Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dave's Dream-Not-Come-True - Gettysburg

Dream: To work for the National Park Service as a Park Ranger at Gettysburg.

Get his degree, relocate to PA and get hired by the NPS.

Why Not?
He doesn't think his wife will agree to relocate across the country.

His story:

In 1975 my family and I took a trip to the East Coast - I was thirteen years old at the time. We had the option to go to Mount Vernon or Gettysburg and Gettysburg won out. We spent a very short time at the battlefield but that brief time captivated my imagination. As a boy I had always been interested in all things military but the trip to Gettysburg really got me hooked on the Civil War. I remember when I returned home with a handful of brochures I couldn't put down, I typed a letter to the National Park Service asking how to become a park ranger at the battlefield. I received a very nice response and that began my 30-plus year journey.

I joined the Navy after high school as I was not ready to go to college. After my tour with the Navy, I joined the National Guard and utilized my education benefits to attend college and I started taking classes in a Park Management program. One of the requirements at the time to be a park ranger was to have a four year degree. It did not matter what the degree was in but I figured what better way to get a leg up on the competition than to have an AS degree in Park Management and follow it up with a BA in History. I took a number of classes and spent a summer working as a seasonal ranger at Fort Davis in Texas with the NPS. I had married in 1984 to a woman who shared my love of the Civil War and we planned to relocate to Pennsylvania. Not long after we married and I finished the seasonal position in Texas, she had a change of heart and didn’t want to relocate and we divorced. That really shook up my plans. I continued my education but it was difficult concentrating and I was feeling like my dream was slipping away. My job took me out of the area so I could no longer attend classes for my Park Management degree although I was only a few classes away from completing my AS degree.

As the necessities of life dictated I continued working and wound up in Mariposa, California. I worked a season at Yosemite National Park which came to a premature end when the attacks on 9/11 called me to active duty. After a seven month tour working at an airport with the National Guard providing security I was accepted as a supervisor with the Transportation Security Administration. During this time I remarried, had a child and was then called to active duty for an 18 month tour in Iraq. Upon returning from Iraq I remained working full time for the California Army National Guard. I had all but let go of my dream ever coming true even though my love for Civil War history and Gettysburg had never diminished after all these years.

Through the years, I became a Civil War re-enactor and traveled to Gettysburg on four separate occasions spending a week at a time touring the battlefield. I even founded the National Civil War Association in 1984. I have accepted that my dream of becoming a ranger at Gettysburg will never come to fruition. I don't see how it can.


Bruce Bytnar said...

I was also inspired by visits to Gettysburg as a youth. These visits influenced me to become a National Park Ranger. It was difficult and challenging road, but I finally made it and had a 32 year career. I never got to work at Gettysburg, but I did spend 3 1/2 years at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP. You can learn about my career and what it is like to be a park ranger in my book "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks." It has been adopted by several universities as required reading for students studying to become rangers.
Although you were unable to spend an entire career as a park ranger you still carried that commitment of protection and public service into a life of protecting us all. Thank you for your service to this country.

Kathy said...

Hi Bruce, Thanks for writing! I forwarded your comment on to Dave to be sure he sees it. I would love to get a signed copy of your book for Dave, how can I reach you? I hope you will continue following this journey here on IWIL, it's going to be fun! Happy New Year!