Chapter: Team RWB Las Vegas

Member Since: 2014

Motto: “To be a positive force in my community and correct the errors that stand in my way”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“I was looking for motivation to be active again since separating the Air Force in 2007. A friend of mine kept posting pictures on Facebook of himself running with the flag. He told me why. He was running in races representing Team Red, White, and Blue. I’ve always been a proud patriot of this country and the flag that represents it so I signed up because I wanted to run with the flag.”

What has Been Your Favorite Event or Experience with Team RWB?

“My favorite event with RWB is hands down The Old Glory Relay. I loved being a part of carrying one American flag across the country to support our Veterans. Plus the bond I made with my teammates during those days is immeasurable.”

How Do You Serve Your Community?

“I am the Athletic Director of Team RWB Las Vegas. I am also a volunteer Fire Fighter at the Hoover Dam and am the Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1978 Union at the Hoover Dam.

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“Ever since I separated from the Air Force I was missing something in life. I struggled to find a greater meaning to my life than just going to work every day to make money. I isolated myself. I didn’t have many friends after leaving the military that I had a solid, meaningful relationship with. I missed the camaraderie in the military. I missed the structure and leadership. I missed mentoring and feeling accomplished when I was home at the end of the day. I needed to make larger impact in life again. RWB has done that for me. Being a leader and helping other Veterans connect in our community has been so fulfilling. I still struggle sometimes with getting out and making it to events, but it’s the Veterans like myself that I do it for. I don’t want to miss a chance at connecting with a Veteran that is struggling to find their meaning again.

What Would You Say to Someone Who is Thinking of Joining Team RWB?

“I am a walking example of how RWB’s mission works. My life has absolutely been enriched since joining. I lacked a purpose and overall life satisfaction until I joined RWB.

 

Thomas Meyer is the Director of Veteran’s services at The Philanthropy Roundtable, and one of the foremost experts in the country on Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) and Veteran philanthropy in general.  He’s highly qualified (studied at Cambridge and Yale) and has been conducting military-focused research for years.  He also grew up in a military family, and has a very personal connection to Veterans and Military Families.

We have a very important conversation, where we get into some challenging topics, to include:

• The state of the Veteran’s non-profit sector in America

• Why the Veteran disability system needs reform

• How to affect nation-changing philanthropy

• The future of Veteran support in America

• Why a movement to evidence-based policy in America is critical

  

Chapter: Team RWB JBLM

Member Since: 2011

Motto: “You won’t score if you don’t shoot.”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

Honestly, I originally joined Team RWB for completely selfish reasons. I was racing Triathlons as a member of the USAF’s Triathlon Team. At that time (in 2010) Team RWB was operating with the Athlete and Ambassador system, so I joined as an Athlete. I was a married E5 with two kids, I was looking for discounts on triathlon equipment anywhere I could and Team RWB offered that opportunity. Two years later I became a Chapter Captain in Montana and it has since become what is probably the biggest passion in my life.

What has Been Your Favorite Event or Experience with Team RWB?

“So many memories in such a short time! My favorite would have to be participating in the Marine Corps Marathon for two consecutive years. So much support in getting there (Facebook training groups) and AMAZING support from local Eagles. Getting to know Eagles from other communities and sharing this experience with them.”

How Do You Serve Your Community?

I serve my community in any way I can. From a very young age my father impressed the importance of giving back to my siblings and I. We would participate in city beatification projects yearly. This has continued to this day and is something I am working hard to show my children now. I also serve in Team RWB and am trying to take an active role in supporting the Northwest Region. I was recently selected as a 2017 Eagle Leader Fellow and am also the volunteer regional administrator. I also am supporting the Eagles in our region who are not within the parameters of a chapter as the Northwest Chapter Captain.”

What Inspires You?

My wife inspires me. She has faced adversity in her life, and has always remained positive and forward moving. She tends to make me feel lazy around her and that inspires me to work harder. I think that is something everyone can strive to do in their lives.”

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

Team RWB has enriched my life in more ways than I can explain, but I will try. After my deployments and while going through a divorce and other life changing events, Team RWB was the one force or family that was still there for me. I don’t say this in the traditional sense. When I was going through my divorce, I stepped completely away from Team RWB because I felt that I was letting my Eagle community down and not supporting them to my full potential. After about a year without Team RWB, I was ready to step back into events and begin participating again. I was nervous about how I would be looked at after having felt like I abandoned them for my selfish reasons, but I was surprised (pleasantly) when I was welcomed back with smiling faces, high fives, and hugs like I had never stopped attending events. Team RWB has been there for me through the hardest parts of my life and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

What Would You Say to Someone Who is Thinking of Joining Team RWB?

