Upon graduation, I took a leap of faith and moved to Tampa to complete an internship for Team RWB.  Not 100% sure what my role would be when I came down here, I was soon to be enlightened by a whole population I was too naïve to realize existed.  Team RWB introduced me to the Homeless Emergency Project during my first week in Florida.  The Homeless Emergency Project Inc., or HEP, serves roughly 120 veterans at any-given time.  It was perfect timing for me to arrive in Tampa when I did, as the activities coordinator for HEP had just taken a job elsewhere.  This left 120 veterans basically stranded at the shelter with no way of connecting to the community.

I was unaware that many who had served our country ended up in a homeless shelter or at risk for being homeless, and many within this demographic were Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  The reintegration process has taken a toll on these veterans.  This situation combined with certain disabilities has led to substance abuse, poor decisions, and unemployment.  Although HEP is a wonderful organization that provides mental health services, meals, housing, substance abuse counselors, and other services, there was still something lacking; the physical and social component.  After seeing the tremendous success Team RWB has achieved by integrating these components into their mission, I knew I had found my role.  I began to plan activities to get these veterans moving and meeting new people.   In less than a month, there were residents from HEP running in 5k races, participating in Team RWB sponsored socials, going on outings, and becoming involved in volunteer opportunities.  I will never forget what a resident said to me after completing a local 5k race on the beach, “I have not run in 3 years, if I had not been given this opportunity, I would have never known I could run the whole thing”.  The next day, the same resident came into the clubhouse and ran on the treadmill.

I have been blessed to spend one-on-one time with the veterans at HEP, and get to know them as the wonderful people they are.  Team RWB has given these veterans an opportunity to shake the stereotype of being homeless and provided them with a feeling of being a part of something great.  I believe the spirit that Team RWB has brought to HEP has increased the motivation of the residents to better themselves. (more…)

In 1979, I enlisted  for a total of six years (active and reserve) in the U.S. Army, following in the footsteps of my father who served in the Army during the Korean War. I was stationed at Fort McClellan for basic training and Military Police school. After my training, I was stationed at Fort Devens, MA assigned to the U.S. Army Military Intelligence school.

At the end of my active duty, I went home and sought out work in the field of law enforcement. I took  the civil service tests and state tests and did well on both; however, federal employment mandates regarding gender and race left me on the low end of eligibility. I went to a local veterans hospital to interview for a police officer position in that organization, and was told that I interviewed well, and would be good for the job with the exception that I wasn’t a real veteran. I made a promise to myself that I would work with, and help returning veterans, so that they would not have to hear any of that BS when they came home – at least not on my watch.

I bounced back from that experience by securing a job in my hometown. I have been there for more than thirty years. Over the next several years I married and raised a family, and although I have always been active, I wasn’t  physically active and not really doing any physical training.  I was smoking, I was overweight, and not taking care of myself. I did quit smoking shortly after my daughter was born over 20 years ago and started feeling better; however, I still wasn’t taking care of myself, and was subsequently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

I remember the first Gulf War during the 1990s, and the fact that I was too old, and in no condition to re-enlist. I continued to live the lifestyle I had been accustomed to and still wasn’t taking care of myself. In the early 2000s,  I made a decision to get active and started a PT program that included walking, bike riding, and some running. As I continued my PT, I started to feel good about myself again, and realized that I could still do it, which inspired me to dedicate my runs to all those serving in Iraq. I waited to run during the hottest part of the day to honor their sacrifices for all of us back home.

Fast forward to 2013 when I was at West Point for the Shamrock 5k; this race was the first time I came in contact with Team RWB.  As I ran, I witnessed athletes with red shirts running with the American Flag held high. Words cannot describe the feelings I had for this display of patriotism. Shortly after the race I sought out the flag bearer, and the red shirts to find out more.  Lou Nemec told me all about Team RWB and its mission to support our veterans. Team RWB supports our veterans as they transition from service by creating communities of veterans, their families, and supporters through physical and social activities. I remember when I left the Army and went back home that I found it somewhat difficult to go back to what I was prior to my time in the Army, and at that time there was not much, if any, assistance in “going home.” (more…)

What is WOD for Warriors? 

WOD, first off, stands for “Workout of the Day” – the “for Warriors” denotes the fact that the workouts are done on behalf of our nation’s fighting forces, past, present, and future.   “WOD for Warriors” is now the Functional Fitness (FF) branch of Team Red, White, and Blue (RWB).  It is a nation-wide program, which was created to help build local communities around the power of functional fitness – a multi-disciplinary style of exercise that focuses on training for real-life activities.

Where did it come from? 

The creators of WOD for Warriors are our close friends from Iron Tribe Fitness (ITF), a rapidly growing company who owns/operates a series of Functional Fitness gyms, and are based out of Birmingham, AL.  The relationship between Iron Tribe and Team RWB came from coincidence that ITF COO, Jim Cavale, and Team RWB Founder, Mike Erwin, went to high school together.  In keeping with their goal of giving back to the community, Iron Tribe did a burpee (a burpee is a difficult exercise in the FF world) challenge in 2011, and had their “tribe members” receive sponsorships for each burpee.  It is hard to describe the kind of community they have created, but if it is any indicator, they raised over $25,000 in their first time through, and have only grown their support each year.

Around the same time, Team Red, White, and Blue was looking to branch out beyond endurance racing and marathon running.  Our current Functional Fitness Director, Sam Linn, had just returned from Afghanistan and wanted to get involved.  He conducted the first tribute WOD, “OPERATION: VIGILANCE” in his local CrossFit affiliate as a stand alone event on behalf of Team Red, White and Blue, and immediately saw the potential in the community to rally around Team RWB’s mission. Inspired to connect the functional fitness world and Team RWB, he approached Iron Tribe Fitness about using the WOD for Warriors name, and expanding the concept into an organization that brought veteran specific events to functional fitness groups across the country.   Sam founded WOD for Warriors, LLC in April 2012 as a separate entity with the mission of supporting Team RWB.  As of 2013, WOD for Warriors is completely under the umbrella of Team RWB, and maintains no separateness (other than we run less!)

What does WOD for Warriors entail?

Once Iron Tribe and Team RWB put the pieces together, the mission initially was to run three world-wide events; Memorial Day, 9/11, and Veterans Day each year.  We wanted to bring some purpose and reminder about what these days were all about, and provide a metaphorically significant physical event to provide focus and energy, and further connect Veterans with their communities through shared physical and social activity.

We hold three annual events Nationally:

Memorial Day           “21 Guns”

September 11th        “OPERATION: VIGILANCE”

Veterans Day            “WOD for Warriors”