I met Aaron through a friend and a story on Team Red White Blue, which is a pretty cool organization for veterans and military members. He started the Montana chapter of the organization and is always on the go. When I was fighting a miserable cold but decided to attempt the local 10K during below freezing temperatures, Aaron won the whole thing!
Here he talks about issues facing veterans and what he and his organization are doing about it. If you want to find out more or get involved, check out their Facebook page and their Twitter feed.
Aaron Appelwick, Team RWB Montana founder
The Veterans Situation
Nearly 2.5 million American men and women have deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom since 2001. Over the next four years, approximately 1.2 million service members will retire or separate from active duty, creating a huge number of new veterans.
While a tremendous amount of support has been focused on wounded veterans, much of that support occurs between the time of injury and discharge from active duty or in-patient care. Further, there is an enormous population of veterans who suffer from the invisible wounds of TBI (traumatic brain injury), PTS (post traumatic stress), depression and survivor's remorse. Many of these veterans have not been diagnosed with an injury and will not actively seek care.
Most combat veterans struggle with re-integration to some degree. A recent study shows that 58 percent of veterans do not return to their hometown upon leaving the service.
Team RWB's Approach
Our mission is to enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Our chapters establish local programs that provide consistent opportunities for veterans to meet other veterans and members of their community through activities like running, cycling, CrossFit, picnics and ball games. With chapters in almost 40 cities and growing, we are poised and committed to delivering consistent programs to veterans over a long period of time, where they live.
Team TWB chapters facilitate weekly exercise events, monthly social events, as well as attending numerous local races and athletic events. These activities create connected communities where all members benefit from being part of the Team. We also have programs to support referred veterans through one on one or small group interactions and often provide financial support for veterans to acquire the proper exercise gear or sign up for a local race.
Recent research has shown exercise to be a very effective tool for combating depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress. In fact, some studies show it to be as effective as medication and counseling. When that exercise is conducted in a group or team setting, there is a multiplier effect. A recent survey showed that 41 percent of veterans would exercise more if they had a group or team to do it with .
Ultimately, the challenge of veteran reintegration is vast and and complex. While we may not be able to solve all veterans issues, we know that exercise and personal connectivity is making veterans better. Knowing that, we are committed to building communities and programs that provide this service.
I was asked to start the Montana chapter in August 2012 when we have three members. Since then, we have been growing steadily and are now at 24 members! Montana is a great state with a lot of veterans so we wanted to give them a group to feel comfortable in .We have a diverse group of members, from Purple Heart recipients, to active duty veterans and civilians. Anyone can join and get involved. Just log on to www.teamrwb.org/get-involved/join-the-team. It takes 30 seconds to become a part of something great!
As for me, my name is Aaron Appelwick. I am a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force. I am currently a security forces member who is one of six airmen to have attended the International Special Training Centre's Patrol Medic course, being given the opportunity to get trained by U.S. Army Green Beret 18 Deltas (medics) and other NATO Special Forces medics. I have served in the AF for nine years and deployed numerous times throughout Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa. Exercise has always been a part of my life and is something I would never want to go without. It is one of the best stress relievers I have. Even my wife can notice a significant difference in my attitude when I'm not exercising; I am a much happier person when I am staying active.
I became involved with Team RWB first as an athlete in 2010 after I raced in the Armed Forces Triathlon as a member of the USAF team. A couple of my teammates were part of Team RWB and I was really drawn to the mission and wanted to be a part of something so powerful and race for something other than myself.