Team Red White & Blue Military Veteran Assistance Program
Contributed by Michele Gonzalez, wife, mother, ultrarunner, and FitFluential Ambassador. A former Captain in the US Army, she is now a stay at home mom who is currently training for a sub 3:10 marathon and her first Ironman (NYC – Aug 2012). Her blog, NYCrunningmama, focuses on her training/races, as well as pregnancy & motherhood. To learn more about Michele, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
A little background…
US troop fatalities in combat decreased by more than 15% from 2010 to 2011 (437 to 368). At first glance this statistic sounds promising, however, if you do a little more research you’ll learn that while the number of US deaths have decreased, the number of amputees have risen by a staggering 22% from 2010 to 2011 (205 vs 240) and is more than 17% higher than the previous all-time high in 2007 (205).
(I won’t go into detail as to whythe number of amputees are increasing at an alarming rate, but if you would like to learn more, you should read this article)
Why am I putting up all these statistics?
Do you ever wonder what happens to all of the veterans when they return from Iraq or Afghanistan missing one or two legs and/or one or both of their arms? Or to those vets who return with “invisible injuries” – post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or mild-traumatic brain injury (TBI)? Immediately upon their return, they receive amazing around-the-clock medical care from fantastic military hospitals. But then what happens? Continuing their career in the military is a longshot (amputees are typically medically discharged). Some return to their hometown. Others stay close to Army or Navy bases. But ALL need to start their lives over – trying to live a normal life – while learning how to survive/cope with one or more major limbs missing from their body or with whatever serious injury the war dealt them.
Enter Team Red, White & Blue - a nonprofit organization whose vision is to transform the way wounded veterans are reintegrated into society when they return from combat and exit their position. Although Team RWB is a fairly new organization, it is growing by leaps and bounds with members all over the U.S. and beyond participating in everything from long-distance running events to triathlons.
Major Mike Erwin, a West Point Grad and three-time veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, founded Team RWB in 2010 as a way to ease the transition by offering wounded vets everything from daily phone calls to baby-sitting help and job-placement assistance. The organization matches civilians with wounded vets transitioning from military to civilian life. ”We’re connecting people who want to say thank you to a veteran beyond just writing a check,” says Erwin. [source: Runner's World]
The team relies on runners and triathletes to help spread the word and raise funds. Last year, 3,000 athletes raised more than $400,000 for Team RWB by competing in everything from 5-Ks to ultras. Ultimately, Erwin wants to get more vets running. “It’s the most under-prescribed medication,” he says. For vets with traumatic brain injury and PTSD especially, running can rebuild them psychologically and socially, he says. “It’s that powerful a tool.” [source:Runner's World]
There are MANY ways to get involved with this amazing organization. You can sign up to be a athlete and fundraise for the program. You can volunteer to be an advocate to offer your time to enrich the life of a wounded veteran and his/her family. You can donate to the organization (all donations are tax-deductible). You can wear the eagle and help spread the word about this charity (more clothes and accessories coming soon!)
For more information on Team Red, White & Blue check their: Website -> http://teamrwb.org/ Twitter -> @TeamRWB Facebook -> Team Red, White & Blue Team RWB Triathlon Team RWB Apparel -> Race Gear, Accessories, Triathlon Gear (currently unavailable) Upcoming Team RWB Races
Note: There are many charities that provide similar opportunities for wounded vets. My husband and I support the following in addition to Team RWB: Wounded Warrior Project Brendan Marrocco Road To Recovery Trust