When Rae Dyer meets another military veteran, there is an instant connection.
While the connections with other military veterans are good, she said there has not always been the opportunity for veterans to meet casually in Marion County.
“For me, it’s like built-in friends, people automatically get you,” Dyer said. “You all know how to behave together and it’s camaraderie that you can’t explain.”
For the last few years, Dyer has been able to get together with a group of other local veterans to spend time together and bond through games and other activities through an organization called Team Red, White and Blue. The nonprofit has chapters all around the U.S., including the Marion County chapter that started in 2018.
“It’s a national group, there are over 192,000 members nationwide,” said Dyer, captain of the Marion County chapter of Team RWB. “There are more than 200 chapters across the country, we have about 200 members im North Central West Virginia.”
Dyer said members of the group have several activities around the area that are open to the public, especially to veterans.
“We have activities in Morgantown, Clarksburg and Fairmont,” Dyer said. “We have specific weekly events. Disc golf is every Monday at 5:15, so every week, people can get together. Yoga is every Saturday at 10.”
The organization’s events provide solace to area veterans, but also display veterans to the community in a different light.
“It’s just different in that we’re focused on that physical engagement and social engagement,” Dyer said. “It’s really just about keeping people out of silos. There is no pressure, you just come if you can, if you can’t, that’s OK.”
Dyer and other members of the group agree that connections among veterans are easy to make because many have been through similar experiences unique to having served in the military. By meeting in a casual setting for sports and events, it gives them an opportunity to bond further.
“Military kind of breeds and institutionalizes a sick, twisted sense of humor,” said Matt Moore, president of the Student Veterans at Fairmont State University. “Sometimes you just have to do kind of bad things on your job, and it sparks that. Being able to go to a judgment-free place where veterans can get in with the community is extremely beneficial.”
According to Jan Foley, a member of Team RWB, some veterans can feel isolated in the world and may believe that no one else can understands them. Team RWB helps them to get out of that isolation.
“I have been working since 2011 to get something going in this area,” said Foley, a veteran of the U.S. Army. “It gives them a lot of pride and a feeling of accomplishment to be involved in something that is not associated with substance use disorder, because there is a lot of that.”
She also said being active and outdoors can benefit mental health in general, and can be helpful to veterans who experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m a nurse practicioner and I look at a lot of studies,” Foley said. “Just to feel the air on your skin, the smell, the sounds, all that is very healing to people. So that’s an important part of the outside aspect of it.”
Moore said having an opportinity to get out with veterans and friends is a good release for him because he enjoys the physical activity with the group.
“I think it’s beneficial for the veterans in the area to know that we can still do fun stuff, and I can have that release from my 9-5 job to be with people who get me,” Moore said.
Across the country, Team RWB does large-scale events that are meant to shed a light onto community veterans, and also raise money for different charities. Dyer said the NCWV chapter does this on a smaller scale, and hosts social events that allow anyone to meet and speak with local veterans.
“We also do social events,” Dyer said. “Our next social is on the 31st, so that’s when we just invite the community and other veterans to come out and socialize. That will be at Mia Margherita.”
Dyer said the mission of Team Red White and Blue is to show not only the community, but veterans that they are not separate from one another, and to simply engage.
“We do partner with the community and the objective is to understand each other,” Dyer said. “We’re not separate from the community, we’re a part of it, and the intention is to transition into it better.”
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