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AmeriCorps Enlisting the Service of Our Nation's Heroes

by Kate Enos

Ross Schumaker (Photo by The Durango Herald)As America's heroes return from deployments abroad and transition back into civilian life, many are facing challenges in finding employment. With the unemployment rate among recently returned veterans hovering around 12 percent, these men and women who volunteered to courageously serve our country should not have to return home with bleak opportunities in sight.

Recognizing the potential, skills, and leadership qualities of America's greatest assets, AmeriCorps has made it a priority to recruit veterans to serve in programs across the country. Using the skills they honed overseas, veterans are continuing to serve at home through AmeriCorps -- responding to disasters, building homes, mentoring at-risk youth, and supporting other veterans and their families.

Ross Schumaker, 28, completed two tours in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps. After dutifully serving six years in the Marine Corps, Schumaker had a tough time finding employment back home and found an opportunity with AmeriCorps in Colorado.

Schumaker enrolled in Veteran Green Corps, an AmeriCorps program that consists of veteran crews who learn how to protect and preserve natural resources. Through partnerships with Conservation Corps, national forests and parks, the Bureau of Land Management and other government agencies, these projects offer opportunities to take care of our national treasures while working alongside other veterans.

“I never thought I'd be fighting fire or working in national parks but I do love it,” said Schumaker. Each participant gains firsthand experience in projects such as fire mitigation, trail building, noxious weed clean-up and more. Schumaker served in teams made up of eight veterans, leading several teams as a crew leader.

Veterans serving in the program endure intense physical training, where they learn how to work a chainsaw and utilize fire mitigation techniques. Teams work closely with the United States Forest Service to prevent and control fires in the San Juan National Forest.

“My time with AmeriCorps meant a lot to me. I was able to continue service to my country and found my current job with the U.S. Forest Service as a direct result from the skills developed as an AmeriCorps member with Veteran Green Corps.”

Watch Ross on the job with the United States Forest Service along with other veterans turned federal employees.

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