You Will Leave a Changed Person

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Everyone of us has a story of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. Our story is unique to us, but in so many ways others can relate. Last month I had the amazing opportunity to attend Team RWB’s storytelling camp in Gaylord, MI.

Walking through the airport in Detroit, Michigan, I was filled with excitement and fear. This was the first time I had been home in 12 years, and I was about to embark on an incredible weekend filled with plenty of emotions and self-discovery. Upon arriving at camp, I met so many Eagles from all around the country. We spent a weekend working with horses, playing games, and learning in-depth how to tell our story. One thing that really touched my heart was that everyone left their titles and egos at the door and were genuine, open, and on the same level as everyone else. We came together as strangers but we left with lifetime bonds.

One of the lessons that was most impactful to me was the leader/follower dynamic in our lives and chapters. We quickly put this into play Friday night as the Tacoma Chapter Captain, Scott, and I decided to take a polar plunge in the frigid waters of the lake at camp…you know, normal stuff when Marine and Army grunts get together and come up with EPIC ideas! The following night, I watched as a larger group formed to take the polar plunge. The laughter, the fear, and the bonding was amazing just over a simple idea of running into a lake with the temps below freezing.

All fun aside this weekend spoke deeply to me about my story and my ‘why’.  About a year ago, I joined Team RWB. I was in a dark place in my life, and was struggling with wanting to end my life. Every single day. When I say that Team RWB saved my life, it is a understatement. The first couple months I struggled to get involved and felt like an outsider. But fortunately, a few members reached out to me and made sure that I stayed engaged. I had been searching for the missing piece in my life of a “family.” I needed somewhere to belong and after my mom passed away 3 years ago, I struggled even harder. Years of built up guilt and questions had taken its toll on me. I had justified my son would be okay without me and it was my time to say goodbye.

Here I sit a year later with an amazing love for life and a purpose.

In the Spring, I stepped up as a leader in my Chapter and immediately seized the opportunity to become Chapter Captain just a couple months later. Some may ask “why” I’m involved with Team RWB and what drives me to be a leader in my community. Well, I have watched as friends struggled and lost hope… and I struggled with suicide myself. But I have also seen and personally experienced how Team RWB can save lives. So maybe my story starts in the middle, as I have learned I need to go back and sort through things of the past. I have also learned that it’s ok where I want to start my story, just as long as I never stop writing it.

I will leave you with this. As leaders and Eagles, it is important that we engage our folks and welcome them in. We need to lean on each other and take care of each other. The difference can be life or death depending on our actions. If you get an opportunity to attend a storytelling camp or leadership camp/academy, I urge you to take it, you will leave a changed person.