When Howard “Ford” Sypher, left the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment after five combined deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, he knew he was in for an adjustment.
He returned to life as a Kansas University student and joined the ranks of a new generation of veterans leaving their military lives from the often stressful and dangerous periods of two difficult wars.
“When you’re out, you’re out. No one is there to say here’s your next step,” said Sypher, 25, who returned as a KU junior in global studies. “It’s just you, and you’ve left this overarching organization that’s fed, clothed, paid you and given you a mission your country dictated. You’ve kind of lost that self worth. To that extent, it’s almost like losing a family.”
But now Sypher, who attended Raintree Montessori School and Southwest Junior High before moving with his family, says he and other combat veterans have found a way to help fill that void by working with Team Rubicon, a nongovernmental organization disaster relief program co-founded by another KU graduate, William McNulty, a Marine.
Sypher, Team Rubicon and other veterans and similar organizations are featured in the current issue of Time magazine’s cover story by Joe Klein, “The New Greatest Generation,” about Iraq and Afghanistan veterans using their leadership lessons at home.
Sypher has found his skills to be useful in assisting with disaster relief for the spring tornadoes in Alabama and he helped orchestrate Team Rubicon’s response to the Joplin, Mo., tornado.
“We kind of feel like that’s our niche,” said Sypher who says combat veterans generally can thrive in the chaotic situations in the aftermath of a disaster.
Rich Young, a firefighter with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and former U.S. Navy petty officer 3rd class, assisted Team Rubicon in Joplin and is pictured in a photo with Sypher in the Time story.
Sypher is also preparing to direct the foundation for Team Rubicon in the Kansas City area. He hopes to pursue a career either in public service or the medical field and said he was proud to be associated with Klein’s article, but he said the story was also a reminder about work ahead.
“People are coming back with skills that they would have never had otherwise,” he said. “We have a very large trained group of men and women, and we need to get them back in the work force to some degree. They’re coming back with skills no one has.”