By 2019, Greyshirt Marcus Friedrich, a U.S. Navy veteran, had officially muted Victoria Young on Facebook. He just needed the girl he was sure he’d never meet to stop popping up in his feed so much.
The Greyshirts had met in the virtual world in 2015. At the time, Young, a Clay Hunt Fellowship Program alum, was living in Kansas City and coordinating Run as Ones on behalf of Team Rubicon. Friedrich, meanwhile, was living in Columbia, MO, and itching for more opportunities with Team Rubicon at the local level. So, Young emailed Friedrich to see if he could host a Run for One in Missouri. Then, they friended each other on Facebook.
Soon, each was crushing on the other, though they wouldn’t find that out for years to come.
At first, their virtual friendship blossomed. But when Friedrich realized they were probably never going to meet, and that perhaps he didn’t need the constant reminders of the blue-haired woman several states away, he put her on mute. He’d still see her Team Rubicon posts occasionally—like one about her time interning at FEMA and an upcoming career fair—but he didn’t need her in his feed, so to speak.
So, when Winter Storm Ulmer hit in ’19 and Friedrich decided to deploy on Operation Heartlander, Team Rubicon’s response to Ulmer-related flooding in Omaha, he had no clue that Young was already there. Then, he spotted her iconic blue locks at the Forward Operating Base.
They met in the hallway. Young had just returned from a muck out. She was tired, sweaty, muddy, and making a beeline for the showers when Friedrich waltzed up and tapped her on the shoulder. His opening move, Friedrich says, was supposed to be about that FEMA post: he was scheduled to interview with the agency days later.
“I turned around and I looked at him, and it was just kind of like everything else faded into a blur,” Young says.
Friedrich says that for him when she turned around it was like “oh, it’s you.”
Soon, the two were huddled on a toddler-high step, chatting away. They missed debrief. They missed dinner. By the time they broke free of their conversation for the dregs of supper—the last of the brisket which they ate out of a shared bowl—the two Greyshirts with a passion for service were already in love.
“Let Me Show You How It’s Done, Boys”
One year and a tamper-evident water bottle band later, Friedrich popped the question.
It was 2020, and the couple, who were now living together, were piggy-backing deployments. She had been doing recon in St. Joe, MO, when a derecho hit the upper Midwest, so she did recon for Marshalltown, IA, and then Cedar Rapids. Shortly thereafter, Friedrich caught the tail end of the Marshalltown response, then picked up gear from it and took it to Cedar Rapids for Team Rubicon’s derecho response there.
By Labor Day weekend, both Greyshirts had managed to get deployed on derecho response Operation Fifth Season, in Cedar Rapids, albeit serving on separate strike teams.
Near the end of the first day, command sent all four strike teams to the same address: a home that had been largely unattended by the community and where there was one very large, very cantankerous tree down. A Hard Rock Maple, the tree was incredibly hard to cut. By the time Young and her partner arrived, Greyshirt saw teams of multiple levels were taking on the tree. Friedrich and his partner were already hard at work on a heart-shaped log. One of the strike teams had broken a wedge. The cutting was tough, and everyone wanted a piece of it. Young, too. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘I’m going to go, I’m gonna cut this piece of wood. It’s gonna be awesome,’” she says.
“Okay boys, let me show you how it’s done,” she exclaimed loudly, stepping over to the tree in what she admits was not appropriate eye protection.
Friedrich, meanwhile, was watching with horror and awe.
Within Young’s very first cut, her chainsaw got stuck. Standing there, red and flustered and at the very height of her embarrassment, Young heard her full name called, very loudly. “Uh oh, I’m in trouble,” she thought.
Turning around she saw Friedrich across the yard, down on one knee. In his outstretched hand was the tamper-evident band from a water bottle—that perforated plastic ring left behind on the neck of the bottle when the cap is twisted off.
Young accepted—the ring fit perfectly over her sawyer gloves—then promptly picked up her saw and headed to the truck to clean up. She might not have been thinking straight. In fact, she admits, it took her saw partner to bring her to her senses.
Stepping Out of a Tux and Gown and Into the Arena
Young’s motto, “a couple, a couple that serves together stays together,” has borne out. Roughly one year after their mid-operation engagement the couple wed.
The wedding theme? Service. There was a Team Rubicon-themed table with all of their patches as well as books about the storm and about community resilience. They wrote some of Team Rubicon’s service principles into their vows; they cut their cake—in the shape of a tree stump—with a toy chainsaw. The traditional unity candle was a campfire.
Shortly after the ceremony was over and the cake was cut, it was off to the honeymoon: the couple deployed to Fort McCoy with Team Rubicon to help with Afghan refugee resettlement. After years of responding to natural disasters, this operation of humanitarian aid had special meaning for Young. A Navy veteran, she had served in Afghanistan from 2012-’13.
“Being able to give back at least a little bit was really important for me, it connected me back there,” she says.
What’s next for the Greyshirt newlyweds? For now, they’re settled in at home in Kansas City, MO. Yet with tornado season coming up, they likely won’t be for long. With service at the core of their relationship, each is likely to deploy again soon. This time when they step into the arena, however, they’ll know it’s with Greyshirts not only at their side but also at home.