Veterans join first responders on the front lines of disasters with Team Rubicon

CHICAGO -- It has been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, and with dozens dead and months of recovery operations ahead, Irma now threatens the Florida coast.

Born out of service and giving back to veterans, Team Rubicon is making a difference on the ground during and after these natural disasters.  From Haiti to Houston, Team Rubicon has deployed to the scenes of 200 natural disasters in just seven years.

From modest beginnings, it developed into a nonprofit 55,000 members strong. Most recently,  hundreds of former veterans and others are on the ground helping with hurricane harvey.

"We take skills and experience of military vets and pair them with first responders, and we deploy them as emergency response teams after natural disasters," explained Team Rubicon co-founder William McNulty.

McNulty grew up in Chicago's northern suburbs and graduated from Loyola Academy in Wilmette in 1995. He finished college, joined the Marines, and then in January 2010 he made his way to Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake rattled the impoverished country. He leaned on his Jesuit roots from high school to help him get there, and on his medical staff and supplies in Chicago to keep his spontaneous mission afloat.

"Myself and a group of other vets provided security and created a base of operations down there in Port au Prince with the Jesuits, then we gave them a green light to come down," McNulty said.

"I ended up getting trauma surgeons, yard nurses [general practitioners] and United gave us two airplanes," said Dr. Mauricio Consalter, wound care specialist.

This team worked tirelessly there for 18 straight days seeing the worst of the worst when it comes to rescue, medical triage and recovery. But that single mission got  Rubicon of the ground.

Today, hundreds of members of Team Rubicon are headed to Houston, staging rescues by boat, digging out, managing endless debris - mainly doing the dirty work. They expect to mobilize 2000 volunteers over the course of the entire mission in Texas.

"We're helping people on the worst days of their lives," McNulty said.

Meanwhile, as Hurricane Irma batters the Caribbean and threatens the Florida coast, Team Rubicon U.K. is already in Antigua and Barbados, while another team of six sits at the ready in Dallas, waiting to head to the hardest hit regions.

The nonprofit has an annual operating budget of $12 million, and early estimates to help just in Texas could cost around $4.5 million as they provide critical support. Teams will likely move in and out of the Texas region in waves for the next year and a half.

Their efforts even attracted the attention of President Trump as he personally donated $1 million Wednesday to relief efforts, split between 12 different organizations, including $25,000 to Team Rubicon.

All this while giving veterans who've served a new purpose as they reenter society, and putting their skills and experience to work with renewed spirit. Like the logo says: disasters are our business. Veterans are our passion.

"To me it's humbling to see something that started right here in Chicago at Illinois Masonic Hospital, a four man recon team for a group of family doctors, has burgeoned into this global disaster response organization," McNulty said.

Learn more about Team Rubicon on their website