Mike Washington is one of three generations in his family who've dedicated their lives to serving others. The retired marine and 25 year Seattle firefighter taught his children the importance of being part of something bigger than themselves.
“I told them when people need help, why not help?” he said.
So, when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, Washington rallied the troops in the Northwest, bringing desperately needed relief to New York and New Jersey. For two weeks the Northwest members of "Team Rubicon," a nationwide band of military brothers and sisters, helped storm victims dig out of the ruins of their former lives. It was a proud moment for this humble marine.
“I look at these young people and they've stepped up before and now they're stepping up again and thriving,” said Washington. “This is what they were meant to do.”
But this story isn't about Mike Washington or Team Rubicon, or even the victims of Hurricane Sandy. It's about someone who never set foot in the disaster zone, but is helping to inspire much of the good work being done there.
That inspiration comes in the form of a black and white photo taped to Washington's firehouse locker, and a tribute typed below it. It’s a picture of hope and promise. It’s a picture of Mike Washington’s 20 year old son, Michael, killed in action in Afghanistan.
“Michael was the kid who would mow the elderly neighbor’s yard,” said Washington. “He just wanted to make a difference. He relished that opportunity to step up, show what he could do, and report back that everything was all taken care of.”
It was one of Michael's Marine Corps buddies who founded Team Rubicon, hoping the memories of fallen heroes would live on in the works of others. The senior Washington got to work hand-in-hand with those who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with his son.
“If I can't be with my son, what better way to honor his service and affect change than to be side by side with his Marines," he said.
Still fighting fires, Washington is now Director of Field Operations for Rubicon's Northwest team. Hundreds strong, they stand ready for the next mission -- Michael and his son leading the way.
“My son told be time and time again that I was retired from the Marines. That I should take it easy. For me, this is taking it easy. Just keep pushing forward. Drive on. That's what Michael was doing. He was driving on,” he said.
The Northwest chapter of Team Rubicon is recruiting military vets for future relief missions. You can find out more by visiting their Facebook page at http://teamrubiconusa.org/region10/ or the Team Rubicon website.