U.S.M.C. Retired, Conservationist, Author, Photographer.


Combat to Conservation


In 1969, after growing up in the woods and fields of Southern Minnesota, Francis Fitzgerald finds himself as a young Marine in the middle of one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts his country had ever fought. Thoughts of college and becoming a Game Warden are gone now as daily life becomes a battle of survival.

Hot jungle sun, monsoon rains, snakes and leeches, and the ever-present threat of enemy ambushes take a toll on a 19-year old’s mind and body. But the biggest battle loomed yet ahead.

How does one heal the body and soul after living in that unimaginable world? No one is ever the same. Is anything worth the fight anymore?

Wilderness becomes his closest ally, his only healing medicine, his only hope.

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"Sometimes the baggage of our lives, emotional stress, and unexpressed feelings hides in the closet of our minds. Then, one day, bits and pieces of the past create an uneasiness, an emptiness that keeps us stuck in a post-traumatic mindset. In Combat to Conservation, author Francis Fitzgerald, unlocks haunting memories of a young eighteen-year-old Marine facing combat in Vietnam. Witnessing the loneliness of war, his feelings of anger and hopelessness, Francis describes his return to home and recovery as he embraces the wilderness. In his solitude of a wildlife retreat, Francis finds a healing connection between the hunter and the conservationist. This is a compelling story of our relationship with the earth, each other, and the need for conservation. Our survival depends on this correlation."
Marilyn Gansel, PsyD
Positive Performance Coach & Co-Author Saved by Sport
"This is an amazing story of the personal healing power of nature, but it is also an important call to action. Fitz reminds us that 'we can be that which holds the planet together and protects it' . . .but only if we are willing to fight for it."
Kris Larson
Executive Director at Minnesota Land Trust
"In life's great game of connect the dots, Fitz takes you along: from his prosaic childhood on the family farm to pivotal early hunting experiences, to riveting accounts of trauma & tragedy in Vietnam and then landing on a deep passion for public lands & all things wild. His book, written with humility, honesty and integrity, draws you in to his life-long evolving relationship with the natural world & it's critical significance to our shared destiny."
Paul Schurke
Entrepreneur, Educator & Arctic Explorer
"This is a wonderful book, I personally have worked with Fitz and the book reflects the high quality and grounded person I got to know and admire. I feel I had a parallel idyllic childhood as Fitz; both grew up on a MN farm and we both ended up in the north woods. But unlike him, I didn't spend a harrowing time in Vietnam. I've spent a lifetime trying to portray the healing qualities of nature in my photographs and movies. Fitz's fine book perfectly illustrates that idea - nature can heal. I highly recommend it."
Jim Brandenburg
Photographer, Filmmaker and Best Selling Author
"I actually teared up reading this. As a Catholic growing up in Middle America, playing in the woods, hunting, fishing, and enjoying the natures of our beautiful country, Francis delivers these memories, along with the realities of the lethal cauldron of Vietnam. I was not able to put this book down."
Nathan Aguinaga
Master Sergeant (Retired) US Army & four book author
"Combat to Conservation is a moving story of the interdependent relationship between people and nature. Sharing his personal experience, Fitzgerald makes a compelling case that people need nature for the wellbeing of our souls, and nature needs people to protect its very existence."
Sarah Strommen
Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
"Here is a timeless tale, from Homer to Hemingway, of healing from war wounds by immersion in wilderness and wild nature. As a combat Marine in Vietnam in the early 70s, F. J. Fitzgerald was severely wounded and denied of his dream of becoming a wildlife warden. He found solace in Northern Minnesota and wildness at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range of Colorado. The wolves and lions he encountered there had the power to help heal his war wounds from the darker forests of his soul. His story is of a powerful mending."
Doug Peacock
Veteran, Writer, Naturalist & Filmmaker
"Hank Junior might have made popular the mantra A Country Boy Can Survive, but Fitz has shown in a memoir that echoes the spirits of transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau that he can not only survive but thrive in the solace of our natural environment. With short deliberately crafted brushstrokes, Fitz paints an inspirational canvas. After reading this journey from painful combat to newfound personal peace, you’ll want to shut down your computer, charge up your digital camera, lace up your hiking boots, and find your best available hiking trail."
Matthew A. Tallon
co-author of 100 Days in Vietnam: A Memoir of Love, War, and Survival

Check out My Latest Blogs

With a wide variety of topics, there's sure to be something for everyone.


The Making of "Combat to Conservation" Part II

The search for publication.


Old Leather

We’ve all got them, the ones that the minute you slip into them your foot recognizes the feel.


The Making of “Combat to Conservation”

The birth of an idea.

Trail Cameras

I'm Addicted to Trail Cams

The story of how it all started

Growing Up

The 50's

I’m a child of the 1950’s and I really think I’m lucky for that.

Mental Health

Escaping Our Rut

It's hard to pull ourselves away from the busy rut we modern humans get ourselves into.

Contact Fitz

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