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Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide

October 23,2014

Vets Voices: What Community Means

Tampa Strong Dogs and Team RBW. Photo courtesy of Thomas Martineau

Tampa Strong Dogs and Team RBW. Photo courtesy of Thomas Martineau

Thomas Martineau Air Force SSGT Ret.,Tampa Bay Strong Dog, Team Red White and Blue Eagle

I joined the Air Force at the age of eighteen and knew from day one that serving in the enlisted ranks was what I wanted to do with my life. I was in an accident that left me paralyzed from the chest down and was medically discharged from the Air Force at the end of 2008.

It was hard to find purpose in my life when I had put all of my eggs into one basket, that basket being my military career.

Adjusting to life in a wheelchair was definitely not “a walk in the park.” I faced a lot of challenges along the way as I learned to get used to my post accident body and my new way of doing things. When I found the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs, I finally found a lot of people in a similar situation to myself.

The Strong Dogs is not specifically a veteran based organization, but we have vets that play on the team. Family, comradery, teamwork, competition; I found everything with this team that I was missing since having to leave my Air Force family.

One thing my team needs is a place to work on physical conditioning and team bonding off the court. It is rare to find a military and/or veteran organization that is willing to open its doors to non-veterans.

Team Red, White and Blue is a veteran’s organization that is breaking down those types of barriers. One of Team RWB’s pillars is community. They mean what they say. While we do have a few vets on my team we are a minority and if we had no veterans I believe the end result would still be the same.

Blayne Smith and Jeni Donovan opened the doors of the new Firebase and Team RWB to the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs. Team RWB believes in lifting up not only vets but everyone in the community. They turn talk into action and that shows with allowing anyone, regardless if you are a veteran or not, to be a part of Team RWB.

It’s great that The Strong Dogs have a new place to workout. But more importantly, the Strong Dogs have some new family members and Team RWB has some new family members of the non-veteran variety. When veterans come together for the overall good of the whole community, everybody wins.


If you would like to contribute to Vets Voices, email or Tweet @WUSFveterans.