This week’s episode is a special one for me, because I get to talk about an issue that is deeply personal. It’s easy to become jaded by statistics, but the 22 veterans a day who take their own life is one number that has touched me personally. When there’s a name and a face that you once knew behind a number, it takes on a deeper significance; all the more when it’s a former brother in arms.
It’s not good enough for us to shove our hands in our pockets and sadly shake our heads. This is not a problem that will be solved by throwing more money at it. There needs to be concrete, immediate, and personal action.
Team Red White and Blue has stepped into that gap. Their mission is “to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.” If you’ve seen a bunch of eagle-emblazoned, flag waving crazies at your local 5k, that’s Team RWB. But behind their unabashed patriotism and almost impossible friendliness is a group with a very serious purpose. They’re using the best tools available to fight back against the tidal wave of veteran disengagement, depression, and suicide, by fostering camaraderie, purpose, and mental and physical health.
Zack Armstrong is the Director of Programs for Team RWB, and he sat down with me to dig into how they take action every day, all around the world, to create authentic, positive connections between veterans and civilians alike. He details the philosophy and core values that they deploy through their cadre of Eagle Leaders, who then become engines of positive change in their local communities. We discuss how they’ve managed their exponential growth while preserving their culture, and how their leadership development programs focus on providing the skills and practice needed to engage veterans in empathetic, authentic relationships.