General (Ret.) Petraeus Talks about Team RWB

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“The idea here is that to live as fully as we might, to truly be all that we can be, we must constantly challenge ourselves to make the most of our God-given talents.”

On Friday night in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the UM chapter of the Student Veterans of America hosted a dinner to benefit Team RWB.  General (Retired) David Petraeus was the guest of honor and keynote speaker.  He spent over four hours at the event, speaking with people, taking pictures and talking to veterans about their service.  When it came time to present his remarks, the 275 people in the audience heard several powerful messages.  But Team RWB is 31,000 members strong—and we felt that many of you would like to review some of the thoughts General Petraeus shared with us.

Here are a couple of the highlights from his speech:

“I am here for a purpose, an important purpose, to speak about an organization that I have long admired because of the wonderful work it does in supporting our veterans and to encourage the concept of challenging oneself as a way of achieving excellence.  As you’ll see, that concept is embedded in the vision behind the organization I will speak about tonight.  That organization is, of course, Team Red, White & Blue.  From its inception 3.5 years ago, Team RWB has grown to over 31,000 members with chapters in over 90 locations across the Nation and, indeed, around the world.

Fundamental to the concept of Team RWB is recognition that everyone who has experienced war has been changed by the experience.  In many cases, those changes are positive—with those who have served returning home with a greater appreciation of the blessings of life and with greater focus and discipline than before in striving to make the most of their lives.  Others, of course, return changed in various ways—a number with both seen and unseen wounds.  And common to virtually all who leave the military is a sense of having left one’s brothers and sisters, those with whom missions larger than self were performed, against tenacious enemies under the most challenging of conditions, and always with a fierce desire never to let down one’s buddies.

Given that reality, Team RWB’s growth has not been surprising; still, it has been extraordinary.  It clearly has validated the idea that veterans do want to reunite with their fellow veterans, do want to pursue physical and social activities together, do want to be challenged—and do want to help their communities.  Beyond that, while Team RWB’s growth has been extraordinary, it is really just beginning.  The organization’s mission grows more important every day as the membership continues to expand at a rapid rate.  With some 2.7 million veterans having already served and then taken off the uniform since 9/11, and with over a million more veterans exiting the service in the next 4 years, there obviously are many of our comrades to whom Team RWB needs to reach.

Now, a particularly important aspect of Team Red, White and Blue’s mission is the physical component. I’d like to think that physical fitness helped many of us endure very challenging and demanding deployments in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the past decade or so.  The fact is that, through Team RWB, fitness not only is a vehicle for reconnecting veterans, it also helps them deal with the periodic challenges in life.


And that brings me to the other, related point I’d like to highlight this evening – living and seeking “a life of challenge.”  The idea here is that to live as fully as we might, to truly be all that we can be, we must constantly challenge ourselves to make the most of our God-given talents.  We must set ambitious goals, and, importantly, share them with our friends, family, colleagues and bosses—and then do our utmost to achieve them.  One element of these goals should be physical; another might be academic; still another might have to do with family, relationships, and faith; and one more, of course, would encompass professional goals.  When we challenge ourselves in this way, and make our goals public, we inevitably end up accomplishing more than we otherwise would have.

Now, I’m sure that none of this is particularly novel to you; in fact, I don’t offer these reflections as one who thinks he has just provided a revolutionary new concept or as one who has accomplished everything he set out to do in life or, indeed, as one who has gotten everything right along the way.  I merely offer these ideas to spur thought on the importance of physical fitness not just for our bodies but also for our minds—and to remind us of the value of challenging ourselves by setting ambitious goals and letting others know what they are, so that there are public markers laid down that one therefore has to strive to redeem. Those concepts are, of course, among those that form the foundation of many of our nation’s greatest organizations, teams, and institutions—including Team Red, White, and Blue.

In closing, thanks so much for the opportunity to be with you for this event and to offer a few words.  It has been a true privilege to spend time with the veterans, active military, and ROTC cadets who are here this evening.  Beyond that, I want to note that your generous reception for me is one that I accept only inasmuch as I can do so on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of great young American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines with whom I was privileged to serve in the wars of the post-9/11 period.  They are the ones who did the hard work; your welcome to me tonight is really recognition of them.”

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