Operation: Midnight Train Reflection from Mike Withers, Army Veteran

Mike Withers

I was very excited to get the first email and even the midnight phone calls from the Team Rubicon leadership a few hours after the storm/tornado hit Adairsville, Georgia on Wednesday, January 30th 2013. I am a soldier above all else; though I cannot be in the Army any longer due to disability, I cannot get this need to serve out of my system. Being with Team Rubicon feels like home again in the military. When we all met the first time at Home Depot in Cartersville, Georgia at 11:00am on the day after the tornado, we had a few local hurdles to get around. But, the leadership handled it and the guys that stayed behind were patient and we got to where we needed to be later that afternoon and got to work right away.

The most exciting day was on Saturday, February 2, 2013 when over 1,200 volunteers showed up and we got to put our leadership skills we learned in the military to the test. We were given groups of 50+ and a place to go but everything else was on us. Like a battalion of companies, we worked together  to mostly get everything in town to a manageable state within just a few hours. I was so proud of myself because I could look around and see that with my leadership the local volunteers knew what to do, they did not run over each other, and they did an outstanding job. What I learned in the Army was that if you have good leaders then your troops will fall into place and do the right thing. This happened that day even with civilians, with us, Team Rubicon going all out into the breach and doing what we do best still serving and leading.

Today is Sunday and I am looking back at my time helping this with this operation and what it personally meant to me, I can only get emotional thinking of the people that I met and the lives we touched. The sense of community I got from that town gave me a renewed faith in mankind. Something that I thought I lost a sense of in Iraq and all that I have personally seen, the worst of humanity. Most of all this gave me a sense of purpose in my life as well. I cannot work and it is hard for me to find a reason to even be here sometimes. This mission made me see that I still have something to give back and I still have a purpose and Team Rubicon gives me that and I am in total debt to TR. Without Team Rubicon I do not think I would have found this in my life and I would even have dropped into depression deeper. The last few months have been hard and this though the situation was a bad one, personally it was a shining light at the end of a long dark tunnel I have been in for a long time.

The people we helped today at the end of the day had lost everything – their whole home was gone. We were finding pictures of their family all over the field behind their home. Just seeing their faces,  I know why I am still serving. Thank you for giving me purpose in life.

  • Reflection

    A Better Tomorrow

    A volunteer responding to tornadoes in Ohio gets a glimpse at the hidden value of the work Greyshirts do.

  • Preparedness

    How to Prepare Your Pets for Disaster

    From leashes for Fido to carriers for Kitty, here are our top disaster preparedness for pets tips to add to your emergency planning now.

  • Feature Story

    Serving World Health Means Innovating

    From Haiti to Ukraine, for World Health Day, we look at where we've delivered disaster relief and humanitarian aid over the past 14 years, and how far we have to go.

Read More Stories