By Dana Forde
He spent 10 years stationed in Fort Bragg, NC; two years in Italy; and more than one year in Iraq. Now his service continues here, on the homefront, as he helps save lives and rebuild communities.
Ernest Verdin, whose nickname is “Cal,” uses his 20 years of experience in the U.S. Army to respond to disasters and emergencies. As an AmeriCorps VISTA member and full-time staffer for Team Rubicon, Cal has worked with impoverished and homeless veterans, helped in recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy, and provided counsel to injured veterans.
Individuals with military backgrounds, Cal said, are particularly well suited for helping with disaster recovery.
“Collectively, we have that inherent ability to follow and give instructions,” he added. “I’ve been able to use these skills to lead volunteers.”
Team Rubicon is a California-based organization that builds emergency response teams with veterans and first responders. Cal first started as a volunteer with the organization in February 2012 and then became an AmeriCorps VISTA member in December. He began his full-time staff position in August of this year.
Cal attributes the discipline and the passion he has for helping with disaster relief to the time he spent in the military. And those transitioning out of the armed forces need similar opportunities to identify and refine their future goals, he said.
“It’s not a lack of direction,” Cal said. “You’re waiting for the direction to find you. So we provide that direction in terms of disaster recovery.”
This year, Veterans Day coincides with a yearlong celebration marking 20 years of AmeriCorps. More than 16,000 veterans have continued their service through AmeriCorps programs. For more information about the 20th anniversary, please visit the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary Resource Center.