Regarding the article “River of Healing” in the Feb. 6 issue, as a Forest Service smokejumper and wildland firefighter who runs a veterans’ hiring program, I can attest to the fact that many veterans thrive in pursuits that bring them close to nature and replicate aspects of their military careers, such as teamwork, shared goals and physical challenges. The program I created for the Forest Service is called “Lead Forward,” and we recruit veterans and place them in seasonal jobs for the Forest Service that include wildland firefighting as well as recreation and biology. It has been a very successful program, and we have placed over 100 veterans, many with disabilities, into jobs over the last three years. In this era of politics and government, when most of what the government does is viewed negatively, this is a positive example of the federal government doing great things to protect our wildlands while also helping veterans. In particular, wildland firefighting jobs have proven to be a great fit for many veterans who were drifting before they came to us. They’re tapping into skills such as leadership, team cohesion and rapid decision-making — skills that they learned in the military that also have very real applications for wildland firefighting.
Director, Lead Forward Veterans Hiring Program