Medically Retired and Still Serving

Justin Buckner

Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Justin Buckner reflects on finding purpose and camaraderie on Project Bilbo Bag It in Manitou Springs, CO.

I recently participated in my first Team Rubicon event with Region VIII in Manitou Springs, CO. Project Bilbo Bag It was by far the best volunteer event I have ever participated in. The quality and character of TR’s volunteers is unmatched by any other service organization I have been a part of. The leadership ensured the project was well organized, safe, and a lot of fun.

I joined the U.S. Army at the end of 2002 as a scout. I grew up in crazy environment and the Army helped me find that sense of purpose and belonging that I needed at the time. After three tours in Iraq, one to Afghanistan, and a gun-shot through the neck, I was medically retired in 2012. Just like many of my brothers and sisters in arms, when I exited the Army, I found myself lost and looking for something more. It’s very hard going from having the purpose and camaraderie that you get in the military to transitioning to the civilian world.

Since I left the Army, this was the first time I have felt that pride of being part of a team working towards something bigger than myself.

From the start of the project, I truly felt like I was at home. Often when I volunteer for an organization, people are all there for their own reasons and it can be a bit awkward at the start. I expected a similar experience and I was relieved that it wasn’t the case with Team Rubicon. Everyone was very motivated and welcoming. I felt like I had known the other volunteers for years. The service project couldn’t have been better and I can’t wait to take part in the next one.

It’s hard to go into a large group of people you don’t know and go straight to working as a team. Team Rubicon and its members are doing things right. Not only did I meet a bunch of awesome people that I could relate to and share stories with, but we also made a large impact on the community we served.

The best part about the project was that TR quantitatively measured the impact we made. At the end of the day, we all walked away knowing that our work was meaningful. If you are reading this and are curious about being a part of this organization, give it a try. It might be just the thing missing in your life right now. I broke a good sweat, I got dirty, I laughed, I met some amazing people and I can’t wait to do it again.

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