Military kids are not like other kids because of the kinds of challenges we face. In some ways, many of us are more prepared for adulthood than our peers in the civilian world. I say that because we are raised in a culture of diversity rather than a location rooted with monotony. When provided the opportunity, we embrace other cultures and communities as our own.
Sadly, we also encounter the loss of close relationships with each annual PCS season. But it’s OK because military kids are great at networking. We find new friends each transitional period. Hardship and struggle are part of everyone’s life, but transitioning during one’s adolescence requires great individual perseverance.
Military families are special people, and it is essential that we “buy in” to the preservation of our natural world. Our families are not just protecting our nation; we are protecting our nation’s natural resources.
I have been a Scout since I was 5 years old. Scouting gave me a platform to learn about environmentalism in practice. What is environmentalism in practice? It’s easy to do. You pre-make decisions about what you will buy or consume, and how it will be used and disposed of long before you ever purchase it. Conservation isn’t easy because it requires that we go against a “buy-use-dispose” economic status quo.
Being an environmentalist in practice does not mean you need to plant a family garden, give up meat and live off the grid. Instead, it means we buy the product that takes refills, we repurpose old items into new items and we actively participate in recycling programs. We are the spark for change.
Here at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, several military families run a monthly glass bottle recycling program. They drive three hours to San Antonio and drop off boxes and boxes of glass bottles, just because we don’t have that recycling service here. They are the spark for change!
Somewhere deep inside, I have always been an environmentalist. In second grade, I did a science project on an invasive species of fish called Plecostomus or Pleco. Plecos are algae eaters from the Amazon, and they are great at keeping fish tanks clean and healthy. At some point, someone emptied a Pleco from a fish tank into local San Felipe Creek. There are now millions of Pleco endangering other species dependent on algae as part of their food chain. I teamed up with a biologist, and we did educational programs to teach kids about the dangers of invasive species. I was 8 years old, but I had the spark for change.
Military kids are great at networking. By age 13, I decided to act on some of the environmental issues which most hurt my heart. First, I tried to ban plastic bags. I wrote letters, appeared in front of the city council and begged people to help me. We didn’t ban the bags, but now the city recycles them, and I convinced the big-box businesses to maintain long term plastic bag recycling. Since 2013, they have recycled over 25,000 bags.
By high school, I had new projects in progress. One day on the base, I noticed how many toner cartridges ended up in the trash. After teaming up with an on-base agency, we started a toner recycling program. Since then, Laughlin AFB has recycled over 12,000 disposable printer parts. But I didn’t stop there, because military kids persevere.
When I was little, there used to be clouds of Monarch Butterflies passing through the border city of Del Rio. Monarchs are on their way to being extinct for a variety of reasons, the greatest of which is the decline in the growth of their host plant Milkweed. I created the formula for perfect gorilla gardening seedballs. What started as a 500 seed project turned into a 15,000 seed project that plants and grows milkweed over three Texas counties. We are the spark for change!
Find those things you are passionate about and find solutions, share ideas, help with trash pickups, use reusable bags and just think before you buy. We are the protectors of our nation, but we have a domestic enemy, and it is the slow decline of our nation’s natural resources. Be the spark for change!