To the Top of the Mountain

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By Tim Lawton Team RWB – NYC

Like many veterans, I had a hard time connecting with people when I left the service. I just left one of the greatest teams in the world, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and all of the bonds, camaraderie and relationships that came with it. On the surface, it looked like a successful transition as I went through MIT business school and found a well paying job on Wall Street, but underneath, I was missing my team.

So I joined a new team: Team Red, White & Blue. At first, I joined Team RWB to support my classmates who were starting the fledgling Veteran Service Organization (VSO). But looking back over my first 18 months of transition, it was exactly what I needed. First of all, it was exactly what I needed to make a healthy transition as it provided the social support to stay fit and to wake up early on Saturday mornings to run 5Ks in Icahn Stadium, rather than pull all-nighters in the city that never sleeps. But more importantly, Team RWB gave me connection and produced a relationship that would change the arc of my life.

In 2011, several Eagles ran from West Point to New York City, covering 91.1 miles in honor of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The small team stopped in Liberty State Park, where they met up with a flock of other Eagles to finish the final three miles down to Ground Zero as a team. While I was at this event, I noticed a young woman with mountaineering glasses that were just like the ones I was wearing, so we struck up a conversation. Her name was Naira and on paper we couldn’t have been more different.

Naira is an Arab woman who grew up in the shadows of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and who dedicated her career to resolving conflicts. I was a returning American veteran with an unmistakable Massachusetts accent, embroiled in the conflicts of Iraq & Afghanistan. Despite our obvious differences, we forged an unlikely bond. Team RWB (and the mountaineering glasses!) provided us an opportunity to see each other in a different light: as two individuals who share a passion for physical challenges, mountains and adventure.

Team RWB was the spark that led to this genuine relationship and has led Naira and me to not only start a Foundation together, but to conquer our greatest challenge of all: to be the first American-Arab Team to summit the highest peak of North America, Denali. Please click on the below link to check out our project and to support our climb, but most of all, at your next Team RWB event, make sure you introduce yourself to someone new. It just might lead you to the top of a mountain.