September 22, 2014 by Blayne Smith courtesy of VAntage Point, Dispatches from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

You may know Team RWB as the organization that is getting Veterans active. You’ve likely seen us at a local 5k, yoga studio, or CrossFit gym …”wearing the eagle” and sweating together. And while physical and social activities are certainly WHAT we do, enriching Veteran’s lives is WHY we do it.

This summer, we conducted a survey of more than 4,400 of our members from across the organization in an effort quantify the impact of Team RWB.


The survey results were clear and compelling. A significant majority of members across all categories (Veteran, civilian, Active Duty) reported living richer lives since joining the organization. They indicated improved health (physical, mental, and emotional), more meaningful relationships, and a stronger sense of purpose and identity. Moreover, while outcomes were generally positive, those who are active in the organization consistently reported much higher levels of enrichment than those who identified themselves as less active.

For example, nearly half (45 percent) of “less active” RWB Veterans felt part of something bigger than themselves, but the percentage jumped to 94 percent for those Team RWB Veterans who defined themselves as “active.” Similarly, 61 percent of active Team RWB Veterans felt that they were “less down, depressed, or hopeless!”

Shared Purpose and Connectivity:

A groundbreaking component of the study was measuring the benefits of belonging to an organization that helped them to establish authentic connections. While more than half (57 percent) of our “less active” members said they benefited from the opportunity to share their personal journeys, an astonishing 86 percent of “active” members found these experiences to be beneficial to them.

Additionally, Veterans have more people they can turn to for emotional support (57 percent), they are more involved in the local community (60 percent), they have more programs they can turn to for resources (64 percent), and two-thirds they feel an increased sense of brotherhood/sisterhood in their lives (66 percent).

Bridging the Civilian/Military Divide:

Team RWB programs create genuine connections between Veterans and their civilian counterparts. A majority of Veterans (73 percent among active members) reported sharing the challenges they face as a veteran with civilians, and 87 percent demonstrated the strengths they have as a Veteran to civilians. Of equal importance, 75 percent of civilian members stated that they better understand both the challenges and strengths of Veterans in their communities.

Well Being:

Important improvements have been reported on Veterans’ well being since joining Team RWB. A majority of Veterans reported exercising more frequently since joining the team (61 percent), one-out-of-three veterans (33 percent) reported feeling less nervous, anxious or on edge, and 15 percent reported drinking less alcohol.

Life Satisfaction:

Overall, 56 percent (79percent among active members) of Veterans reported greater satisfaction and nearly half (49 percent) agreed that the conditions of their life had improved. An incredible number, 90 percent, would recommend Team RWB to other Veterans.

Get Involved:

Our challenge for the future is to continue driving active engagement. The programs are working. Though, Veterans who identify themselves as less active, report positive outcomes, it is clear that there are significant benefits to increased participation in Team RWB sponsored activities. While we are very proud of these results, we will continue striving to serve more Veterans and more communities, more often.

Engaging and connecting with Veterans is often the most critical step to accessing resources, finding new ways to lead, and ultimately making a smooth transition. If you’ve been involved in your own way or in one of our local Team RWB chapters, you’ve already seen this in action.

If you haven’t found a community of your own, we invite you to “Eagle Up” and find a Team RWB chapter in your town.

About Blayne Smith

Blayne works closely with Team RWB’s board members, staff, and volunteer leaders to develop and implement programs that serve veterans across the country. Blayne is a West Point graduate and former Special Forces officer with combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Blayne currently resides in Tampa, Florida with his two boys and leads the Team RWB Tampa chapter.



As we head into the 4th of July weekend (when hopefully TeamRWB members can relax and enjoy some beach or staycation reading), we thought you’d enjoy an excerpt from Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness, by J.C. Herz  a book about CrossFit’s spirit and ethos and the biological and spiritual role of physical intensity in our lives. This excerpt about the kinship between CrossFit and the military has been warmly received by veterans from Fort Bragg to Camp Leatherneck. For folks interested in reading more, books purchased through this link will benefit, and Fire has a lively community of military and civilian CrossFitters on Facebook.

