JONESVILLE — The Yadkin Valley was honored to served veterans and their friends who are still serving, as Team Rubicon held training hosted by a local resident.
“They are a great group,” said Joe Ryan, who, with his wife Mary, invited the disaster relief team to their home over the weekend to train on a variety of chainsaws.
“Team Rubicon is a veterans-based disaster response organization,” said team leader Mike Parham. “They started in 2010 after the Haiti earthquake. A couple of Marine snipers, Jake Wood and William McNulty, got together and thought they could use their military skills to help people.”
Much like Wood and McNulty, Mike and his twin brother Greg joined Team Rubicon to continue serving after military service.
“I actually started with TR first,” said Greg, who joined the team after taking time from his business as a sawyer to help family after a tornado in 2013.
“I joined [TR] and a month later I was on another op in Tennessee just over a weekend, and after that I told Mike and he joined the organization as well.”
One of the differences between the TR team and other disaster groups is the level of organization and safety.
“I don’t care if you have your own professional sawyer service, if you’re going to cut with us, you’re going to use our standards. When Greg was in the sawyer business, time was money, so safety may not have been the biggest priority,” said Mike, describing the requirements for participating on a TR cutting team.
“We have very safe practices. We train people to use TR standards,” said Mike. “We have a lot of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); the helmets, the glasses, the chaps, the gloves, the boots. A lot of folks don’t do that on disaster responses, but we have our own standards. Safety first, because there’s no one’s life at stake.”
Mike explained that Team Rubicon is not usually part of the first responders and they don’t get paid for their service, however, there are some exceptions for those with more extensive training.
“Then when all these forest fires happen, they will call up Team Rubicon to go with them, but they also have some of the wildland firefighters to go with them,” said Mike.
Wildland firefighters have extra training for which they have been paid, however, most of the time all Team Rubicon members work for free, which is why they appreciate such donations as food from 67 Pizza, Comb’s Butcher Shop, American Legion Post 522 and McDonald’s.
“I’ve got to put in a plug for McDonald’s,” said Mike. “They have been real nice to us.”
One of the reasons may be because Team Rubicon has been nice to others.
“I call it the magic moment,” said Mike, describing times when, covered in muck from cleaning up after a flood, people insist on a hug with tears of joy.
Serving with fellow veterans is also magic.
“Although I have experience with the Men of the Baptist [Church], I want to be with people from the Army who have the same concerns,” said Julio Colon.
Colon found TR when his usual group couldn’t get him to Puerto Rico soon enough to serve his original homeland.
“I want to be where the action is,” said the Holly Springs resident.
That does not mean that everyone serving with Team Rubicon is a veteran or physically fit.
“We’ll put anyone to work,” said Mike, describing how they were able to use assistance from a blind man, “you don’t even have to be a veteran.”
Because TR is primarily veterans, however, groups like the North Carolina National Guard Armory in Elkin provide cots and even NASCAR driver Ryan Newman’s fan club made a donation.
“They provided stuff for gift bags for them to take with them the next time they [deploy],” said Ryan, “as well as an autographed hat by Ryan for every participant.
“As the host family, we were honored to have them in our home for the training,” said Ryan. “They came as strangers and left with hugs as friends.”
For more information on Team Rubicon, go to teamrubiconusa.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.