Team RWB continues to impact veterans

Charles Eadie

Dan Blevins enlisted in the Army in September 2003 after his junior year at Keystone Oaks High School. He spent nine years on active duty, deployed for stints in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Korea.

Thirty-year-old Blevins returned to civilian life two years ago, hampered by foot surgery and the question whether or not to adapt to civilian life or to become a “hermit.”

“When you are discharged, your life changes completely,” said Blevins, who was an Army cavalry scout. “There’s nobody there for you after you sign the last paperwork and get out. It’s easy to be trapped inside your house.”

“You have to rebuild your life back home, and sometimes it’s easier to become a hermit and sit inside or go to the bars and take to drinking. Rebuilding an active social life, and a healthy one that involves getting outdoors, can be challenging.”

Team Red White and Blue is a national organization founded in 2010 that focuses to enhance the lives of veterans by connecting them to their community again through physical and social activities. Blevins became a member of the Western Pennsylvania chapter last fall and the organization has done more than help him integrate back into his community.

Blevins will be joining 38 charity runners this Sunday “wearing the eagle” in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and hoisting an American flag along the way. This extensive physical challenge isn’t a reflection of Blevins’ first year out of the army. He admits that he would sit around his house, gaining weight and being “useless.”

“When I got out of the Army, I couldn’t even walk around for a couple hours without my foot absolutely killing me,” Mr. Blevins said of the non combat injury. “Being able to run 26 miles would be amazing.”

Katie Bielak, 38, of Natrona Heights, also an Army veteran, found the Western Pennsylvania chapter in 2011 and now serves as the captain of the chapter. The local chapter consists of about 550 members, two thirds of whom are veterans, and mobilizes around physical activities to integrate veterans back into their communities.

“We don’t look at veterans as victims,” Mrs. Bielak said. “We don’t look at veterans as needing handouts. We look at veterans as champions and assets of the community. The whole mission is not trying to separate ourselves. We’re trying to infuse into the community.”

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