- Rachelle Fernandez
Josh Hansen's life was full of purpose as a business owner and sergeant in the Army Reserves. But his second tour of duty in Iraq changed all that. Hansen was seriously injured in an explosion, requiring years of physical and mental healing. Then Hansen lost several fellow soldiers to suicide. This made him find his purpose once more. In 2014, he founded Continue Mission, a nonprofit veteran organization that focuses on mental healing through recreation.
What makes Continue Mission so special?
During my recovery time, people would tell me about these other organizations, but I didn't feel like I fit in. Someone like myself that has no visual wounds, for me it was like, 'OK I'm not that injured, those guys deserve it more than I do.' It takes a toll when you have mental health issues, and then your hole just gets deeper and darker—and I think that happens for a lot of us. But with our organization, we don't use words like 'wounded' or 'disabled.' We say, 'Your injury is in your mind.' It's just the way we word things and do things, because I've been out mountain biking with a triple amputee before—you know, try telling him he's disabled.
How important is family support in a veteran's recovery?
It's extremely important—the family working together with the veteran. Like [after Continue Mission's Moab] river trip, we had one of the veterans' wives say, 'Wow, when we pulled up to pick him up from the event, the kids saw him smiling and laughing and they haven't seen that; they were, like, Look at how happy Dad is.' So it just keeps building. The family supporting the veteran in the recovery is so huge.
This year, Continue Mission held over 150 events, what keeps your organization so motivated?
When we can get veterans out cross-country skiing, or any other event, you don't think anything but having that great time. If we can give them that hour of peace, thats huge. It's also healing for me, that's what gets me out of the house.
What do you think helps reignite veterans who have lost their purpose?
I like telling our CM veterans, 'Hey, find that organization to go volunteer with, come out to our events.' Anything to keep 'em busy and know that you are giving back and doing something for someone else, is so healing and rewarding. Continue Mission is so healing to me still, because helping other veterans helps me. Veteran or not, we have civilians on our social media that deal with mental-health issues, and they say, 'W2hen I see these veterans going out and doing it, it makes me feel like I can go out and do it.' Everyone wants to feel needed in life.