HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - "You go for a drive through Everglades National You can see and really appreciate the need for protection," said Anthony Vela. At Vela's job, the hazards can vary day-to-day. The Law Enforcement Park Ranger in the Florida Everglades knows that protection is what it's all about.
"Our job is to primarily protect the resource, protect the people that visit the national parks and be sure that they're here for enjoyment for future generations," said Vela.
Those "resources" can mean anything from gorgeous views, to gators. Visitors to the park get a chance to see animals up close. For Anthony, being a park ranger is a family affair.
"You know, growing up I always kinda laughed at the flat hat that he wore every day and never really thought that one day I'd wear it," laughed Vela. He says the day he first put on the uniform there was a since of pride and accomplishment.
The park service isn't the only family tradition, either. Vela's mother, father and sister all graduated from Texas A&M. Not just a former student, but a former athlete as well.
Anthony was a walk on to the football team and played under Mike Sherman. Something that only fuels the pride of his father.
"He's probably the proudest Aggie that you'll meet," laughed Vela.
"He's got the Aggie football helmet on his desk. he wears his Aggie ring every day," he explained.
During hurricane season, this Aggie works with along side many other park staff to ready the everglades for some of mother nature's biggest storms.
"When a hurricane hits, the park's first priority is its employees first and foremost. Secondly would be the resource," explained Vela. He said the national parks service is great about setting up teams and making first and foremost employees are safe.
"Staff such as law enforcement and maintenance comes together and batten down the hatches and make sure that things are as secure as they can be during a hurricane," said Vela.
So, when the storm clears and the park reopens, people from all over can enjoy the Everglades.
Anthony believes that being a park ranger is a lot like being an Aggie. Both have strong codes of honor and service. Anthony's father is the superintendent of Grand Tetons National Park.
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