A Day Well Spent

Over Memorial Day weekend, Region 2 launched an operational exercise in response to a tornado that tore through Duanesburg, NY. Three members from Region 1 dropped everything to lend a hand, including volunteer Brian Harlow who shared his thoughts following his first deployment with Team Rubicon. 

I was at a family wedding Sunday early evening when an email came in asking for volunteers to spend the holiday helping folks clean up near Schenectady, NY. We did have a few things on the agenda for Monday, but I bet the homeowners did as well up until their homes and plans were changed instantly Thursday afternoon.

First, I am not ex military. I found Team Rubicon by way of a very close friend’s mom after his untimely death as a direct result of PTS and his inner demons that he succumbed to in March of 2011. USMC Capt. Mike Hand retired as a combat vet of both Desert Storm and The War on Terror. I can’t bring him back, but helping others surrounded by those that served meant so much more than any check I’ve written in his honor.

We arrived at our first site and hooked up with Region 2 around 0830. We were greeted with handshakes, coffee, bagels, and obligatory introductions. Then, we got to work. By lunch I’d already been informed I had my first nail hole in my TR shirt so,”Welcome to the team, bro.”

Brian Harlow (right) spent Memorial Day assisting residents of Duanesburg, NY after a tornado swept through town.

Brian Harlow (right) spent Memorial Day assisting residents of Duanesburg, NY after a tornado swept through town.

After lunch, we hit our second site. This home was savagely ripped off its foundation and thrown across the highway; it truly was nothing if not disintegrated. By this time it wasn’t Region 1 or Region 2, it was just us gray shirts cracking an occasional joke whilst drinking copious amounts of water and pulling truss roof, brand new wall studs, even kitchen chandeliers out of trees tens of meters deep in the thick woods of upstate NY.

After finishing up this second work site we all were treated like honored guests at the local American Legion post, which housed and fed many of the Region 2 volunteers the couple nights before. Frank, John, and I arrived back in Billerica, MA just before midnight the same day we left. I can honestly say that my farmer tan/burn, various scrapes and bumps, and Carhartt pants in need of few stitches was small price to pay to be worthy of a hug from a grateful homeowner and a high-five from her young daughter.

I am blessed to be able to empower domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors through various organizations. My work is exhausting at times but always healing and pays me back so much more than I feel I give in terms of who actually benefits. Memorial Day of 2014 showed me TR benefits the volunteer much more than those we pledge to assist in the same way.

Thanks for the opportunity to serve.

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