Veteran Story: John Schmitz

a man in brown military uniform

Photo courtesy John Schmitz

My name is John Schmitz. I work in a maintenance position at Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park. I can honestly say I never would have dreamed that I would be living and working in a national park, yet here I am, married and with a 9-month-old son who will one day have a love and passion for the outdoors.

My military career began in 1987. I enlisted in the US Army as an infantry soldier. That career took me around the world. With the 101st Screaming Eagles I was deployed for Desert Shield and Desert Storm for nine months. After 12 years and as a Sergeant First Class I transitioned to civilian life. This did not last long—after the towers were hit on 9/11, I knew it was time to come back. This time I enlisted into the US Navy, and for eight years I was a master-at-arms. Serving in the military was never about a paycheck for me as much as it was a loyalty to my country—a sense of pride and honor.

...I believe serving in the NPS is an honor. Representing the NPS should not just be a job, but come as an opportunity to continue to serve our nation.

John Schmitz
a ranger in front of a sign reading Island in the Sky Visitor Center Canyonlands National Park
John Schmitz at work at Island in the Sky Visitor Center

NPS Photo

After the military, I explored the world, living out of my backpack or the back of my vehicle. I found volunteer opportunities on volunteer.gov which took me to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. I put in over 1,000 hours. I continued to travel, working as a Hut Warden at Tongoriro National Park in New Zealand, and volunteering again at The Needles district in Canyonlands National Park. While there, I got the opportunity to begin a paid position.

I remember during my retirement speech I mentioned if you can find a job that you would do for free, consider yourself blessed. And in all honesty, it was those words that influenced me to pursue the NPS. Not only would I do it for free, I have. And now, here I am living and working at Island in the Sky. Every day I have a new opportunity to contribute to my new team towards a new mission. Knowing that with cohesion and esprit-de-corps, we can continue to make the NPS an opportunity for the future.

This is why I believe that serving in the NPS is an honor. Representing the NPS should not just be a job, but come as an opportunity to continue to serve our nation.