By Sarah Huether
There’s a misconception that all soldiers who return from war suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but Chris Thompson of Team Red, White and Blue says this is not the case. “People struggle with the transition,” he says. Soldiers miss having the camaraderie and trust in arms, particularly after experiencing a war together. The goal of Team RWB is to create similar relationships and trust in post-military life.
Chris spent 10 years in the Army, originally deployed as a mechanic, but later moving into Green Beret Special Forces. His wife, Becca Thompson, who married at 19, moved to North Carolina, and a few short weeks later said goodbye as Chris left for his first of seven deployments. Becca remembers signing all the papers on a house and moving in with only one other friend. Out of seven years of deployments, Chris was gone for nearly five and a half years total.
David Overton, Team RWB member, spent six years in the Army, beginning in Field Artillery then later joining the Nurse Corps. Fighting on home ground for the lives of the injured soldiers, Overton described his experience as a “war fought at bedside.” After separating from the Army, he had a hard time transitioning to civilian life. “I still identified as a soldier,” says Overton, adding that finding a new identity was difficult. Joining Team RWB was the first time he was willing to be part of any veteran organization.
“Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity,” says Chris, quoting Team RWB’s mission statement. The organization has more than 36,000 members nationally in more than 100 communities. The Bryan/College Station Chapter has approximately 230 members, 44 percent of whom are non-veterans and are key to connecting veterans to the community. As veteran outreach director, Chris says his duty is ensuring good veteran involvement, as well as connecting members to outlets that reach beyond what Team RWB has to offer, such as financial support.
With weekly events such as bowling, happy hours, fun runs and more, Team RWB allows veterans to connect with “like-minded” people. As a mother, Becca says Team RWB allows her to connect with other military wives and moms who have been through the trials and tribulations of not only having a deployed husband but also having a toddler. Overton’s wife is a veteran and mother using Team RWB as a social connection to other moms, as well. As for Overton, he says it allows him the freedom to let his guard down and be uncensored around people who have similar backgrounds and personalities.
Outside of the busy calendar, there are many organic events that spring up by simply posting on Facebook or going running together. Team RWB is different than other veteran organizations, which may only meet once a month. The dynamic keeps veterans from going home after a monthly meeting and being alone, explains Chris. Each Team RWB chapter is tailored to what that group needs.
“It’s not a charity,” Chris says emphasizing that Team RWB may be a non-profit, but they don’t want pity. Team RWB challenges members physically and socially but is an empowering organization offering an outlet for people who are used to being part of a team, similar to the military.
With 500 new members a week nationally, Chris says veterans are looking for the things Team RWB offers and provides a community outside of family that knows who you are post enlistment. “I’d be lost without it,” concludes Becca.
For more information, including membership sign-up, visit teamrwb.org. To connect with the local chapter, visit the Facebook group “Team RWB Bryan/College Station.”