Organizations devoting time and funds to help veterans re-acclimate to civilian life are performing important roles, whether they originate in the public or private sectors. Many times, worthy efforts are created by alliances between government and business interests. A recent example of one such project comes from the National Park Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the National Park Service. This group has partnered with aerospace company Boeing to launch a multi-faceted initiative to connect military personnel with U.S. national parks, with staff members and volunteers working hard to keep these spaces looking their best.

Natural wonders restored to health
The National Park Foundation, in its announcement of the new initiative, stated that the launch took the form of a beautifying effort for a park with a proud military history. Fort Battery Ricketts Park near Washington, D.C., was constructed during the Civil War as a defensive fortification. Working with nonprofit The Mission Continues, more than 100 volunteers including veterans and Boeing personnel set to work renovating the park, which hasn't seen heavy use in recent years.

"The organizations hope to spread across the country, creating roles for veterans and inviting volunteer workers."

The cleanup in Fort Battery Ricketts Park is only the first of many projects planned by The Mission Continues and the National Park Service. The organizations hope to spread across the country, both creating roles for veterans and inviting volunteer workers in their continued efforts to beautify and maintain national parks and other protected and listed landmarks.

The program is especially aimed at younger veterans who have served in the years following the September 11 attacks. The 15th anniversary of that tragedy was intentionally chosen as the launch date for the project, with the upkeep of the park near Washington, D.C., carried out in honor of the military personnel who have spent the past decade and a half serving their country.

"I'm very proud that we have developed such a strong partnership with our veteran community. Veterans represent many of the ideals the National Park Service holds near and dear; serving our nation and preserving our country's resources," explained National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

A big year for national parks
The National Park Service is in the midst of its own push to get American citizens from all walks of life engaged in nature and interested in their country's preserved spaces. PRI columnist Jonathan Kealing recently described the efforts to reach out to younger people especially and get them more involved. This is the centennial year for the park system, founded in 1916 with the aim of protecting Yellowstone National Park. There are now 59 parks, and the organization's director, Jonathan Jarvis, told the author that the project is nothing without its contributors – the American taxpayers.

Efforts to connect with veterans could be beneficial for the park system and the military members themselves. Keeping natural wonders looking their best and engaging returning military members are equally important tasks. With 100 years in the books, the National Park Service can use the dedication and efforts of vets to keep itself strong.