In 2010, Rob Jones walked slowly down a dirt road in Afghanistan.  Holding a metal detector, he scanned the path for IEDs and, unfortunately, he found one.  The explosion severely wounded him, taking both his legs instantly.  Since that time, Rob has been on a new mission: to recover, return stronger, and inspire people to overcome their setbacks.  He’s earned a bronze medal in the Paralympics, ridden his bike across the country, and is now running 31 marathons in 31 days…all despite the fact that he is a double, above the knee amputee.

On this week’s podcast, we have a great conversation about:

• His mindset during recovery

• How he stays healthy during such brutal physical events

• What he’d say to Veterans who are currently struggling

• How you can get involved and help.

You can support Rob and learn more about it at www.RobJonesJourney.com.  More importantly, you can find opportunities to come out and be a part of the journey yourself!

 

  

Blog written by J.J. Pinter | Team RWB Executive Director

My life, both personal and through my work at Team RWB (though they are intertwined) is busy – I suspect that’s the case with most others, as well.  Daily, I find myself focused on spreadsheets, budgets, 401K’s, social media, and the like.  Somehow, I spend most of my time working on scalable solutions to help large numbers of people create genuine relationships, and thus enrich their lives in the future – ironically, I haven’t been appreciating the relationships that I have in my life RIGHT NOW.

Recently, several unrelated things happened in my life that caused an important moment of reflection – one I thought worth sharing.  

First, I took some time to finish 2 fantastic books that have been on my reading list for quite some time:      

My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) is the journal of American naturalist and author John Muir who spent the summer of 1869 walking California’s Sierra Nevada range as a shepherd.

Zorba the Greek (1946) is a novel by Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis. It is the tale of a young Greek intellectual who tries to escape his life as an academic with the aid of the eccentric Alexis Zorba as they start/fail both a mining and a timber business.

While at face value, these books might appear seemingly unrelated – in literal content that assertion holds true.  However, thematically, they could not align more perfectly.  

Permeating throughout both books is how the protagonist is completely awestruck at the utter beauty and complexity of the world is it happens around them – for both of them, this is somewhat of a new revelation, as both had been so concerned with the future and the theoretical that they had previously not taken the time to slow down and notice.  

  • For Muir, it was experiencing the grandeur of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (what is now known as Yosemite) and being overcome by it’s complexity and interconnectedness.  
  • In the latter, it was the narrator, watching Zorba truly experience life in the physical present, and not worried about academic abstraction.  

The above realization, came at a perfect time in my life, as I had been unwittingly undergoing a perspective change of my own.  

Second, my family’s primary mode of transportation is a fully electric car – if you’ve never driven one, you should try – it will completely change your perspective.  The point here is not about conservation, but rather the experience of driving.  With an electric car, there are so many factors that affect battery life (how far you can drive), that you must be much more in tune with the world around you – things like:

  • The change in altitude between where you are, and where you’re going
  • The outside temperature and how it is changing
  • How many passengers are traveling with you
  • How many times you need to start/stop and the number of hills
  • The speed at which you drive

Charging

Because these things matter and have a direct impact on range, I’ve found myself much more in tune with the world around me, things like weather and hills – not because I wanted to or made a conscious choice to slow down and be present, but rather because I needed to as part of my daily transportation.  

As it was gradual, I didn’t fully notice it, though, until I finished those books.  As an avid reader, I’ve read many similar works – I believe that in the past I would have enjoyed both, but taken them at face value: a book about being a shepherd, and a book about escape.

For some reason, however, this time the immediate connection to the power of being present and appreciating the things, and specifically the relationships around you RIGHT NOW, stood out – I’m confident I would not have drawn this conclusion in years past.  

It’s led me to be first reflective, and then appreciative of the people that are in my life right now – the genuine relationships that I have, and how important they are.  (consequently, there is tons of research backing this up).

