The Sierra Club means many different things to many different people. Depending on your views about climate change, the EPA, or the oxymoron "clean coal," you may love the Club or hate us. But one thing you can't call us is "unpatriotic."
Ever since John Muir founded the Sierra Club, the organization has taken Americans out into wilderness to give them solace, renewal, and rejuvenation. Sierra Club members everywhere know firsthand what the mountains and rivers do for us and we're eager to share their blessings. If folks are moved to help us protect the environment for future generations, all the better. We've also felt it our responsibility to introduce certain populations to the wonder and healing power of the great outdoors, especially people who don't have the means or the ability to get out themselves. That led to the founding of the Club's Inner City Outings program in the 70s and the Building Bridges to the Outdoors program in the 90s.
But perhaps most surprising to many, especially to people who may not see eye to eye with us on climate change (to us: a planetary emergency; to them: a hoax), is that The Sierra Club Foundation is one of the largest supporters of veterans and military families in the country (outside the federal government, of course). Through grant awards to the Armed Services YMCA, the National Military Family Association and Outward Bound, the initiative has provided nearly $25 million in funding since 2007 that has allowed over 40,000 military children, families and veterans to participate in multi-day outdoor experiences. That's a lot of money and a lot of adventures by anyone's standards. Some trips enabled active servicemen and women to go on wilderness adventures upon their return home from Iraq or Afghanistan. The trips with Outward Bound have allowed our heroes the time to decompress and find solace in nature. My personal favorite are 'Operation Purple’ camps run by the National Military Family Association. Check out our video “Red, White and Green” to see what the camps are all about.
So John McCain, or John Boehner for that matter, say what you will about the Sierra Club, just don't call us unpatriotic. We have stood up and offered a helping hand the best way we know how at a time when many Americans and yes, sadly, many of our nation's decision-makers are turning a blind eye to the plight of our veterans and their families. This is why I'm so happy to be where I' am today: The White House. We received a special invitation to an event announcing First Lady Michelle Obama's and Dr. Jill Biden's military families initiative, which will hopefully get military and veterans issues on the front burner where they belong. I am honored to be here, of course, but more honored to be a part of an organization that leads by example and has introduced tens of thousands of our nation's bravest heroes to our nation's most treasured lands.
--by Peter Martin, Executive Director, The Sierra Club Foundation
To learn more about Sierra Club's work with the military, check out www.sierraclub.org/military.