A local organization is working to bring together soldiers, veterans and their supporters to better the community and themselves each time they meet.
Team Red, White and Blue is a national organization with each local chapter’s activities directed at the community level, said John Stasulli, Fort Hood chapter captain. He began the local chapter a little over two years ago, after seeing a need in the Killeen area and realizing the closest local community was in Austin.
Initially, the group’s focus was on athletic activities, but its ultimate goal is to engage veterans with the community in a myriad of ways.
About 58 percent of veterans leave the Army and never return to their home, Stasulli said.
“We want to give them a sense of camaraderie,” Stasulli said. He retired in 2003 after 14 years in the Army and remained in Killeen.
The group has partnered with a number of local organizations to host runs, camps and events. Camp topics have included trail running, functional fitness and yoga. Recent events included a holiday fun run with a Fort Hood unit and laying wreaths at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen. The group holds a monthly social at a restaurant, and in the spring, it will host its second season of softball.
The local chapter has 375 members, including 100 civilians and a mix of recent veterans and those who have been out for years, Stasulli said.
“Some are just looking for an outlet. Anyone is welcome, (including) regular citizens with a passion or interest in supporting and volunteering with vets,” Stasulli said.
For Kyle Kelly, Team Red, White and Blue served as a major factor in successfully reintegrating into the community following his Army service.
Kelly suffered injuries from an improvised explosive device in 2007 and struggled with civilian life.
“I spent eight years in the Army,” Kelly said. “You develop a lifestyle and everyone you work with is relatable. You get out of the military and ... you’ve lost that connection with your peers and you’re not living the same lifestyle. It’s hard.”
The organization offered Kelly the opportunity to connect with other veterans experiencing similar dilemmas, while getting acquainted with civilians, too. Kelly calls it “a real blessing.”
“It helped me become a part of the community as a whole,” he said, noting the physical activities gave him the motivation to get back on his feet, get physically active and overcome barriers.
Team Red, White and Blue also provides information on community resources and peer support.
“One-on-one interactions help people get through the hurdles of leaving the Army,” Stasulli said.
Looking toward the future, Stasulli hopes the Team Red, White and Blue will have more opportunities to volunteer and partner with Fort Hood organizations. “We’re looking for any way to get out in the community and get involved,” he said.