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Team Rubicon Saved His Life

“Team Rubicon is nothing but pure joy and happiness and it took me out of a dark place,” said Army veteran Richard Bly from Elmira, New York, while on a break to sharpen a chainsaw he had been using to cut up a fallen pine. A year ago, Bly saw a news story about Team Rubicon’s involvement in Hurricane Harvey’s disaster restoration efforts. He learned the story of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who found relief from his post-service depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress by working with other veterans and on humanitarian relief efforts, including the Haiti earthquake response. But when that work ended, he took his own life in 2011 at the age of 28.

“This story hit me close and became very personal, and that’s when I knew I needed to become involved with Team Rubicon,” Bly said. He signed up on the website and almost immediately did his first training. And every month for the past 12, Bly has done something for TR, which may be the reason the incident commander of Operation Silver Sun, Aaron Marshal called him, “the hardest worker on any TR team.”

Bly’s passion for what he does with TR was evident as he rattled off his service in chronological order since he started. At one point, he finished a training on a Monday and was deployed the very next day to Erie, Pennsylvania, to clean up from a tornado. A few months later, he was back in Erie to deal with a huge snowstorm. In February 2018, he participated in a service project rebuild for a veteran’s home.

 

 

In April, Bly completed his Red Card training through the Bureau of Land Management and TR so that he could deploy with the wildland firefighters. “It wasn’t even a week after training and I got texts and phone calls asking me to go to Washington State and Wyoming for July and August,” Bly said, and “getting paid by the BLM is nice.” (Anyone who goes through Red Card training and gets deployed is paid and not a volunteer.)

Other ops Bly has done included tornado clean up in Alabama and a sawyer project in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. He said he loved meeting awesome people and having connections. At a Texas TR event, Bly said for the first time, he realized he wasn’t alone in the darkness he had before he joined TR and got so involved. The Wounded Warriors had wanted to send him to therapy for quite a while, but “it wasn’t until I had been with TR and TR had built me up, that I was inclined to go.” Bly is grateful for the time he spent at Boston General Hospital in PTSD therapy, and he said without Team Rubicon, he wouldn’t have been here today to go. And as part of TR’s influence on his life, Bly said he is now getting more involved in his local veteran community in western New York.

“I can’t get enough of Team Rubicon,” he said. “The continuing of service is the best part about it.” And with that comment, he smiled and fired up the chainsaw and got back to work.

Jill L. Ferguson is an artist, consultant, entrepreneur and author of eight books, most recently of the book Creating a Freelance Career (Routledge, August 2018).