For These Volunteers, Veterans Day Means Thank You for Letting Me Serve

Four veterans talk about continued service and what they really want to hear this Veterans Day instead of “Thank you for serving.”

Already this year, hundreds of U.S. military veterans have returned to service, this time deploying with Team Rubicon on one—or more—of the 107 disaster and humanitarian aid operations completed so far in 2023. Four of those veteran volunteers, known as Greyshirts, reflect on why they serve and what they want more Americans to do this Veterans Day.

Lisa Bodenburg, United States Marine Corps

Lisa Bodenburg served numerous deployments during her time in the U.S. Marine Corps, including during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. She joined Team Rubicon in 2017 and has served on multiple operations and local service projects since. 

Why have you become such a hardcore TR volunteer? 

It has brought me a sense of community that’s so very similar to the Marine Corps, which is extremely, extremely difficult to find. It’s non-existent, other than within TR. So, the sense of community, as well as the female Greyshirts who serve and are just like me. Meeting other fellow baddies was just … again, I didn’t know they existed until I met them.

Every year, people say “thank you for serving” to veterans. What do you wish people would do this year instead of thank you?  

Pick up the phone and check on someone they know is a veteran. Ask the tough questions. Ask them how they’re doing, what’s going on in their life? How can they pray for them? How can they help them? How can they serve them? 

It’s a very, very lonely world outside of the military, and for some reason it is extremely difficult to transition from such a high-purpose, camaraderie, brotherhood-situation to a very lonely, empty world that is sometimes without purpose, especially if you’re not able to find a job that brings fulfillment or a team that cares about you. So, show veterans that you actually care about them. Just pick up the phone and call them and ask them how they’re doing. Go out to coffee with them. You know, everybody knows a vet, so showing you care could be different for everyone, but genuinely take a moment out of your day to show a vet that you care about them.

Why should anyone—veteran or civilian—become a Greyshirt and join you in Team Rubicon now?

It’d be awesome to bring together more like-minded individuals—vets or not. It’s the fact that there are people out there that are like-minded and the fact that they truly care about the people that they’re surrounding. And they truly care about the mission. And that’s very hard to find. So, if that’s the type of person you are, please come join us. We need you.

Joe Gribble, United States Air Force

Joe Gribble served in the U.S. Air Force from 1979 to 1998—or for 19 years and one month, as he likes to say. A published author with seven novels, two novellas, numerous screenplays, and a produced movie under his belt, Gribble became a Greyshirt thanks to a slew of tornadoes that tore through his adopted hometown of Dayton, OH, over Memorial Day in 2019. After spending some time volunteering with another organization, he stumbled upon Team Rubicon and has been a Greyshirt ever since. In the past three years, he has served on more than a dozen operations, including assisting with Team Rubicon’s Afghan resettlement work and responding to multiple tornadoes and hurricanes. 

Why have you become such a hardcore TR volunteer?

This country has been very good to me throughout my life. Now that I’m fully retired, I am taking the opportunity to try and pay back where I can. TR gives me that opportunity. 

Every year, people say “thank you for serving” to veterans. What do you wish people would do this year instead of thank you?  

It’s always very uncomfortable when people thank you for your service, especially for me since, like a lot of military members, I did not serve in a war zone. I appreciate the gratitude, but would encourage everyone to look into how they can ‘serve’ as well—like with TR. 

Why should anyone—veteran or civilian—become a Greyshirt and join you in Team Rubicon now?

That’s pretty easy. You know, giving back is probably the best, most gratifying feeling you can have. Plus, the camaraderie and the people you meet. I’ve met some really good friends on TR operations. They’re still friends to this day.

Carol McCoy, United States Army

Carol McCoy is a 6-year veteran of the U.S. Army, where she served in the Military Police Corps. She continued her public service career in law enforcement and IT in local government for another 34 years before retiring in 2016. Since joining Team Rubicon in 2011, McCoy has served in multiple regional leadership roles, as a National Incident Management Team mentor, and is a Clay Hunt Fellow. She has responded to more than 50 disasters with Team Rubicon—often deploying multiple times on a single operation—and has already responded to 10 different disasters this year.  

Why have you become such a hardcore TR volunteer?

Because I have a passion for service. The guys I served with were Vietnam vets, and I remember, vividly, how poorly they were treated when they came home. Fast forward to the Global War on Terrorism, and the guys/gals coming home were the same age as my kids, and I didn’t want them to ever feel the same way. Team Rubicon is a safe space for them to land. I want to make sure there will continue to be a safe space to land. What I’m seeing now are quite a few volunteers from my generation. They’ve raised their families, they’ve retired from their first careers, and they’re looking for that “what’s next”, and they’re finding it in TR. I want to make sure they have a safe space to find that “what’s next” that touches their soul. 

Every year, people say “thank you for serving” to veterans. What do you wish people would do this year instead of thank you?  

Join us!

Why should anyone—veteran or civilian—become a Greyshirt and join you in Team Rubicon now?

Because we are the harbingers of hope. And we’re a lot of fun to work with!

William Rutherford, United States Navy

William Rutherford spent eight years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserves. During his four years of active duty, he served first on the USS Ranger and then on the USS Kitty Hawk, both of which made cruises to Vietnam. After separating from the Navy, Rutherford spent his career in emergency medicine and as a critical care doctor. Since joining Team Rubicon in early ’22—he would have joined 10 years earlier had he known about it—Rutherford has served on nine different operations, including three deployments on Team Rubicon’s Hurricane Idalia response this year.

Why have you become such a hardcore TR volunteer?

I learned four things in the service: Number one: that the active word in the phrase “armed services” is service. Number two: I learned attention to detail. And number three and four, I learned how to lead, and I learned how to follow.

I’ve been with numerous organizations that have some really good people, but I’ve never been around an organization where the vast majority are absolutely committed to service. Regardless of who you pray to, who you sleep with, who you vote for, or what the color of your skin is, they don’t care. And it’s just so much fun to be around people like that; people who not only have commitment but who also have character.

Plus, I like bringing order out of chaos; bringing relief to people and serving with Team Rubicon is very similar, in many ways, to my time in the emergency department or the ICU. There, you could go up to someone who’s having the worst day of their life and put them at peace and give them hope and help them relax. It’s the same thing I see with the homeowners we serve in Team Rubicon. When we go up to them, and they’ve had some devastating catastrophe and, purely by how the TR volunteers work and talk to them, you see these people relax; you see their facial muscles relax; you see their respiratory rates go to normal. Give them 15 minutes, and you might even see just the trace of a smile. By the end of the day, they’re laughing, and they’re joking, and they’re so appreciative. It’s not only what Team Rubicon does for them, but it’s how they do it… It doesn’t get any better than that.

Every year, people say “thank you for serving” to veterans. What do you wish people would do this year instead of thank you?  

I think number one is that they need to spend time with the veterans who are not as happy as they could be or not as well as they could be because of the experiences that they’ve had. It needs to be a little bit more than just thank you, although that’s much appreciated, that really does mean a lot, but at the same time, if you really want to help, then spend time with them. 

The second thing you can do is understand what service means. It impacts people’s lives so positively to serve them. If you get out and serve, now you have a purpose, so it’s not only good for the other people, it’s good for you. You want to improve your own mental health? Have a positive outcome on somebody else. 

Why should anyone—veteran or civilian—become a Greyshirt and join you in Team Rubicon now?

If you really want to have an impact on the world as a whole as well as individuals, and if you want to give a very good image of not only veterans and first responders and kickass civilians, but also of the country that we come from, then join us in service.

Don’t Thank Us, Join Us

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