Hey, Non-Prior-Service Civilians! We need you!
By David Chrisinger
There are two primary reasons why I recently started a chapter of Team Red, White, and Blue in Central Wisconsin. First and foremost, Team RWB believes that people like me — a “non-prior-service civilian” — can and should play a pivotal roll in welcoming back our veterans and helping them not only connect with their communities, but also lead extraordinary and purposeful lives.
You might not realize this, but about 20-30 percent of Team RWB’s 66,000+ members are “non-prior-service civilians,” which is a somewhat clunky way of saying that they have never served in the military. When I joined Team RWB almost two years ago, I was surprised that joining was even an option. After all, I can’t think of many other organizations that not only serve veterans, but also are welcoming to civilians.
“Most of the civilian members join for a couple of main reasons,” Joe Quinn, the Northeast Regional Director, told me. “They either have a connection to the military and want to help veterans, or they’re really physically active and want to give veterans something more than a handshake: their time and friendship.”
Or they’re both.
As the grandson of a WWII combat veteran who struggled mightily to return to civilian life, I know all too well how combat trauma and its aftereffects can negatively reverberate through the generations of a family.
The second — and perhaps most important — reason I started a chapter of Team RWB is that I am tired of seeing many the 45,000+ organizations that serve veterans depict them as mentally and physically broken, in need of our sympathy and charity. There are, of course, some veterans who face significant challenges in their transition home — my grandfather was one of them 70 years ago.
What Team RWB does, however, is provide veterans the opportunity to show that they can rise to the occasion — that they have found strength in struggle, wisdom in sorrow, and courage in conflict.
There’s no doubt that our country is going through some trying times right now — as a student of history, I know that most of our country’s history has been troubled in some way, shape, or form. Still, I rest easy at night knowing that there are millions of people around the country — including the dozens of veterans I have worked with in the last five years — who are using their strength, wisdom, and courage to make a difference here at home.
Over the next few years, an estimated 1 million military service members will undertake that long walk home. Some of these folks might need help fighting the battles that can pop up along the way. Rest easy: Team RWB stands ready to help veterans and their families make the most of that transition. I’m both honored and excited to now be a small part of that journey.
If you’re a “non-prior-service veteran” and you want to help veterans, give Team RWB a try, and if you’re a veteran, I can’t think of a better way to connect with your community and show them what you’re made of.
It’s not lonely at the top when you fly with eagles!