When a deadly tornado outbreak hit several states in early May, Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster relief organization founded in 2010, responded. Among those assisting was Sam Kille, a Mineola resident, who participated in what was dubbed "Operation: Rising Eagle," in Arkansas.
The Long Islander spent a week in Arkansas, working in hard-hit communities like Vilonia and Mayflower. There, Team Rubicon members are managing volunteers, performing damage assessment, chainsaw operations, debris removal and expedient home repair.
"The damage is heartbreaking, as many of the communities had just rebuilt from the 2011 outbreak," said Kille, a Marine veteran. "Yet, the people there were warm, hospitable and are truly resilient. They look to rebuild again--and are one step closer to that thanks to our efforts."
While this was his first field deployment with Team Rubicon, Kille, who serves as the nonprofit's public affairs officer, has responded to more than a dozen major disasters and humanitarian operations with the American Red Cross and U.S. military. Despite his past experience, he found this deployment to be the most rewarding so far.
"It definitely was the most hands-on work I've been required to do since leaving the military," said Kille. "It's one thing to do vital work like feeding and sheltering those impacted; it's another to actually tear down what is left of a home, sort the debris and haul it to the curb. Doing so, homeowners save the expense of hiring contractors and are left with clean properties to start anew."
Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Beyond disaster relief, Team Rubicon helps veterans find a renewed sense of purpose—vital as many return to civilian life after more than a decade of war.
"Very few Americans have served in uniform, and because of that, the transition home can be difficult," said Kille. "By empowering veterans to continue their service at home, Team Rubicon aims to bridge the civilian/military divide."The nonprofit was founded in the wake of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake by Jake Wood and William McNulty, both Marine veterans. It has grown from eight to 16,000 members with nearly 60 operations under its belt, including Haiti, Superstorm Sandy, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.In addition to Arkansas, Team Rubicon is active in tornado response efforts in Louisville, Miss., and Baxter Springs, Kan. Beyond disasters, local Team Rubicon members regularly take part in community service projects.Team Rubicon is accepting financial contributions for its storm response. To learn more about Team Rubicon’s mission, or to become a supporter, visit www.teamrubiconusa.org.