A former Marine thinks working in nature can help veterans heal their war-wounded spirits.
Kane County Forest Preserve restoration ecologist Ben Haberthur has started the Veterans Conservation Corps of Chicagoland, and has planned its first outing for Saturday at Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia.
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Haberthur picked the preserve because he was inspired by the man it's named after, the late Dick Young. Before he was a pioneer conservationist, arranging to preserve many natural areas in Kendall and Kane counties, Young was a Marine in World War II. He received two Purple Hearts from fighting in battles at Iwo Jima.
Haberthur was stationed in southern Iraq in 2003. Upon returning to the United States, he found that exploring coastal areas in California was a "peaceful, calming alternative to the stresses of my former military life," he said. He believes connecting with nature could help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He also said his resolve to protect and restore American ecosystems was solidified after seeing environmental devastation wrought by Saddam Hussein, including draining Iraq's southern marshlands. The lush marshlands, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, were drained after the first Gulf War, because Hussein thought the area harbored rebels.
Haberthur obtained a $10,000 grant from TogetherGreen, which is an organization run by the National Audubon Society and Toyota, to start the Chicago chapter. The VCCs motto is "Worth Protecting, Worth Preserving."
Saturday's event is from 10 a.m. to noon; meet at the east entry, 2S326 Nelson Lake Road. Volunteers will clear brush, plant trees and plant seeds. A cookout is also planned. You don't have to be a veteran to participate.
For more information, contact Haberthur at (630) 649-1149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.