#FixOurParks: Summer Service in Our National Parks

August 21, 2018

In partnership with the National Park Service and the National Parks Conservation Association, Operation #FixOurParks took place on the weekend of July 27-29.

The last weekend in July was the final weekend of our Summer Service Slam series. The West Region ended it with a bang, getting busy at three national parks: Grand Canyon National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and Mount Rainier National Park!

In partnership with the National Park Service and National Parks Conservation Association, over 100 veterans and active duty military personnel from around the west coast joined forces for a weekend of community service and impact in these four national parks.

We are The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact, offering a variety of ways for military-connected folks to get involved in volunteering. Volunteer opportunities range from the casual one-timer to the serious — and we mean serious — community-leading volunteer.

Our 2018 Summer Service Slam was a nationwide series of service projects during the month of July, enlisting 250+ veterans across the country who were interested in rolling up their sleeves to volunteer in service of their country — this time in a different way.

Why Veterans + Parks?

24th Infantry, Yosemite Buffalo Soldiers. Photo provided by the National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection

United States veterans have been stewards of our nation’s parks since before the federal agency, the National Park Service, was created to steward them in 1916.

Veterans created many of the roads, trails and other infrastructure located in the parks. So you see, veterans with The Mission Continues are upholding an enduring commitment to that tradition of service through volunteering, which includes a variety of tasks such as trail maintenance, invasive plant removal (to preserve the animal food chain), site excavations, and historic landmark upkeep.

Once the projects were complete, participants enjoyed camping overnight in some of America’s most beautiful land.

These service projects are one of many projects led by The Mission Continues that empower veterans to continue serving at home by mobilizing together and solving challenges specific to their communities.

These civic-minded projects are more than just beautification efforts – they are opportunities for veterans to develop new connections and skills while spearheading long-lasting community impact.

Commitment to these parks will be maintained by each city’s local service platoon, where groups of veterans and community volunteers regularly come together to tackle deferred maintenance needs.

Without further ado, let’s see what we did in national parks!

Grand Canyon National Park

Veterans at the Summer Service Slam in Grand Canyon National Park

Three work groups partnered with the Grand Canyon National Park Emergency Services Department to replenish and repair or replace emergency search and rescue caches on two trails leading into down into the canyon. 

Two groups hiked down to the rest houses, one at the 1.5 mile mark, and one at the 3 mile mark, on the Bright Angel trail, and repaired the decade-old caches containing vital supplies that are used when hikers are unable to finish their ascent to the South Rim and are forced to camp in the canyon and either await rescue or try to hike out the next morning.

The third work group descended the South Kaibab trail hauling a new 130-pound cache box that replaced an old, decaying box at Cedar Ridge, 1.5 miles down from the South Rim.

Thank You

  • The Grand Canyon Search and Rescue Teams.
  • National Parks Conservation Association helped organize.

World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument

Veterans at the Summer Service Slam in Honolulu, Hawaii
In Honolulu, volunteering for the Summer Service Slam meant veterans got to do some excavating!

In Honolulu, members of the Honolulu 1st Service Platoon worked with archeologists and Dept. of Defense (DOD) civilians to uncover 60 years worth of earth that hid a retired POW/MIA installation that was run by the military in WWII.

We first marked historical rock walls and then we cleared the brush so it would be easy to find in the future. We also excavated a site where an old dining hall was located, digging and clearing 10cm at a time so we could sift through to find artifacts.

Thank You

  • Starbucks provided breakfast.
  • Wounded Warrior Project provided lunch.
  • National Parks Conservation Association helped organize.

Mount Rainier National Park


“There is nothing so American as our national parks…The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.”

 –President Franklin D. Roosevelt

It was in the spirit of this quote that 40 of The Mission Continues members and National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) volunteers locked arms to support Mount Rainier National Park. 

During our full day of service, our volunteers repainted two comfort stations and landscaped 12 picnic areas, located near Paradise Peak, serve on average 10, 000 visitors each day, which combined with other visitors of the park, account to nearly 2 million every year.

Veterans with The Mission Continues and staff from the National Park Service at the morning check-in

It was also an awesome opportunity for all of us to join Chief of Maintenance James Minor to recognize two park staff who are also Vietnam Era veterans: Mr. Kit Frederic and Don Bacon.  This was part of the National Park Service’s effort to join the nation thanking them during the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam Conflict.

Thank You

  • Bank Of America bought all of the food.
  • Wounded Warrior Project provided participants with camelbacks.
  • National Parks Conservation Association helped organize.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

The Mission Continues and the National Parks Conservation Association serving in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park for the weekend

July 27-29, veterans from both Southern California and Northern California convened in Sequoia National Park. We had a total of 20 unique veterans show up with varying levels of connection to The Mission Continues and camping. The National Park Service hosted the group at an awesome remote campsite called Wolverton, as well as two NPS veteran employees to speak with the group about pathways for employment with NPS.

We entered the park as strangers separated by distance and left the wilderness connected by a shared sense of service.

Part of the volunteer trip was a chance to set up camp! The group enjoyed time to connect and have fun.

Our project on Saturday was at the Round Meadow and where we spent the majority of the day clearing invasive plants.

The purpose of this weekend was not solely about service and community impact but it was also about connectedness and enjoying a park meant for us all.

We went on hikes, bonded over the beautiful surroundings, had a chance to catch our breath in the stunning wilderness, shared meals and laughs and looked out for one another during trying times on the hikes.

We entered the park as strangers separated by distance and left the wilderness connected by a shared sense of service. 

Veterans serving with The Mission Continues in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

“It always amazes me to see how quickly veterans can bond with one another and begin to appreciate the differences each one brings with them in addition to their military service.”

 — Jimi Shaughnessy, The Mission Continues

Thank You

  • Krista Mathias at Sequoia Parks Conservancy lent gear for half the group and lead us on a guided night tour.
  • Jenny Kirk and Johnathan Humphrey from the National Parks Conservancy gave us the campground and coordinated the project on Saturday. They also invited 2 veterans employed with the park to speak to us about employment and community within the National Park Service. 
  • Huckberry.com gave us a $1,500.00 credit on their website, enabling us to purchase 3 complete gear sets that were used on this trip and will be used on future volunteer trips.
  • National Parks Conservation Association helped organize.

#WhatsNext?

Across 4 States and 3 time zones, our impact was felt from Washington to Arizona, to California to Hawaii! Huge shout out to our partners over at the National Parks Conservation Association for facilitating this opportunity to participate in their Operation #FixOurParks campaign.

We don’t sit still. We’re ALWAYS looking for what’s next. Hence, #WhatsNext is the West Region’s hashtag, embodying everything we are doing for the next year. So here’s what’s next for you:

Sign up to volunteer for a project during our 9/11 #UnitedInService series! We’ve got over 40 unique projects across the country, and we’d love YOU to join us.

You don’t have to be a veteran to volunteer. Our doors are open to all people of all ages and abilities, regardless of military history (or lack of one).