Sitting on the beach looking into the Chesapeake Bay early this past Saturday morning, 16 veterans and Sierra Club members brought together to discuss how we can transition the military skills and experience of our Nation’s finest to outdoor leadership. We were interrupted by a bald eagle gracefully gliing over our heads. We were in the middle of a deep discussion when we all stopped, looked up, and watched in awed silence with a few “ooohs” and “ahhs” thrown in. Can you ask for a better start to any day, let alone a weekend where two groups are figuring out how to work together? We didn’t think so!
This was Mission Outdoors’ second of three planned listening sessions. We were at North Bay Adventure Camp in North East, Maryland. Just like our listening session in February on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, we left inspired, full of ideas, and more importantly full of action steps towards planning a Sierra Club Outings leadership training in North Carolina in October of 2012 for up to 50 service members, veterans, military family members, and community supporters of the military.
Our team this past weekend consisted of 16 people to help answer the question including a Green Beret from Vietnam, a Blue Star Mother, representatives from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, active duty service members, reservists, and recent veterans, as well as Sierra Club outings leaders, and staff—the gang had it all.
What did we learn?
We learned a lot, and we promise to put together all that we learn over our listening sessions (a few slots are still open for the April event in Colorado Springs focused on spouses and caregivers) into a useful report and a plan of action moving forward. A few things we’d like to share with you now, however:
- There are a lot of shared core values and desires from both the Sierra Club and the Military and Veteran Community. Words like commitment, integrity, patriotism, leadership, and camaraderie were used both by Sierra Clubbers and service members / veterans to describe their organizations.
- How we can begin to translate the Sierra Club language for outings leadership to better mirror military language. The good news? The differences in language are not all that different.
- The outdoors can and does help translate the strengths and positives of the military experience into a non-uniformed life.
The team also took some time to enjoy the Bay and take advantage of some of the adventure elements at North Bay and nearby Elk Neck State Park.
We are excited about our growing and more direct partnership with the military and veteran community. A partnership that has historic roots in the Sierra Club and one that certainly has a bright future!
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"