Fallujah, For Time: Sprinting Wars and the Next Generation of Combat Training

By this time, CrossFit was proliferating across two war zones and infiltrating military bases around the world. It was cheap, improvised, and time-efficient. It didn’t break in heat or dust. And it made soldiers physically more powerful than they’d ever been, in a new era of military conflict that demanded heavy loads be hauled as quickly as possible from point to point. Counter-insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan was not a game of long marches and precise campaigns. In a landscape of steep hillsides, hot stairwells, and dangerous corners, hazard boiled up in sudden twenty minute bursts of load-bearing cardiovascular suck. It was CrossFit as a live fire exercise, and any soldier with half a brain knows to train as you fight.

Click to continue…. 

Submitted by Team RWB Buffalo

Team RWB Buffalo and a few individuals from Rochester, recently had the honor of volunteering for the New York State Special Olympic Summer Games.  We were responsible for the scorekeeping of the throwing games, the softball toss and the turbo-jav throw, but most importantly, we were the cheerleaders.

To get out and compete is never an easy task.  It takes weeks, months, or even years of training.  There is the fear of failure, the agony of defeat, but also the joy of winning or even just finishing.  Boundaries get pushed, lifestyles change, and in the end, each of us finds our true strength.  Our families and friends encourage us to keep pushing and to reach our goals; for the Special Olympics competitors, it is no different.  They needed cheering, encouragement and a little bit of coaching that day, and we were happy to help.  We made sure they knew every throw was their best yet and that we were proud of them for competing.

The pure heart the competitors displayed throughout the day overshadowed any competitive spirit they may have harbored in their hearts.  While each man and woman wanted to medal, they were just as happy when a friend or fellow teammate from their region held that honor.  We were also able to help turn some frowns into smiles after a bad throw.  We cheered just as loudly for those who threw 10 feet or all the way to the fence.  Those cheers and a little bit of coaching enabled the competitors to throw even farther their next attempt.  Never underestimate the power of having something to aim for either.  We would tell them to aim for one of us out in the field, and sure enough the Eagle on the field would have to duck!

Team RWB was changed for the better that day.  We weren’t there for us.  We were there for them.  We were there to help them succeed. Looking through some of the Facebook posts from our members from Saturday, I see such inspiring and happy notes:

“You have not lived a perfect day in your life until you have helped a complete stranger.”

“Every one of these men and women have an incredible outlook on life reveling in joy after a great performance!  You guys rock and I am so happy I had the chance to volunteer at the 2014 Special Olympics summer games!”

“What great day today helping at the Special Olympics! I have been saying I’d do this for years, yet I’ve never done it.  So happy Team RWB got me out there today…definitely won’t be my last time.  So very inspirational!”

If your chapter or community is fortunate enough to have the Special Olympics come to your region, definitely make the effort to volunteer.  The organizers were so very grateful for our help and we are so grateful to Team RWB for establishing this relationship across our nation.  The Special Olympics relies on volunteers to staff the events, so every man and woman counts.  Take a day, get inspired and see the world through a new set of eyes.  Remember, if you don’t feel better at the end of the day, you did it wrong.

Written by Mike Holmes,

Snap shots of images and sounds go on throughout the day. Images lead to thoughts, sounds lead to questions; others just flash and disappear until the next time. This is a daily occurrence for me, and there was a time that I used weightlifting to calm my thoughts. Sitting and talking to someone would not get the images and sounds out of my mind; while I was lifting, it would help calm the thoughts and push them to the back of my mind. For a few hours I was able to just be me and let out that stress, and in a weird way, I was able to relax.

When the doctor told me I could not continue lifting, I had no idea what I was going to do. As a former college football player, I could not remember a time when I was not in the gym throwing weight around. Lifting was a part of me – like my head is a part of me. It was my own fault of course, since I did not listen the first time – I was warned not to lift the amount of weight I did; now I was paying for it.


Shawn spent 10 years on Active duty and currently serves in the U.S. Army Reserves as a CW4 UH60 Instructor Pilot and a Department of the Army Civilian UH60 Instructor Pilot. Shawn is married, has two kids, three dogs, two donkeys (yep… donkeys: Fred and Lamont), 15 chickens, and one rabbit. This is the story of how Team RWB helped him.

Written by Shawn Holmes

It’s 6am on March 1st at the Longleaf Horse Trail in the De Soto National Forest, about thirty minutes south of Laurel, Mississippi. I am standing with almost 160 of my closest friends, getting ready for the start of the Mississippi 50 trail race. Okay, so I don’t really know any of the people here, and it’s actually a little after 6am because everyone is talking so loudly they can’t hear the race director trying to get their attention so he can start the race. But I am jumping ahead, so let’s start at the beginning.