ABC News(NEW YORK) — Since 2010, when it started on the ground in Haiti, Team Rubicon has been helping others rebuild their homes and more importantly their lives after disasters in the US and abroad.
And Wednesday, co-founder and CEO Jake Wood is expected to be presented with the ESPY’s Pat Tillman Award for Service. It’s an honor that he calls humbling.
Wood was an offensive lineman with the University of Wisconsin when Tillman, a former NFL player and Army Ranger, was killed in Afghanistan.
After Tillman’s death, Wood said he told his coach that he was going to join the Marines. He did four years of service, deploying to Iraq and then Afghanistan, before returning home. But three months later, he was watching the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and felt called to act.
Wood, a former Marine scout sniper, and William McNulty, a former Marine intel specialist, joined forces on social media after they both said they’d felt called to travel to Port-au-Prince and help.
They assembled a team in the Dominican Republic, crossed over into Haiti and started doing medical triage in parts of the country that other groups would not go to and well, the rest is history.
Team Rubicon is now a veteran-led disaster-response nonprofit. Wood said the organization served many purposes, including utilizing veterans’ ability to bring order to chaos but also helping former service members return to civilian life.
“One of the things we hear from our volunteers often is that they, you know, spend all this time in the military, they’re deployed overseas, they’ve got this mission — it’s exciting — and you know all of a sudden, one day, they come home and they get out of the military. … And, it’s just not the same,” Wood said. “They have a challenge in that transition to rediscover that part of themselves that they had when they were in the military.”
In the last eight years, Team Rubicon has responded to more than 250 disasters. The organization currently has 80,000 volunteers.
“One of the things we’ve seen with Team Rubicon is that we can, you know, fulfill that sense of purpose and community and identity that they had while they were in the military and put all of those skills that they learned to use, give them the opportunity to continue to serve, to have a new mission and to ultimately have impact,” he said.
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