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November 03, 2014

The Sierra Club and the Military: A Long and Fruitful History

Stacy Bare

By Stacy Bare, Sierra Club Outdoors Director

On Veterans Day -- and for several days leading up to and after Veterans Day -- we celebrate those women and men who have served their country in uniform. We're lucky at the Sierra Club to have a high percentage among our members and activists. Based on available demographic data, we estimate that 10 percent of the Club's overall 2.4 million members and supporters are veterans. By contrast, only 5 percent of all Americans have served in the Armed Forces. For me as a veteran, it's pretty special to be in a place where more than double the percentage of the general population chooses to continue serving their country.

Vets rafting

There are a few broad generalizations of veterans that hold pretty true across the board, though there are always exceptions. The generalizations that I believe draw those of us who have served in uniform and now at the Club are a commitment to service, team, something bigger than yourself, a sense of mission, and the protection of our democratic values.

Iraq & Afghanistan vets

At the end of the day, ensuring that we have access to public lands -- the very physical incarnation of our drive for equal rights and freedom -- and clean air and water (basic human rights if ever there were any), are right in line with the belief system of the men and women who have served. We as veterans are represented at the Club through far more than our award-winning Sierra Club Military Outdoors program, but with outings as the heart and soul of the Club, its no surprise we have former Army Major and Silver Star recipient Joshua Brandon leading one of the biggest engagement programs for service members and veterans throughout the Club, with more than 13,000 veterans and military families served this year.

People often times ask me when the Sierra Club held its first military outing. The answer is 1903, on a three-night campout that John Muir shared with U.S. veteran President Theodore Roosevelt. PBS reports this "…could be considered the most significant camping trip in conservation history." It led to the creation of Yosemite National Park.

Teddy Roosevelt & John Muir

You'll find men and women who have worn the uniform throughout the Club's: people like the Beyond Coal campaign's Daniel Sawmiller, Ohio Chapter Chair Bob Shields, and rock star ICO volunteer Melaina Sharp. And there are thousands more, as well as those who served as military kids and spouses.

So this Veterans Day, as you consider the long and fruitful history with the Club and the men and women who have served, get outside and march or cheer alongside the veterans in your local Veterans Day parade; take some time to volunteer with your local outings group to reach out to local veterans; or just get out onto our public lands and enjoy the things we fought to protect -- and that you as a Sierra Clubber are still fighting for.

Watch this video about Stacy Bare's personal journey of recovery once he returned from active duty in Iraq.


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