Veterans and volunteers work on service project at Rainbow Softball Center

Friday, April 27, 2012 | 5:27 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Nick Holman, a Marine Corps veteran, spent 14 months in Iraq. When he returned, his transition back to civilian life wasn't easy.

"I went from being responsible for $29 million of equipment to serving people at a bar," Holman said.

Feeling alone and lacking purpose, Holman said he began drinking a lot. It wasn't until he learned about The Mission Continues through the Mizzou Student Veterans Association that he found a new purpose.

The Mission Continues is non-profit organization based in St. Louis that challenges post-9/11 veterans to serve their communities back home. The goal is to help veterans "find renewed strength and purpose while building stronger communities," according to the organization's website.

Holman did his Mission Continues project at the Central Missouri Humane Society. Although he's now done with the project, he still goes back to help out there a few times a year.

Now, he will be leading the first of three services projects as part of the second annual Summer Service Slam. The first event will be Saturday in Columbia. The other events will be later in the summer in Cape Girardeau and Belleville, Ill.

Saturday's event, sponsored by Fox Sports Midwest, will unite veterans and volunteers at the Rainbow Softball Center in Cosmopolitan Park, where they will install new fence crowns, trim and cut trees, mulch and plant landscaping beds and construct new picnic tables.

Emily Rodenbeck, a spokesperson for The Mission Continues, said the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will oversee the project and assist with its more construction-heavy aspects.

"Fox Sports Midwest was interested in partnering with us to put on service projects, making sure to challenge the veterans and improve baseball fields," Rodenbeck said.

One hundred and seventy-five volunteers have already signed up for Saturday's event, and Holman said 100 to 150 more could show up and register that morning— far exceeding the organization's goal of 150 volunteers.

Rodenbeck said seven to eight players from the Missouri men's basketball team will also help with the projects.

As the appointed leader of the event, Holman will participate in the installation of new fence crowns and oversee the seven-hour project. Holman was part of the team that planned and organized the event.

Fellowship program alumnus James Casey, who served three deployments with the 307th Psychological Operations Company, will help Holman with leadership responsibilities.

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