Team RWB: National veterans’ organization takes flight in Georgetown
On a brisk Saturday morning in January 2015, Elizabeth McFarland, a major in the Army Reserve, bundled up and met six people across the street from Bob’s Catfish-N-More for a run. Since that first run twelve months ago, the group has grown to approximately two dozen and includes lawyers, a nurse, a Korean War veteran, kids, and a few pets. But their group isn’t just about heading down the trail in San Gabriel Park. They’re a part of Team RWB (Red, White, and Blue), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans reconnect with their communities.
According to Team RWB’s website, the group’s goal is “to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”
Team RWB began in the mind of Mike Erwin, a now-retired Army major. While researching his master’s thesis on veterans’ suicide rates, he came across two things soldiers missed after being discharged from the Armed Forces: camaraderie and a high level of physical activity. “Younger veterans felt like they were being severed from the military and pushed back out into society where less than one percent of Americans are serving in the military. They are trying to join the community, and they’re ready to transition to civilian life,” says Elizabeth, leader of Georgetown’s Team RWB chapter.
But it can be a difficult transition. Veterans go from a highly-structured, team-like atmosphere with lots of physical activity to a community of individuals with varied goals and lives. Many need to be part of a team again and to have an avenue to reconnect with their civilian neighbors. Looking to address these challenges, Team RWB took flight in 2010.
Members—veterans and non-veterans—meet weekly for a run, walk, bike, or another physical activity. But it’s not just for avid runners or the “super-fit.” People of all ages and fitness levels are welcome because the focus isn’t on the activity; it’s on connecting with others. “The appeal is that it plugs you back in with people that you have something in common with, that you get along with, and then you go on your merry way,” says Elizabeth.
Aside from at the weekly meetups, the Team RWB’s Eagle logo can be spotted at monthly social gatherings, at fundraising events like WOD (Workout of the Day) with Warriors held at CrossFit gyms across the country on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and among competitors racing in events like the Boston Marathon.
Elizabeth heard about Team RWB while serving as a lawyer for the Army. “Once the name was familiar to me, I kept seeing it everywhere. I’d see pictures of races, and I’d see competitors wearing the Eagle,” she explains. After leaving active duty, Elizabeth decided that she wanted to start a Team RWB chapter in Georgetown.
“I knew that there was a very large veteran community in Georgetown. They’re already being served by the American Legion and the VFW. We are not a substitute for them; we are an additional organization to try and help veterans,” Elizabeth says.
All it takes to join Team RWB is visiting the website and signing up. That’s it. There aren’t any obstacles to jump over or mandatory requirements for donning the Eagle. Attending events and meetups isn’t mandatory. It’s about coming together as a community, having fun, and being a part of a team—a really big team.
Team RWB has spread to approximately 120 communities around the world with more than 84,000 members. The Eagle emblem is now a recognized symbol in the Armed Forces community and is becoming a regular sight in major races across the country.
“We hope to spread Team RWB. Whether it’s chapters with groups of two or a group of two hundred, just to have somebody in the community that says, ‘I’m a veteran, too,’ or ‘I’m not a veteran, but I want to help veterans get back into the community.’ Team RWB gives them an opportunity to get together on a regular basis.”
To learn more about Team RWB, visit their website at www.teamrwb.org. For information about Georgetown’s chapter or to get involved, contact Elizabeth McFarland at 512-931-9243 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.