The members of Team RWB still take their service to the country and patriotism seriously. But these RWB runners aren’t necessarily still enlisted or looking to accomplish a mission. Instead, you’ll find this group running together. Of course RWB stands for red, white and blue, the colors of our flag.
Participating in Team RWB gives many veterans in the area a chance to get out, stay in shape, meet new friends and get a sense of belonging some miss when they leave the active service. “In the military everybody has a responsibility,” Team RWB Fort Hood Chapter Captain John Stasulli said. “Once they get out, that sense of responsibility or that sense of ownership is not necessarily there.”
The local chapter of Team RWB has 470 members and serves the Fort Hood, Killeen and Temple areas. Stasulli said that although the local chapter was established only one year ago, it has gained a lot of traction over the last six months.
Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activities. The national chapter has 30,000 members made up of veterans, active-duty service members and civilians.
Stasulli said the group allows veterans to discuss how they feel, especially for those that recently returned from a deployment.
“It provides consistent opportunities for them to connect,” Stasulli said. “Even if it’s as simple as going for a walk with somebody. Often times just being around those like-minded individuals, those that understand the situations is helpful.”
Team RWB is one of the organizations that the Army Marathon II is raising money to help. The Army Marathon II will take place on March 2.
Many of the Team RWB members will be running in one of the marathon’s events or volunteering to help out.
“I’ve lost several friends through conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Renee Larson said. “To me, it’s important to run for them. It’s important for me to see that even though I’m not in the military, I’m still strong and I’m still capable of accomplishing those things.”
Larson was in the Army from 1990 until 2001. Her life changed in 1999 when on a deployment to Kosovo, she contracted strep and parvo infection simultaneously.
Larson developed rheumatoid arthritis and had to leave the military. A doctor told her that in five years she would be crippled.
That diagnosis came seven years ago. She started running two years ago to get her weight under control and has been going strong ever since.
Larson said that Team RWB gave her a sense of being on a team with a purpose, a feeling that most veterans miss once their days in the military are over.
And, in the organization, it doesn’t matter if you’re a baby boomer that served in Vietnam or a Millennial coming back from fighting in the War on Terror. Generation gaps are closed by the group and their shared experiences.
“Usually even with the quietest of people, that shyness doesn’t last very long,” Larson said. “We try to really include everybody.”
Carol Kimmel, 50, served in the Army in the 1980s and said that she hated running when she was in the military.
She started running again to lose weight and gain back some confidence and learned about the organization at an Army 10-mile race.
Kimmel said the organization has helped her find support for her fitness goals. She is going to run her first half-marathon at the age of 50.
For Kimmel, Team RWB gave her a sense of camaraderie for the first time since she left the Army. “It seems like once you get out of the Army, you’re king of left with nowhere to go,” Kimmel said. “There’s not much. And wherever you are, you just try and find people.”