Currently in America, we have 21 million living veterans. If you aren’t personally connected to the US military, you can probably name someone who is, and likely all of your friends could do the same.
There is something about a person in uniform, they say, with all of the fierce bravery and romantic imagery of heroism and courage that someone standing proudly at attention in their spotless uniform conjures. We love those moments; the ones where we jump to our feet when the honor guard approaches with staccato footsteps loudly clapping the ground, the swelling pride we feel when we see perfectly coordinated rows of military precision at its best, or even the nostalgia of black and white photographs depicting departing sailors leaning out of locomotive windows for a final farewell kiss snatched from sobbing ladies straining on tip toes. We marvel at the photographs of young men or women in crisp uniform and a spine of steel standing proudly before a draped flag background, especially if we can clearly remember that same young person so recently in sloppy clothes and with backs sloped with indifferent or insolent teenage attitudes.
The military strengthens. It changes high school average kids into steel muscled exceptional young people with purpose in their eyes and motivation in their steps. It provides a ticket out of town for some. It creates inspiration and opportunity. All of our patriotic pride applauds the men and women who step up and sign a contract with Uncle Sam. We slap magnetic yellow ribbons to the back of our vehicles, remove our hats for the National Anthem, and we cry at the videos that show returning servicemen surprising their kids at school.
And then we keep scrolling past those videos. And we keep working and planning and living our lives.
What about those service men and women who return home? Once the balloons have escaped and the laughter has faded and the uniform is washed for the final time…what then?
For every military member, the transition into civilian life is bumpy and fraught with questions. Where will I live? What job will I be able to get? Will I be able to make friends once I’m off base and away from the rhythm of reveille and taps? For every serviceman or woman exiting the military there are three main issues that have tripped up so many of their brothers or sisters before them; unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. Many are able to transition fairly well into civilian life, securing a job and a place to live relatively easily. But even for these, they need to be able to find connections and make friends with people who don’t know what it’s like to be in the military. And for many, the reality of PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury) is one they will have to learn to live with and still find a way to function.
There are other organizations and groups that are available to help veterans. So what makes TeamRWB different? Mike Erwin, who founded TeamRWB in 2010, answered this question with a fervor and passion reflective of his 13 years in the Army (including 3 tours overseas). “TeamRWB isn’t simply a charity”, he clarified. “We don’t hand out jobs or perform job training. We want to connect former military with their community. We want them to find opportunities to improve their health, to find camaraderie again, to get out of the house and meet people.” He quoted the mission statement of TeamRWB in a combination of military precision and absolute forceful personal conviction;
“TeamRWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”
“When former military men and women can get out and connect with fellow patriots,” he said, “they connect to positive Americans. They see their mental and physical health improve. It improves communities. They make connections, find jobs, meet new friends, get involved.”
TeamRWB has, in its six years of existence, changed countless lives and made an impact on communities all over the nation. Their blog contains stories of people changed by connecting to TeamRWB, and their map shows chapters dotting the country from coast to coast.
“We are growing,” Mike said, “but we need to grow more. We know we are making a difference but with so many veterans out there, we need to reach even more people. We need civilians who care.”
You may have a skill or hobby that can be put to good use at TeamRWB! Do you like to hike, run, practice yoga? Why not start or join a chapter in your area and do what you already like to do, but with former military persons? Their website has a variety of ways you can actually join in and begin a rewarding experience that helps benefit those who have served. If anything, wear the eagle and spread the news about TeamRWB!
Here at Evy’s Tree, we are honored to help spread awareness about this incredible organization. A portion of all sales during our July 4th sales event will go directly to TeamRWB. Thank you for your interest and involvement!