The woman at the Red Cross said Port-au-Prince, Haiti was too dangerous for untrained volunteers after the earthquake when Marine veteran Jake Wood called to volunteer in January 2010. “It’s complete chaos there,” she said.
“I’m a marine,” he replied. “We do chaos.”
Wood hung up the phone and started calling fellow veterans. One who responded was fellow Marine vet William McNulty. They had only spoken on the phone and when they met 24 hours later in the airport in the Dominican Republic, they cobbled together a team consisting of the vets, a firefighter, an ER physician, an obstetrician and a medic. They had little more than their go-bags, some money and a passion to serve. They created medical triage centers and transported the worst injured to field hospitals by cars they rounded up. They found themselves bound together by “the strange exhilaration of being part of a military-style mission again. Being part of a band of brothers…,” according to author Joe Klein. It was the birth of Team Rubicon and it was Charlie Mike.
“Charlie Mike” is military jargon; it stands for “Continue Mission.”
In his inspiring new book Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home (Simon & Schuster; October 20, 2015), Time magazine columnist Klein tells the moving story of veterans for whom the mission continues—a mission not to hunt and kill enemy combatants, but to protect and save lives, sometimes far from home in areas of great danger.
Klein tells the story of Wood and fellow veteran Eric Greitens. Greitens, A Rhodes scholar, worked in refugee camps for years before joining the military. After becoming a Navy SEAL, he was wounded in Iraq. Recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital, he found a common desire among the patients: they all want to continue serving their country. Inspired, he founded The Mission Continues, an organization that provides paid public fellowships for wounded veterans who still have an unquenchable desire to serve.
Wood and McNulty’s Team Rubicon became one of the first fellows of The Mission Continues. The organization is dedicated to uniting the skill and experience of military veterans with first responders in order to rapidly deploy emergency response teams to crisis areas in the United States around the world. They serve to, in the organization’s words, “bridge the gap” between the moment that disaster happens and the point at which conventional aid organizations arrive and provide aid. “When the ‘gap’ closes,” the organization says, “Team Rubicon moves on.”
Beyond providing aid to the stricken, Team Rubicon also offers veterans what the organization says is three things they lose after leaving military service: a sense of purpose, a sense of self-worth and a sense of community. In that way, the group also helps “bridge the gap” between military and civilian life.
Klein’s book tells the story of two men who found new ways to continue the mission of saving their comrades while protecting those in danger. Still, “Team Rubicon doesn’t see ourselves as heroes,” the organization said in a statement. “We are everyday Americans seeking to continue serving communities that need us the most.”
Girl at Sea: A Story of Courage, Strength and Growth from one of the First Women to Serve on U.S Warships, by Joanna Sprtel Walters (Skyhorse Publishing; September 22, 2015)
While women have served bravely in the U.S. Navy for nearly a century, it wasn’t until 1993 that they were allowed to serve in combat roles. Girl at Sea is the memoir of Walters, one of the first women to step aboard and serve on an American warship. Walters tells the story of how she burst through the Navy’s glass ceiling and struggled to prove she belonged on the ship. She describes how she thrived under the most difficult of circumstances, all the while fighting to gain the hard-fought respect of her crewmates. The book is a stirring account of how Walters helped prove the contribution women could make throughout the ranks of today’s military.