2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Earl Bowman, Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps


 

Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. Learn more.

*Earl Bowman is being recognized as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Corpsmember of the Year. The 21CSC is a national initiative to increase the number of young adults and recent veterans serving on public lands. The 21CSC Corpsmember of the Year is a young adult who has served in a member Corps of the 21CSC and is a champion of the initiative’s vision of increasing the engagement of young adults in conservation, preservation, and outdoor recreation. 


Before becoming an AmeriCorps member with the Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps, Earl B. Bowman IV worked various jobs. He tried his hand at commercial printing, but quickly discovered the factory setting was not for him. Wanting to make a difference, he joined the Delaware Air National Guard and served a term in the Support Group squadron.

After completing his service, Earl drove for an ambulance company in his hometown. Although he enjoyed this work, he wanted more. Since the age of 13, Earl has served his community as a volunteer firefighter.  

Knowing his passion to serve, Earl’s mother advised him to join the Veterans Conservation Corps. Admittedly, he was apprehensive; he wasn’t sure he’d be a good fit. However, with continuous encouragement from his mother, Earl decided to give the Corps a try. After only one day in the field, Earl decided to commit to one term.

“My experience with the Delaware Veterans Conservation Corps has been transforming,” said Earl. “Not only did I get to spend 11 months with fellow veterans, but I gained a wealth of knowledge in environmental stewardship and trail maintenance.”

Earl quickly acclimated to the program, becoming the team’s chainsaw expert. He was always willing to help his peers with their skills, patiently explaining and helping them with technique. Earl took advantage of every training offered, eventually earning his wildland firefighting Red Card. About midway through the year, he was clearly becoming a leader.

When the program added new members in the spring and summer, Earl stepped up and became the Team Leader’s “right hand man.” The Team Leader would split the team into two and Earl would lead one group while the Team Leader worked with the other. Earl also supervised when the Team Leader was absent. Additionally, he became the team transportation supervisor and was responsible for the team’s truck. Earl was awarded the State Office on Volunteerism Member of the Year award and the Program Member of the Year award.

Earl led the way in educating the Corps’ summer members in environmental stewardship skills, including how to identify invasive plants and treat them, proper trail trimming techniques, and safe chainsaw operation. Towards the end of the program, Earl was offered employment with Delaware State Parks. However, given the commitment he made to the Corps, Earl waited until the end of the program to accept an offer. Now, as a Conservation Tech with the Delaware State Parks trail team, he continues to be an advocate for the Corps and is always looking to engage the current cohort in trail projects.

Despite taking on many roles, Earl continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter. He often works all week with Delaware State Parks, then serves all weekend with the fire company. For the future, Earl plans to use his AmeriCorps education award to finish the necessary trainings to become an EMT and continue serving his community on a part-time basis.

Earl Bowman truly lives the motto, “Service before Self.”  

Finding a New Mission: A U.S. Army Veteran on Connecting Veterans and Public Lands for the Benefit of Both

 


Learn more about Veterans Conservation Corps in Veterans Service and Conservation Corps: Career Pathways through Continued Service, a publication of The Corps Network (November 2017). 



By Joshua Tuohy, Government Relations Coordinator at The Corps Network
(pictured below with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke)


Military veterans representing all branches of service gathered in Washington, DC last week to join the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks campaign in advocating for ways to address the infrastructure needs of our national parks. 

The connection between veterans and parks might not immediately be obvious, but there is a strong bond. The individuals who came to Washington don’t just identify as veterans; they are hunters, anglers, hikers, kayakers, wildlife photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts who found renewed meaning and peace in their lives through the Great Outdoors.

About a third of all national parks commemorate and interpret military history, including 25 battlefields and 14 national cemeteries. Some of these parks manage decommissioned forts and bases that once trained our military and protected our country. These 156 sites document and educate future generations, yet they account for nearly half of the National Park Service’s more than $11 billion in deferred maintenance.

For two days last week, veterans voiced their concerns to 25 Members of Congress on issues ranging from the accessibility of parks for those with disabilities, to underfunded infrastructure maintenance and ways to enhance the visitor experience. The efforts reached a high point with a candid roundtable discussion convened by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, himself a former Navy SEAL. I applaud the Secretary for his strong support for increased engagement of veterans and military families on public lands, and his commitment to veterans at the Department of the Interior. I am encouraged that we have a veteran at the position of Secretary overseeing our public lands.

