Yes! California Conservation Corps Puts Iraq & Afghanistan Vets to Work in US Parks

ccc building a road in idaho photo

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this summer, we asked "Could FDR's New Deal Conservation Program Get us Out of Debt?" The post looked at the history of putting the unemployed to work doing land management projects, which are good for the environment and puts money into the economy. This week, The New York Times reported on a great jobs program that does exactly that. Organized by the California Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps and Veterans Green Jobs, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are working in small teams doing maintenance and improvements in the backcounry wilderness in places like Sequoia National Park.

From the NYTimes piece:

The veterans benefit from having work (albeit at $8 an hour) and from being in a familiar situation: part of a small group in a far-off location with a little-understood job to do.

"This reminds me of Fallujah, being in a remote area with a tight family," said Aaron Hernandez, a former Marine who served as a diesel mechanic in the Iraqi city during a bloody assault in 2004. "There were 10 mechanics, and we all lived together, we all ate together, we all worked together. That was what kept us going."

The work is hard, but that's nothing new for men and woman more comfortable in a war zone. And working in small teams, outside in a risky terrain sounds like a perfect transition from war to "regular" life back in the States. Again, from the NYTimes:

The backcountry provides a respite from the very different demands of civilian life.

"You're out here in the middle of nowhere," said Mr. Snyder, 26, who attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio. "It gives you time to reflect. You don't have to deal with all the chaos in society. You have to deal with yourself and your community, and it's a very small community. It's easy to function."

Read the rest of the NYTimes piece here and be sure to listen to the audio interviews with some of the vets doing this important work.

The work in Sequoia National Park is so far just a pilot program and there are only about 300 veterans involved, but hopefully that can change in the near future.

With so many state and national parks in the United States, there's lots of work to be done cutting new trails, repairing existing park infrastructure, as well as planting trees, removing invasive species and on and on.

This is smart. Let's do this everywhere.

I do the Twitters: @ChrisTackett
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