Guest Post by Melissa Russell
When disaster strikes, recovery depends largely on the organizational skills, enthusiasm and dedication of the first responders and cleanup crews.
So who better to lean on in those challenging times than military veterans? Steeled by combat, trained to be problem-solvers and familiar with operating under extreme conditions, they bring an array of capabilities to recovery efforts.
Such is the case in the Northeast, where military veterans will spend the Veterans Day weekend contributing their expertise and energy to help the region rebuild in the deadly and devastating wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Among the aid organizations participating is Team Rubicon, a nonprofit group founded in 2010 to tap into the talents of veterans. As reflected in its mission statement of “Bridge the Gap,” Team Rubicon seeks to provide relief in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, before traditional aid organizations arrive on the scene.
According to its website, Team Rubicon has sent teams of veterans across the globe, responding to tornadoes in Mississippi and Alabama, and earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, among other places. Volunteers provide medical care, remove debris, conduct search and rescue operations, and repair housing and other structures.
The organization says that within 24 hours of Hurricane Sandy hitting the Northeast about a dozen response teams, comprising more than 100 veterans, had been deployed as part of Operation: Greased Lightning. Among other tasks, the volunteers delivered supplies and cleared roads.
In a recent interview, Team Rubicon co-founder Jake Wood was asked why veterans are so well-equipped for disaster relief efforts.
“First and foremost, it’s their ability to stay calm in incredibly stressful situations,” Wood said, adding that veterans also have leadership skills, as well as training in areas such as communications, emergency medicine and equipment operation.
Team Rubicon says the veterans themselves also benefit from the organization’s projects by gaining “a renewed sense of purpose” after their years of military service.
Veterans Dedicated to Service
Team Rubicon is not alone in connecting former service members with humanitarian efforts and other public service projects. Operation: Sandy Response, a project of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), seeks to encourage veterans to participate in storm relief and other projects.
IAVA was founded in 2004 and claims more than 200,000 members nationwide. The nonprofit organization’s case managers are available to provide support and resources to veterans and their families affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Of course, the military-related relief efforts are not restricted to veterans. Thousands of active duty service members and reservists from bases coast to coast have been called into action in the days following the so-called “Superstorm Sandy,” bringing hope to the hardest-hit communities throughout New York and New Jersey.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 3 million meals have been delivered to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) facilities by the Defense Logistics Agency, with an additional 5 million meals being produced.
In New York, more than 3,000 National Guard personnel are working to restore power, and provide food, water, fuel and shelter. The New Jersey National Guard, meanwhile, has distributed almost 7,000 blankets and more than 1,700 cots.
For many military personnel, both current and former, Veterans Day will bring yet another day of sacrifice and service to the nation. As a mark of appreciation, citizens might consider making a donation to IAVA, Team Rubicon or other organizations working to support Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
Melissa Russell writes on education topics for military and veterans. She also writes on topics such as business administration and marketing for a number of universities through the University Alliance.