Just over two years ago I received a call from a friend. “Hey Matt, I took a job with Team Rubicon, an organization that helps veterans reintegrate back into civilian life through continued service,” Joanne explained from her garage in Venice Beach, CA. “We’re starting up a regional model and I wanted to see if you’d be interested in helping develop something in Portland.”
A couple weeks later, a 6’6” red-headed Marine named Ryan Mills was in my living room, and the beginnings of Region 10 along with my journey of self-discovery were underway. Once Mills left my house that day, I found myself reflecting on just how scared I was. I’d been in this position before. The moment when you realize there’s a significant gap between what you think you know and what you’ve experienced. Having never served in the military, I had respect for those who’ve worn the uniform but didn’t have an intimate connection to our veterans.
Before Team Rubicon, I’ll admit that any thought given to our service men and women was limited to those brief moments in the airport when I saw the uniform and thanked them for their service.
Two and a half years later, I can still identify a gap, but that gap continues to narrow. Team Rubicon’s dual mission aims to bridge the gap between disasters and traditional large aid response, while helping veterans reintegrate back into civilian life by restoring a sense of purpose, community, and self-worth. As an involved civvy, I can confidently say TR is bridging the gap between veterans and civilians. Am I still unable to decipher much of the military jargon that’s tossed around the office? Sure, but by showing up and sharing a six-pack, I’ve grown closer to our veterans than I had ever imagined I would.
Spending time together has led to friendships, friendship has led to trust, and trust has led to understanding. Our willingness to come together and stumble through the unknown has allowed us to open ourselves up to discovery. As a civilian, my greatest takeaway from TR hasn’t been lessons on leadership or experience in being a part of a start-up; it’s been narrowing the gap between veterans and civilians. I learned that by showing up and being vulnerable, you put yourself in a position to overcome the fear of the unknown.