I serve because, if not me, then who? I serve because men I served with died in their service. I serve because I have seen the healing effects of service. I serve because my nation expects me to, or at least it should.
My service began after college, when I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I fought in the infantry in both Iraq and Afghanistan with a group of extraordinary men, and while overseas we learned the incredible power that service can have. Our service taught us about selflessness and sacrifice, friendship and brotherhood, rich and poor, white and black, right and wrong. More importantly it taught us that individuals, brought together with others in a common mission, can have an impact.
I left the Marines in 2009 and thought that my service was over. Just a few short months later I realized I was wrong. When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, I found myself serving once again. I joined forces with another former Marine, William McNulty, and together we organized a group of veterans and doctors and deployed to Haiti three and a half days after the earthquake. While on the ground treating wounds we realized something -- veterans can, and should, use their skills and experience to serve again.
Since 2010 the organization we started in Haiti, Team Rubicon, has responded to over 50 disasters around the world and in the US. Over the course of those missions we've continually raised the bar one what effective disaster relief should look like; culminating recently with Hurricane Sandy and the Moore, OK tornadoes. We have a network of 10,000 members who are yearning to serve their country once again; and through that service, they are finding that they can maybe replace some of the things that have been missing since their time in uniform.
You see, we hear it all the time from volunteers: "This is what I've been looking for from the moment I left the Army, thanks!" Or, "This past week has been food for my soul, thank you for the opportunity to serve."
What we've found is that service members, regardless of the job they get, or the school they attend when they get out, lose something after their military service. They lose the sense of mission, community and identity that they had in spades while overseas. They discover that nearly nothing can replace those intangibles -- until they serve again.
We have had Team Rubicon volunteers tell us that their service on our missions has saved their jobs, their marriages, and even their lives. They have told us that they feel valued for the first time since Baghdad, or comfortable for the first time since Kandahar. I serve because of them.
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