Yesterday afternoon, our friend and colleague Stacy Bare paid us a nice visit at the WILD office. Stacy recently wrote an article for our International Journal of Wilderness about his experience with the war in Iraq, where he served as a U.S. Army Captain from 2006-2007 and received the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service.
When Stacy returned home from service, he had difficulty readjusting to the non-war, soft lifestyle of everyday American life. He was not alone in feeling uninspired and bored with chain restaurants, the daily routine, and pop culture…his fellow soldiers felt this too. In his article, Stacy refers to a marine sergeant who questioned why he fought while sitting inside a large chain restaurant two weeks after he returned from deployment. Had he really fought for two-for-one appetizers and gimmicky, cheap cocktails?
While he was living in Colorado, a friend of his got tired of Stacy’s constant threats of suicide or return to war, and turned to him and said, “Well do something about it. Either end it, go back in, or come out rock climbing with me.” In his friends’ offer of wilderness, Stacy found salvation.
Stacy learned from the stillness in the wilderness and went out to the wild for the wild, not necessarily to be healed, that was just a wonderful side effect. He founded Veterans Expeditions with army veteran and former ranger Nick Watson in 2010 to take veterans out into the wilderness…and just let them be. “Early on, hiking up over the Arapahoe Pass in Colorado, the same young marine who questioned in a chain restaurant what he fought for, stared over the pass, turned to Nick and Stacy and said, “This is what I fought for!”
A number of organizations have come to life to get military service members, their families, and their children into the outdoors. They are also discussing more and more about the importance of of protecting and defending the wilderness, and what better defenders than veterans?
Stacy and other veterans believe that the wilderness can, and should be a living monument to the sacrifices of all our troops, their families, and communities. The message of, “You fought for it, now use it, and keep it safe” resonates with many veterans and the military community.
Currently, Stacy works as the representative for the Sierra Club’s National Military Families and Veterans Initiative.