SCA 2011, Cococino National Forest
Farmer, US Army (retired) | Raeford, NC
On July 8, 2014, Davon placed a short post on Facebook. “Today ends my military career,” he wrote. “After 6 years and 28 days my service has ended. It’s bittersweet and I have had many good days and many bad days. Thank god I made it. God bless America.”
A Purple Heart recipient who did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Davon returned from overseas in 2010 and immediately ran into difficulty. “I’d lost a sense of purpose,” he says. “I’d lost a sense of team. For a lot of soldiers, there’s no mission anymore. You get that sense of, ‘okay, what do I do now?’”
This is a common dilemma for veterans transitioning back into the civilian world. But Davon’s problems didn’t end there. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He fell into substance abuse. He considered suicide.
These, too, are often familiar, if troubling, behaviors for combat vets. But Davon soon discovered SCA’s Veterans Fire Corps, a program that trains younger, recent-era vets for careers in wildfire mitigation and forestry. In cooperation with AmeriCorps and the US Forest Service, the Fire Corps provides one-time warriors with field training and experience – a powerful competitive advantage given the high unemployment rate plaguing today’s vets.
Crucial to the Corps’ success are the distinctive military protocols employed to create a recognizable, comfortable work environment. “When I joined the Veterans Fire Corps,” says Davon, “that structure and camaraderie from living in the same house, pursuing the same mission, gave me the same feeling I had while serving in the Army.”
He also found he could open up to those who understood his wartime experiences because his corps mates had endured them, too. “Being out there among the trees and your team members,” he states, “it becomes therapy because you say a lot of things you wouldn’t say sitting at a desk in an office. But when you’re out there among people just like you, in the woods, it brings it all back home.”
When his SCA hitch was over, Davon went back to school at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he earned his degree in Botany and is currently the manager of the Fussy Gourmet Farm in the Carolina Sand Hills.
“SCA was a lifesaver,” he declares. “It gave me a new sense of mission. Not just the mission to fix our food system, which is plagued by pesticides and herbicides, but to fix myself.
“I realize that life isn’t over yet. I still have a lot of living to do. SCA has let me serve my country in a whole new way.”
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