During Armed Forces Appreciation Week, we will be sharing a different reflection each day of one of the participants in our recent leadership training trip with the National Outdoor Leadership School, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Operation Free, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the Gila Wilderness. We think you'll appreciate the different points of view that these different service members all brought into, and out of the wilderness. Let us know how this matches up with your experiences in the outdoors as a service member, veteran, military family member, or just as...you.
First up is Trevor Ivory:
Trevor Ivory, USNR, Orange County, CA
As a 20 year retiree of the United States Military, US Navy specifically, I feel very lucky. Both, of the service that I completed over the past two decades and the opportunities/trust place in me by those I served with at all levels. It is that camaraderie that ties all of us together no matter where, when and for how long we all served.
This Sierra Club Wilderness Expedition was a unique experience that built on that tradition. Although I previously had very little outdoor/wilderness experience, I immediately felt at ease with my fellow veterans and our outstanding NOLS instructors. The course provided instruction/experience in Expedition Planning, Backpacking /Camping skills, Leadership and Leave No Trace principles. Even though I was outside my comfort zone from day 1, the interactions with staff and other veterans built a confidence and sense of self and team accomplishment that I hadn’t experienced since my time on active duty.
I think all veterans suffer to some extent as they leave military service in finding their way in the next chapter of life. For me this was a significant issue, as I have struggled to find a second career path. I felt a bit like Morgan Freedman’s character, Red from the movie Shawshank Redeption. “I’m an institutional man, and not sure I can make it on the outside”. In spending time with our group of diverse and accomplished veterans, I was impressed with the success and variety of career paths that they have pursued, providing me with a sense of what is possible as I move ahead.
I take away from this experience a great appreciation for not only the outdoors (Gila Wilderness is an awesome American resource) but to the organizations that are supporting veterans to include your Sierra Club, NOLS, and the myriad of other organizations that are trying to address some of the needs of our increasing veteran population.
As far as the program goes, I believe the challenge will be to reach those that are most in need. As our group showed, we were all relatively well supported and tied into veteran services/support (i.e. IAVA &VFW). How do we get to those individuals who are not tied-in whether that is by choice or not?
My plan for the future is multi-tracked. I want to work with Irvine Ranch Conservatory (IRC) to qualify as a volunteer trail guide (assistant Docent). This includes a Naturalist Training Class offered by local community college and IRC sponsored first aid training. This will continue to build on last week’s training and allow me to gain additional outdoor experience. I am also looking at planning and executing a 3 to 4 day backpacking trip this summer in the Cascades of Washington state. As I build experience I will be more willing and able to support possible veteran type trips.
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"