Returning vets fight fire

Crossville Chronicle
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Source: Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN. May 22, 2012. Random Thoughts: Returning vets fight fire

By Dorothy Copus Brush

CROSSVILLE — Cemeteries are given special attention this week in preparation for Memorial Day next Monday. During the Civil War gracious ladies of the south laid flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers from both sides. The custom spread across the country and was called Decoration Day until the early 20th century.

As many other wars followed the official name was changed to Memorial Day. This week in cemeteries across the country, small American flags are being placed on the graves of veterans from all wars. It is also the time many families place flowers at the graves of their loved ones who have passed on.

Now in 2012 we are again engaged in several wars and many Americans fail to show the returning veterans of those wars the appreciation they deserve. Recently I learned of one organization, The Student Conservation Association, who enlarged their program to include employing returning veterans to fight forest fires.

The SCA was created from a proposal suggested in college senior Elizabeth Titus Cushman’s 1955 thesis. By 1957 a group working with the National Park Service used those ideas and placed volunteer young students in sections of national parks that needed tender loving care. That partnership proved successful and by 1964 the SCA had grown so large it became a separate non-profit organization.

Today over 4,000 young volunteers serve annually in public lands and urban green spaces. They work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week at their mission to build the next generation of conservation leaders, inspired to become lifelong stewards of our environment through service to the land.

SCA has added the paid Veterans Fire Corps to assist young vets from various branches of the armed services in the transition back to civilian life. Working with the US Forest Service up to 60 of these vets are serving in National Forests. New ways to support veterans is being explored by these two groups.

After its first year vets in the program had good words about continuing service to their country. They enjoy working with vets who share similar experiences. They said it related to their military history and made them feel comfortable. One said, “The enemy now is fire.”