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This is My Team

Heather Carlson

Heather is a volunteer member residing in Denver, CO.

I was recently asked, “Don’t you ever get tired of volunteering for all these things?”

The answer is no. I could never imagine a life of stagnant self-serving. I can’t imagine not giving my time, my money, and my talents. A life on a hill, in a comfortable place, sounds excruciating.

Volunteering is the best thing I do all week. Tackling back-breaking work, pushing my limits, and reaching a goal. Being a part of a team of like-minded individuals only furthers that insurmountable feeling of accomplishment after a day of hard work.

It was suggested I join Team Rubicon last August after posting a status about wanting to serve with a nonprofit. My initial reaction was “Am I worthy?” Thankfully, the response was a resounding “Absolutely!” In my mind, there was no way I could tough it out with those who’ve served this country or those who serve in the medical field daily. I am a civilian – untrained in the ways many of my TR counterparts understood. Or so I thought.

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On March 7, Heather (right) joined 65 volunteers and partnered with the Air Force Academy and Team RWB to pack sandbags in Manitou Springs, CO.

Growing up, I did not participate in any sports, nor was I a part of any organized anything. Before TR, I didn’t know what it meant to be a team, and I never heard of a “battle buddy.” My first project consisted of aiding in the effort to fix a prior Army Ranger’s home. He is paralyzed and could not do the work on his own.

As I stood among dozens of veterans and first responders, I realized two things: No one here cared that I had no prior service experience – they cared only that I pull my weight, and I did. Additionally, we were part of a team. I got a battle buddy [I’m still working on not leaving my battle buddy behind]. I gained a sense of responsibility to the people around me to give everything I had. If not for myself, for them.

In this setting, with these people, all depending on you – the last thing on your mind is yourself.

The last thing you think about is quitting. The last thing you consider is the amount of work to do. The first thing that crosses your mind is “tell me what to do and I’ll get it done.”

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More than 4,500 sandbags were filled to prepare for flood season in Colorado.

Then it dawned on me. This isn’t how everyone operates. Not everyone comes into a situation like the ones we have put ourselves in with TR and thinks “what can I do to get shit done?” In fact, many people find the idea of home repairs, filling sandbags, and removing brush from heavily wooded areas over their weekend to be horrifying.

What I initially thought was something that set me apart from my veteran/first responder counterparts was actually what made us perfectly suited to be on the same team.

For the first time, I felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of people who not only love to give back, but don’t mind getting a little dirty and doing some hard work for no monetary gain! I met people who found the most joy from giving back to their community. Additionally – I was surrounded by a lot of people who understood sacrifice and loss, two things I am intimately familiar with.

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The gray deployment T-shirts did not stay clean for long. Region 8 wrapped up a successful weekend-long service project in Manitou Springs.

While my losses and sacrifices are not the result of a war between two countries, they are the result of a war between substances and inner turmoil. As a child who came out of that with only emotional scars and no reliance on drugs or alcohol, I find a deep connection with people who are fighting similar issues. TR has given me a new mission – a mission to not only help people affected by disasters, but also to come together as a team to help people fighting their own inner battles. I know from listening to many people talk that TR has been a catalyst in winning the ongoing fight many of us wage from the inside.

Among the people who dream of lazy days and planting their roots in one place, there are those who seek a challenge, who seek the unknown. Among those who avoid helping their friends move on a Saturday are the ones who will drop anything in order to be there. Among the people who flee in the wake of a flood or a tornado are the ones running headstrong into the first pile of debris – to pull you out alive. To give you hope. Among the people who stow their hard earned money away are the ones who spend it on equipment to better their volunteer capabilities.

And among all those are the people who are fighting a battle amongst themselves every day – and winning. This is my team. This is Team Rubicon.

  • Ryan Beck

    Great article, very well written.

    • Heather Carlson

      Thank you, Ryan!