Former Badger inspires thousands of fellow veterans to join disaster relief through nonprofit

Former Badger inspires thousands of fellow veterans to join disaster relief through nonprofit
Photo credit: Team Rubicon

UW-Madison graduate Jake Wood was back on campus Friday to share his story of service and inspire others to step up.

The co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon graduated in 2005 and was an offensive lineman for the Badgers.

He said the global perspective he gained on campus helped shape his life of service.

After graduation, Wood did two tours as a Marine scout sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in 2010 he found his passion when volunteering in Haiti.

He created the nonprofit organization Team Rubicon for veterans who want to continue their service and use their special skills in disaster zones.

“Stepping up when things get chaotic is really what our volunteers are signing up to do, so we see it dozens of times a year,” said Wood.

Since that first trip to Haiti in 2010, Team Rubicon has responded to more than 200 disasters. The group has grown from eight to 50,000 members.

This fall, the organization deployed almost 3,000 veterans and $7 million to hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

“With these storms we’ve set aside two years worth of capital, so we’re going to be sticking around for the long-term recovery phase of this,” said Wood.

Being part of emergency relief efforts also benefits the volunteers.

“They’re looking for that purpose, that community, that sense of identity again after leaving the military, and we’re able to give them a new mission, a new uniform, and through that help to really restore those things,” he said.

Wood is one of the only people honored twice in the newly-opened Alumni Park. More than 120 alumni are represented for their impact on the world. Wood is included in the “Forward under 40” section.

He wants the UW-Madison community to take away an important message from his visit.

“Our communities need service. We need people today to step up and help their neighbors. We can start with our military veterans, but really I think this is the salve that can heal America,” said Wood.