Veterans in Disaster Response

I’m really not a TED Talk junkie.  Honest.  But today, while surfing through my usual web sites, I hit the TED blog.  I came across a great short (5 minute) presentation on Team Rubicon by their founder, Jake Wood.  The concept of Mr. Wood’s presentation is the story of why he founded Team Rubicon.  Team Rubicon is a disaster relief organization that uses veterans.  It’s not a new idea, really – Reservists, National Guard members, and retired veterans have been an important part of emergency response going back to the days of Civil Defense.  It makes perfect sense, really.  These folks are trained in essential skills and they function well in an organized structure.  They have critical thinking skills and have worked in austere environments.  In emergency management and emergency response we have learned so much from the military – our organizational structure, the Incident Command System, is based on military principles.  We work with military components on a regular basis, and many state emergency management offices are still even components of their state’s National Guard offices – another throwback to the days of Civil Defense.

Veterans have an important value to us, yet we don’t do enough for them.  They have risked their lives for our freedoms and so many return home jobless and feeling lost.  I certainly can’t imagine what it’s like to live in Iraq or Afghanistan for such a long period of time seeing horrible things and wondering if the people walking by you, those who you are trying to provide a better life for, have a bomb strapped to their bodies.  How can anyone be expected to return to a ‘normal’ life after that?  We need to do a better job of reintegration, that’s very obvious.  The sheer number of homeless veterans and veteran suicides is staggering – and it’s shameful that we allow it to happen.

Team Rubicon provides a focus, a purpose, and an environment that veterans are comfortable functioning within – and even better yet they aren’t  carry a rifle.  They are saving lives!

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