Blog written by: Alley Smith, Veteran Engagement Director | Team RWB Central Maine

If you want to do something useful with your life, to contribute, to make a difference, and find happiness – just show up. 

Over the years, I, like so many other service members, attended various military leadership and civilian leadership schools.  However, none so empowering as the Northeast Team RWB Leadership Academy.  I feel so grateful for the organization and to the men and women who have shared their inspiring stories of warrior resilience with me.  I also feel tremendously grateful for being reminded of my worth.

I’ve been in the military for over 12 years and continue to serve in the Navy Reserve. In my civilian career, I manage a veterans’ service organization and statewide programs that assist homeless and at risk veterans and their families. I am deeply invested in promoting positive psychology, personal accountability, responsibility, holistic health and peer support.

After my last deployment in Afghanistan in 2013, I struggled immensely with survivor’s guilt and PTSD.  I missed the intoxicating feeling of being at war with my shipmates and friends – and connecting with people who had virtues of honor, selflessness, loyalty, commitment, courage, and 100% Americanism. However, I found my new family, with the same virtues, when I joined Team RWB.

There was a healing and transformative power of being “connected to my community through physical fitness and social activity.”  It was no longer dispiriting to be home – navigating the transition from combat.   “When the vets need us, we will be there,” said Amanda Rondon the Northeast Regional Director. This is true.

In one weekend, I learned a tremendous amount about the need to feel connected to others, the need to feel authentic, and the need to do something that matters. These needs are often connected to something called self-determination theory.  The leadership camp taught us that veterans are not alone and we can be part of something bigger, always. We are here for each other and connected to a remarkable civilian community that cares deeply.

Team RWB teaches Eagle Leaders to become empathetic, authentic, genuine, loyal, and effective.  Leadership means you are invested in relationships. Relationships can impact each individual, the organization, community and nation in a positive way. Eagles have the ability to build strong connections with each other. Engagement is the key.  Engagement happens when we challenge military members, veterans, their families and our civilian supporters to have the courage to attend one of our events. “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing that you can do is just show up,” Brene Brown.

The best way for you to see what I’m talking about is to join Team RWB. Experience it for yourself. Join a chapter, become a member, become an Eagle Leader, and allow yourself to transform into the person that you’ve always wanted to become.  As Amanda Rondon challenges us, “choose courage over comfort,” and see what happens next.  It is very likely that you will experience and increase in your physical, mental, emotional health. You may run or walk your first 5K, ruck, swim, bike, volunteer, or do something you never imagined. For example, this year, I ran my first ultra-marathon.

 

 

David Wood is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and the author of a fantastic new book, What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars.  He has covered conflicts all over the globe and has seen warfare in many forms.  We have a wonderful conversation that includes:

Understanding moral injury and how it affects Veterans

 How PTSD is often misused as a blanket term for all combat related stress

Reconciling a pacifist upbringing with the realities of war and soldiering

Ways that we can better support one another, and our communities

Very few people have more experience with the true nature of armed conflict and those that are affected by it.  Please enjoy this episode!

  

Chapter: Team RWB Midwest / Marion Illinois

Member Since: October, 2016

Motto: “I can do all things through Christ”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“An acquaintance had a sister who was involved with Team RWB, they were needing a runner for the Old Glory Relay. She knew I was getting into running, and I was a veteran, so she connected me. I was not able to attend the run due to a scheduling conflict, but that was my introduction. As I learned more and more about the team, I realized that I was missing the camaraderie that I had loved in the Army. “

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

“My favorite event with Team RWB has to be Iron Mom Half Marathon in May. I never in my life thought I would want to run a half, let alone be able to! So the morning of, I met up with our team for our group picture, and we each kill the next 30 minutes on our own. I end up at the starting line alone. Nervous, but excited…I look over to my left and there is a fellow veteran in an Eagle shirt that I had spoken to once before at another event. She had arrived later and missed the group photo. We ran most of the race together, got to know each other, and talked 9 miles through the race! It flew by! We didn’t have to know each other before, but there was such an awesome connection to get to share our veteran stories and where we’ve come since leaving the military. I am so honored to have run my first half marathon with her!”

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How Do You Serve Your Community?

