Filling The Hole in My Soul

John Stuhlmacher

"I found in Team Rubicon what I’d been missing. I needed purpose and a mission to complete. I need the camaraderie of working alongside other Greyshirts. I needed to be able to put service over self once again."

My Team Rubicon story really started on a patrol in Iraq in 2003. On October 27, I encountered a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Thankfully, my injuries weren’t life-threatening, but I decided that day to live each day like it might be my last. I returned from that deployment, fell in love with a beautiful soldier, and in a few short years I was a married father, no longer in the military.



Something was missing. I felt like there was a hole in my soul. As the years passed, that hole grew bigger and my circle of friends shrank. A friend mentioned Team Rubicon. It seemed like a cool concept, so I signed up, but I didn’t do anything beyond that.

Two years went by and I received an email asking if I wanted to work in remote operations answering phones and logging down information from Hurricane Harvey survivors. I was nervous, but that word “survivors” called to me, and I knew I had to step in and help. I sat at my desk at home, ready for my first shift. I was logged in but the phone wasn’t ringing.

The first call I took was a single mother. She was crying so hard I had to fight back my own tears. She’d lost everything. She needed help, but her home was still under water. I started systematically entering her information into the computer and had to ask her to spell some of the words – the cities and the county.

“Don’t you people know how to spell your own town or your own county,” she asked.

“Yes ma’am,” I told her. “I can spell the name of my city, but I live in Wisconsin.” In an instant, her tears switched from anguish to joy. She, and the many callers I interacted with afterwards, couldn’t believe Greyshirts from across the country were taking calls, logging information, so homeowners in Texas could get the help they desperately needed. When I hung up after that first call, the hole in my soul started to shrink.

After two months of taking calls from homeowners, I received a text telling me to grab my bag. Did I want to go to Texas and get shit done? I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure I’d be an asset. Would my injuries hold me back? Would my inexperience be a detriment? I responded to the text, confirmed my availability, and my anxiety went into overdrive. I left three hours early for the rally point and was greeted warmly by a fellow volunteer. At that moment, the hole in my soul shrank a bit more.



We helped a lot of homeowners while I was in Texas, but one stands out in my memory. Our sawyer team arrived at the house and I saw a Bucky Badger. I introduced myself and told her I was from Wisconsin. She hugged me and cried. Our team found a lot more work to do there than the tree we’d been called to remove. It was hot, the hours were long and the work was backbreaking. We spent the whole day working. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be than there helping that family.

That hole in my soul…was filled. I found in Team Rubicon what I’d been missing. I needed purpose and a mission to complete. I need the camaraderie of working alongside other Greyshirts. I needed to be able to put service over self once again.

Since coming home from Texas, Team Rubicon has been a large part of my life. I’ve taken on a leadership role and I love telling other veterans about the TRibe. I’m quick to say, “Team Rubicon isn’t for everyone, but everyone has a place in Team Rubicon.”

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