On a beautiful Sunday morning, the sun rises, and a calm settles over this rural community in Waseca County, Minnesota. The fog gives way as the sound of half–ton trucks start up in the parking lot of our accommodations, the gymnasium of Waseca Intermediate School.
Red baseball caps, red sweatshirts, grey t-shirts, and boots that mean business adorn the weary bodies of volunteers. They hail from Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, and even a couple from the state we are currently serving.
Veterans of military service and veterans of many deployments, these Greyshirts share a common bond. United in service wherever Greyshirts may be called, they continue to give more of themselves than the average citizen could reasonably be expected to give. Deployment after deployment, week after week, these set the example for the rest of society to follow. It is increasingly rare and often undervalued. When you turn on your televisions and go online, it seems like more and more of what we first see, is a society in decline. What feels like decaying moral values and a general expectation that government will pay and do everything for you.
I see it every day in my civilian job, as a detective with a Sheriff’s Office in the metropolitan area of Minnesota. After 14 years, 90 percent of the job seems to be dealing with what amounts to 10 percent of the population, and priorities can get skewed. Contact after contact, shift after shift, it’s easy to begin to see the entire world through a lens that is distorted. I would begin my contacts expecting the worst from people, and I would do so in order to protect myself and those around me from the worst-case scenario that eventually gets played out unedited for the nightly news.
This is what makes Team Rubicon different. It is because of them that I am finally able to flip a switch.
You know, the one that keeps everyone new I meet at arm’s length. I’ve been used to it for so long, making snap judgments about the people I meet, never giving them the time or opportunity to prove me wrong. I’ve grown accustomed to it, as if I’ve never known any other way. It’s been a survival mechanism. First while serving in Samarra, Iraq as an Infantry Squad Leader and Platoon Sergeant, and then later as a Deputy Sheriff. The latter, in which I would routinely respond to calls involving people who expected me to fix a situation in 15 minutes that sometimes took a lifetime to create. I began to close down, becoming jaded by a view of society that experience in this line of work sometimes brings.
What I’m finding is Team Rubicon helps me seek out the good in people, learn to trust people I’m meeting for the first time, help people help themselves, which in turn ends up helping me. Who would have thought that the video I saw online several years ago would prove to be so impactful for me?
It took a couple of people I’ve met in TR to help me change:
- a retired St. Paul Police Commander with a good taste in gear
- a currency day trader
- a Marine who is always the odd man out in the picture
- an Episcopal Deacon
- an “up north” guy who spends more time on the road helping folks than he does at home
- a cancer research scientist
- a fellow connoisseur of IPA beer
- an Air Force Officer who has more patience than any person I have ever met
All gave me purpose in their own way. All brought back a sense of camaraderie that is hard fought for and rarely valued until lost.
It is their selfless commitment and my experiences with Team Rubicon that continues to remind me that a place is only as good as the people you know in it. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Air Force veteran Justin Rigdon serves as a Clay Hunt Fellow with Team Rubicon as well as Florida's state program operations manager. He is currently pursuing his Bachelor's degree in communications from the University of North Florida.
This author does not have any more posts.