As Team RWB is such a big part of my life, I think it’s worthy to consider it through that lens as well.  While I have grand aspirations for what this organization can become, and how many lives it can change – I sometimes lose sight of the fantastic people that are around me each day, all because of Team RWB.  I imagine this happens to our fantastic Eagle Leaders, as well.  

In closing, while the tactical work (events, attendance, budgets, and planning) are critically important – don’t lose sight of the fact the you’ve already surrounded by great americans, and those relationships matter and make your life more rich.  Take a moment to fully experience those, and I think it will be thoroughly enriching.

Chapter: Washington D.C.

Member Since: November, 2015

Motto: “Without Integrity, You Have Nothing.”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“In Oct 2015, I ran my first Army Ten Miler. As I got off the metro, I saw a large group of Eagles taking a pre-race photo with American Flags. Later that week I noticed on Facebook that one of my former NCO’s (who now lives in TX) was wearing a Team RWB shirt. I decided to look up Team RWB online, and was immediately interested and excited about the idea of being part of something bigger than myself. I’ve missed the military since I ETS’d and this felt like the next best thing.”

Quantico 12K

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

“I have had so many, but I will always remember how incredible I felt the first time I “wore the Eagle.” In April 2016, I ran the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. I decided that I would finally wear my Team RWB shirt. Although I hadn’t met anyone, and didn’t make the group picture, I will never forget how pleasantly overwhelmed I felt when strangers (fellow Eagles) cheered me on, just because of my shirt. For the first time in many years I did not feel alone. I had not felt that sense of pride since I took off my uniform in 2008.”

How do you serve your community?

“Serving my community is something that I would like to get more involved in. As a single mom, sometimes finding the time can be hard. However, this past summer I took the girls to the Korean War Memorial clean-up with Team RWB. I loved being able to expose them to their first community service event and explaining why it is so important. Additionally, I loved seeing the pride they felt, as they enthusiastically helped clean up.”

Ragnar RVA

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“I have met some of the most incredible people since joining Team RWB. I have made new friends (which, as an introvert, can be hard to do). I have done things that I never thought possible. I never thought I would run a half marathon, a relay trail race or Marine Corps Marathon. Team RWB has given me a sense of purpose and made me realize that I am not alone. The feeling of camaraderie after the military does exist. Additionally, I love that it has given my girls and I something else to bond over. I see the pride in them when they “wear the eagle” and the excitement in their voice, when we’re out and they spot an eagle. They say “Momma, look! Team RWB!”

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

“I tell people all the time about Team RWB. I say it’s an incredible community with amazing people. My exact words are “it has changed my life, you should look into it, too.” So far, I have been able to convert 5 friends into Eagles and I will continue to work on all the rest.”

Editor’s Note: Abbie Wentzel joined Team RWB in 2014 and eventually stepped up to lead our Chapter in Lexington, VA. In 2016, Abbie and her husband Patrick (also an Eagle) moved to Colorado Springs where they have found a new home, new chapter of life, and new Team RWB Chapter. This blog comes from Abbie’s experience at our Northwest Region Storytelling Camp. These Eagle Leaders experiences, numbered over 25 nationally in 2017, and are a critical component of the Eagle Leader Journey. To learn more, reach out to your Chapter leadership or visit https://www.teamrwb.org/our-approach/leadership-development-program.

Blog written by: Abbie Wentzel

My coworkers thought I was nuts for quitting my job. “For storytelling camp?” They asked incredulously…

In the months leading up to camp, my life had been a series of disappointments. I told myself that storytelling camp was going to be a great opportunity for me to get back on track. At the same time, however, I wasn’t convinced that I actually belonged at camp. What if I took a spot from someone  who really needed it—who needed it more than I did? I’m fortunate to have a great support system around me. When I was accepted, I started thinking it was a sign. I knew I had to do whatever I could to get there.

