VetsWork: A New Pair of Boots

by | VetsWork

My name is Calvin,

As a veteran I recognize a sense of service and dedication to a cause as a fulfillment of my personal sense of purpose. The Mt. Adam’s Institute, AmeriCorps, and the US Forest Service has facilitated my essential role as a volunteer and intern within the Shawnee National Forest. This opportunity has allowed me to become involved in something I really care about, the exploration and stewardship of some of our Nation’s finite resources; our land, forests, water, and wildlife. It has also provided me the chance to capitalize on my knowledge of GIS, cartography, land navigation, and wilderness skills that I gained as part of my military service.

Day one of training and integration I already had a great sense of community and comradery, knowing the individuals I sat next to were some of the same individuals whom I could have called brothers and sisters in the military. It was overall welcoming, the sense of duty, selfless service, and dedication to something greater than ones self I felt was definitely shared unanimously including the staff of Mt. Adams institute. To understand in many cases you may meet people in orientation and never see them again, with MAI, part of my commitment is to continue to interact with these individuals throughout our terms to share knowledge, experience, and service in the community.

Those that understand commitment may also understand, that any commitment comes with its own challenges. Naturally, a commitment as a VetsWork intern comes with its challenges. In my case I knew going forward what I would be forced to face. Physically and mentally I was prepared. Emotionally and economically I was prepared. Even at a quick glance one can look and see that it will take many hours of dedication and maybe some sacrifice. A few months in I can only say I’ve done the best I can, I’ve definitely already made some sacrifices and put in more time just commuting than I’d like to admit but I hope I have the opportunity to finish. Realistically it all has been worth it, 100%.

So far I have been involved in smoke monitoring, map production, data collection, trail improvement and maintenance, ecology and botany projects, hiking to amazing places, identifing rare and invasive species, interacted with the public, was Smokey Bear (my childhood hero), became involved in policy decisions, volunteered some more, drove about 7,000 miles, totaled my car, bought a nice new car, met amazing people who are passionate about science and the environment, learned a lot, took some ‘ok’ pictures, built a retaining wall, worked with some horses and mules, visited Hoosier National Forest, saw a Bald Eagle and a crazy ton of wildlife (mostly turtles), had lunch I bought daringly from a gas station in the middle of nowhere, took some FEMA courses, went home tired and slept (real well), thought about what I want to do as a big kid, led a volunteer project, finished another semester at school, overachieved some steps and stairs goals, and finally decided to treat myself to some new boots cause I’m worth it.

Looking forward to more Mountain Talks,

Calvin Williams