This month, we’re supporting the mission of the disaster relief group Team Rubicon, a dedicated force of veterans, first responders, and American patriots that deploys to regions stricken by disaster. Throughout the year, new Americans join the ranks of Team Rubicon, people in pursuit of the life of service they enjoyed in the military or first responder communities, people who want to continue to give back and offer their talents to the country. Here’s four stories of how these “Greyshirt” volunteers discovered the Team and joined the mission. This article was originally written by Tom Daley and appeared on Team Rubicon’s blog.
Team Rubicon has more than 130,000 members in its nationwide volunteer network. Every one of these Greyshirts–veteran or civilian–has a unique story about how they found their new TRibe. Often unexpected and frequently funny, these anecdotes offer a glimpse into how, and why, Greyshirts make the decision to serve. Here are a few of the craziest ways volunteers got involved with Team Rubicon.
The Jerky Girl
For some, jerky is a passion. For others, jerky helps them find their passion. In 2017, Amanda Bonney was living in Seattle, Washington, working in security at Microsoft in Redmond and volunteering with the county’s Community Emergency Response Team when she tore into a bag of Jack Link’s jerky. Featured squarely on the back of that bag was the Team Rubicon logo. The image stuck with her, and when Team Rubicon’s heavy equipment vehicles were put on display at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, she immediately recognized them. Seeing those pieces of equipment, and wondering what they had to do with a disaster relief organization, prompted Bonney and her husband to look deeper into who and what Team Rubicon was. Now, they’re both Greyshirts. With five deployments under her belt, Bonney has this to say of Team Rubicon, “It showed me aspects of my character I didn’t think I had and helped me dive deep to become a better person.”
Spotting a Home on the Range
A shooting competition might not be the first place you’d expect a humanitarian relief non–profit to recruit new volunteers. Then again, few charities have a volunteer base with such an affinity for firearms as Team Rubicon. In 2016, Jessie Massaruto had just returned to school for a bachelor’s degree in emergency management when she and a friend attended the 2016 Florida State International Defensive Pistol Association Championship. There, she was surprised to see a disaster relief organization among the booths of vendors. Feeling the need to find out why they were there, she struck up a conversation with the Greyshirts manning the table. Team Rubicon’s mission to “repurpose” the skills of veterans stood out to her. “I felt this would be a perfect fit for me,” Massaruto says, “I had studied the effects of war on servicemen and felt like this organization was a positive way to assist in the reintegration of those who served.” By the same time next year, Massaruto was serving on Operation Hard Hustle and earning her field nickname, “Boots.” To this day she keeps in touch with the Greyshirts she met at the competition.
Revenge via Chainsaw
Many Greyshirts join Team Rubicon because they fall in love with the mission. But we know of one Greyshirt who joined to spite a lover. Kayla McCullough was a recent Navy veteran when she and her then-boyfriend, a first responder, first discovered Team Rubicon and began to talk about joining. After a less than amicable breakup, McCullough decided to channel her … passion … into service—and just maybe also ruin the Tribe for her ex. Her plan: Get so much deployment experience that if her ex ever did join, she would run circles around him. “Pettiness is my forte,” says McCullough.
While volunteering might have started out as revenge, it has become a passion for McCullough. Since joining in 2015, she has deployed 15 times and earned the qualifications to serve as a sawyer, chipper operator, and team leader. Suffice it to say, she likely would have run rings around that ex, had he ever decided to get involved. Still, her revenge turned sweet: McCullough met her current fiancé on Operation Burnt Tree Revival.
Developing a Can-Dew Attitude
Just this spring, Kirkland Pearce was a junior at Baldwin University studying psychology and working part-time at a comic book store. While stocking the vending machine there one day, Pearce happened upon an ice-cold can of Mountain Dew and noticed a red and grey Team Rubicon logo on it. The words, “disaster response” caught his attention. Pearce had already become involved with philanthropy through his college fraternity, but he was eager to do something more hands-on. As he looked into the organization, the strong veteran influence piqued his interest: Pearce’s father had served in the National Guard. As it turned out several of his father’s friends from the service were themselves Greyshirts. Inspired by Team Rubicon’s mission and military connection, he signed up and started training. By June 25, he was already deployed on Operation Vandalia, helping a community in West Virginia impacted by floods.
Whether you chalk these stories up to fate, luck, or just a well-placed logo, they exemplify the crazy ways people become Greyshirts. And you can join too! Visit TeamRubiconUSA.org to learn about how you can earn your Greyshirt, give back to your community, and continue to live an epic life of service.