How Open Savannah has given me way to continue service while transitioning from active duty
This blog post was originally posted at OpenSavannah.org
In 19 years of military service, I’ve traveled all over the globe. I’ve stood in the shadow of the Colosseum in Rome. I’ve filmed military training actions on beaches in the Philippines. I’ve deployed for real-world operations four times. And after all the many years of work abroad, my family and I are now ready for a forever home.
Being stationed at Fort Stewart for the past two years has given my family a chance to fall in love with Savannah. Savannah is a city that has it all — beautiful squares, public culture, community events that welcome all, and restaurants that take classic southern cuisine and turn it on its edge. We’re looking forward to calling Savannah home.
Just because I’m hanging up my uniform doesn’t mean I’m done serving my country. Joining Open Savannah has given me an opportunity to continue making a difference in the lives of those around me.
Open Savannah is a Code for America brigade established in 2017 by Carl V. Lewis and is co-led by Rob Lingle. Code for America is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that uses technology to improve government services. As an extension, Open Savannah allows civic-minded volunteers to use their skills, tech or otherwise, working in partnership with local government, non-profit organizations, and other community partners to deploy technology in ways that will improve the quality of life for all Savannah residents.
I have worked in IT for most of my military career and, with a newly earned bachelor’s in IT, I believed I could start working on a project right away. I joined, but the first time that I sat down with my group, I was blown away by their level of technical expertise. I could keep up conceptually, but it quickly became clear that I needed to do a lot of work in order to be a truly contributing member.
When driving away from the event that evening, I was exhilarated, frustrated, intimidated, and intrigued. It took me longer than the drive home to sort through my feelings but, I did come to a basic decision about my experience. As much as it I wanted to leave that evening behind, I knew that Open Savannah was poised to do some great things for the community. I wanted to help out in whatever way I could, despite at the time feeling inadequately skill for the task.
Since that moment, I have come back for almost every Open Savannah event and am always excited to be part of the new, challenging projects that are always popping up.
Recently, for example, I have taken on a role as project lead for SavMaps, which aims to map human services in Savannah and Chatham County. SavMaps resonated with me because of the importance of matching people in need with services that organizations provide. Volunteering for Open Savannah has been a marriage of technical learning and real-world impact that resonates with me deeply. I can grow professionally while working on a projects that benefits Savannah. It also gives me a chance to connect with the community I plan to call home.
Open Savannah is a local brigade of Code for America seeking technological solutions to social problems. You can find more on them at https://opensavannah.org