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May 24, 2013

How the Outdoors Helps Our Nation's Heroes

When Paul Wilson took a job in the early 1970s in the Grand Tetons, Wyoming, shortly after returning home from Vietnam, he didn’t anticipate the contrast between living in the outdoors and serving abroad.

"To go backpacking and fishing, it just really had a calming, introspective influence on me. It was something that probably saved my sanity on more than one occasion," says the former Marine. "That quote by John Muir about going into the mountains and getting their good tidings is pretty apropos."

Now a 25-year Sierra Club member living in West Virginia, Paul volunteers through Trout Unlimited by teaching fly-fishing to returning soldiers. Tying a fly, he says, provides cognitive therapy for those recovering from combat.

"This is a way to get away from everything and rejuvenate," says Paul. "What I do isn't really about catching fish. It’s about slowing down and learning to relax and reconnect."

Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have died and a reminder of how important it is to reach service members and their families. That’s why the Sierra Club partners with several organizations, such as the National Military Family Association, Armed Services YMCA, and Higher Ground, that provide outdoor experiences to service members and let them enjoy the freedoms of the land they helped defend.


This includes reaching children of military families through the Military Child Outdoors campaign and other programs -- many kids of service members move multiple times during their adolescence -- which helps reduce stress, promote fitness, and provide a sense of community for kids with one or more parents deployed.

These organizations let all of us give back to our country's heroes and show appreciation.

Watch our new short documentary, Mission Outdoors: Glacier National Park, about service members and the outdoors, and click here to learn more about the Sierra Club’s history with the armed forces, which dates back to World War I. 

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