Marine Corps Air Station Miramar,Calif. -- Marines with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, volunteered October 6 to 14 in Houston, Texas, in support of Team Rubicon's operation "Hard Hustle" Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
Team Rubicon is an organization which identifies itself as a veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Team Rubicon gives volunteers and emergency services personnel the opportunity to feel like part of a brotherhood again after leaving the military and provides support to areas affected by natural disasters.
"Team Rubicon was created by veterans for veterans," said Master Sgt. Marcos Martinez, the ARFF staff noncomissioned officer in charge. "I knew our Marines would appreciate being amongst like-minded people."
The Marines conducted home assessments, mucked out houses, removed dry wall and flooring, and retrieved people's personal belongings destroyed by the floods.
"Being there with other Marines was nice," said Lance Cpl. Zachary Walter, an ARFF rescue man and a Jackson, Missouri native. "We all have a standard for work ethic and we motivated the other members of Team Rubicon to keep up and challenged them to do better and do more."
Martinez presented the idea to his Marines to volunteer, even though none of the five who went have any tie to the Houston area.
"I wanted to help support the community and give back," said Walter. "I understand that in times of need like this friends, families and neighbors come together and that's what makes the feeling of helping even better, seeing the communities come together first hand."
The Marines used 10 of their own leave days and their own money to volunteer in support of a cause, which didn't affect them personally.
"At the point when we found we had to take leave, we decided there's no turning back and the people of Houston needed us more than we needed our leave," said Walter.
Seeing the satisfaction of each homeowner after helping them restore their houses was the best part, said Lance Cpl. Dominic Phifer, an ARFF handline man and a Denver, Colorado native.
All the Marines agreed they grew closer as a unit and their experiences were life changing.
"Throughout the week with Team Rubicon my fellow Marines and myself grew closer together," said Phifer. "Although the work was hard we couldn't have asked for a better experience."
The Marines are grateful for their experiences and know it will transfer back to their everyday life as Marine Corps firefighters and citizens.
"Taking your own leave is a hard thing to do, but it was definitely worth it," said Walter. "Somebody will always have it worse than you and you should always be willing to help your friends and neighbors."
The Marines logged a total of 240 volunteer hours with Team Rubicon which has logged more than 93,220 volunteer hours since Sept. 1, supporting Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.