US Army Veteran to lead Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors initiative

Sacramento, California (SC) – Iraq and Afghanistan war US Army veteran Robert Vessels has joined the Sierra Club to lead its Military Outdoors initiative, which aims to empower service members, their families, and veterans across the country by providing access to the outdoors and developing volunteer leadership skills.

“After being discharged from the Army I was desperate for a sense of belonging and purpose, and I found that purpose in the outdoors,” Vessels said. “In fact, I attribute being alive today to my close-knit circle of Army buddies and access to the wild. The outdoors has the power to heal, and as director for the Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors program I look forward to helping our nation’s veterans to regain a sense of purpose while providing them a chance to continue defending this country, whose environment is constantly under threat.”

Vessels maintains a passion for the outdoors and a strong commitment to the veteran community, and recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. He conducted his thesis research on the Islamic State, interviewing leaders in Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan about the pragmatic undercurrents of ISIS.

Prior to that, Robert served five years in the Army as an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division, the same historic Army unit that the Sierra Club’s first executive director, David Brower, served with during WWII. During his years of service, Robert deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon returning home, Robert moved to California where he used the state’s many outdoor landscapes and a close-knit community of fellow veterans to overcome struggles with PTS and readjustment.

10th Mountain Division Image Source: DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton/Released

10th Mountain Division
Image Source: DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton/Released

In his spare time, Robert enjoys impromptu road trips, backpacking, explaining that, despite his height, he does not play basketball, and hanging out with his dog Prudence.

This report was prepared by Sierra Club.