Team RWB: A New Mission for Veterans and Communities

By Philip Jones (JD ’18)

“To enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.” This is the mission of Team RWB (which stands for red, white, and blue), a unique service organization that was created in 2010.

Team RWB’s program focuses on races, sporting events, and service projects. The emphasis on physical activities and service projects is aimed at rekindling the experiences of hard work and camaraderie that veterans share from their service. Arthur Snodgrass, a soldier with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, experienced health issues that sidelined him from his duties in Afghanistan and led to dramatic changes in his weight. Returning home from overseas, Arthur vowed to get back to his pre-deployment level of physical fitness, and he reached out to his local Team RWB chapter. After several months of involvement with the chapter, Snodgrass said, “Now, when I have a conversation with my soldiers regarding life after the military, I talk to them about RWB and the benefits that it can have to belong to a community that understands what they have gone through and appreciated their sacrifices. My involvement with RWB has made me decide to try new things and even re-explore some of the activities I used to enjoy. “

One particular upcoming event is the Old Glory Relay, which is a relay running event that involves teams carrying an American flag 4,600 miles from Seattle, Washington to Tampa, Florida over the course of 62 days.

In addition to scheduling physical and social events, Team RWB has a 36-month leadership program designed to enrich veterans’ lives and provide for both the veteran and local communities.

Team RWB also works to bridge the gap between the military and civilian communities. Less than 1% of the population has served in the military, and it can be difficult for veterans to “understand” their civilian neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Team RWB brings both sides together in fun and challenging events in order to lessen that divide. Because there is such an emphasis on connecting veterans with civilians, there is no requirement that one be a veteran to join Team RWB. The local community is encouraged to join as a way to support their neighbors who happen to be veterans.

Team RWB has seen a lot of success in different areas. The following statistics come from the military news website Task & Purpose: Regarding the social connections to local community, 90% of RWB veterans report they have tightened their social connections with others in their local community after getting involved. 50% of RWB veterans feel less nervous, depressed, or hopeless while in the program. 40% of RWB veterans report generally feeling more comfortable in their home and work environments. Jared Rose joined the Marine Corps in 2006 and felt he had found his calling as a machine gunner. However, two separate IED blasts in 2009 gave him traumatic brain injuries. Once home from deployment, he felt lost and isolated. Rose joined up with Team RWB and said, “I found a new purpose in life when I joined Team Red, White & Blue. Team RWB has not taken away my problems, but it has given me a purpose, motivation, and the ability to serve as a leader right in my new community.”

Nationwide, Team RWB’s numbers are growing; over 187 chapters exist with more than 108,000 veterans involved. As more and more veterans return home from duty, they can rest easy knowing that they have a new “command” to report to in Team RWB, where they will be surrounded by fellow veterans and supportive members of the local community.