There are over 2.3 million veterans who have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many will experience a difficult transition to civilian life. Over the last few years, we have lost more American war veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict to suicide than to combat.
In the coming months I will highlight several of the many organizations and individuals who have answered the call and initiated important programs to help our veterans fight this plague and assist them in successfully transitioning from military to civilian life.
This month, I have selected Team Rubicon. Julie and I first discovered their program while visiting our daughter Veronica in New York City in the days after Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island, Long Island, and New Jersey in late October and early November 2012; we have since been proud to provide ongoing financial support to this organization because of their unique and highly successful approach.
Team Rubicon was started in 2010 as a non-profit disaster relief organization with the goal of recruiting and involving Iraqi and Afghan war veterans as volunteers, in hopes that their involvement would be beneficial to communities impacted by disasters while at the same time giving these vets a sense of mission and meaning to their post-military lives. Natural disasters present many of the same problems that our troops confronted on the battlefield: unstable and often chaotic conditions, limited resources, and limited and often unreliable information. The skills they learned on the battlefield transfer very effectively to disaster relief: emergency medical care, risk assessment, the ability to function at a high level over long deployments in tough working conditions, teamwork, and decisive leadership.
Their first relief operation was in Haiti immediately following the devastating 2010 earthquake there that left over one million people homeless. Today — just five short years later, and utilizing only 21 employees and working out of office space in El Segundo California — Team Rubicon has 22,000 members and has brought much-needed help in over 80 disaster relief operations in North America. It is now expanding worldwide, with over a dozen operations in Africa and the Far East. 80% of Team Rubicon’s volunteers are military veterans and 20% are first responders.
I have selected three of the many videos created to date which typify the outstanding work of our veterans and the curative power of the organization in helping both them and the communities that have benefited from their relief efforts. The first video provides a brief overview of the origins and activities of Team Rubicon. The second contains interviews with Hurricane Sandy homeowners who were assisted by TR. The third is an interview with TR volunteer and veteran Harry Golden, who joined TR in the aftermath of Sandy, and who tells what Team Rubicon has meant to him.
As Harry Golden exemplifies, TR helps our veterans find new purpose and a sense of self. However, it is even more inspirational to see these vets who have already given so much continue serving and giving back. We have asked so much of them while really giving them so little in return. If you would like to help, please visit Team Rubicon’s website at http://teamrubionusa.org