Brian Buhman, an Iraq War veteran with two tours under his belt, wasn’t looking for recognition. Instead, he was looking for a place to continue to serve.
So when he found Team Rubicon USA, a non-profit veterans organization which responds to disasters worldwide, he knew he found his place.
“I knew it was something I would love doing; I like going out and helping people,” he said, noting it employs what veterans do best, responding to high-stress, risky situations with speed and skill.
But what he didn’t know was that his volunteer work would soon lead him straight to the steps of the White House.
Buhman, who lives in East Greenville, with his wife, Jess, was honored last week as a White House “Champion of Change” in Washington DC for his disaster response efforts throughout Pennsylvania following Hurricane Sandy.
Under the Champion of Change initiative, developed by the Obama administration to “highlight the efforts of Americans impacting their communities and helping our country rise to the many challenges of the 21st century,” Buhman was recognized for more than 150 hours supervising and working to clear trees in properties throughout Montgomery, Bucks and Chester counties.
Buhman, a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry assaultman, has served as the Pennsylvania state coordinator of field operations with Team Rubicon USA since 2012. While many of his fellow volunteers with the organization headed to harder-hit New Jersey and New York, Buhman stayed behind to make sure his home state was taken care of.
“It just seemed like there was always a need,” Buhman said of the relief efforts needed after the storm. “Just when we thought we had covered all of the impacted homes in an area, we would hear from an organization such as the local United Way that more homes were identified.”
Through his partnership with Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), Buhman performed damage assessments, created work orders and led teams in the field. He estimates they helped more than 23 homeowners in need with the costly process of tree cleanup.
“Volunteers like Brian Buhman have been a vital piece of the recovery process since Hurricane Sandy,” said Commonwealth Coordinating Officer Glenn M. Cannon of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), through a FEMA press release.
It was for those efforts, and for countless hours spent in volunteer service with Team Rubicon, that Buhman was honored.
“I was surprised and excited,” he said of his nomination. “A lot of people had done amazing things during the storm and it felt great to be recognized in this way.”
Buhman, who also volunteers locally with Telford Dive Unit, arrived at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House last Wednesday. There he was acknowledged for his contribution and spoke on a panel with fellow Champions of Change.
Buhman talked about what makes veterans a great asset to disaster relief, including leadership, their aptitude for hard work and ability to excel in stressful situations.
“I was really honored,” he reiterated of the whole experience. “I feel like the Champions of Change program is a great way to recognize people for doing hard work to help others and being innovators during times of hardship.
“There are still people in need of help out there and I hope this discussion brings some attention back to the victims of Sandy. There are many organizations out there still chopping away at lists of work orders and I hope the warm weather can bring out hundreds of volunteers to help get it done.”
As for his efforts with Team Rubicon, Buhman said will continue volunteering for a long time to come.
“I think Team Rubicon is a great organization. Not only do they help disaster victims, but they help reintegrate veterans by providing community, purpose and self worth. I plan to continue my service with Team Rubicon and hope to help many other people.”
For more information on Team Rubicon, visit teamrubiconusa.org. Details on the White House’s Champions of Change initiative can be found at whitehouse.gov/champions.