I would say stop thinking about it and join! What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? You’ll show up, sweat a little and get a sweet high five from the best friends you’ll ever make. Join and become something bigger than yourself.

Blog written by: Nick Billock

Not too long ago, I had the awesome fortune of heading to Detroit for what is known as an Eagle Leader Academy. It is the first step in a 3-part leadership training curriculum with Team Red, White & Blue, one of the most awesome and influential non-profits in our country. If you’ve done a road race in the past 5 or 6 years, you have most likely seen other runners with red shirts on with an Eagle on the front. That’s Team RWB. Team RWB’s mission is: To enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

When Team RWB first began, it focused on wounded veterans but in today’s “2.0” version, it’s really about relationships, sharing life with each other through social and physical activity, and being a rich and powerful community that takes care of one another. Many have thought that you have to be a veteran to be a part of Team RWB… absolutely not! I didn’t take a poll this past weekend, but a large number were civilians, family of veterans or active military, spouses of veterans or veterans…current and prior serving. Anyone, quite literally, can be a part of Team RWB and “Wear the Eagle!”

The Eagle Leader Academy (ELA) was developed in-house by Team RWB.  Instead of a “death by PowerPoint” kind of weekend, it has practical “rich” content that has a mix of classroom type of training, active team-building, planned “white space” to connect with others, and some physical activity as well. It NEVER got boring and if I’m being honest, I didn’t want it to end. It began at a restaurant in Detroit where the groundwork was set as far as purpose and mission of Team RWB and the goal of the weekend. We had dinner, then for the next 1-2 hours, people told their “story,” of their “why” (what brought them to Team RWB). Little did I know going into this weekend, but telling your story is a big part of what it means to connect with others.IMG_0864

But why? Why tell your story? When you are vulnerable and have the courage to tell your kstory, others can and will relate with you and perhaps, realize they aren’t alone. It’s a two-way street. Where it’s good to flesh out your story and actually know what it is, others can empathize with you, come alongside you, support you…that’s the connection point. That human element is so gone in today’s society. There is a reason I steer clear of mainstream news. There is so much finger-pointing, complaining, hate, “more for me” attitude (aka: selfishness) where as human beings, we are not meant for that! Sure, we are born selfish out of the womb but it’s a choice to remain that way. Our brains are wired in such a way that compassion and love flow freely should we DECIDE to let them. When you consider all of the division in our country and world, for so many strangers to come together in Detroit and be able to connect in such a rich way across gender lines, ethnicity, age and a plethora of religious beliefs…well, it gives hope. It’s proof that together, through community, life CAN be awesome if we simply take care of each other.

As for my chance to tell my story, I stumbled through it. I need to work on it. It’s a work in progress and maybe one day, I’ll type it down and share it. For now, I’ll continue to craft it and bring some fluency to it. I did have the honor of hearing many others’ stories, though. Time and time again, I was thankful to hear each one, allow myself to be impacted by it, and often could relate. The simple sharing of our “why” drew us closer together.

Day 2 brought us back to the “classroom” for more along with a fun team-building exercise. We had the chance to work together as teams, got thrown challenges in communication, and even got a little bit cozy at one point under some cardboard. It was a great time! One thing that really stood out to me was a discussion on: Empathy vs. Sympathy. First, watch this video.

Powerful stuff, eh?! Here’s my take: sympathy is one way. It’s your reaction to someone and your effort to throw a bandaid on it, aka: silver lining, and move on. It doesn’t really help the other person in any way. Empathy: requires heart. It’s letting the other person’s story (whatever that may be) touch you and allow yourself to feel. Another way: sympathy is just “matter of fact” and empathy stops and absorbs. Sympathy fixes….empathy listens. I continue to chew on this and am hoping it impacts my roles as a husband, father, and leader in every role I hold in life. Put down the phone, look them in the eye…and just listen.

This discussion on empathy spilled into just about every facet of the remaining weekend and honestly, it continues today as our class continues to communicate amongst ourselves privately. I have led marriage retreats and small group Bible studies before. One of my chief complaints about those is not the content. I always strive to deliver quality content but it’s the follow-through afterwards. As a leader, it’s extremely deflating to lead 20-30 couples over a marriage retreat weekend, deliver awesome life-changing content, but then have no vehicle to continue the discussion forward. It’s so easy to get home, throw the handbook on the bookshelf and return to status quo. Because of how the ELA was crafted, it sent those in attendance away with something real to chew on and apply immediately in their lives, but also the means to continue the conversation with other Eagles. It did what most training events do not.

