In 2008, after flood waters ravaged the Coralville Lake area just outside Iowa City, college student Justin Lind was presented with the unique opportunity to help his community under the FEMA banner in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to recover from the disaster.
Justin did not anticipate that the fateful decision to serve would set his life on a path of selfless service spanning the globe. “My professor threw down a piece of paper for people who wanted to help by working for FEMA, so I called and was hired instantly,” he recalled, “during that time, the USACE park rangers at Coralville, who I worked with, really liked me, and after the response ended up hiring me on as a student intern.”
The idea of giving back continued after his new internship and previous FEMA response support; during that same time, he was simultaneously serving in the Iowa Army National Guard as a combat engineer.
2010-2011 provided yet another opportunity to leave the comfort of home and serve. This time, the people he was looking to help were in Afghanistan, and when given the chance to deploy with an Infantry unit, he took it without hesitation. “I did 110 combat missions there,” Lind remembered, “we patrolled on the Pakistan and Afghanistan border, and that was my life for a year.” All done in a labor of love and compassion.
Coming home from Afghanistan, despite having served more than most will during a lifetime, Justin’s dedication to selfless service would not waiver. After successfully reintegrating from deployment, he simultaneously finished his degree and USACE internship, both with great success and garnering enough trust and credibility to earn him a full-time position as a USACE park ranger, a position he still holds.
Fast forward 15 years later, Justin still loves being a park ranger with all the opportunities to interact with the public. He has even found more ways to serve his fellow veterans, such as becoming the Rock Island District Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program Coordinator (DVAPP).
This position was significant to Lind, who said, “I have always advocated for the hiring of veterans within USACE. Veterans bring a diverse background to our workforce with unique skills that transition from their military service.” He continued, “an example would be the ability to deploy for an extended period in high-stress environments. This type of skill greatly benefits USACE, especially when we are in a position to execute missions like the Maui Wildfires. It is ingrained into veterans that ‘failing the mission’ is not an option.”
True to his word, when Lind saw the devastation and human suffering from the Maui Wildfires he knew in his heart that the only way forward was to come out to support the affected population, much the same way his community had been assisted 15 years prior.
When Justin arrived in Maui in November 2023, his first position was in the Regional Field Office call center, speaking directly with affected residents and offering guidance, support, and empathy. While slightly different than what Justin had expected, the position assignment was fortuitous as it afforded another opportunity to live the ethos of selfless service by directly assisting residents who were beginning putting their lives back together after being devastated by the wildfires. He would serve in that capacity for 27 days, a time that helped him find a deep understanding of the mission.
“I think it worked out better for me because you have to study everything that was being done, understand all the processes, and then be able to relay that to the public,” Lind said. He fielded hundreds of calls and was able to directly connect those residents with the answers they were seeking through a lens of empathy and honesty.
After that initial 27 days, he moved into a Quality Assurance position in the affected areas of Lahaina and Kula, working to ensure that debris contractors perform their roles as expected and defined by the contract—a position he still holds today during the ongoing construction of the Temporary Disposal Site in Olowalu.
The most evident example of his ethos of selfless service and compassion was the night of December 26, 2023. As he was waiting in line to grab a bite to eat in a restaurant after work when the person in front of him collapsed suddenly. Not being one for standing still while others need help, Justin led the effort to help best sustain the gentlemen with CPR compressions while giving directions to on-lookers until medical assistance arrived and took over.
He has repeatedly shown throughout his career and life that he is a man of action, whether lifesaving or just being a kind ear. Those actions only further confirm his unlimited dedication to the Army Values, specifically the value of selfless service above all else. “People are always surprised at how long I have been with the Corps and my age, but I literally grew up in USACE, and what keeps me in the Corps is the bigger picture of our mission and being able to be there for things like this response.”
Justin is a shining example of the best of all of us, and each day he walks the earth, he is making it a better and more hopeful place for all of us. That is precisely why the Engineer Regiment motto is Essayons because we will always try to make the world a better place through the Army Values, much like how Justin lives his life every day.