Spencer Kympton is the president of The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit that urges Veterans to continue serving in their communities.  He is also an Army Veterans and former Blackhawk pilot.

Spencer brings a very unique and important perspective to our field, as his professional career has spanned the military, private sector, and multiple areas of the nonprofit sector.  He is as smart and informed on Veteran and community issues as anybody in the country.

We have a in-depth conversation to focuses mainly on the value of service in all of its forms.  We talk about:

 The decline in civic engagement and what we can do about it

 The potential for a national service commitment for young Americans

 How societies benefit from having and engaged population

 And so much more…

  

Chapter: Team RWB Midwest/Lansing

Member Since: April 2013

Motto: “I may not be fast, but I will finish!”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“I saw somewhere on social media that friend of friend of mine was wearing a Team RWB shirt and that they were doing some kind of special event (I believe they had gotten tickets to a basketball game) and I was intrigued by what Team RWB was. I did a Google search and found the website and signed up not knowing what would come of it.”

IMG_0918

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

“It is really hard to pinpoint one experience that has been my favorite. I have participated in a RAGNAR with the team and also went with the Ann Arbor Chapter on a trip to Chicago for a Kill That 5K GORUCK, however, I would have to say that my favorite experience is when Lansing was recognized as an organizing area and we held our first WOD With Warriors for Veterans day in 2015. The support from the community, the box and the turnout of Eagles was amazing.”

How Do You Serve Your Community?

“Outside of Team RWB I serve in my local community by helping with my kids sports (football and wrestling) and I also run the Alma College scoreboards for basketball and football.

What Inspires You?

“I am inspired by people that are willing to try something new. This has happened quite a bit in Team RWB where people have never tried something or were scared or intimidated to do it but with the support of the team and others doing it with them they do it.”

IMG_0920

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“Team RWB has impacted my life in several ways. First, I would say that I have made some very good friends in the team that extends outside of Team RWB events. Also, being involved with the team has helped me do things that I would have never done physically. I run more, ruck, do Spartan Races, yoga and am more open to try something new. Lastly, the team gives me a purpose, I know how Team RWB has helped me and I have seen how it’s enriched the lives of others and I want to get that to as many people as possible.

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

“Just Do It! There’s no risk in joining the team and it is what you make out of it. You can be highly involved or involved very little but I know if you come out to one event you will want to do another.”

By Mark Helm | Team RWB Chicago Chapter Captain

I almost gave up on Team RWB, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

I still don’t know how it happened. I was an athlete. A soldier. That all changed after I left the Army. I still remember the day it hit me. I was sitting in my living room, looking at a photograph of me and my family standing around the Christmas tree. I didn’t recognize the guy smiling back at me. How did I gain so much weight? It was at that moment that I realized I had been making excuses and blaming my injuries. I was feeling sorry for myself. Fifty pounds later, I realized that was enough.

I started taking control of my life again by joining Weight Watchers. A few months later I was down 65 pounds and had renewed energy. I never enjoyed running while in the Army, but with the weight loss, I grew to love it. Running not only burns calories, but it also helps relieve stress. Not long after I started running regularly, I decided to sign up for a 5k race on the 4th of July.

After I finished the 5k, I heard about a 10k the next month. I finished that race and then looked for something longer. I ran my first half marathon two months after running my first race ever. I was hooked. The one thing missing was that I trained and ran alone. I missed being part of a team, so I joined a local running club.

It’s amazing what a person can accomplish when they interact with others. My running club was so supportive, and I learned a ton from all the seasoned runners I now found myself training with.  I asked lots of questions and absorbed as much information as I could. But then I realized that only about a quarter of the club members ever showed up for workouts. If you paid your dues, you were in the club, and if you never showed up, no one really cared.

Mark Helm - Chicago 1It was a chilly morning when I lined up to run the Detroit Half Marathon. The course starts downtown, goes over the bridge into Canada, and comes back into the United States through a mile-long tunnel under the Detroit River. Running past the Canadian border agents, I came off the bridge and headed back toward the river to run along the riverbank for a few miles. The sun was just starting to rise and was reflecting off the Detroit skyline. Then I noticed two guys wearing red shirts and carrying the American flag. They were slowly passing me on my left. When I got home, I immediately searched for Team RWB. Free to join. Not just for Veterans. Enriching lives. Sign me up. I thought maybe this was just the sort of team I was looking for.

I live about 50 miles north of downtown Chicago, and I don’t like to travel into the city if I don’t have to. When I joined the Chicago Chapter, I received a welcome email and was added to the weekly newsletter and the Chapter’s Facebook group. One week turned into two, and I still hadn’t seen any events near me. I went back to training alone. Months went by, and I still hadn’t joined my Team for an event. Then I read about the Soldier Field 10-Miler. Perfect.  Suddenly I had visons of running with my teammates, carrying the American flag out onto Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play their home games. When I arrived, however, my hopes were dashed. I was one of 20,000 runners, and I didn’t see a single other Team RWB shirt the entire race.

A few months later, I signed up for another race in downtown Chicago, only this time I decided to be a bit more proactive. I wanted to run with the flag, so I built a pole out of an extra piece of heavy electrical conduit. All I had to do was cut it to length and paint it white. I thought that even if I didn’t see any other Eagles, maybe they would see me with the flag. While the crowd cheered “USA! USA! USA!” wherever I was on the course, I still couldn’t find my Team. Where were these people? I thought maybe Team RWB wasn’t what it was hyped up to be.

