Veterans Doing Good at Home

November 8th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

Team Rubicon members leave war-torn areas to pour their efforts into disaster-struck places closer to home.

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As Veterans Day approaches, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate those veterans who have returned from combat to fulfill the same need for service at home that drew them into military service in the first place.

One such group of vets is Team Rubicon. Since its creation in 2010, this nonprofit has served disaster-struck areas – with all the military skills its veterans bring to bear –including Haiti, Chile, Burma, Pakistan and Sudan as well as areas closer to home such as Vermont, Maryland, Missouri, Alabama and New York.

In the wake of the recent Colorado Springs floods that affected nearly 2,000 square miles of land and cost nearly $2 billion in property damage, Fast Company wrote about how Team Rubicon organized some 200 volunteers to start fixing the damage in the city of Longmont – leaving 50 people on the ground, using the local Home Depot as their base of operations. As Team Rubicon co-founder William McNulty, a former Marine and intelligence contractor in Iraq, recounted, the group deployed a planning team to go door-to-door and ask who needed help, later drafting work plans from the damage assessments and sending a “strike team” to get the job done.

And though co-founder and former Marine sergeant Jacob Wood said that the success of Team Rubicon was the unanticipated result of the two picking up volunteers on the way to provide assistance in the wake of the 2009 earthquakes in Haiti, its efforts may be as good for the veterans who join the cause as it is to their beneficiaries.

Since its inception, Team Rubicon has grown to some 12,000 members, a growth rate that’s likely not surprising considering the following: In 2009, an extensive survey of vets by public policy group Civic Enterprises showed that 92 percent want to serve their communities once they return, and nearly as many believe their service should stand as an example for those who haven’t served.

On the group’s website, blog entries by team members provide some insight into just how valuable service is for them. In one entry, USMC veteran Peter Hauschulz, who served in flood-ravaged Colorado, writes about his greeting by a young boy who asked if he had been to war. Answering that yes, he had been, the little boy yelled, “You made it back!” and clapped his hands and cheered, joined by an entire roomful of little hands. “In a devastated neighborhood of Longmont, Colorado, previously unknown to me, I received the welcome that I didn’t know I still needed […] I already feel like these citizens have given me more than I could ever give them, even if I were to single-handedly rebuild every basement in this neighborhood.” For more information on Team Rubicon, watch this video about the organization.

This Veterans Day, we thank the members of Team Rubicon and all those veterans who comprise that Civic Enterprises statistic. Those who want to celebrate Veterans Day more actively this year can donate to support its volunteers in the field, or invest monthly.