Society today often thinks about how it can help veterans; well-meaning citizens ponder whether they should buy that young man in the Marine Corps shirt a beer, and time and again charities believe that simply giving things away will improve the lives of our warriors coming home.
It is hard to criticize this mentality—certainly any Marine would love a cold, frosty beer courtesy of the stranger next to him; and most veterans would never turn down free tickets to a baseball game. These charitable, patriotic acts have their place as our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines return home—but they are not the solution to a healthy, normal transition back to civilian life.
But, if charity is not the key to warrior transition, then what is? After four, or six or twenty years of service, and multiple tours to combat zones in the Middle East, what ingredient can most benefit the service member? At Team Rubicon, we think it’s the challenge of continued service.
Since last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, Team Rubicon has deployed to disasters around the world—at home and abroad, using military veterans as volunteers; taking the skills and lessons they learned in war and applying them for the greater good in disaster zones. This methodology—combining military veterans with medical professionals and social media—is an improvement both in the way disasters are currently approached, and in the manner which veterans are utilized for continued service.
From one of our volunteers in Joplin, MO:
“I think all prior military individuals have a desire to serve, and this is just another capacity we can do that in. Team Rubicon gave me that opportunity to come down here and serve again.”
Tyler Tannahill, USMC Infantry
At Team Rubicon, we don’t think we are the all-encompassing solution to an improved transition or better mental health. We do, however, strongly feel that challenging veterans to continue to serve their communities, and bringing them together with a new common goal, is an important first step on the road to productive civilian lives.
Jake Wood is the President of Team Rubicon, the organization he cofounded in 2010; as a former Marine Sniper, he is a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.