Mindy Soranno and Marjorie Strayer, two volunteers for Team Red, White, & Blue

Richard Dinardo

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How Doing Something With Veterans Does Something for Them (and America)

This friendship reveals the power of the Team Red, White, and Blue approach to bridge the military-civilian divide.

Mindy Soranno and Marjorie Strayer weaved through the never ending rows of names to lay evergreen tokens of thanks on the graves of veterans as part of Wreaths Across America.

Soranno and Strayer have become the kind of friends who finish sentences for one another thanks to Team Red, White, and Blue, an organization that helps veterans connect with their communities through physical and social activities. Describing their shared interests, they both said without hesitation, “swim, bike, run,” then – at the same time and through laughter – wine! RWB brings veterans together with active duty and civilians for joint activities ranging from grabbing a cup of coffee to taking a yoga class to running a marathon. Soranno and Strayer are triathletes, but the benefits they see from RWB go far behind exercise.

“I am here today to honor those who have served our country,” Soranno said, adding that meeting RWBers like Strayer, who served in the Arizona Air National Guard, has made her a better person and helped her appreciate the freedom she has.

On this cold Saturday morning just ten days before Christmas Eve, families pushing strollers, boy scouts walking with their troop leaders, and veterans wearing World War II hats transformed the gray landscape with green wreaths and red ribbons as part of this Wreaths Across America event with a mission focused on remembering, honoring, and teaching.

But of all the groups gathered there, no one seemed to match the energy of the Team RWB members who unloaded boxes from a semi truck. Veterans and civilians alike wore the Eagle, a red and blue bird meant to symbolize the way that bridging the divide between veterans and civilians can help the country fly higher. The team distributed a total of 3,547 wreaths, and in the process, the conversations that were had waiting in line for wreaths and walking through rows of tombstones seemed likely to lead to many more Mindys and Marjories.

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Join the Team

Team Red, White, & Blue emphasizes that your time is far more valuable than your money when it comes to giving veterans what they need most. So whether you are a veteran, a civilian, or currently serving in the military, sign up below to join an RWB chapter in your community or become a local leader. Then attend an event, make a friend, and be a part of bridging this divide.

Team RWB Chapters

Catherine Cheney is the special projects editor at NationSwell. She previously worked for POLITICO and as a reporter and editor for international publications.

Richard Dinardo is a video journalist based in New York, NY. He was formerly a combat correspondent in the United States Air Force.