Parks and recreation reaches into almost every aspect of our lives, and plays a different role depending on where we are in the general course of living them. For hundreds of thousands of Americans, a period of military service may be featured in life’s timeline. My own father rarely speaks of his experiences in WWII — for which he was awarded the Bronze Star — but says enough to indicate the experience was difficult, gruesome and harrowing.
During my own childhood, I remember Walter Cronkite’s somber voice emanating from our living room TV as he announced that day’s death tolls in Vietnam. Today’s news reports of United States military action in any of several overseas theaters lack the candid, frank delivery that Cronkite masterfully employed, but tell us enough to know that the men and women who serve our country do so under trying circumstances at best.
Interestingly, it’s the armed forces that’s credited with coining the term R&R — rest and recreation. Back in the August issue of Parks & Recreation, Dean Tice, NRPA executive director from 1986 to 2001, discussed the importance of being able to pull troops off the line and get them into a recreational environment to help rebuild their will to live. That’s where departments of Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) come in. The park and recreation professionals who live and work at any of the more than 6,000 military installations around the globe are tasked with finding creative ways for their patrons to relieve stress, have fun and stay healthy. They have become expert in cutting-edge recreational modalities — like skydiving, scuba, equestrian and boating — as well as leading intramural sports leagues, special events and camping trips. Basically, you name it, MWR does it.
On page 46 of this issue, author Elisabeth Weaver gives us an overview of how the Navy is expanding its MWR offerings with a focus on Naval Station Great Lakes, the navy’s largest training facility, located near North Chicago in Lake County, Illinois. It’s also a model of what MWR can do for the men and women who depend on it, as well as the surrounding community, which often benefits from MWR programs and partnerships.
Dan Dustin, Ph.D., shares his experience at a Vietnam veteran’s memorial on page 52. That relatively brief visit triggered a cascade of realizations that led Dustin to contemplate our attitudes toward our work, the impact of our work, and the meaning of our work as park and recreation professionals.
We know the important role parks and recreation plays in day-to-day life. In this issue, we’re reminded that the work we do supports all we touch — our children, friends, parents and the brave women and men who make it possible for us to continue this important vocation.
Gina Mullins-Cohen is NRPA's Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing and Editorial Director.