Jake Wood

A Voice for Veterans

Jake Wood BBA 2005 once described his time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as “a stepping stone to an opportunity to impact the world around me and make it a better place for generations to come.”

The former Marine, along with thousands of fellow veterans, has done just that through Team Rubicon. The organization, which Wood helped to found in 2010, deploys veterans as first responders to some of the world’s worst natural disasters.

Wood enthusiastically embraced college life at the UW, where he studied business and political science and played offensive lineman for the Badger football team.

Even before graduating, Wood was certain of his next step. He was inspired to join the military after the death of Pat Tillman, the former pro football player who quit the NFL for the army after September 11, and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.

Wood deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and he left the Marines a decorated veteran. Returning to the United States, he wasn’t sure what he would do next.

The answer came while watching news coverage of the 2010 earthquake that shattered Haiti. Wood thought his service experience might be of use to a country in desperate need of help. He gathered up a small group of like-minded volunteers — veterans, firefighters, and doctors — and deployed to Haiti.

This would be the first of many missions for Team Rubicon, which now boasts 27,000 volunteers, mostly veterans, who respond to some of the world’s worst natural disasters: forest fires, hurricanes, and tsunamis, from the Midwestern U.S. to Pakistan, Nepal, and Chile.

Wood describes his fellow veterans as particularly skilled for disaster response, and he hears daily from men and women who say that joining Team Rubicon gave them a lifeline during the transition back to civilian life. A well-known advocate for veterans, Wood spends much of his time speaking about the positive effects of giving back.

In 2011, the Wisconsin Alumni Association honored Wood with its Forward under 40 Award. That same year, he delivered the charge to UW graduates at winter commencement ceremonies: “When you see an obstacle, you climb it; when you see a choice, you make it; see a problem, you solve it.”