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[ Student Conservation Association Helps Young Vets ]

Young Vets Serve Country in Fire Corps Program


Photo: Student Conservation Association


James Love enlisted in the Marines right out of high school,
11 years ago.  By the time he reported
for duty at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as assigned, on the
morning of September 11, 2001, the world had already changed forever.

After eight years in uniform, including two tours of Iraq,
Sgt. Love is continuing his service to our country through the Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) Veterans Fire Corps, an
innovative career preparedness program that trains young military vets in
wildfire fighting and mitigation. This program and many others like it are made
possible with the support of federal and military employees through the
Combined Federal Campaign each year.

SCA, an EarthShare member organization, conducts the
Veterans Fire Corps in partnership with the US Forest Service, employing
protocols familiar to those in uniform to aid the transition back to civilian
life.  Love says that for him, it’s made
all the difference in the world.  “I was
interested in the Veterans Fire Corps because it was specifically geared
towards recent era military veterans, meaning I would be working with fellow
veterans that have had experiences and general customs similar to my own,
unlike 95% of the young college kids I am surrounded by in school,” he says.

Love’s unit works the Kaibab National Forest outside
Williams, AZ.   “I’m surprised by how
serious everyone takes fire in northern Arizona,” he observes.  “It probably has to do with the fact that the
city is literally surrounded by the forest.” 
His crew alternates between preemptive prescribed burns and thinning

Davon Goodwin earned a Purple Heart with the Army Reserve in
Afghanistan before signing on with SCA. 
“I didn’t think being a wildland firefighter was this physically
demanding and stressful,” states the 23-year-old Pittsburgh
native.  “But I like that
we are still giving back to our country by restoring and improving the
conditions in our nation’s forests.”

In addition to their work with SCA, both Love
and Goodwin are pursuing their college degrees and agree that their experiences
at Kaibab are invaluable.  “I
am not only fulfilling my internship requirements for college,” says Love, “but
I’m providing a service to the environment and giving back to the local
community.”  Adds Goodwin, “As a biology and botany major, this work can really tell you a lot
about the current ecosystem.  My career
goals are to become an agronomist and help to make agriculture sustainable for
the world.”

Other corps members note that if they are able to mount a
career with a federal resource management agency, their time in uniform will
count toward their government pension.   “’All
labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken
with painstaking excellence,’” says Goodwin, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr.  “I have served my country in war and
this program gives me the ability to serve my country in a whole new way.”

to learn more about the Veterans Fire Corps

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