Saturday Spotlight – John Willis

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Chapter: West Point, New York / Northeast Region

Member Since: 2010

Motto: “Speedo to Tuxedo”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“In 2002, Mike Erwin was a student of mine when I taught systems engineering at West Point. We stayed in touch during the early years of his Army career and in February 2010 Mike sent me an email invitation to attend the Twin Cities Marathon with an organization that he had just started called Team RWB. I wasn’t able to run in the race but attended the Team RWB tailgate party at the 2010 Army-Navy Game and I was hooked after that. I became the Social Director of the West Point Chapter and later joined the national staff as a Finance Manager.”

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

“I’ve had the pleasure of supporting three iterations of the Old Glory Relay. It is an event that fully embodies the mission of the organization and the connections made out on the road with fellow Eagles are strong and genuine. The stories and images of my experiences with OGR are cherished memories.”

How do you serve your community?

“In addition to my work with Team RWB, I’m active with the West Point – Highland Falls Rotary Club (past president and assistant district governor). With Rotary, I participate in a number of activities including community beautification projects, literacy efforts, scholarship programs, support for local arts, and I’m the race director for the Storm King Run (5K/10K) which is our club’s largest fundraiser.”

What Inspires You?

“My greatest inspiration comes from my family. My wife and I have been together for 32 years and she is my main source of love, motivation, values, and grounding. My children (son on active duty in the Army; daughter in grad school) are incredible sources of pride for me and my role as their father yields the richest rewards. I was raised in an Army family and my parents provided me with the “roots and wings” that prepared me for life.”

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“I have truly enjoyed watching Team RWB grow from a grassroots effort into a national leader in the veteran space. Many of my very dearest friendships were forged through participation in this organization. I owe Team RWB for helping me expand my leadership and other skills. I can link changes in my personality and behaviors (e.g., positivity and empathy) directly to the models and principles of Team RWB.”

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

“I typically say that if you want to do something FOR veterans, there are lots of great veteran service organizations out there that will take your money. However, if you want to do something WITH veterans, then consider joining a Team RWB chapter and engaging directly with a group of authentic people who share a spirit, mission, and ethos (and who may just whip you into shape!)”