Veterans Volunteering for Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

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.

18 thoughts on “Veterans Volunteering for Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts”

  1. From high school, my husband was a volunteer firefighter & EMT. When he served in the USAF, he was a crash fire & diesel mechanic – mobility. From 1990 – 1995 he was basically TDY at every natural disaster or war zone whenever they needed diesel pumps. Fast forward to 9-11 and he was loading the truck with water, tools, lights and hauled-ass 60 miles to NYC. He’s no spring chicken but any time there is some kind of emergency there is a switch that goes off in his head and he becomes Action Man. I completely admire his selflessness and willingness to put himself in harm’s way to help others. I’ve seen him in action and I know he would take a bullet to protect others. Sometimes that’s a little scary for me but his attitude is “Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!” Is it a veteran thing or an intrinsic/personality thing? In any event, this is a great article. Veterans and volunteers have my deepest respect.

  2. I have always been impressed with the relief efforts of the National Guard and our veterans, not just after Hurricane Sandy, but for so many other emergencies or natural disasters, too. Just the mere presence of troops in uniform in a time of need brings such calm and order, and a real sense that everything will be okay in the end. This is the first time that I have heard of Team Rubicon or IAVA, too. I applaud them.

    1. The National Guard, Defense Forces, and Veterans’ Groups do a great job with natural disasters and emergencies. They definitely have a critical role helping the first responders get the job done.

  3. As a person who now resides in Puerto Rico where hurricanes are a way of life, I must commend all the veterans that helped in the relief efforts in the States.

    I have experienced one very difficult Hurricane since living here, and I don’t believe I saw any Puerto Rico National Guard out during that experience. Now maybe I just wasn’t in the right places, but I hope the guard here reads this blog and learns from it.

    This should be one of the priorities of the Guard units here on this enchanted island.

  4. I survived Hurricane Sandy and it was horrible. If it wasn’t for the National Guard soldiers helping out, I’m not sure the local authorities would have gotten everything done so fast. From delivering sandbags to providing food to helping clear houses, the ARNG was awesome!

  5. This is the first time I have heard about IAVA, Team Rubicon and other organizations that gather veterans to volunteer is something. It is an excellent set of groups to donate money to. I know that my father who is a veteran has mentioned to me occasionally how he would like to donate his time to good causes. I will share this article with him. I do believe that volunteer veteran leadership and teams in disaster situations need those who have the ability to stay calm.

  6. Neil ODonnell

    It is always reassuring to see the Army move in and help out during relief efforts. Comments about the “calmness” of soldiers brings to mind moments when soldiers not only remained calm, but they also helped victims and other relief workers to settle done and focus on the tasks at hand. The Army certainly does bring hope to areas impacted by natural disaster; I wish people remembered that more often.

    1. Soldiers do a lot to help their local states and cities. The primary mission of the National Guard is to assist their state in times of emergency and natural disasters. In just about every state emergency, you can count on the National Guard having a presence and working with the local authorities to help out.

      1. Amy Skalicky

        This is quite comforting, actually, and very true. I am always amazed in the numerous ways Guardsmen assist during times of crisis–there doesn’t seem to be anything they can’t do well. I never want to detract from the valuable services that law enforcement and first responders provide in these situations as well, but the National Guard truly stands high above them all. A hearty “Thank You!” to you all!

  7. I agree with this Kevin. When people think of the Army or Army National Guard, they often imagine a soldier fighting in a warzone. What they don’t realize is they are also right at home helping aid our communities following natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. And they’re not alone, they have the help of relief organizations and fellow veterans. It’s good to see veterans stepping up when duty calls, as well.

    1. I love hearing stories about how veterans help other people! Veterans just seem to have that “patriotic” personality that motivates them to help their fellow Americans. It’s great knowing that there are people in our country like that.


      1. John,

        I agree with you John. Being a veteran myself, I understand the importance of giving back and helping others. Whenever possible, I try to go out of the way to do little things to help people, such as donating time, money and resources.

        Chuck Holmes

  8. So often when thinking of the modern day soldier one thinks of the efforts they give overseas and in war torn areas, and more attention needs to be paid for everything they do locally and for those who are going through troubled times in our own Country.

  9. Thanks for the guest post Melissa. I really enjoyed your article about Veterans. There are so many “good” veterans out there that can add value to any business or project. If you own a business, or are thinking about hiring someone, you should consider hiring a veteran. Just my two cents.


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