Our team in Arkansas was inspired by the stories and continued service of several veterans of the Vietnam War. Below are their reflections from Operation: Rising Eagle.
Jean Schoch, US Air Force
As a Vietnam veteran, working with Team Rubicon members of all ages has brought me full circle to the present. It makes me proud to have served in the Vietnam War and erased the need to keep that time in my life behind closed doors.
As part of Operation: Rising Eagle, I have had time to share my reflections on life, living, and giving. I will go home proud of my fellow members who have worked long, tireless hours. Having given up vacations, free time, family time, and much more, they’ve volunteered their time and expertise to help the many victims of this disaster, comforting those who’ve lost so much gives lasting inner peace.
Alan Jones, US Army
I am a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran who was one of the fortunate few who returned from foreign conflict to a loving and supportive family. I have been married to my one and only for 46 years and have three children who’ve given me eight grandchildren. I have been employed with the federal government for many years, and I also adjunct at two colleges.
But what I have given back to those who have not been as fortunate or experienced disasters beyond their abilities to cope? Yes, I am active in my church and have done some mission work, but somehow I felt this was not enough.
Recently while surfing the web, I came across Team Rubicon. I was surprised to learn the organization is almost entirely made up of military veterans of all ages and conflicts. After completing basic FEMA training online, I was queried about my availability, and TR requested my deployment on Operation: Rising Eagle.
Upon arriving at the FOB in the early afternoon on my first deployment day, I was put to work policing the area, not an auspicious beginning. The strike teams were already in the field, and the FOB needs a few workers, too. The field work on days two, three, and four exhausted me, but despite the fatigue, I haven’t felt this good and at the same time emotionally overwhelmed in years.
The commitment from all the veterans, from the old-timers who are longtime members with many deployments, down to those of us on our first, is huge. We run the gamut, from an old guy like me who can hardly bend down to tie my shoes, to highly skilled youngsters, and everything in between. We are working side by side, rain or shine, as we provide disaster relief, which is sincerely appreciated by those we help.
We are veterans providing much needed disaster relief and perhaps more importantly, much needed support for veterans as we continue our service to each other in a way only other veterans can understand.
Team Rubicon, thank you for the opportunity.
Wayne Karnis, US Air Force
My first operation with Team Rubicon is a very memorable experience. I am a Vietnam veteran and was treated with the utmost respect from the younger veterans. For the first time since my day of discharge in 1975, I felt appreciation for my service. It was truly a pleasure.
Michael P. Szor, US Navy
As a Vietnam veteran, I bring two special closures, or at least good starting points, to heal something that’s been a recurring feeling since I returned home from Vietnam as a very young man.
Although I was so proud to join the military on my 17th birthday, my pride became something I had to suppress because of the wartime sentiment at the time. When we came home, it was like we had to hide the fact that we served our country. We were never received back and most of us moved through airports and bus stations trying to be as none distinguishable as possible.
During Operation: Rising Eagle, the group took time to recognize the Vietnam veterans on the team, thanked us for our service, and welcomed us home. I hope the young veterans in the group and the other team members will understand how much those few moments meant for me.
Another key event was meeting Kevin, a young veteran who lost both legs in Iraq. When I introduced myself to Kevin, he took the time to have a good discussion and I took this opportunity to thank him for his service and sacrifice for this country. He humbly thanked me and shook my hand. We talked for a while and after finding out I was a veteran, he thanked me has well. That was a defining moment.
To be honest, I couldn’t talk to a wounded vet because I always felt a sense of shame that I had not only came home, I came home unharmed. I felt nothing but a sense of genuine good will from Kevin. It was a spiritual moment of relief. I am honored to have worked alongside this man.
Thank you, Team Rubicon.
Mike Mason, US Navy
About four weeks ago, I joined Team Rubicon and deployed on Operation: Rising Eagle soon after. What makes this so special is I know people from both Vilonia and Mayflower affected by the tornado on April 27. It really hits home knowing some of my friends lost everything. I’m thankful to be a part of Team Rubicon, which helps the healing process and gives people hope. Being a part of TR makes me feel like I am helping in that also. I know I have made lifelong friends by joining TR, and I know this will not be my last deployment.
Dale Camp, US Marine Corps
It’s a hard thing to write a reflection on the way I feel about Team Rubicon. In less than a year, this organization it has come to mean a great deal to me. For 46 years, I have been fighting and dealing with what invaded my brain while I was in Vietnam. Today, Team Rubicon is one of my strongest allies in this 46-year war.
On Saturday May 17, 2014, I was deployed to Operation: Rising Eagle. I called my friend Al in Wisconsin to get another friend’s phone number. He said, “I know why you’re calling. It’s May 17.” Al, Fred, and I were in the Marines assigned to India Company, 3rd Marine Division and were in a Marine Rifle Company. We were in Vietnam during May 1968.
May 17, 1968, Go Noi Island, Quangnam Province, Republic of Vietnam. India Company was on point, leading three understrength companies through farmland and jungle. We moved out before dawn and about sunrise the point, walking single file up a trail, and came upon a small NVA encampment. The NVA were just getting up and surprised by the point element. A short fire fight erupted and the NVA were killed or driven away. We were immediately mortared and ended up with several walking wounded. They were medevac’d by chopper and India moved on.
Next, we crossed a very large open field that scooped down into a dry river bed. Behind the river bed was higher ground and jungle with many large trees. As the point arrived at the dry river bed they were hit by a massive amount of fire coming from the higher ground on the other side.
Very accurate sniper fire was coming from the trees. India Company ran forward into the fight, but the other two companies were unable to follow, we were on our own. Some Marines made it across the river bed to the shelter of the opposite bank—I was one of them. The rest were unable to cross and were stopped. They began to dig in under fire as we all fought as hard as we could. The battle lasted from sunrise until about 2200 hours. We suffered many casualties including two company officers, Company Commander, corpsman, and a radio operator. We ran out of water. It felt like the temperature was about 120 degrees. We had no medevac and were rescued by KILO and LIMA Companies of 3/27. Demons invaded my brain, and until father died May 17, 1968, it was the worst day of my life.
Forward to Saturday May 17, 2014. Working with Team Rubicon, I was made team leader of a large group of volunteers—wonderful men, women and children. We named our strike team “Team Hogs” after the Razorbacks. I lead them in a cheer to announce our superiority over the other teams. “Hogs, Hogs, Hogs, number one!” I told them the others were intimidated and we were the best. We worked hard, laughed for hours, and accomplished our mission.
Many thanks to our volunteers for help in this tragedy. I felt humbled and proud to serve once again. I had fun all day. It was surely one of the best days in all my life. What an improvement after 45 years of sadness on May 17, 1968.