From military veteran to humanitarian

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Photo of a marine in Iraq.

This story was originally covered by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

Navy SEAL Eric Greitens began a transformation after he was hit by a suicide bomb in Iraq. "I was very fortunate in that my injuries were minor," he told PRI's The Takeaway. Many others in the attack were hurt much worse, and as he talked to other injured soldiers, every one said, "I want to find a way to continue to serve."

After that, Greitens founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that trains wounded and disabled veterans for leadership roles in their communities. Grietens says that for many veterans, "the most sever injury is not when they've lost their eyesight or when they lost a limb, but when they lose that sense of purpose." His nonprofit tries to bring some of that purpose back.

For U.S. Marine Rye Barcott, humanitarian work was a way to fulfill needs not met by military force alone. Barcott founded the nonprofit Carolina for Kibera, an organization that sports and health care to nurture and develop young leaders in the slums of Kenya.

"One of the fundamental limitations of military force is a lack of continuity," Barcott told The Takeaway. Soldiers are deployed for 6 to 12 months, and then they leave. Barcott says that "true sort of development work -- catalyzing change from within communities -- takes a long view, it takes time, it takes trust, and trust takes a while to build."

Both Greitens and Barcott have found that helping people outside of the military structure involves individual effort. "In order to do humanitarian work effectively, and even in order to do military work effectively, or to do the work that we do today with wounded and disabled veterans," Greitens emphasizes, "you really have to take it just one step at a time."


"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.