Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, originally Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:00am in 1918. It is celebrated nationally today. There have been many tributes to veterans and soldiers in the media. One intriguing piece I heard yesterday was about a volunteer organization which began two years ago called Team Rubicon.
The mission states: Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with medical professionals to rapidly deploy emergency response teams into crisis situations.
In other words, Team Rubicon uses the expertise of the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as first responders to support recovery from crises. Presently they are focused in helping out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the east coast, but have worked in Haiti, Chile, and Pakistan to name but a few.
Their website reports: On the streets of Port-au-Prince, in the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, TR’s military veterans realized a simple truth – natural disasters present many of the same problems that confront troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: unstable populations, limited resources, horrific sights, sounds and smells. The skills cultivated on those same battlefields – emergency medicine, risk assessment and mitigation, teamwork and decisive leadership – are invaluable in disaster zones. Team Rubicon has committed to only those critical and crucial moments after a crisis occurs and they pull back once conventional aid arrives.
Their Guiding Principles are:
- We will always be motivated solely by the altruistic desire to help those in demonstrable need.
- We will always ardently maintain our independence from any government or religious institution.
- We will always respect the culture and customs of the communities we serve.
- We will always attempt to partner with and employ members of the local community.
- We will always be accountable to those whose donations make our efforts possible.
In the piece I heard on NPR, veterans who have volunteered to work with this organization have found a renewed sense of purpose. (See video above.) As the war in Afghanistan fully ends and soldiers who have been deployed on and off for years return for good, this volunteer employment seems to be a constructive and intentional way to ease back those who have had intense and traumatic experiences and recoveries.
Matt Pelak, Iraq war veteran, full-time Poughkeepsie fire fighter, and co-founder of Team Rubicon said, “We couldn’t possibly think of a better way to celebrate Veterans Day than to be with our brother and sister veterans out here. Americans helping Americans after a disaster, that’s what it’s all about.”
So far they have helped hundreds of people and helped to clean up over 120 homes. They place a flag outside each one as they work. This is the ultimate turning of the skill of swords into the compassion of plowshares.