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  • Writer's pictureJake Wood

What's Next For Our Nation's Veterans

Over the last thirty years, disasters in the US have increased in both frequency and cost. Over the last month, we have witnessed three major hurricanes make landfall in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, while wildfires rage in Montana and the Pacific Northwest and earthquakes shake cities in Mexico. In 2016, the United States suffered fourteen different billion dollar catastrophes[1]. Now, recovery costs related to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma already are estimated to reach up to $290 billion[2]. Maria will only add to this cost.

These major storms played out for the nation on live television, and the heroic efforts of local police, fire, EMS and city officials were on full display. Thankfully, the US has the best emergency responders on the planet, but even their herculean efforts can be overwhelmed by the size and scope of these disasters. Within two days of Harvey making landfall, Houston officials made a public appeal for private citizens with boats to assist with rescue efforts. Everyday heroes emerged as Texans and their neighbors in surrounding states rallied to the call and saved thousands of people.

Team Rubicon was also there. Made up of veterans, Team Rubicon volunteers leverage the technical skills they learned in the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force to help in times of disaster and recovery. They arrived and within 24 hours and had boats and swift-water rescue specialists in action.

As rescue operations wound down, Team Rubicon began laying the groundwork for a force of 2,000 volunteers—again, mostly veterans—to head into the Gulf Coast region of Texas to assist with initial recovery efforts. A similarly sized effort is also underway in Florida and units are heading to Mexico. Team Rubicon’s volunteer corps continues to grow, from a few thousand just five years ago to nearly 60,000 across the U.S. today.

People want to serve, which leads us to ask: What if the majority of the 104,000 veterans between the ages of 18 and 65 living in Houston had been organized, trained and equipped to augment authorities prior to something as unprecedented as Harvey making landfall? Could the community have been in a better position to support our first responder needs? How might the response unfold differently?

Team Rubicon, with funding from AT&T, is building a network of community resilience units across the country which can be deployed in times of need. Not only do our service men and women have training in critical skills and leadership, but they’ve been tested in the most difficult situations imaginable. These are the people who protect us every day around the world and who we’ve spent millions upon millions to train to be the very best. 

Many wish to continue to serve after leaving the military. Team Rubicon puts them back on the front lines in their communities. Not only does this measurably increase the readiness and resilience of cities like those we’ve seen impacted over the last few weeks, but these men and women rediscover the purpose, community and identity that fulfilled them while in our nation’s uniform.

Both AT&T and Team Rubicon are committed to serving the communities in which we live and work. This is why AT&T has committed $1 million through a recently announced matching gift initiative to establishing volunteer crisis units across the country. The contribution builds upon the investment our country has already made in these brave men and women and reinforces how much we all value those who serve.

We ask that companies across the country join us and the volunteers who are already a part of Team Rubicon to protect and prepare the places we live, work and play. These storms have passed, but we know there are more behind them and we cannot wait.

By Charlene Lake, AT&T Chief Sustainability Officer, and Jake Wood, Team Rubicon Co-Founder and CEO

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