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You Don’t Have to Deploy to be on the Team

Jason Keller

Jason Keller is an Army veteran and Kentucky native currently residing in Illinois and serving as a District Coordinator for Region V.

I joined Team Rubicon just under two years ago, and today I’m sitting in Aberdeen, Washington, home of Kurt Cobain. It is Operation: Come As You Are, my first large mission with TR. It was not until today that I realized how long I have been a part of this team, our team, and it feels like just yesterday when I set up my account online with a limited knowledge of what to expect.

As a working professional in DC, I had little hope of getting in on anything amazing. How could I? I averaged 50 hours a week and like so many veterans, I went to school at night chasing after that dream of being a college graduate, a dream I’m still chasing today.

After a week or two I hadn’t heard anything.

What was I going to do if there was not a disaster somewhere in the world?

I finally logged back into our old system to look for ideas and to better understand what this new part of my life had in store for me. There it was! A list of upcoming events in my area. Ok, this would be a start!

My first TR experience was a brew fest. I didn’t know how or why this was an event, but I knew I had to go. This was going to get me in front of people who could tell me more about what we are doing in the area. It was a great day parking cars and watching more and more people roll in. It was a fundraiser where every car we parked meant a percentage was going to be coming back into the ‘coffers’ of our group. I learned money raised would soon go toward sending someone overseas to help save someone’s life or to Small Town, USA to dig out a family home after a tornado. Finally, I would do something with my time that would yield visible results.

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Jason supported a building project with Habitat for Humanity in San Francisco soon after he settled down on the opposite coast.

My experience wasn’t unlike many other members of our TR family. I was swamped many days by the challenges of a demanding profession. I couldn’t have taken two weeks out of the office if I worked 12-hour days for a year, and definitely not at the drop of a hat, which seemed necessary for disaster response. I questioned my value to the TR mission if I wasn’t ready, willing, and able to grab my go bag and rush off to the airport when the call went out.

I know I wasn’t alone in feeling that way, but looking back, I realize I couldn’t have been more wrong in that first year. The needs of our members are just as great as the needs of those strangers we meet in some unknown disaster area. They’re internal, they’re emotional, and they’re significant. We need the bond that comes over cold beers after a day putting down wreaths in Arlington Cemetery. Even more, our brothers and sisters need a shoulder to lean on after they see a familiar name on a headstone and those memories of war zones thousands of miles away come rushing back as if it were just yesterday.

Then come the stories, and with those untold tales come smiles. The ability to open up because we are surrounded at that moment with those that are ‘like us’ is irreplaceable and invaluable. I loved that day – that simple service project that meant so much to us, and I realized then that even those of us who couldn’t lead did have a purpose.

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Jason deployed on a weekend-long operation in Southern California after landslides affected several dozen homeowners in Mount Baldy, CA.

So then came a message on a Sunday in January of this year: “Hey man, if you could take the time off….” Finally, my time had arrived! I just had to think for a second and realized quickly I could indeed take the time off. In Washington, people were in need and a position that met my background needed to be filled. That TR training I went to six months back was going to pay off.

I share this story because I know there are others like me out there. Maybe they haven’t signed up because they think they have nothing to offer or maybe they’re a member putting in 50 hours a week and think they’re less a part of this organization than the guy on the ground in an operation somewhere. I say to them as I’ve said to my fellow service members in the past: “Everything we do in this team is significant, you just have to look around at the people to your left and your right to know how valuable you are.”

  • Jon Jones

    What an amazing story Jason!!! You Sir are the man!! I just heard of this wonderful program. I was medically retired from the Army in ’09. I was a trauma care medic, man I miss the rush of helping people. I want to join and help out when and where I can, but I can’t really do much.

  • Angela Shirk Anderson

    Great story Jason!