Veterans help disaster survivors, themselves
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
When Kasey Sands and her family returned home last month a few days after a tornado flattened much of Joplin, Mo., a dozen strangers were removing trees toppled in their yard.
By Bernadette Matthews, Team Rubicon
"I asked them who they were, and they said they were veterans," says Sands, 27. "They said they like to help with peace and not just with war."
They were Team Rubicon, a non-profit group of veterans formed after the 2010 Haiti earthquake to help in the immediate aftermaths of disasters. They also raced in after tornadoes struck Alabama in April and following earlier crises in Chile, Burma, Pakistan and Sudan. More than 500 people have volunteered; 25 were in Joplin for a week.
The name refers to the Rubicon, a river separating ancient Gaul and the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar's crossing of it led to its modern meaning: passing a point of no return.
Jake Wood, Team Rubicon's president and co-founder, says responding to tragedies "is the most obvious fit for veterans who have so much to offer." Many members are doctors, paramedics and nurses. Besides aiding survivors and searching for victims, members help one another adjust to life after war, he says.
In long-ago wars, troops left their hometowns together, served together, returned home together and shared their experiences and problems at local VFW and American Legion posts. "Now," Wood says, "they just get jettisoned into civilian society." Participating in Team Rubicon "is mostly about giving them an outlet and a reason to come together," says Wood, 28, a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Los Angeles.
Searching for camaraderie
Tyler Tannahill, 24, heard about Team Rubicon soon after it was formed and was intrigued. He watched video of the team working in Haiti on its website, teamrubiconusa.org, and liked what he saw. He had left the Marine Corps in 2009 after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and missed "the camaraderie, the adventure."