Exercise, social connection at center of new veterans group

New Sandhills region chapter looks to serve more area veterans in 2015

By Kevin Spradlin

* 2015 Team RWB Sandhills vision

Finding a need and filling it is one approach. Creating an opportunity is another.

The latter is what John Faunce and a small band of volunteers have done with a local chapter of Team Red, White and Blue. Team RWB is a nonprofit veterans service organization aimed at improving the physical, mental and emotional well-being of veterans through activity. At most any gathering, members wear their Team RWB “Eagle” shirts, hats, jackets or other gear to distinguish themselves from a crowd.

Submitted photo A group of Team RWB Sandhills members participate in the Reindeer Fun Run earlier this month in Aberdeen.

Submitted photo
A group of Team RWB Sandhills members participate in the Reindeer Fun Run earlier this month in Aberdeen.

Exercise, Faunce said, can often do what drugs and therapy cannot. At the very least, active participation in social events can complement an already established course of treatment.

Faunce, a West Point graduate, is assigned to the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg. Since September, Faunce has spent whatever spare time he has in building Team RWB Sandhills, an attempt to serve the military and ex-military population living on the outskirts of Fort Bragg.

Team RWB has an active Fort Bragg chapter — nearly 1,000 members following that element’s Facebook group page, which is a primary way Team RWB members outreach and schedule activities — but Faunce said Fort Bragg is simply too far for many in Moore and adjacent counties to reach on a daily basis.

Team RWB, Faunce said, “is a different way about thinking how to say thanks to the veterans. We augment the words (by) sacrificing ourselves and our time. It’s about getting people out, getting people together. My wife and I moved here and we wanted to bring (Team RWB) with us. Bragg’s not too far away, but it is a little difficult” to get to each week for some.

Besides, he said, “the Sandhills is a very different community than Fayetteville.”

Submitted photo Just about every Team RWB can be a family affair.

Submitted photo
Just about every Team RWB can be a family affair.

Activities vary. Faunce is a runner, so naturally many events for the budding chapter have included that sport. But activities could include hiking, cycling, kayaking, bowling — there’s no real limit.

Faunce served in New  York with Team RWB founder Mike Erwin. He’s been with Erwin since the beginning — which was marked in October 2010 by running the Twin Cities Marathon. In New York, Faunce served for two years as community outreach director while Erwin was there.

Team RWB is not just for veterans. It’s for civilians, too, who support the members of America’s armed forces, as well as currently serving soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Faunce said Team RWB helps to transition soldiers from military service into their communities.

“There are a lot of young military people that do live out here,” Faunce said. “Some recently have got out. Pinehurst has a wonderful retirement community.”

Combined, Faunce said he sees the potential to connect today’s transitioning soldiers of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom “with those that have come before us. They’re all around. They raise their Marine flags in their yards, have their Army stickers, Navy license plates … they have a lot to offer. They have a lot to tell us.”

In turn, Team RWB gives those older veterans a chance to “once again (be) role models for the younger generation of soldiers.”

Submitted photo When Team RWB members are present, the rest of the crowd generally knows who they are.

Submitted photo
When Team RWB members are present, the rest of the crowd generally knows who they are.

Goals for 2015

Faunce, a competitive person, sets and reaches goals to gauge the chapter’s strength. Only three months in, he knows it’s not where he wants it to be. That’s partly due to life circumstances. A month into creating the spinoff from the Fort Bragg chapter, Faunce’s job description changed.

“I’m almost there,” Faunce said.

Currently with slightly more than 30 members, he hopes to reach 75 members by the nine-month mark in mid-June and 100 by the one-year mark on Sept. 13.

“I set lofty goals and try to reach them,” Faunce said. “I’m slightly behind where I’d like to be.”

Still, 2015 has a bright outlook for Team RWB Sandhills.

A key part is developing and installing volunteer chapter officers. As second party involves including more activities for the group, providing those activities at more locations, and conducting more outreach.

“The outreach piece is where I’m lacking,” he said. “I like to run races.”

Faunce said he’ll likely stay away from the start line every now and then to set up a Team RWB table or tent at various events in order to help spread the word. He did that at the Pinehurst Turkey Trot last month and reaped the benefit almost immediately.

“It’s wonderful just how a small connection can lead to a bigger opportunity,” Faunce said.

In this case, a representative from FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital approached Faunce to learn more about the group. Now, Faunce said, he has a scheduled appointment to talk about Team RWB with a PTSD group at the hospital.

Faunce said sometimes it’s easy to become a part of the conversation.

“Anytime you put a couple groups of Eagles together, undoubtedly somebody’s going to say, ‘what is RWB?’ And that’s the question we’re looking for.”

Sign up

Contact Faunce by email or log on to teamrwb.org to sign up. Simply include your ZIP code upon completing the free registration process and your registration will be directed to Faunce by Team RWB officials.

In the interest of full disclosure, staff writer Kevin Spradlin was a member of Team RWB – Western Pennsylvania and founded Team RWB Western Maryland prior to relocating to North Carolina. 

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News, Outdoors, Sports

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