Team Rubicon’s Veterans Respond to Oklahoma’s Tornado Devastation: Recommended Reading

May 24, 2013, 2:30 PM

file Team Rubicon responds to previous severe weather in St. Louis (April 2013)

The tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., on May 20 left at least 24 people dead and nearly 400 injured. More than a mile wide in places, the tornado left billions of dollars in damage in its wake. The people of Moore and the surrounding area are now burying the friends and family members lost that day and the slow process of rebuilding has begun.

Among the first to respond to the natural disaster was Team Rubicon, a collection of hundreds of U.S. military veterans who have been provided disaster relief around the world since the organization was founded in 2010. The name for the Moore effort is “Operation: Starting Gun”—both for their quick response to the tornado’s devastation and for the Sooners of the Oklahoma Land Rush. They expect as many as 250 volunteers, of which 90 percent are veterans.

Cal Verdin, who served in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom and is now Team Rubicon’s Los Angeles resource manager, said the volunteers will focus on making homes as livable as possible in low-income neighborhoods. The tasks include removing debris, boarding up broken windows and securing doors.

"For example, if you have a single mother with children, even if there's no power or running water, we can make the home habitable so they can stay there and start piecing their lives back together," he said, according to The Huffington Post.

In addition to helping people affected by the disaster, Team Rubicon also helps veterans transition back to civilian life, according to Andrew Stevens, retired Marine and the organization’s director of field operations.

"You may have been trusted with lives and had a position that had a much greater responsibility than what you're experiencing in the civilian work force," he said. "So this is a chance for them to give back to their fullest ability."

>> Read the full story at The Huffington Post.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.