Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

How the Sierra Club aims to help veterans enjoy the country they helped protect

By Stacy Bare Best Defense high altitude columnist I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. As the Sierra Club’s military family and veterans’ representative, my job is to ensure that military families and veterans are getting outside to explore and enjoy the land they helped to defend through their service in the ...

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546635_ricks1_1102.jpg

By Stacy Bare
Best Defense high altitude columnist

I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. As the Sierra Club's military family and veterans' representative, my job is to ensure that military families and veterans are getting outside to explore and enjoy the land they helped to defend through their service in the Armed Forces.

Since 2006, the Club has provided over $50 million dollars to ensure that military service members, their families, and veterans have had an opportunity to get outside. Through programs and partnerships with organizations like the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple Camps ©, Outward Bound, YMCA-USA, and the Armed Forces YMCA, close to 50,000 participants have had multi-day experiences outside. This level of support helped to create a significant upswell nationwide in the number of other programs and organizations focused on providing an outdoor or wilderness experience to the military and veteran communities.

By Stacy Bare
Best Defense high altitude columnist

I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. As the Sierra Club’s military family and veterans’ representative, my job is to ensure that military families and veterans are getting outside to explore and enjoy the land they helped to defend through their service in the Armed Forces.

Since 2006, the Club has provided over $50 million dollars to ensure that military service members, their families, and veterans have had an opportunity to get outside. Through programs and partnerships with organizations like the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple Camps ©, Outward Bound, YMCA-USA, and the Armed Forces YMCA, close to 50,000 participants have had multi-day experiences outside. This level of support helped to create a significant upswell nationwide in the number of other programs and organizations focused on providing an outdoor or wilderness experience to the military and veteran communities.

While it is true that outdoor recreation has been shown to greatly reduce stress and allows for renewed opportunities of camaraderie, a sense of mission, and physicality that may mirror many of the positive aspects of military service and can help tackle many of the issues associated with reintegration, post-traumatic stress, and depression. There’s a great community of outdoor men and women eagerly awaiting the opportunity to share their loves and passions with our fighting men and women. Often times, we as veterans and service members simply need to just show up.

It is also true that America’s Great Outdoors need the leadership, experience, and skill sets service members, veterans, and their families possess to make sure our public lands remain open and pristine to provide recreation and respite for all of America and to help pave the way for a healthier, more physically fit nation. There are many opportunities for leadership and employment, as well as recreation outside. Who better to fill those roles than the men and women who defended the land?

Our tradition of working with, and incorporating military veterans in our work extends throughout the history of the Sierra Club, most notably when iconic environmentalist David Brower, himself a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II led the Club after that war. In fact, the modern outdoor industry was in large part created by 10th Mountain vets and others when they came home after that war .

In 2012, the Sierra Club will be partnering with a number of organizations, among others: the National Outdoor Leadership School, Wilderness Inquiry, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, and Big City Mountaineers to provide outdoor leadership training and development to our troops so they do not need to be reliant only on other organizations to get them outside with a once in a lifetime experience, but can do so on their own, and in the process, take other members of their family or units outside with them.

Parallel to these programs, the Club is launching a series of listening sessions in Seattle, Colorado Springs, and Washington DC to hear from the military how best we, the Sierra Club, can provide support to our Armed Forces families so they are aware of and active leaders and participants in, the more than 40,000 local outings that occur year round as part of the Club’s robust local and youth outings programming. These will be followed up with three weekend outings leadership courses designed by members of the military, veterans, and Sierra Club members, including military veterans who are already members of the Sierra Club designed to build off of our other partnerships in providing year round outings opportunities.

One of the greatest ways to say thank you to a veteran is to exercise the rights and privileges our sacrifices helped to protect. Those rights and privileges certainly include your public lands, clean air and clean water, so join with us and get outside, and take a veteran or military family with you! Want to know how or get further involved? Please get in touch with stacy.bare@sierraclub.org

Stacy Bare served as a captain in the U.S. Army from 2000-2004 and again from 2006-2007. He served as the Counter Terrorism Team Chief in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 2003-04 and as a Civil Affairs Team Chief in Baghdad, Iraq, from 2006-07. He is now the Military Families and Veterans Representative for the Sierra Club. Stacy is 6’8″/260+– and still growing.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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