“I serve my community a few different ways. With Team RWB, I enjoy meeting with female veterans / team members one on one. I understand not everyone can or likes to run, so I try to meet up and have lunch, or spend time outdoors, just getting the opportunity to get to know who they are and what common interests we have. The second way I serve my community is through my employment. I am the Executive Director of Pregnancy Matters, a local non-profit agency. There, I also like to meet one on one with new moms, or pregnant women and give them the emotional and social support to make it through the transition into motherhood. I believe one thing that the Army taught me was that I can do anything if I keep at it with determination. This applies to so many areas in life, even with raising my children. So my passion is to share this hope and strength with other people.

What Inspires You?

“When I think back to where I was when I left the Army in late 2002, I really didn’t know how I was going to get back on my feet as a new single mom. But I was determined to still go far, even if it was going to be in a different direction than I thought. With the help of family and a few good friends to guide and encourage me I have done more than I ever thought possible, so I would say that personal, encouraging relationships inspire me, and I try to be that same encouragement to others every day!”

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“Team RWB has given me back my pride in my service. I had lost that positive emotional connection to my memories in the Army. I have something that I am proud to be a part of again, and I am proud, once again, that I took that big scary step to join the Army. With Team RWB, I feel connected to others who have some of the same experiences. And even though we can be so very different, we can still share a supportive bond!

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

“Jump in my friend, you will LOVE IT!

Blog written by Nate Blackler, Team RWB Manchester

The weekend of May 19th I had the privilege of attending the Eagle Leadership Academy (ELA) in Silver Bay, NY. I can’t even put into words how amazing this event was! I met some of the most loving and inspirational leaders in the Northeast. When I first received the invite, I was excited, but also nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t know a lot of the people going. As the weeks creeped closer, I started to get excited. I had stepped up to take one of the Captain positions in my local chapter and was eager to learn more about leadership in the organization. I had the privilege of riding up to the ELA with one of the 2017 Eagle Fellows. It was a great opportunity to connect and gain a deeper understanding of Team RWB before even getting to ELA.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon and were immediately welcomed by so many happy and eager leaders from chapters all over the Northeast.  We may have come from all different areas, but were all there for the same reason. Instantly, I knew I wanted to get the most out of this experience. I decided to shut myself off from social media and pushed myself to try many new things. The weekend was led by our Northeast Regional Staff, Amanda and Jessica. Some of the key leadership traits they touched upon were the difference between authentic and genuine, as well as sympathy versus empathy.

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Usually when meeting new people, I am nervous and shy, but this time; it was different. I felt safe and very welcomed by everyone. I opened the weekend with a game of corn hole with some folks from Rhode Island and Connecticut. From there, we dove in with many activities including ice breakers, hiking, yoga, team building rucks, and stories around a camp fire.

It is hard to put into words the authenticity everyone showed and their hunger to learn. Over the weekend, I opened up and talked about things even my closest friends and family don’t know. I was inspired by how everyone was so loving and understanding. Upon leaving the weekend, I had gained 30 new lifelong friends. I knew I had a support group like I used to have in the Infantry. These people truly cared and understood. The week following the ELA, I went to Arlington National Cemetery and visited a few comrade’s sites. I had the entire team behind me reaching out with support and checking in on me. After 11 years, I had gained the strength to do this and their support was truly amazing.

The one thing that I find inspiring about Team RWB is that everyone treats each other the same. From this experience, I gained a deeper understanding of what the organization is about. Many of us take part in events and promote Team RWB, but after that weekend, I saw things in such a different light. It truly was one of the most impactful, amazing weekends of my life.

Being a part of Team RWB has been a life changing experience for me. I have gained new friendships and a true support group. I had spent years after the Army trying to fit in and find my tribe again. As a Veteran, it’s important to me to be able to continue to serve in my local community. It’s my heart’s desire to reach out and help other veterans feel connected, as well as connect with civilians. Bridging the gap and becoming one team in our communities is important as veterans integrate back into civilian life. Team RWB has allowed me to not only feel like I have a family again, but also gives me unlimited opportunities to give back and be active.

Team Red, White and Blue is such an amazing organization! I’m so blessed for the opportunity to help lead in my local chapter. I’m excited to take what I learned and bring it back to my chapter and community. We are growing in leaps and bounds, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

 

Marjorie is the acclaimed author of the 2017 Independent Publisher Award (IPPY) winning book, The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11.  The book began as a personal memoir for her son and turned into the first to define post 9/11 service and leadership.

In this episode we discuss:

The term Frontline Generation, and what it means.

  Writing a book for her son

  Why she decided to independently publish, vs. a traditional publisher?

  How intelligence professionals view the world differently.

  What it’s been like to share unfiltered journal entries with the world.