I remember the feeling of sadness as I drove out of the front gate of Camp Lejune on my last day in the Marine Corps. I thought to myself, “How am I going to top that?” I was a Sergeant, a squad leader, and I had a memory full of epic adventures.
Leading Marines and working together for the common good is what I would miss most, along with the unlimited access to explosives. Luckily, that inner fire found a new home in The Mission Continues. It gave me an opportunity to direct all my passion, military leadership, along with every residual ounce of ‘Oorah,’ and redirect it into a new mission: inspiring positive change in my community through service as a Mission Continues fellow.
My personal mission was to tackle unemployment in the Greater Houston Area among my fellow veterans, which I have been very successful with so far. Then I got a phone call. The staff asked me if I would like to be on the Colbert Report, to which I replied…”yyAAAiiyah..” along with other indistinguishable sounds of excitement.
Turns out, the Colbert Report was doing a piece on the focus of my fellowship: veteran unemployment. What ensued was an experience of a lifetime! I remember waking up to an anxiety attack from utter excitement! I felt like I won the lottery, and it was thanks to The Mission Continues.
My wife and I got to meet Stephen Colbert, all of his wonderful staff, and First Lady Michelle Obama! They flew us out to New York, put us up in a nice hotel in Time Square, and paid us for our time on the show. We were overwhelmed by bountiful generosity. My wife and I are both fans of the show, so it really was a dream come true.
Walking into the studio was surreal. It was decorated with all sorts of funky art and hilarious pictures. Everyone who worked there was jovial, amicable and genuinely enthusiastic. Stephen was the nicest guy on and off camera, and he really loves the troops. He even went to Iraq in 2009 to entertain the troops. He just oozed funny constantly. Stephen Colbert is a guy I’d have a beer with any time….or a glass of wine with Michelle Obama, who we also got to meet.
She had a presence of elegance and kindness, as well as a warm motherly hug. I was at a loss for words when I met the First Lady. I didn’t know whether or not to call her First, Firsty, Michelle, Mrs. Obama, or Mi’lady, so I just reverted back to my military training and just called her ma’am. Nevertheless, I thanked her wholeheartedly for her veteran hiring initiative. She makes my job of getting vets back to work easy.
All I planned on doing was working for my veteran community, but I have gotten much more out of my fellowship than that. The rewards of working with my community show in the number of veterans hired, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Doing good for my fellow man, and my brothers and sisters in arms is the most potent sense of satisfaction I have ever felt. My fellowship with The Mission Continues has reawakened my passion for leadership through service, and a love for my community. I’ll never be the same, and I’m just getting started.
Bryan Escobedo served in the United States Marine Corps and is currently completing a Mission Continues Fellowship at Lonestar Veterans Association in Houston, Texas.