Having served as an Army Reservist for more than 20 years, Marisa Saucedo understands what many veterans need from their community when returning from service. When soldiers leave the military, they can face an intimidating road to reintegration and the transition back to civilian life is often more difficult than most people know. The key to making it to the end of this road, Marisa says, is having authentic community.
“One word that comes to mind is ‘acceptance.’ Accepting that when a solider or service member deploys, they are going to come back different. Not good different or bad different, just different,” said Marisa. When family members and loved ones start to understand this reality, veterans are able to feel encouraged on their path towards full reintegration. However, that support is not limited to just family. That’s why Marisa, and many others like her, are dedicated to turning the challenges of veteran reintegration into opportunities to partner with them and support them as they transition. Through her involvement with Team Red, White and Blue, she is joining together with and for veterans to address their critical needs and build stronger communities.
In addition to athletic events, Team RWB hosts Christmas parties for transitional homes, places flags out in the community on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, participates in Veterans Day parades, Turkey Trots and local weekly events. As the current athletic director at the Inland Empire chapter, Marisa helps foster support, encouragement and empowerment within her veteran community by creating activities eagles can participate in.
“I didn’t feel as alone as I transitioned from being around soldiers all the time to a civilian community. It makes you feel at home,” Marisa said of her experience with Team RWB. “I have found a big passion for working with veterans, and Team Red, White and Blue even allows civilians who have a heart for veterans to come alongside us at all of the events. I’ve got a purpose, and we’re filling the gap between veterans and the civilian community.”
When veterans are connected to their communities, they begin to realize that they are not alone. Team Red, White and Blue and its network of eagles – fellow veterans – has helped Marisa and thousands of others find instant connections with those who understand where they’ve been and what they’ve gone through. The nonprofit enriches the lives of veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Marisa first came across Team RWB in 2014, but believed it was just a running club for veterans. When she was home from deployment the following year, she stumbled upon Team Red White and Blue’s A Flag for Every Hero event for Veterans Day. She realized that the organization was much more than a running club, it was a source of true belonging
Marisa’s Inland Empire chapter of Team RWB is always active in finding new and exciting activities for returning veterans. On Nov. 10, they participated in the annual Old Glory Relay, a 4,300-mile journey taking the historical flag across America, since the relay crossed their home turf for the first time in five years. They had the flag on Day 61, then eagles and volunteers took the flag 56 miles from Fontana to Temecula, California, where the San Diego chapter met them to take Old Glory to the finish line on Veterans Day.
One of Marisa’s favorite memories with Team RWB was the organization’s Christmas event at a transitional home for veterans dealing with sustenance abuse. Eagles brought the holiday party with them; there were Christmas trees, ornaments, decorations, gifts, and quality time spent together as a community. When you wear an eagle’s shirt, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. “We came as eagles, we listened to their stories. That’s what it’s all about: reminding everyone that these veterans are not forgotten,” said Marisa.
Want to make a difference in your community? Visit www.allforgood.org to find local opportunities to get involved.