Team Rubicon Gives Veterans A New Mission

Members of Team Rubicon Region 6. From left to right: Shane Valverde, Klebe Brumble, Joe Quinto, Mackenzie, Sandy O' Neill
In the latest installment of our military series Helping our Heroes, we look at Team Rubicon, a group of mostly Iraq and Afghanistan veterans whose goal is to help those stuck in a disaster. Most recently, they came to League City to do some emergency response training.

“Why would people do this?”

That’s the question Klebe Brumble asked me as we sat in a League City hotel poolside bar. He’s the Texas director of their personnel and training. 

“Why would people leave their job, leave their families, leave the safety and comforts of their home to go and help someone they’ve never met? Why would someone be willing to put their life at risk for another person, either in the military or Team Rubicon — and the reality is it’s done every day, every day.”

So I guess if you’ve done it once, it’s easy to do it again? For Team Rubicon volunteer and Iraq veteran Shane Valverde — whose 13 year career in the military was cut short because of an injury — it’s about the only thing that makes sense in his new civilian life.

“When you go one day from leading a team of individuals in life or death situations and being responsible and helping to make a difference and saving lives to the next week — you’re back as a civilian. You’re not important. You don’t do anything of any significance. It leaves a big gap. It leaves a very big gap and this for me helps to fill that void.”

It’s not just a gap that Valverde feels. Back in 2010, after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, former marine Jake Wood decided he wanted to put his military skills to good use. So he put a call out to his old marine buddies on Facebook, packed his bag and headed to disaster strewn Port-au-prince to help. Many of his fellow veterans showed up, including medics who were able to bridge the gap between when the disaster hit and official help arrived. And so the idea and the mission of Team Rubicon was born. Now there are five chapters across the country and as Klebe Brumble explains it’s completely voluntary based emergency response.

“Most of our volunteers literally take vacation to deploy to respond to a disaster. That’s how important it is to their hearts and their minds.”

For some Rubicon volunteers it’s one of the few things that help them re-integrate. Sadly Brumble says Rubicon can’t reach everyone. 

“We lost one of our Team Rubicon members to suicide, his name was Clay Hunt. Clay suffered from PTSD and even though he was involved with Team Rubicon he lost the battle.”

But that only spurs Brumble and his team on.

“We never wanna have that happen again. If Team Rubicon can play a part in that by providing a mission, a place where men and women who’ve been through these awful experiences feel comfortable and whatever it takes to do that, that’s our goal. We will have been successful in our mission if we save even one.”

So their goal is two-fold: Helping veterans navigate a world outside of a warzone and doing whatever is needed in a disaster zone. Their most recent aid efforts were in New Orleans following Hurricane Isaac.

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...