Davon Goodwin had already made a range of contributions – and sacrifices – before he joined SCA. An Army veteran, he’d pulled extended tours of Iraq and Afghanistan; in the latter, an improvised explosive device fired shrapnel into his brain and shattered two vertebrae. Davon says recovering from his wounds was nearly as daunting as recovering his focus.
“I’d lost my sense of purpose,” he recalls. “For a lot of soldiers, there’s no mission anymore. You get that sense of, ‘okay, what do I do now?’”
Compounding his struggles, Davon suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. His mind often turned to suicide.
On his good days, however, Davon also thought of childhood visits to his grandmother’s and gardening around her home in North Carolina. So, when he learned about SCA’s Veterans Fire Corps, a program that trains young, recent-era vets for careers in wildﬁre mitigation and forestry, Davon decided to enroll.
The Fire Corps seeks to ease the transition to civilian life by utilizing familiar military protocols. In cooperation with the US Forest Service and AmeriCorps, SCA assigned Davon to a team in Flagstaff, Arizona. “That structure and camaraderie gave me the same feeling I had while serving in the Army,” he says. “Being out there among people like you, in the woods, it became therapy.”
After fulfilling his SCA commitment, Davon earned degrees in Biology and Botany. Today, at the Fussy Gourmet Farm in the Carolina Sand Hills, Davon grows sustainable vegetables, raises free-range chickens, and teaches at-risk youth.
“I am a role model,” he says, “but these kids give me hope. They come out of what I call the ‘unholy trinity’ of poverty, homelessness and lack of success at school. They’ve been pushed out of society but they haven’t given up.”
And Davon won’t give up on them. At his encouragement, several teens have returned to class. He employs others on his farm, and works with even more youth at a community garden. Davon wants to teach them “that food doesn’t come from grocery stores, but from the Earth.”
“SCA was a lifesaver,” he declares. “I realize that I still have a lot to do. SCA has let me serve my country in a whole new way.”