Phoenix, AZ — When veterans of the United States military return from serving our country, they often long to continue their role as a leader and give back to their community. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is fortunate to have found just that kind of individual to help educate citizens about Arizona’s native wildlife.
After completing her tour in Iraq with the U.S. Coast Guard, Melissa Steinman returned to the workplace and found it challenging to adapt to civilian life and her previous profession as a science teacher.
With the help of The Mission Continues, an organization which offers fellowships and organizes volunteer-led service projects for veterans nationwide, Steinman found Game and Fish’s Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center and began a six-month fellowship that allowed her to “feed her soul” and continue her desire to serve.
“The Mission Continues helps me contribute directly to my community while also allowing me to further my professional goals for the future,” said Steinman. “Leadership played a big role in my military career, and it is something that’s still needed in our civilian communities because it empowers people to be active and to use their personal strengths.”
Steinman instantly felt connected to the Wildlife Center’s mission of wildlife education and caring for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
“When I have bad days, I have to remember the wildlife, especially the birds, that are always challenging their disability, and I have to do the same thing myself,” Steinman said. “I constantly wonder what else can I do with the time I have here in my fellowship to impact my community. The Wildlife Center animals are a constant reminder that I must do the best with what I’ve got and always try to improve.”
Throughout her time at the Wildlife Center, Steinman has created outreach programs for disabled veterans, under-served student populations (including low income students, children with cancer or terminal illness, and the Child Crisis Center), and Southwest Key Programs, which serves unaccompanied minors that are victims of human trafficking.
In addition to presenting wildlife-outreach programs, Steinman also assists with the day-to-day husbandry tasks and medical care for sick, injured and orphaned animals. Whether it’s watching a hawk learn to hunt or helping an owl learn to fly again, Steinman feels connected to the animals when they are fighting through their recovery.
The outreach projects which Steinman has created for Arizona Game and Fish have received national attention. She is often sought after to mentor new, returning veterans and represents The Mission Continues at many special events. Recently, she was invited to speak at the 2nd Annual Veteran’s Day Gala for The Mission Continues in Missouri, where award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw was the Guest of Honor.
With the approaching Veteran’s Day holiday, Arizona Game and Fish is privileged to recognize Steinman not only as a veteran, but also as an advocate and leader for wildlife education.