Vail Daily column: New kind of living memorial
Patriotism can mean many things to many people. Sadly, what some overlook is that protecting America’s public lands is one of the most patriotic things you can do. From Longs Peak to the Colorado River to the Eastern Plains, protecting Colorado and America’s public lands is something I’m proud to have fought for.
Thankfully, we have people like Sen. Michael Bennet who recognize protecting our public lands is incredibly patriotic, and have worked tirelessly to preserve them for us all to enjoy and explore.
Sen. Bennet successfully worked to declare special places where veterans just like me have found great healing, strength and reconnection to our communities, including Chimney Rock in the San Juan National Forest and Browns Canyon, which encompasses the Arkansas River. He fought to protect Sawtooth Mountain Ranch and the Thompson Divide from future fossil fuel extraction. He worked across the aisle to protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek Watershed. And just a few weeks ago, Michael announced plans to make Camp Hale our nation’s first National Historic Landscape, connecting his efforts to protect our public lands and support our military.
Camp Hale is more than beautiful country that should be protected for us all to enjoy. Located between Vail and Leadville, Camp Hale was established to train the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, which consisted of troops specifically trained to fight Nazis in the Alps and who were ultimately deployed in Northern Italy. Many people don’t understand just how difficult military training is, and this site wasn’t like those found around the country. Rather, the troops here were trained to ski and fight on mountain slopes to better acclimate to the conditions they were set to face.
As a member of Sierra Club and the director of its Outdoors program, a program that works to engage everyone — including those in active military duty and veterans — to enjoy and explore our parks and public lands, seeing the permanent protection of Camp Hale is personal to me. Famed Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower was a lieutenant of a leader in the training of the 10th Mountain Division. An experienced climber and mountaineer prior to serving, Brower helped develop the training regimen for the troops at Camp Hale.
The men and women who came home from World War II, specifically the 10th Mountain Division, were leaders in the creation of the modern outdoor economy, a $646 billion a year powerhouse. They understood at a visceral level what it meant to fight for one’s country, its ideals and the representation of those ideals in physical place. The creation of a National Historic Landscape at Camp Hale represents a new kind of living memorial to all who have fought for our country. It is the right thing to do, by our World War II veterans, by all those who fight for our country, and by all people in our great nation.
Sen. Michael Bennet knows that and has worked tirelessly to protect and preserve our public lands for us all to enjoy. That’s why Sierra Club has endorsed him, and it’s why Sen. Bennet is one of the more patriotic elected officials in office.
Stacy Bare is director of Sierra Club Outdoors.
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