Service. A substantial word with different interpretations for different people. For the longest time, I thought that service meant the service. I joined the Army when I was barely 18, because I, like millions of other kids, had seen the Twin Towers fall, what evil was truly capable of, when I was only six years old.
And that was important. No matter what I was doing in the Army, it mattered. If I was walking 12 miles with 65 pounds of gear on pack back, it wasn’t for nothing; it was preparing me for being able to survive in 130 degree weather, with 3 layers and a 50 pound ballistic vest on. If I was tracking Field Artillery Fire, I was protecting my comrades on the ground. If I was sleeping without heated shelter in -10 degree weather, I remembered I wasn’t in it alone. And all of the training, it didn’t matter how difficult it was; I knew that I was serving to protect those at home. I’m still serving in the Army National Guard.
For others service can also mean community service. The numerous groups who help, for no other reason other than they are good people. Take for instance the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They take their weekends off, just to maintain trails. Instead of spending the weekend swimming, they are spending it with a hardhat and a shovel doing unpaid labor, just because they don’t like to see the Appalachian Trail fall into despair.
Transitioning from military to civilian can be hard, but it can be easier if you have that same sense of purpose you had when you were in the military. Working 9-5 in an office just doesn’t have the same sense of pride that you can get for making America more beautiful, or safe.
I’m glad that with the opportunity that I now have as a Mt. Adams Institute VetsWork AmeriCorps intern serving with the Forest Service, I can now see both sides of service, military and civilian. Whether I’m carrying a rifle for my country, or I’m carrying a fire hose to a wildfire; whether I’m in the desert in 130 degrees for the army, or in the mountains of Virginia for the Forest Service, I can only hope that I’m continuing to keep America the best country in the world.