Support Veterans

Men from platoon 3074, in Marine uniforms, pose for graduation photo.
David Riera 1999 during the graduation picture in Marine Corp Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. He is on the second level fifth Marine in from the right side.

D. Riera photo

2019 Latino Heritage Intern David Riera

As a second-year doctoral student at the Florida International University, David Riera has been serving as a Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) intern at Everglades National Park within the Environmental Education Unit, Interpretation Division. David previously served in the United States Marine Corps from 1999 to 2007, supporting both Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

David recalls fond memories of his father teaching him how to fish in Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park as a child. He speaks of his high school mentor who showed him the beauty of the nation’s ecological treasures through the lens of a 35mm Nikon or Pentax camera. These experiences helped him learn to identify wildlife. While traveling as a Marine, David would visit parks and enjoyed connecting with natural settings. When returning home to Florida from military service, parks and green places would serve as the primary space that helped him treat his Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); the parks became a safe place for where he disconnected and reconnected with himself. David shared that ecotherapy worked for him; however, it may not work for everyone. He believed that for recently separated veterans it should be considered as a first step to working on his/her mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

David took an oath to protect America against enemies both foreign and domestic as a Marine. To David, that protection extends to our natural places. He values the long-standing stories of military history and traditions that are rooted in many national parks. David’s relationship with service has evolved into one that serves to protect, conserve, and restore our national parks and green spaces through sound sciences, educational engagement, and aligned advocacy actions.

Eight people stand talkig around a large floor map.
David Riera, during Latino Conservation Week, giving a safety brief and overview for the Slough Slog aka ¡Un paseo por las cúpulas de ciprés! Event, Everglades Ernest Coe Visitors Center, Miami, Florida.

D. Riera photo

What led David to the National Park Service and the internship experience basically included a uniform change, but the job is the same: protecting America from enemies both foreign and domestic.

Above all, as a Multicultural Combat Veteran, David, believes he and other veterans need to share their experiences with communities, including youth groups. Through the internship, David has managed to organize an intern alumni committee and numerous Latino Conservation Week engagements, including Hispanic Heritage events. He plans to continue to serve as an advocate for the Environmental Education Unit that engages educators in South Florida who may have considered Everglades, Biscayne, or Big Cypress National Parks as organic learning tools. Lastly, David is currently exploring using his experiences to expound on his dissertation work, or at least look over some of the metadata to publish a study, which will equip practitioners. Therefore, students will have the opportunity to commune, study, and relax in parks, and at the very least be able to support their human well-being.

Learn more about the Latino Heritage interm program and more about National Park Service Youth Programs.

Veterans in Parks Program

Join veteran colleagues to promote job and volunteer opportunities within the National Park Service.

The Mission Continues
The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Their operations in cities across the country deploy veteran volunteers alongside non-profit partners and community leaders to solve some of the most challenging issues facing our communities: improving community education resources, eliminating food deserts, mentoring at-risk youth and more. Through this unique model, veterans build new skills and networks that help them successfully reintegrate to life after the military while making long-term, sustainable transformations in communities and inspiring future generations to serve. Find out more about The Mission Continues.

Operation Warfighter
Operation Warfighter is a Department of Defense internship program that provides opportunities for wounded, ill, and injured service members to participate in internships with federal agencies during their rehabilitation process. These federal internships allow wounded, ill, and injured service members to expand their knowledge, skills, and abilities in preparation for transition or reintegration to military service. Learn more about Operation Warfighter.

Each national park may also have their own group of volunteers or partners. Read about a few examples of these unique collaborations.

Veterans Continue To Serve

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    Last updated: November 11, 2019