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Veterans of grueling and bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are gravitating to a new mission: one that involves them laying down their weapons and picking up plowshares.
In recent years, a trio of nonprofit organizations sent numerous postwar veterans into a different sort of battle. Dozens of veterans that work for Team Rubicon USA, The Mission Continues, and Team Red White and Blue deployed battalions of former service members across the country. They collectively donated 350,000 hours of community service — the equivalent of $9 million in payroll hours — to projects such as disaster relief, preserving national landmarks, building homes for the homeless, and landscaping.
These larger organizations are supported by a network of much smaller veterans service organizations with their own unique histories and missions. One group, Chicago's Urban Warriors program, hosted by the YMCA, is populated by combat vets who signed up to work with kids exposed to the city's wrenching violence.
Co-founder and current Team Rubicon CEO William McNulty explained to CNBC that he has been involved with service-oriented groups since his youth. Military service ran in his family, with his father and grandfathers having served. For McNulty, Team Rubicon's formation was one of circumstance, having been founded in the wake of the massive earthquake that decimated Haiti in 2010 when he and other veterans rallied to help the island's victims.
We had no intention of starting a disaster-response organization. Haiti was supposed to be a one-and-done mission. But that first mission convinced us that we had a model and that we needed to focus on developing it.
The organization has now branched out both domestically and internationally. "As we look to replicate the TR model in coalition countries around the world, a new global veteran service organization emerges. It's a first for the global veteran community," McNulty added.