Our nation’s veterans have made incredible sacrifices in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 10 years of war, though after returning from deployments and leaving military service, they may face unexpected challenges as they reintegrate into civilian life. While many veterans successfully make this transition, others unfortunately find themselves fighting new battles – against invisible wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, depression, unemployment, and homelessness. These challenges can be compounded by the need to cope with visible wounds or service-related injuries.
In the military, our service members are trained to look out for and take care of their fellow unit members. Leaders are taught to counsel their soldiers and sailors through professional and personal issues, helping them navigate through the difficulties of military life. Veterans leaving the military are leaving behind this provided support system and can find difficulty knowing who to turn to when challenges arise.
One organization, Team Red White & Blue, believes the most effective way to support our veterans through their transition is by creating a community where members can rely on one another. I am a US Army veteran who heads the Los Angeles area community of Team RWB (as the organization is also known) that covers Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Team Red White & Blue’s mission is to create a strong network between local communities with its veterans who are reintegrating into civilian life. Using physical fitness and social events, Team RWB builds these bonds as well as fostering team “esprit-de-corps”. They use physical activity as a way to promote a healthy physical and psychological state while also allowing veterans to set goals and maintain a degree of activity and normalcy. Team RWB members are veterans, athletes, and concerned citizens who want to volunteer. Membership is free, but comes at the price of time and sweat because the biggest contribution a Team member can make is by being there for one another.
Team Red White & Blue members are there for each other. We hold weekly training sessions around the Los Angeles area in order to keep each other physically fit, get to know one another, and strengthen our bonds. One week, we may hike in the San Gabriel Mountains and run along Santa Monica Beach the next week. Other weeks we may swim in the ocean or workout at a local park. Our veterans also inspire and support each other, completing marathons, triathlons, with volunteers offering support by coaching, driving support vans, and offering words of encouragement. Twice this year, California members have guided blind Team RWB veterans to complete half-marathons. The community extends beyond athletic events. Through friendships built at these events, Team RWB members never wonder who they can call if they need something or want someone to listen to them. Many volunteers realize that their unique experiences and connections in the community allow them to assist veterans in ways ranging from job and house searches to babysitter referrals and shopping recommendations.
Members of Team RWB are also there for other like-minded organizations. In July, several athletes and veterans volunteered at the Joggin’ For Frogmen 5K in San Diego to benefit the Navy Seal Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Fund. On September 9th, we will partner with the Travis Manion Foundation as they host 9/11 Heroes Runs in Orange County and San Diego. These runs, created in remembrance of the lives lost on September 11th 2001, will raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation’s programs which provide emergency assistance, scholarships, and other direct financial support when a family or veteran is in need. Members supported the Stand Down run by Veterans Village in San Diego in order to provide services to some of our nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless veterans. We will be volunteering to support the San Gabriel Valley Veterans Employment Committee’s 2nd Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down in November.
We will continue to build this community in the Los Angeles area. If you want to become involved, then sign up at www.teamrwb.org. Some of our volunteers initially wonder to themselves “How can I relate to a veteran? What do I know about combat? What can I do?” The answer is that being there, showing your support and spending your time and energy alongside a veteran is the first step to helping them through their transition. The issues that they face are not just solved by donating money, but having someone who will show up when they need someone to have their back. They showed up when our country needed them, now it is your turn. More information about Team Red White and Blue is located at www.teamrwb.org. Local events for Southern California are posted on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TeamRWBSoCal.
Source: Pasadena Independent
May. 16, 2013
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