July 1st I received the good news that I had been promoted to take over the position of Director of Mission Outdoors for the Sierra Club. While I was excited about the new position, I had mixed feelings about stepping out of my current role as the Military Family and Veterans Representative at the Sierra Club. With the exception of two years of graduate school, I had spent every year since I was 17 in some sort of military type role or working with troops and their families on a daily basis.
Working for the last 16 months specifically with veterans and military families, what I learned was that we are not alone in our need for the outdoors and prescriptions of wilderness to deal with the everyday stresses and struggles of life, as well as the life altering traumatic events many of us have gone through, veteran or not. Our specific trauma may be unique to us as veterans, but that we have trauma is not unique. What we need is a sense of community, a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and a renewed mission. The outdoors can give all of us, veterans or not, that community and sense of purpose.
What I have also learned is that we need to be even more diligent in ensuring America get's outside before trauma occurs to create community, resiliency and understanding of one another as well as the simple joy of being outside, just for getting outside.
The work I did with the amazing community of military families and veterans with the Sierra Club won't stop and will remain one of my top priorities within the larger charge to ensure America gets and stays connected to the outdoors. One of the most exciting aspects of my new job is working with the 7,000 plus volunteers who work each year to get more than 250,000 people outside. At Mission Outdoors, we want everyone who lives in our amazing Nation regardless of any status or identifier, to have the opportunity to get outside on their land! A city park, a state park, a national park, or any of the other land units that are the American peoples; no park is better or worse than the any other: just different places along the same wonderful spectrum of outside and wild places in America.
Remember that nature does not care one bit of politics, race, religion, or background, its amazing for everyone! The more time we spend there, the more time we'll spend really getting to know one another and that translates into stronger communities when we come off trail. In the days and years to come, I hope that you may consider joining us on the trail as a participant or a leader, a supporter, or an innovator to see those numbers quadruple or quintuple -- again and again.
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