Post World War II, military veterans returned home to a community of veterans and a grateful nation that had shared in the sacrifice of war. These veterans used the brick and mortar posts of the American Legion and the VFW to maintain that esprit-de-corps. They mentored youth, advocated on veterans issues, shared war stories, and confided in each other over beers.
For generations, when veterans took off their uniform, their desire to serve did not end. That’s just as true today. Some very creative post 9/ll veterans’ charities have adapted to this desire and have created models for continued service and engagement. The Mission Continues provides fellowships for returning veterans to continue their service in the public sector. Ride 2 Recovery and Team RWB use the therapeutic effect of physical training to repair the physical and mental wounds of war. Our organization, Team Rubicon, uses continued service through disaster response as a means to maintain purpose, community, and a sense-of-self. Our work is inspired by our late friend Clay Hunt, who took his own life after leaving the service.
It’s a national emergency that everyday 22 military veterans commit suicide. Also concerning is the increasing magnitude and frequency of natural disasters. Over the last five years, there have been 350 federally declared disasters in the United States. A Civic Enterprises report found that 92 percent of veterans want to continue their service when they return home. The top two responses were helping their fellow veterans and disaster response. Team Rubicon provided that opportunity to over 350 veterans during our response to Hurricane Sandy.
On Friday, February 8th, we had the honor and privilege to meet President Obama and some of his advisors in the Oval Office. We discussed our response to Hurricane Sandy, our model of continued service, and how we think we can stem the tide of veteran suicide.
During the conversation, the President said he didn’t just want to just talk; he wanted to support Team Rubicon. He wanted to find ways to work together to enhance coordination following natural disasters. We thank the President for validating our approach to veteran reintegration and disaster response. We look forward to working together to improve these two critical issues.
Jake Wood & William McNulty are the Cofounders of Team Rubicon