A Return to the Battlefield

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Dokoupil

The veterans of Team Rubicon plunge into the disaster zone.

Shortly after dinner, residents of Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, saw the first black waves on their lawns. The neighborhood was supposed to be protected by barrier islands, but Sandy sent the ocean into the one-story bungalows, thickening photo albums and floating the kids' toys. It chased Tom McCabe into an attic and threatened to float him, too, if help didn't arrive soon.

The police were over- whelmed with evacuations, but a pair of ex-Marines stepped in, planning every- thing on the fly, just as they had done in Iraq. They found a ride, and a boat, and they navigated through the chest-high surf until they found McCabe, who later looked sheepish talking about the whole ordeal. "It's never been this bad," he explained on local television, still wet from the storm.

But while McCabe was being saved, he was also a source of salvation. His rescu- ers were members of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to disaster zones, where they help others, and--in ways the military is just beginning

to understand--they also help themselves. "There's a renewed sense of purpose, of community, and self-worth," cofounder William McNulty explains by phone, noting ex- actly what veterans lose along with the uniform.

He should know. Nearly three years ago he and an- other former Marine, Jacob Wood, self-deployed with other veterans after an earth- quake cracked open Haiti in January 2010. Wood was applying to business school, and McNulty was thinking about filmmaking, but they dropped both to go help the relief effort. They recruited a handful of other veterans and medical professionals and found that their services were desperately needed. "I cannot tell you how good it feels," another team member wrote in a letter home. …