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Veterans Helping Survivors on the Road to Recovery

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on

With so many New Yorkers facing the overwhelming and exhausting task of cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, a group of former veterans known as Team Rubicon have become very popular. And rightly so.

“We were exhausted after the first few days,” said Rockaway homeowner Barbara Millet, “but they just showed up. My mother-in-law calls them angels.”

Founded by two former Marines following the Haitian earthquake in 2010, members of Team Rubicon use skills acquired in the military to assist people affected by disasters.  In the past 10 days, the team has deployed hundreds of volunteers to the Northeast to help Sandy survivors clean houses, remove trees, repair roofs and manage debris as they begin their road to recovery.

FEMA partners with numerous voluntary agencies to provide a wide range of crucial assistance to survivors who may have needs beyond what the state or federal assistance can provide. And this Veterans Day the agency would like to salute Team Rubicon, FEMA’s nearly 3,000 veteran employees, the thousands of veterans in the other federal agencies supporting the response and the more than 12,000 active duty, reserve and National Guard personnel who have been a part of Sandy response operations.

In honor of Veterans Day, Team Rubicon has been joined by volunteers from other veteran groups who have come together for a day of service. Some 1,000 veterans traveled to New York to support survivors as they recover from Sandy.  Representatives from Give an Hour, the 6th Branch, The Mission Continues, the Pat Tillman Foundation, the Headstrong Project, Got Your 6, Student Veterans of America, and Team Red, White, & Blue will be participating.

“A lot of times, people will see us out in the community and they will ask us how they can volunteer” says Andrew Stevens, Team Rubicon’s National Director of Field Operations. “Because of our organizational skills and experience in disaster relief, we’re able to put them to work right away.”

FEMA’s Voluntary Agency Liaison (VAL) works with state and local governments to establish volunteer reception centers. Unaffiliated volunteers who come to the centers are directed to one of the many voluntary organizations active in disaster relief efforts.  Other groups currently working with Sandy survivors in New York include the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Southern Baptists, Adventist Community Services and other national and local voluntary organizations.

In addition to these organizations, individuals interested in volunteering time or donating money to help New Yorkers recover from Sandy can contact New York Cares at 212-228-5000 or NYC Service.

Michael Byrne is a FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer.