As the daughter of two career enlisted parents (Navy and Air Force) and the sister of an Army veteran, I’ve been around military culture most of my life, though I never joined. My parents raised me to believe that civilians could never gain the respect and acceptance of military veterans. Additionally, a difficult childhood and first marriage, both full of emotional and physical abuse, deeply ingrained in me the belief that I had very little worth and would never amount to anything.
Despite this, or perhaps as a result of this, I have always loved helping and serving others, though many organizations I have joined or considered never quite felt comfortable or I never found my place. In 2016, I eventually worked up the courage to join Team Rubicon, an organization my best friend couldn’t stop talking about.
After working through being terrified of being on my first service project and then my first operation, I began learning and then trusting that veterans often not only accept but can also respect civilians. As a Team Rubicon member, I now know unequivocally that I am equally as much a Greyshirt as any other.
Finding truly meaningful service work and being accepted meant I had finally found my place, and that I belong.
The thing I have continued to struggle with is the belief that I have no worth and can never amount to anything. Many years of hard work and therapy means that logically, I know better. But emotionally, it’s much harder for me to have the courage to take on greater responsibility or roles in leadership. I’m stiflingly terrified that no matter how hard I try, I will fail and be a disappointment to those who are counting on me. Two days after joining strike teams on Operation Tridge in Midland, Michigan, (my sixth deployment) I was pulled in by the Command and General Staff and asked to think about shadowing someone in Plans.
I love learning new things, but I didn’t want to be an embarrassment. I hesitated, so the Incident Commander pleaded. I decided to take a chance. After all, I thought, “What could possibly go wrong if I’m just shadowing?” Not more than an hour later, however, I unwittingly found myself as Resource Unit Leader and Finance Section Chief. A few days later, I was made Planning Section Chief.
These last ten days have been phenomenal. I have learned a ton of new things about Incident Command, about leadership and collaboration, and most of all about taking chances, finding courage, and discovering that I’m a lot more than capable than I have ever known. It’s still incredibly terrifying, but I know now that not only am I not worthless but that I have value to add to the team.
Tonight, however, I was completely caught off-guard and humbled at this evening’s debrief, at the end of my last real day as Planning Section Chief, to be awarded a Team Rubicon challenge coin. I doubt I will ever be able to express what that simple act means to me.