The following week I learned that Team RWB was hosting a fun run along the shore of Lake Michigan followed by beach volleyball. My wife and I got up early and drove downtown, and it was there, along the lake, that we finally found some other Eagles. We talked before and after the run with each other, and I even met the chapter captain. I spoke to him briefly about my story and my experiences over the past couple races. He listened to me, and we talked about ways I might be able to get more active in the chapter. I recall driving home feeling that Team RWB was more than just a club. I decided that I needed to do more.

In the days that followed, I started to post invitations for other members to join me for a run in my home town. Slowly, I recruited more members from my area. It didn’t take long before the chapter captain reached out to me. We sat down for coffee one day, and we talked about the possibilities of me having more opportunities in my area. I was humbled by the news that I was already making an impact in the community. The captain asked me to be part of the leadership team. Hesitant to overcommit, I said that I would love to but that I had a stressful job. I wasn’t sure what level of commitment I could give. I was reassured that if I just kept doing what I was already doing it would be enough.

I continued setting up and leading events over the next few months and eventually became the chapter’s Veteran Outreach Director. Over the course of a year, I had a lot of positive experiences and a few challenging ones, too. Mainly I felt like I needed to do more, that I wasn’t doing enough. But at the same time, it was hard to juggle all my responsibilities. I know this is a challenge that many volunteer leaders face.

Early in 2016, I learned about an initiative called the Team RWB Eagle Leader Fellowship. It’s a year-long opportunity to work with leaders in your region and further develop your leadership skills. Soon after I was selected to be a fellow, I became the Chicago Chapter Captain. Thankfully, I have a very supportive wife, and the leaders around me helped make this process very positive. Throughout my fellowship, I even got to use my own experiences to better help chapter captains transition into their newfound leadership roles.

Mark Helm - Chicago 2

As part of the fellowship, I was also able to become a certified running coach with the intention to never charge anyone for my time. After I completed my training, I shared the details with my chapter and extended the offer to anyone who wanted my assistance. Almost immediately I had eight different members accept my offer to help coach them. And while their goals are very different, I have been able to offer the support and assistance that I wish had when I began running many years ago.

To think that I almost gave up on Team RWB before I was even a part of it is still hard to contemplate. When I first joined, Team RWB wasn’t what I needed it to be. The easy thing would have been to quit, to search for something else. The much harder choice was to stay and take action. I showed up, got involved, and slowly helped make Team RWB work for people like me. Along the way I learned some valuable lessons. Most importantly, I learned that life is too short to run it alone.

 

Tyler Grey is a Army Veteran and former Tier 1 operator.  He was severely injured in Iraq during a mission, which changed the course of his career.  He now spends his time working in Hollywood (both in front of and behind the camera), advocating for veterans, and doing security consulting.  He’s an incredible guy, and really engaging.  

 

In this episode we discuss:

 The viral Memorial Day tribute video he was in

 His awesome documentary, That Which I Love Destroys Me

 His history channel show, The Selection

 His recovery and struggles with losing his dream job

 His theory of LTSD, and how he misses war

 How veterans can more effectively transition out of the military.

  

Chapter: Team RWB Midwest / Columbus

Member Since: 2012

Motto: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“I first joined because it sounded like it would be fun, would help in making connections where we were moving to, and would help me remain active after retirement. My wife, Debbie, also joined at the time which was amazing. Immediately the two of us were taking part in events and activities which helped us both in the retirement transition; we now both had a common purpose and set of activities to take part in together. Ultimately we both found more than just a team, we found a second family that we never knew even existed!”

20160921_085905

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

“There are so many to choose from, but one of the most recent and most impactful experiences was our helping a disabled veteran make his bathroom wheelchair accessible. It’s been a months-long process which has had such a significant impact on this family and our community. From the team perspective, however, it’s brought us together in so many ways; such as getting new and old members more involved, strengthened the bonds between our members, shown how people can be positive and even thrive when challenged with major medical issues, and taught the kids on our team that community service and helping our veterans is a wonderful pursuit!”

How Do You Serve Your Community?

“I am the Team RWB Columbus Chapter Captain. Shortly after joining the chapter, I was a Veteran Outreach Coordinator, then the Social Director, and ultimately moved into the Chapter Captain position. I also serve on the Chalmers-Wylie VA Veterans Services Committee and I am a member of the VFW. I am also the Executive Director of Bunker Labs Columbus which is a national non-profit organization that helps transitioning service members who want to start a business. Lastly, I love volunteering at many of the local VA and community events that help our veterans which also helps us spread the word about Team RWB’s mission of enriching the lives of America’s veterans.

16919_10206973925968385_736888683603366867_n

What Inspires You?

“Hearing a member say or write about how Team RWB has helped them personally overcome significant challenges, even to say that Team RWB probably saved his/her life. This has happened so many times in the past five years and each one is unique, but all can be traced back to the caring attitudes of our members. The genuine relationships that I see being formed every day in Team RWB has proven over and over that this team is doing something special for our members!”

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“Being a member and leader in Team RWB has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It has allowed me to continue to serve my country and others in my community in a meaningful way. It has also strengthened my family and has extended my family with so many inspiring Eagles.

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

“Come on out for a couple events, and bring someone with you! You’ll be amazed at how this team / family radiates positivity and inspiration!

20160626_084236_001