On Oct 12, military veterans of Operation Free boarded two large biodiesel buses in two different states to begin a historic journey crisscrossing the country to talk to citizens, political leaders and fellow veterans about the national security implications of climate change and the need for Congress to enact comprehensive new clean energy legislation.
The brilliant blue coach buses were wrapped with the names of more than 70 cities and towns in 21 states that the buses visited over a two-week period. Veterans of wars from all services participated in the tour, some jumping on board for a few days while a few others stayed on board for the entire period.
I served as communications staff aboard the "southern" bus, blogging at various points along the way for the Operation Free and the NRDC Greenlight websites. We started our trek in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and then headed north through Missouri and Nebraska until we veered east and rolled through Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia. After stopping overnight in the nation's capitol, we then roared down Interstate 95, visiting communities in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and ultimately in Florida, where we ended up aboard the WWII cargo ship SS American Victory in Tampa.
It was a memorable, exciting and exhausting trip as we stopped in communities large and small. We visited town hall meetings at VFW Halls and American Legion Posts, met with editorial boards and individual print and broadcast reporters, and we joined civic leaders and mayors to discuss how to fight the security threats of climate change. We stopped three or four times a day, often beginning early in the morning and ending late at night as we cruised from state to state.
Although it was a grueling schedule with tight quarters at times, we developed a camaraderie that made the trip a rewarding experience. I also gained a special insight into why these veterans took the time to make this tour. All were motivated to help humanity deal with one of the most serious threats civilization has ever known. But there was also another important reason--no one wanted to put a single service member in harm's way due to the international security threats posed by climate change.
Looking back, I will remember most our stops at veterans' war memorials along the way. This was "hallowed ground," as Army vet Rafael Noboa described it, a testament to the lifelong service each veteran gives his or her country. Many said this tour was one of the most important battles of their military careers. It was an honor to serve beside them.
Rocky Kistner has been a reporter and video producer for more than 20 years, working for news organizations including ABC News, the Center for Investigative Reporting, American Public Media, and PBS Frontline.
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