May 29, 2011
Guest View: A vet's argument for preserving San Gabriels
Memorial Day is a time of reflection for those of us who have worn the uniform. As a Marine I have witnessed the horror of modern warfare. As I reflect now on my time in Afghanistan I frequently remember the things I would do to relieve the anxiety of those difficult days. One way of escape was to reflect on my homeland of Southern California and the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains.
The San Gabriel Mountains are the backdrop for our beautiful region. They are also a treasure to the veterans of Southern California and our nation. From the heights of Mount San Antonio to the splendor of Telegraph Peak, this land provides serenity not only in its physical presence but also through its spiritual landscape and splendor. Imagery that is forever ingrained in the memories of those that have visited these beautiful mountains.
Millions of visitors frequent these beautiful mountains each year. Many of these visitors are veterans like myself. For those of us returning from the war zone, scenic wonders such as this have a very therapeutic and healing aspect. Readjustment to civilian life can be challenging and areas such as these can help our community of veterans to find balance and peace.
Ironically, the old saying that you don't know what you've got until it's gone is very true. I did not fully come to appreciate the beauty of the San Gabriels until I had lost them.
This was a realization that came full circle during my deployment in Afghanistan.
As my mind sought comfort in these thoughts from home I fully understood what the land meant to me.
These memories of Afghanistan, and the deep love and appreciation that I have today for the scenic treasures of Southern California, have turned me into an advocate for our lands. I want to see this land protected and it has become a mission.
Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps America's greatest soldier and statesman, was arguably the founder of our nation's conservation movement. Roosevelt fought for these lands in battle and he fought to protect them from irresponsible development and corporate greed. I want to follow in his footsteps. I too fought overseas for these lands and I now want to fight for them right here at home.
It is important that our elected officials protect our last remaining wild lands in the San Gabriel range. There are about 36,000 acres of potential wilderness that need to be preserved for our families and future generations. Also, the vision of a new San Gabriel Mountains Recreation Area needs to be championed and implemented.
By working together this dream can be realized. It is Memorial Day. Many veterans and their families will be enjoying this sacred land. Let's work together to preserve these beautiful lands for vets - and all Americans.
That would be a fitting tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our precious and scenic homeland.
Rick Reyes of Bell Gardens is a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and a member of Vet Voice Foundation of California.