know it.”
Visit ContinueMission.org for more information or to make a donation. λ