Day 2 semi-wrapped up with a few games of bowling at a local bowling alley. It was not just fun with each other but also time to engage with region leadership one-on-one outside of the classroom’s formal setting. Again…planned “white space” that encourages relationship-building, connecting, and a whole lot of laughter/smiles mixed in. I say semi-wrapped up because the night was still young and many commandeered the majority of the hotel’s lobby furniture for more conversation into the night. For me, it was time to mentally unplug and crash. It was a very mentally-stimulating weekend! The early call to bed was awesome and needed.

The final day brought it all full circle and allowed some time for the state-specific chapters to collect together and put some action points down on paper and talk. It also allowed a chance for anyone to give shout-outs, praises, etc. to others publicly in our group.  Finally, we joined together in a Yoga Nidra session. I’m very, very new to yoga and still have my reservations about it but I continue to tip my toe into it.

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After a great group lunch, we said our goodbyes and headed in all directions back to where we came from. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and even Kansas. On the way back, I listened to Joe Quinn as a guest on the awesome Eagle Nation podcast. He is the former Regional Director in NY but now the Director of Leadership Development for Team RWB. The podcast was recorded back in December 2016 before the new Eagle Leadership Academy was rolled out. It was refreshing to hear his and Team RWB’s vision after being a part of the first ELA. They totally nailed it! If you don’t listen to the Eagle Nation podcast, there is a new one every Monday morning. I can’t recommend it enough! (listen to Joe’s podcast here)

To the leaders at Team RWB, our local leadership here in the Midwest, and my fellow Eagles at ELA Detroit 2017, THANK YOU! I look forward to many more experiences and bringing the “Eagle Fire” to my local chapter and communities. Remember be real…be AUTHENTIC! EAGLE UP!

Blog written by: Ryan McKennedy

Note: This blog is Part 6 of a 6-Part Blog Series.

As a social worker, I have spent a little over a year working in the Department of Veterans Affairs with many great Peer Support Specialists so I was excited to attend the Peer Support Training hosted by Growing Veterans. I was not sure what to expect upon arrival. Thea, one of our Eagle Leader Fellows thought we were going to learn how to farm (another aspect of the Growing Veterans organization). I think we all showed up a little anxious and with our guards up. That quickly went away as soon as the personal stories of the training class came to life. Prompted by Brene Brown and Sebastian Junger videos, the theme of guilt versus shame quickly arose. We learned how important it is to tell our stories, and to hear other people’s stories in order to dispel shame. We also learned how important empathy is when listening and responding to someone else’s story. When someone decides to open up, it is so important that their story is met with empathy and acceptance or else they may be discouraged to share again.

Storytelling and being empathetic are two things we truly believe in at Team RWB. When we are not attending local and inclusive chapter events, we are helping people tell their stories and teaching our Eagle Leader and members how to be an EAGLE Leader (Empathetic, Authentic, Genuine, Loyal and Effective) at our Eagle Leader Academies and Eagle Leader Camps. These experiences are slowly changing the way we interact with each other in the best way possible. Whether it is through a Team RWB Experience or a peer support training, it is so important that we learn how to be present and create space for others.

All of my experiences at Team RWB felt like a culmination during the Growing Veterans peer-support training. I have been able to find people who accept me for who I am. I have been able to find other people who are willing to be vulnerable and share their stories. Their vulnerability has allowed me to open up and share things I haven’t ever shared before. Whether it has been a Team RWB Experience I have attended or this peer support training, I showed up not knowing what to expect and usually scared. When Sunday comes around and it is time to leave I always leave with a new friend and a new opportunity to start healing.

Thanks for reading about our experience with Growing Veterans. If you are interested in their peer support training you can visit their website here – http://growingveterans.org/peer-support/.  

Lastly, as we gear up to host Run As One events in over 200 communities across the country, with the help of our brothers and sisters from Team Rubicon & The Mission Continues, let us remember that peer support can reach far beyond our Eagle Buddies.  While in Northern Washington, we noticed a few familiar faces on the couches next to us – they were the faces of leaders from Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues.  This year, spend a little more time getting to know the people behind those gray and blue shirts, and welcome them into your support network – we sure did!