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“What’s It Like for You?”

Abbey Dieteman

Abbey hails from New York where she manages her own technology consulting firm. She joined the team in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and has since deployed on multiple operations and serves as a certified chainsaw instructor with TR.

“So, what’s it like for you?”

I smiled as I heard that question yet again. KC Baney had just finished giving his Team Rubicon spiel to an old friend of mine, a journalist living in Austin who met us for a couple drinks after work and was curious about our work in Wimberley, TX. KC explained the mission of TR and the critical service the organization provides not only to victims of disasters, but to veterans. He peppered in his own experiences and why he felt so personally connected to the mission.

As he talked, I smiled because in the last 3 years, I’ve never once grown tired of hearing my TR brothers and sisters talk about their experiences. As different as they are, there’s a common thread that shows me the taglines and mission statements of TR as living, breathing human beings. A cute slogan of “Disasters are our business. Veterans are our passion,” comes alive in the eyes of veterans as they tell their story and it’s always, always exhilarating for me.

Members deployed to Wimberley, TX clean up after a day sawing logs in the field.
Members deployed to Wimberley, TX clean up after a day sawing logs in the field.

Of the roughly 75 volunteers on the ground in Wimberley that day, KC is one of many spokespeople for the mission. His wasn’t the first story I’d heard that week, or even that day. In the truck on the way to the Stihl dealership, I heard a similar story from Chris Martin. The day before while sharpening saws I heard Vic Mevo (who had got out of the Marine Corps just 4 days before deploying with TR) say that in just a few hours, Danforth Junior High School gymnasium felt like home. Stefan Giggey (“Gig”) had shared that his only wish was that TR had existed 10 years ago. There are hundreds of stories like this… but then the conversation inevitably turns to me.

“What’s it like for you!?”

I’ve been asked that dozens of times, with that same look of confusion. People get KC, and Chris, and Vic, and Gig and their connection to TR. They don’t get me… and understandably so.

As a civilian, and mom from Upstate NY, I’m an unlikely cheerleader for Team Rubicon. Even more unlikely to be the lead chainsaw instructor on an op of this magnitude. But there I was…in Texas leading a sawyer team made up of 14 veterans ranging from “young Vic” just a few days separated from active duty, to Roger Harper, who had served in Vietnam.

Chainsaw instructors Abbey Dieteman and Jill Alward spent several days teaching sawyer technique to volunteers deployed on Operation: Double Trouble in Texas.
Chainsaw instructors Abbey Dieteman and Jill Alward spent several days teaching sawyer technique to volunteers deployed on Operation: Double Trouble in Texas.

I explained to my friend this way:

My first job in high school was as a sports writer. I loved it. At the time, people asked me why and my only answer was… because how else can a clumsy 16-year-old with no business in a locker room get to enjoy these moments? I got to experience championship teams, record-breaking seasons, and even crushing defeats. I was part of a community, and a team, that I had no business being a part of.

I feel that same way with Team Rubicon. I get to sit around a fire, or in a truck, or under a popup tent next to a storage facility and hear stories and experiences I never would otherwise. I get to be a part of this community, this brotherhood that I really have no business being a part of.

I get to work alongside of the most giving, hardworking, amazing people in the world. I experience the intense emotions: the highs from a job well done and the lows of both disaster victims and veterans and their different but equally difficult experiences. I get the rare opportunity to understand, or attempt to understand, people very different than myself — but with that same love of service, that same addiction to muddy boots, sawdust hair, and Red Cross cots.

Abbey spots Marine veteran Vic Mevo on Operation: Double Trouble.
Abbey spots Marine veteran Vic Mevo on Operation: Double Trouble.

I’m so grateful for Team Rubicon for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this community — this family. For welcoming me with open arms, giving me a bunk and a chainsaw and telling me your stories. For helping me understand my brothers–even when I don’t share those same experiences. I’ve heard so many of you say that Team Rubicon has changed your lives, and I want you all to know that you have changed mine, too.

To my sawyers/brothers from Op Double Trouble, I’ll see you all out there next time, and I’ll try to keep it together if you misplace the bearing grease again (no promises, though).

Love you all.