Gaining a Deeper Understanding

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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.

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.