“Our tag line is ‘It’s Our Turn’, which means that it is our turn to take care of things now. The veteran has done his or her duty, some survived horrific events, and now it is time for them to rest and relax, let us help out,” explained John Kimbler, Team Red, White and Blue’s Fort Bragg chapter captain. “We help out veterans by enriching their lives and bringing them back to their community. We use sports and social activities to do so.
We aren’t a ‘run club’ but we use running as a way to bring veterans into a team atmosphere and share a camaraderie they might have lost since leaving the military,” continued Kimbler. “And through running and other sports, it has been shown that the physical workout is great for the brain, body and soul.”
Team Red, White, and Blue is a non-profit organization that strives to make the transition from military life to civilian a little bit easier. According to their mission statement, “Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”
“With the latest veterans who have three to ten deployments; who have seen friends killed and survived battles; they return to civilian life with all this pinned up inside them with no one to talk to. They cannot tell their old neighborhood buddy about it. They need someone who was there too,” said Kimbler. “Of the current 401 members of the Fort Bragg chapter, 291 are veterans, and about 90 percent of them have multiple deployments under their belts. We are trying to reach these young military members before they are discharged and have them join us, or a chapter in whatever area of the country they are in. With this, they now have a Family or teammates to turn to, to chat with and share stories and concerns.”
Team RWB’s chapters and communities deliver consistent, local opportunities for veterans and the community to connect through physical and social activity. They host weekly fitness activities, monthly social events and participate in local races and events together. These programs are at the core of Team RWB’s mission.
“I have seen it many times. A group of runners meet up and head out for a six-mile run and along the way there is kidding, joking and trash talk and soon the young veteran feels part of a community, a Family and a team again,” explained Kimbler. “He can open up and in doing so, he’s sharing his story. He or she gets this huge weight off their chest, and possibly by just meeting up with some folks for a run, has prevented this veteran from harming himself or others.”
One of the remarkable stories shared on Team RWB’s website is from an Army veteran, Eddie Carmona.
“When I left active duty, I was lost, confused, and angry. I felt lost, because after four and a half years, two tours in Iraq and stop loss for six months, I was left with the feeling of worthlessness. Confused, because coming back home to Orlando reminded me of Frodo and Sam coming back to the Shire,” said Carmona. “I was angry because none of my medical training or experience transferred to college credit. I couldn’t get a job in the medical field because I didn’t have a state license. I felt like everything I had done the past four years was for nothing. So, yes, I was angry. I had all this built up in me among other things and there was no outlet for me.”
Carmona was asked by a friend to participate in a local mud run in April 2011. He enjoyed it so much, he continued to participate in obstacle mud runs but soon realized a lot of the runners were part of a team. He wanted to be part of a team too. Carmona was soon introduced to Team RWB, joined, and hasn’t looked back.
“(Joining) helped me to integrate better. I noticed that I was becoming less angry at everything and felt like I could fit back into society,” continued Carmona. “Running has helped me keep those intrusive thoughts at bay. It gave me an outlet for all the stress I had acquired throughout the years. I could actually sleep again and I could talk to people. I had a place in a world that at one time seemed so foreign to me.
“Running gave me a way to exert all the negative things I kept inside. It helped me reduce my stress and anxiety. It helped me reunite with a community…and not just with veterans. It pretty much gave me my life back,” Carmona said.
“Although the Fort Bragg chapter does have several doctors and one specialist in PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and many medical professionals; chaplain assistants, senior officers, and senior NCOs (non-commissioned officers); we are not trained mental health professionals,” explained Kimbler. “But we all are teammates, and always a call or text away. If it is a ride you need, or help with a home repair, or training advice for a marathon, we are always here for each other, and above all we listen to each other. We do not judge and we can share with each other.”
Team RWB Fort Bragg members are all part of local run, cycling and triathlon clubs,