Saturday Spotlight: Bernie Donato

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Chapter: Team RWB Raleigh/Durham

Member Since: 2015

Motto: “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“I spent 24 years serving in the AD Navy and Air National Guard with 2 deployments to Operation Desert Shield and Storm. I retired in 1999 while I was still living in California. I felt somewhat isolated as most of my non military friends didn’t have any clue what it was like to serve. Though we had some things in common the most important things like dedication, sacrifice, camaraderie, and service were missing. I was feeling the loss of my fellow military friends. I had no idea Team RWB existed until I found it accidentally on the internet. It looked like something I wanted to be a part of. I didn’t join just yet as I noticed the focus seemed to be on running and I was a “turtle” runner. Many years later I moved to N. Carolina, found Team RWB in my local area, and joined up. Our chapter was dormant at the time I joined but with new leadership we have bloomed!”

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

“This is a tough answer as there are so many great experiences. I think one is when we helped a local veteran with disabilities complete the St. Paddy’s 8K. I was one of the 3 photographers who ran around the course to capture all his memories of that run. The 16 mile tribute to the Marines and Navy Corpsmen is another that stands out. No one is forgotten… ever. My greatest experience is just being part of this amazing organization and realizing that we are all in this together, every person matters, and no one cares how slow or fast you are. We are a family who foster relationships with each other in and out of Team RWB events.”

How Do You Serve Your Community?

“I am a part of a 3-person group of veterans who developed our own veteran oral history project in N. Carolina. We have completed nearly 500 oral histories of veterans from the World War 2 era to current time. The oral histories are housed at UNC Southern Historical Life Center. We do this for free and give our veterans as many DVD’s as they like for free. I currently serve as the Sr. Vice CDR of the VFW in Durham. We sponsor Bingo at the long term care center at the VA two Tuesday a month and we visit patients once a month. I am the Veteran Engagement Director of the Raleigh/Durham Chapter and have developed relationships with many different area veteran groups and the Raleigh and Durham National Guard units. I teach impromptu painting classes for free and I paint pictures and gift them to veterans at no cost.

What Inspires You?

“People inspire me. With all the negativity in our country right now, I devote my life to seeing the positive in everyone. I love talking to new people and finding common ground. Painting inspires me. It is my space for solitude where I can tune out, unwind, and create. Team RWB inspires me. The diversity, the community, the veterans, the age differences, the support; it is an amazing group of individuals inspired to support each other as a group.”

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“I can’t even begin to tell you how Team RWB has impacted my life. In my life I have simultaneously worked in 3 different careers; Trauma nursing, military evac medicine, and as a reserve police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department. I have seen war, riots, and death. I spent time in a very dark place. I was seeing a constant slide show of dead, injured, shot, stabbed, and traumatized human beings. People who know me see that I always have my happy face on, but in the background things weren’t so happy. Team RWB has reinvented my whole life. Though my fellow Team RWB members may not know my particular demons, the team as an inclusive, active community have uplifted my life by sharing and embracing all of our experiences.. There is so much fun, camaraderie, relationships, and happiness the slide show is almost non existent now.

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

“I tell everyone Team RWB is the best thing that ever happened to me. If you want to experience an awesome group of people who are all inclusive and active, this is where you want to be.”