In an all-volunteer military, many troops enlist right out of high school and return abruptly to civilian life, leaving behind their service friendships and day-to-day discipline with little work experience and support.
Upon their return from battlefields such as Iraq and Afghanistan, they sometimes struggle to reintegrate into civilian life.
This fall, five military veterans and one current member of the U.S. Army Reserve have been working on both the Pine Ridge Ranger District near Chadron and the Bessey Nursery near Halsey on conservation and sustainability projects for the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands. They work side-by-side with fellow veterans, learning valuable job skills while continuing to serve their country by working on forest protection and restoration.
For more than a half-century, the U.S. Forest Service and a nonprofit civilian organization known as the Student Conservation Association have worked together to support military veterans with technical training and field experience. The SCA’s mission is to “build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land through service opportunities, outdoor skills, and leadership training.”
Members of the group include Michael Crews, South Carolina, Marine Corps; Andre Ray, New York, Marine Corps; Tim Tate, New York, Marine Corps; Kyle Servedio, Florida, Army; Matthew Jacobs, Ohio, Army; and Karson Mikula, Michigan, Army. They will be assisting the Forest Service with local projects until the end of November.
District Ranger Tim Buskirk said that while they provide the district with valuable assistance during a time of the year when the forest sees heavy use by hunters, it also gives them exposure to Forest Service policies and activities.
“They get good experience for future positions,” he said.
See more in the Scottsbluff Star Herald…