Veterans and the Climate Reconnaissance Team at Glacier National Park
I got to spend last week in Glacier National Park as part of the Sierra Club’s Climate Reconnaissance Team (CRT). At its core, the CRT’s purpose is to bring people to those places where some believe climate change is most visibly noticeable and have a discussion while on the ground, seeing and feeling what is happening to the world.
The first CRT was made up of mostly veterans led by world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker and Jim Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey. This one-of-a-kind of event only happens through the dedication of dozens of other people who worked tirelessly to ensure a group of seven service members and veterans can get to a place as remote and beautiful as the Blackfoot Glacier Basin, where our journey really began.
We received support from The North Face, Black Diamond, Blue Water Ropes, Veterans Expeditions, the United States Geological Survey, the amazing team at Glacier National Park, Sierra Club staff and volunteers, as well as many other organizations that helped publicize the event. We were also on the receiving end of the incredible generosity of Jim and Pamela Lynch, who hosted our team for two days before the trip and made sure our pack of veterans were well fed every day. I have never had more, or more delicious blueberry pancakes than I had those two days.
I served with Jim and Pam’s son, Ryan, a Naval officer, while I was in Iraq. They have a second son, Travis, who is on active duty in the Army and has served multiple tours. Jim was a candidate for the Republican nomination of governor of Montana. Imagine that for a minute and please allow any preconceived notions you may have about Republicans, veterans, the Sierra Club, and the Extreme Ice Survey to fall apart.
What mattered to everyone seated around Jim and Pam’s big patio table was that our service members had an opportunity to see one of America’s crown jewels in Glacier National Park before the glaciers were gone. If you ever needed proof that getting outside and outdoor recreation is a non-partisan issue, you only needed to listen to the laughter around that table or hear the conversations upon our return from the park with the same cast of characters.
You’ll hear more from me and from our participants about that trip in the coming days as we all slowly descend back to our normal daily routines. Coming back into what everyone else keeps calling ‘normal life’ can be a jarring experience following such an intense experience of what our country has to offer. And what is on offer is for everyone, Republican, Democrat, Sierra Club member or not - that’s what the land of the free is. And the home of the brave? Well, if you got to listen to the stories of my fellow veterans on that journey and saw how they conquered the mountain, you’d know that home is just as much Glacier National Park as it is your neighborhood.