This week’s Hero of the Game when Houston Dynamo FC faces off against Nashville SC for the tenth anniversary of PNC Stadium is Damion Martin, a man who, after serving in the military, has continued to dedicate his life to giving back to others.
Growing up, both Damion and his twin brother Craig knew that they wanted to serve in the military. However, their paths diverged as Damion joined the Marine Corps while his brother enlisted in the Army.
After serving multiple tours overseas, Martin and his wife were looking for where to settle down and start a family, and they decided on Houston, his wife’s hometown.
Coming into a new city, Martin was determined to create a new circle of friends through connections he could. For him, the two best pathways to achieving this was through sports and his connection with fellow veterans. This led him to the Mission Continues.
“Going from a combat zone to a new territory and having to make connections and friends, one of the first things I looked for is what are the commonalities I have? It's the veterans' space and athletics,” he said. “That's how I came across The Mission Continues. I volunteered with them for a little bit in 2014 and then I became a full time staff member in 2015."
The Mission Continues is a nationwide non-profit that helps connect veterans with service projects so that they can continue to serve those less fortunate than themselves. The organization has programs that deploy veteran volunteers to work alongside nonprofit partners and community leaders to improve educational resources, tackle food insecurity, foster neighborhood identity, among others.
Since starting with The Mission Continues, Martin has worked his way up to becoming the director of service projects. Since taking on this role, the organization has partnered with a number of professional sports teams, including the Houston Dynamo and Dash.
“We've had the fortune through The Mission Continues and Combined Arms to work with several sports teams, including the Dynamo and the Dash. We've had several Dash players come out to our projects,” Martin said. “We had a project just last month where we had some Dynamo and Dash players out and some staff. It's a great way to think about how professional athletes still have a desire to give back. Whether it's where they came from, the lifestyle they had, or just the sense of understanding that they have the ability to do that and make someone else's life better, even in a small moment.”
The Mission Continues currently has platoon operations in 40 cities across the country. Anyone in these cities can sign up and come out to volunteer events alongside veterans and potentially professional athletes alike. For Martin, these volunteer events are a great opportunity for people of all walks of life to come together and give back.
“I think what's amazing, and is kind of the model of the Mission Continues, is that once you put on that blue shirt and you go out to serve, it really doesn't matter what you've done before,” Martin said. “It doesn't matter if you were in the military, if you've never served, it doesn't matter if you're from the community, if you've travelled from somewhere else to come serve and give back. Once you put on that shirt, that's what binds us. I think that resonates with sports. Once you put on that jersey, you are one team, regardless of where you come from, your skill, your talent, you're on that team to work together.”
For more information, visit www.missioncontinues.org/.