The Cumberland River in Clarksville, TN. Adjoining Fort Campbell Kentucky, the home of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, and my father’s national service career of nearly 30 years. My father, like his father before him, joined the U.S. Army to serve his country and make a better life for his family. This is the backdrop in which I was raised, one where the ubiquitous presence of the American Flag would come to hold meaning only when I would one day better understand my father and myself.
The Mississippi River in New Orleans, LA. After graduating college I joined AmeriCorps NCCC, a program modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, to experience the world around me and make a difference.This year following Hurricane Katrina revealed to me a contrast of optimism and hope in the face of overwhelming adversity and loss. It was this year that I discovered that I did not have to be great to serve, but through service, I could do great things.
The St Johns River in Jacksonville, FL. My second year of AmeriCorps was defined by a measured stillness. I recall working alone to install protective bird fencing on a beach. Digging postholes in the sand can seem like an act of futility as the grains of sand seem to continuously collapse back in on your effort. I remember pausing, exhausted, and looking at the terns sitting spread along the edge of the water, except where they were supposed to be. I took a step back to see the beauty of the place and circumstance that I had grown overly familiar. Service is often challenging, mundane, and imperfect. But it is imperfect actions by caring individuals that define the moral character of our people and communities.
The Tennessee River, Knoxville, TN. I now serve as the Program Director of CAC AmeriCorps, a national service program that has engaged our members in over 25 years, and a million hours of service in East Tennessee. I am fortunate to now be in a space that allows me to build capacity in the systems that have given me so much opportunity and sense of shared purpose.