On day 1, I walked into the great room at the end of our dormitory building for our first session. I looked for a spot to sit where I could see everyone else in the room. I was mortified. Who I should sit with? Who should I talk to? Who should I be? On that first night, we were asked to write ourselves a permission slip. We were supposed to write something on it that we were giving ourselves permission to do during camp. I remember writing something on mine and thinking that I needed to erase it. There was no way I could actually give myself permission to do that. I know myself, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I should have known from that moment what the real reason was for me attending that camp.

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On day 2, we dove head first into the actual writing of our stories. During one of the exercises we were asked to write one true thing about us, a sentence we could use to start our stories. I wrote one line of my story. That was the easy part. Then we were supposed to be able to describe the rest of our story to a small group. The instructor gave us some examples we could model. And that’s when the panic struck. I sat there, unable to move. My pen stayed glued to the page, unable to form even a single letter. Then my emotions overtook me. Tears began silently streaming down my face. I struggled to catch my breath. I knew I had to get out of there. Without saying a word, I jumped out of my seat and found the nearest exit. Then I found a rain-soaked damp tree stub just off a path leading to the dormitory. I was so mad at myself. I had quit my job to come to this place and I couldn’t even write a few sentences of my story. Maybe my co-workers were right. As I sat there on that stump, alone, and afraid of what I had done. My body started shaking. I couldn’t help it. Suddenly I felt outside my body. I could see myself from above, sitting on the stump, surrounded by nature and the damp wet forest. The colors of the forest were so vibrant it was almost as though I was in a fairy tale. I could smell the wet moss on the log and felt the warmth of each ray of sunshine giving life to the nature around me. I sat there for I don’t know how long and simply listened to the stillness of the world. That’s when I started seeing things through my own eyes. Then my breath returned. I gathered myself together and went back inside.

On day 3, I woke up early to run a few miles around the island with a couple other Eagles. Most everyone else was too exhausted, either physically or emotionally, to run a few miles before sunup. I was exhausted too, but I knew I needed the run. When I run, especially on trails, all the other stuff in life falls away as I focus completely on where my next steps will be. After the run, I quickly showered and got downstairs to the great room. An Eagle was already up in the front of the room telling his story to the rest of the group. I still had no idea what I was going to talk about. I had a notebook full of scribbled notes from thoughts about the weekend, but nothing concrete.

When it was my turn to speak, I slowly walked to the front of the room and began telling a story but not the one I came to camp to tell. “I quit my job to be here today,” I said, feeling the gazes of those circled around me. I talked about how terrified I was to be there and that I couldn’t tell the story I originally came to tell. I spoke of a particular moment earlier in the year that had showed me how powerful the members of Team RWB could be. It was an important point, but not the point I really needed to tell.

unnamed (2)

It took me months to process what I experienced at storytelling camp. Truth be told, I am still processing moments and situations that happened during that weekend. Yet one realization spurred by that weekend keeps coming back to me: I always put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. On day 1, I had written on my permission slip: “Stop comparing yourself to others and just be yourself.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to be perfect in every way. And I constantly compared myself to my peers who were so much stronger, smarter, and more inspirational than I was. I strived for perfection so much that I wouldn’t even speak to people who I thought were better than me because I thought I would be wasting their time. I tried to be whatever the people around me needed me to be.

The reason I needed to come to storytelling camp was to not to write a story about my past, but to write a story about my future. I had to come to storytelling camp to wake myself up from horror film I created for myself, where I was killed over and over again by my own expectations. I realized I shouldn’t strive for perfection. Instead, I should strive for authenticity. When we are authentic to ourselves, we start embracing our story and everything in it. When we can be authentic to ourselves, we can start being genuine to others. Only then can we find our true passions and reach for the stars.

 

Star Cathcart is an amazing lady, and a incredible leader.  She’s on the tail end of a year-long fellowship with Team RWB, and we spend some time talking about her experience and what she’s learned.   

In this episode we discuss:

• Her service in the Marine Corps

• Her battle with MRSA, and how her illness forced important reflection in her life

• Authenticity, and why it’s so important to her

• Her journey as an Eagle Leader Fellow (ELF), and how it’s changed her life