The biggest problem for ex-soldiers is depression.
In the US, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
That’s more than the enemy kill.
Because once they leave the army, soldiers feel useless.
All the skills they learned: the discipline, being part of an efficient unit, able to move fast, working together on an important mission.
All that disappears when they return home.
There’s no structure, no urgency, no team-mates.
They feel alone, unimportant and unnecessary.
For them, ordinary life is a depressing place to be.
Which is just the opposite of a disaster.
In a disaster, urgency and structure and team-mates are essential.
In 2010, a massive earthquake hit Haiti.
One hundred thousand people were killed, another million people were homeless.
Everyone saw it on TV, everyone wanted to help.
But ordinary people can’t help, they don’t know how.
Two ex-marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, knew how.
So they put a team of eight veterans together and went to Haiti.
What was needed was what they’d learned in the military.
As soon as they got there, they took over the general hospital and got it working.
They treated thousands of injured people.
They got tons of supplies moving, off the runway and out to where they were needed.
They organised volunteers into efficient working groups.
They did all this before the major aid agencies were even functional.
They did it because they were trained.
Trained in situations like this: unstable population, uncertain information, limited resources.
They could use their skills: emergency medical treatment, risk assessment and mitigation, teamwork, decisive leadership.
What was wanted was what they’d been trained in.
And it was exactly what was missing from their lives at home.
And Jake Wood and William McNulty saw they didn’t have two problems, they had two solutions.
While the veterans were helping with the disasters, the disasters were helping the veterans.
The veterans felt useful, they felt needed and important.
And Jake Wood and William McNulty formed Project Rubicon.
A fast-response disaster relief organisation run by veterans.
Project Rubicon has been so successful, it’s grown to 35,000 members.
They’ve handled relief in 120 different emergencies so far.
From tsunamis to earthquakes to hurricanes.
In Pakistan, Chile, Burma, Sudan, Nepal, Turkey and all over the US.
In Hurricane Sandy, for instance, 300 veterans organised thousands of civilians in search and rescue and debris clearance.
It’s estimated they did six months’ work in two weeks, saving the community four million dollars.
Just by putting a highly trained workforce to work instead of leaving them to rot.
Because highly trained veterans can go where civilians can’t go, and they can do what civilians can’t.
And while everyone else is talking about it, they’re doing it.
But the really creative part is, while they’re saving other people’s lives, they’re also saving their own.
(Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three. This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk.)
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