Team RWB Is Making A Difference In Veterans’ Lives And Here’s Proof

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Active duty service members, veterans and their families run the streets of San Diego during a Team Red, White and Blue (RWB) hosted Veterans Day run.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Gerald Dudley Reynolds

On the surface, the veterans I exercise with in the gym or on the running trail appear to be doing great. But in quiet moments, sometimes between breaths on a treadmill, or unloading a barbell, core truths are revealed: It isn’t always easy. Memories are painful, and emotions are raw. They have stories to tell that require an audience.


Even as a civilian, I see how important it is for veterans to be able to authentically connect with others through physical fitness and social activities, foster new friendships, and build stronger support networks. Those experiences help me appreciate the impact of Team Red, White & Blue.

While Team RWB welcomes not just veterans but also active-duty military, military families, and civilians, helping veterans reintegrate and prosper after their service has remained at the core of its mission.

Related: How should veterans service organizations support the post-9/11 community?

This week, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University published “Enriching Veterans' Lives Through An Evidence Based Approach,” which I co-authored as Team RWB’s research director. The report, built upon a survey completed by 4,300 Team RWB veterans in 2014 and 2015, uses Team RWB as a case study to highlight the importance of collecting data to measure impact so that military and veterans organizations can provide programs and services that not only feel good, but that actually achieve quantifiable results.

So what do the report and survey tell us about Team RWB’s quantifiable results?

Building community and relationships is important.

Survey results show that 86% of Team RWB’s most active veteran members make lasting positive relationships and 90% feel a greater sense of belonging to a larger community. This is at the core of why Team RWB exists: to help people make close friends and relationships that can even feel like family. This is really important for getting information about resources and knowing people who can help with the little challenges or life-altering problems, but it often boils down to having someone to talk to whenever you need.  

Achieving mental and physical health improvements is easier with a team.

Nearly two-thirds of the most active veterans in Team RWB report maintaining a healthier weight, and more than 50% report feeling less down, depressed, or hopeless, as well as feeling less nervous, anxious or on edge. It’s no secret that exercise makes you feel better, both physically and mentally. Whether you are seeking weight loss, a boost in mood, or a chance to set new goals, being part of a team and having the opportunity to exercise as part of a group makes that easier to do.

It can lead to satisfaction at home and work.

Nearly three-quarters of the most active veteran members report that being part of Team RWB improves their mood and in turn helps them become a better family member. Approximately 40% also report feeling less stressed and being more engaged at work. The positive effects that come from being engaged with a close-knit, supportive community also spill into other areas of life. When you feel better after a workout, or even after a meaningful conversation, your whole outlook on the world can improve.

There is a reduction in the civilian-military divide.

It’s not easy to transition out of military service, especially when you live in a community that is not near a major military installation. Civilians like myself may not automatically understand all that you have been and are still going through, which is why participation by both veterans and civilians in Team RWB creates an important common ground. Approximately 30% of Team RWB members are civilians, and in part due to the diverse membership base of Team RWB, the most active veterans report that being part of the team has helped them demonstrate their strengths (82%), share their challenges (70%) and feel more connected (53%) to civilians.

Repetition amplifies results.

Crucially, the benefits reported by veterans participating in Team RWB activities and chapters accrued most heavily and consistently to those who showed up regularly and made the team part of their lives. Increased involvement with Team RWB among veterans correlated closely with a significant increase in all beneficial results reported.  

I believe in Team RWB’s mission, and clearly the model resonates: Team RWB just surpassed 100,000 members, spread across 172 chapters and communities. But having the evidence to show that the organization is helping improve the physical and mental health of veterans, and adapting programs, services, and research to ensure that those results are replicable, is a huge deal, and one that I hope serves as both a model and inspiration for similar veteran and military organizations seeking to pursue evidence-based practices.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.

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A former Army soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for stealing weapons from Fort Bliss, along with other charges.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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