As a Marine veteran and a national legislative associate for The American Legion, Advaith Thampi enjoyed his work but was anxious to take a break from his Washington office and directly impact Florida’s recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
The 35-year-old headed to Fort Myers on Veterans Day and spent the rest of the month clearing brush with a chainsaw as a member of the Team Rubicon Emergency Response Team.
“The American Legion and Team Rubicon is an incredible partnership. We’re all service oriented,” said Thampi, who is now a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America national staff. “When I got here on day one, our chainsaw class was at Post 103 here in Florida. I was just beaming and smiling knowing that I was going to learn how to use a chainsaw at an American Legion post.”
The partnership is officially encouraged through Resolution No. 20 passed by The American Legion National Executive Committee in its May 16-17, 2015, meeting. It resolved that The American Legion “seek active coordination wherever feasible” with Team Rubicon and other selected groups. It also called for departments and posts “to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships” with these organizations.
From clearing the muck out of flood-ravaged houses to tarping roofs, hundreds of Team Rubicon volunteers have had a major impact on Florida’s recovery. Thampi takes particular pride in his job as a sawyer. “When these trees get knocked over, when they die, they can become very dangerous,” he said. “They can fall on people. They can destroy property. These are serious, serious problems.”
Nick Reibold, a combat-disabled Marine vet from Phoenix, also joined Team Rubicon’s Operation Sunshine Strong.
“It’s the camaraderie here that makes this team so great,” Reibold said. “We have all walks from all over America, from Israel…We have different units. We have police officers, CEOs, schoolteachers.”
Team Rubicon never charges for its services, an important distinction for homeowners who have already experienced huge financial losses.
“It’s really important to give these families hope and that’s what Team Rubicon is all about and that’s what The American Legion is all about. Public service and helping people that need help,” said Thampi, who is still an active Legionnaire with Post 177 in Fairfax, Va.
Fort Myers homeowner Dorothy James was the beneficiary of Thampi and his team’s sawing and clean-up services. “I told them ‘You all are a Godsend. You are an answer to a prayer. Because we’ve been praying for someone to help us with this tree,’” she said of the massive timber that was uprooted on her property. “That’s a humongous job but you all coming here today was an answer to a prayer.”