I am a six-year U.S. Army infantry veteran.  I’ve always loved the outdoors; some of my fondest memories are of hiking and snowshoeing through Mt. Rainier National Park while stationed at Ft. Lewis, WA. Places like this would play an integral role in my recovery after a roadside bomb took the lives of three of my comrades and my leg in Afghanistan in 2009.  I’d eventually find myself standing on the literal edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, taking off my leg to cliff dive into Crater Lake. I’d once again meander through the fog in the elevation of Mt. Rainier. These moments fostered necessary self-assurance and forged new conviction. It was only out there that I rediscovered a virtue I had previously known in the military: that I am connected to something far greater than myself.

The importance of our public lands and national parks to veterans cannot be understated.  They offer an opportunity for catharsis for the wounded and those seeking new adventure and a sense of belonging.  Such experiences are so important to the transition process from service member to civilian – a process without any defined timeline or blueprint. 

One way to ensure more veterans benefit from time in the Great Outdoors and have an opportunity to continue their mission of service to country is through Veterans Corps. Veterans Corps are locally-based programs that connect veterans to parks and the outdoors by giving them the opportunity to train for careers in resource management through national service and AmeriCorps projects conserving our public lands and forests. Many former service members experience a lack of purpose, lack of civilian job confidence, and lack of peer support. Service in Veterans Corps offers an opportunity to purge these notions, renew a sense of purpose and mission, and author a new chapter in life.

Since 2009, Veterans Corps across the country have engaged former military in projects ranging from invasive species removal and the preservation of historic properties, to trails restoration and wildfire management. Many of these projects take place at national parks, forests and refuges and help reduce the maintenance backlog. All while engaging former military members in quality mission-driven and skills-based service and apprenticeship programs.
 


Veterans Fire Corps members with Conservation Legacy
 

The Corps model benefits veterans in a range of ways: it provides a similar structure and sense of purpose as the military; offers the therapeutic benefits of getting outdoors and working with fellow veterans; and helps participants re-acclimate to civilian life through skills development and other supportive services. In a 2016 survey, 90 percent of Veterans Corps alumni surveyed indicated that Corps opportunities helped them transition from the military.

Veterans Corps are part of a larger Corps movement – the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps: a national initiative, through public-private partnerships, to spread the word about modern-day Corps and annually engage 100,000 young adults and veterans in AmeriCorps and national service to strengthen our infrastructure, rural and urban communities, and public lands.

21CSC is part of a solution to fixing the maintenance issues faced by our resource management agencies. With their talents, commitment to service, and passion for the outdoors, recent veterans are a critical element.

Let us, as a nation, continue to support our public lands with the kind of zeal we put into supporting our veterans. Let us support the engagement of veterans in the Great Outdoors. Let us recognize the values we display when we properly manage our public lands, as well as the values we demonstrate when we let parks, and our sense of service to others, fall into disrepair.

Veterans Corps can answer the call for a new mission. Let us hope our lawmakers and leadership answer our calls to address deferred maintenance and support veterans, and citizens generally, in restoring our parks and public lands. As a nation, let us all value service to America’s lands and communities.
 

Learn more about Veterans Conservation Corps in Veterans Service and Conservation Corps: Career Pathways through Continued Service, a publication of The Corps Network (November 2017).  

Veterans Corps Discussed at Capitol Hill Briefing Hosted by House Outdoor Recreation Caucus and Outdoor Industry Association on Veterans and the Outdoors

Amy Sovocool, Co-CEO of Conservation Legacy, joined panelists from several outdoor and veteran-related organizations to discuss model and benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps programs.

Video Features California Conservation Corps Veterans in Fisheries Work

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service has produced an outstanding video on a program involving former military veterans.  The veterans, working with NOAA, the U.S. Forest Service, the California Conservation Corps and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, are monitoring fish populations and restoring habitat.  The work has included completing 152 spawner surveys and surveying 228 miles of stream along California's North Coast.

The video can be found here (in the event the embedded version isn't working below).

Recommended Reading: "The War at Home: The Struggle for Veterans to Find Jobs”

 

A very good article was published recently called “The War at Home: The Struggle for Veterans to Find Jobs.” Our partner Veterans Green Jobs is listed as one of the recommended resources available for returning veterans to find employment through programs like Veterans Conservation Corps. Here’s a good segment that shows how the article provides a more comprehensive explanation for why veterans can often struggle upon returning home:

“Military veterans are not taught how to self-promote,” said Lida Citroen, who has a resource on her website specifically devoted to help veterans transition to civilian jobs. “To be successful in service, it is important to put troop and mission ahead of self. Unfortunately, when veterans try to enter the civilian marketplace, they quickly realize they don’t know how to sell themselves to potential employers.”

You can read the full article here.