After nearly five years in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, serving through five deployments in active war zones, former Sgt. Howard “Ford” Sypher stands ready to assemble an all-volunteer force to assist in domestic times of need.
Especially right here at home.
Sypher, who grew up in Lawrence and now attends Kansas University, told Douglas County Commissioners on Wednesday that veterans volunteering through Team Rubicon would be willing to handle tasks ranging from construction of homes through Habitat for Humanity to searching through rubble for survivors of tornadoes, fires, earthquakes or anything else.
As Veterans Day approaches, he said, the call to civic duty remains strong among highly-skilled troops returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and all corners of the world.
“This group of veterans is not interested in having a beer in a pool hall and sharing political discourse,” said Sypher, director of a Team Rubicon region that covers Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. “They want to do something. They want to get to serving.”
Commissioners welcomed Sypher’s can-do attitude and encouraged him to meet with leaders of area law-enforcement and emergency-response agencies to determine just how Team Rubicon’s veterans could be especially effective during disaster situations.
Douglas County Undersherriff Steve Hornberger agreed with Sypher that highly trained personnel with specific skills could prove particularly helpful during the first 24, 48 or 72 hours of a disaster.
“When something happens,” Hornberger said, “you never seem to have enough people.”
Team Rubicon — named after a stream at the edge of ancient Rome, one crossed by Caesar and considered the “point of no return” — is a national organization that previously has been focused on sending disaster-response teams into sites of major disasters, such as tornado-stricken areas of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo.; one of the organization’s co-founders is William McNulty, a KU graduate and former Marine.
The regional approach — the regional office opens Nov. 21 in Kansas City, Mo. — is intended to focus veterans’ volunteer efforts even closer to home, with duties expanding into general volunteer work. That way, Sypher said, participating veterans stay active, use their skills and help the community at the same time.
The involvement helps veterans reconnect with their communities.
“We have volunteer resources to help,” Sypher said, “and it helps us.”