I took last week off from work and spent 8 days serving with Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon is a veteran founded disaster relief organization. The operation I served on was in response to Hurricane Matthew. To say it was life-changing is a huge understatement. I also gained an entirely new perspective on what my husband went through being on the other side of a deployment. Immediately upon arrival to the operation, I felt like I had come home to family. TR welcomed me like no other organization I have ever been a part of. I felt like I had a purpose and the mission was on.
The first homeowner I encountered had a profound effect on me. There were so many parts of myself in his face, and yet, I could never understand the amount of loss he experienced. Bob lost more in one day than many lose in a lifetime. The 17ft wave that crashed through his home and the three feet of standing water was devastating. When the assessment team I was on found Bob, he was living at a neighbor’s trailer and could barely speak. He told us he had no insurance, no savings, had fallen and hurt himself pretty badly, and was living on a fixed income. At 80 years old, he was completely overwhelmed by the storm. At one point, I had to stop talking to collect my emotions in order to talk without breaking down. The next three and a half days were spent ripping out 90% of his drywall, his entire kitchen, and gutting both of his bathrooms. It was hot, dirty, smelly, nasty and the most rewarding work I have ever done. To watch Bob’s face change from that first moment we met him to the day we finished up was a priceless payment. He started to crack jokes and smile, and I thought the sun had finally come out for him. When we were done, he said, “I just don’t know where to start now”. I told him to take it one room at a time, and I think he found some comfort in that. I know I will never forget Bob. What’s crazy is that he was only the first homeowner I encountered.
There were so many more faces and stories, and every single one of them went from beaten and battered and overwhelmed to hopeful and recovering. From the highly skeptical that we would actually do this much work for free to the desperate for any help at all that we could give, I won’t ever forget any of them. The people I helped were only part of the story. I found lifelong friendships and immediately just “clicked” with my teammates. I am honored and humbled to have served alongside the most amazing heroes I have ever met.
I came home with a whole new perspective on what my husband went through on his multiple deployments. Working 14-16 hour days with little time to think about home, being more tired than I’ve ever been in my life, and knowing everything happening at home was taken care of are things I didn’t have a perspective on before now. I was the one left at home. To get just a small glimpse of the other side was humbling and even made me feel guilty for every time I got whiny (I know you’re all shocked I get whiny sometimes!), made ridiculous demands (no honey you need to tell the Army that I need you more than they do *insert huge eye roll here*), or just wasn’t as supportive as I could have been. I got home and apologized to my husband for all of it, and we had a really good conversation too. Part of me wishes I could have gotten that perspective years ago, but part of me knows I was ready for the perspective now and maybe not then.
I didn’t understand that sometimes you just want to freakin’ sleep instead of calling home, and it wasn’t because I didn’t want to talk to him but I just was so tired. And sometimes I was super excited to get out of the house in the morning before anyone else woke up, but not because I didn’t want to be with my family but because I knew I was really making a huge difference in the world. And finding out much later about things not being perfect at home was just fine thank-you-very-much because I didn’t have to feel guilty that I couldn’t fix it or solve it and instead could focus on what I was doing. Yep…a new perspective for sure. It was weird but awesome to experience. Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough, but it’s all I have. Team Rubicon has forever changed my life.