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SPECIAL REPORT: Organization looks to enrich veteran lives with social and physical activities

CBS 13's Cody Lee introduces you to the non-profit organization with a chapter in Yuma

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Many veterans face challenges after retiring from service. Things like isolation, lack of purpose, and other health issues may be getting in the way of living a more peaceful life. But there is some hope, a national veteran’s support organization, with a location in Yuma, wants to enrich your life.

Team red, white, and blue, RWB for short, hopes to reach veterans with consistent and inclusive opportunities to connect through physical and social activity. Most importantly, getting you out of the house and around like-minded people.

Raul Atondo, an army veteran who served three tours overseas, admits it was hard to talk to civilians about his experiences.

“I can only kind of talk to veterans about certain things. Because if I talk to my civilian friends, I hate to say it, but it's true they only understand up to a point, and I did it as I thought. Now that I'm in my late 30s I get that. I didn't get it earlier on, because I was just I was completely void of self-awareness,” Atondo explained.

Take it from Team RWB chapter captain Kim Kabala. Although she has not served in the forces, her husband spent many years as a marine.

“I’ve heard a lot of veterans say you know no one really understood as a civilian, you don't really understand what we went through. Going on deployment or being that living that active-duty lifestyle. So, having the ability to interact with someone who can understand and relate to you on that same level is huge,” Kabala said.

The Team RWB organization caters to veterans and their families. It gives them opportunities to interact all over coffee or on a trail run.

Atondo started as a member, but then quickly decided he would love to be a leader.

“Go for the ride, but stay for the talking that you're about to do with these other guys. And if you don't want to talk to them, so be it. But at least you have a direction, we give you a direction,” Atondo said.

“We're all human we all go through different things in our lives. But this, I mean we actually created like a little family. Everyone's super close together, everyone always pulls together if someone's having a bad time.”

Nate Clifton served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years. Following his retirement, it took five years for him to adjust. 

“Veterans in general, we're very alone people, because the way the service has taught us is, you do everything solo. We do stuff in a team environment but we are a very solo type person,” Clifton explained.

Clifton is an avid runner which is something that helps free his mind especially when he’s running with the team.

“We are a veterans family, and of course, then they allow civilians so it's not just open to veterans, but a lot of Team RWB members are civilians, but they are married to veterans so they understand. It actually helps them be better towards their spouse,” Clifton added.

Estela Marin came across Team RWB while searching the internet.

“I was just googling online for things that we could do, things that I can engage him in just from experience and from everything they tell you in the military that transitions for a lot of active-duty members it's very difficult,” Marin explained.

She tells 13 On Your Side her husband was hesitant at first until it finally happened.

“One day after a few weeks he's like, where are you going and I said, to volleyball practice and he was like, oh what's that about and I said, come on, let's just go. He had the best time it was a great opportunity to get him out he didn't really know what he was going to do. And as soon as we got there, all those veterans that were there, had their families, they started talking to him, he started talking to them,” she continued.

Proof that getting out of the house and being around like-minded people can make for a smooth transition.

“They leave this tight community, and they feel a little bit disconnected, and that helped him, take him to the community tied him to other activities, and kept him engaged during such stressful transition,” Merin added.

It’s why team leaders encourage building strong local connections with members and organizations within the community.

“It gives me a feeling of closure in a good way to test my patience. It allows me to just sit there. I'm not a very relaxed kind of guy. But I'm when I'm talking to anybody. I just try to be very present and just listen to what they're saying," Atondo described.

“It's a way for civilians to be able to also give back to those that served our country, to help make a difference for you know the veterans that all the sacrifices that they made,” the chapter captain said.

Team meet-ups take place every week and the organization also has virtual hangouts and one-on-ones. 

“My husband is a great example because he was the most antisocial person. And within a few minutes he was just talking to everybody because they're all had something in common,” Marin said.

“I know all of our schedules are busy, I have three kids, I have a full-time job, you know, I mean we're all busy but you know they got to make time. We got to make time,” Clifton continued.

You get a t-shirt for joining the team, and it's all free. From there it's simple to look for various local activities using their mobile app.

Local News / Yuma County
Author Profile Photo

Cody Lee

Cody Lee joined 13 On Your Side and KYMA News 11 in March 2020, but he’s no stranger to Arizona. He grew up in the Phoenix area and enjoys everything Arizona has to offer.

You can contact Cody at cody.lee@kecytv.com.

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