Members of Team Rubicon rally to help a local Gold Star mother |

Members of Team Rubicon rally to help a local Gold Star mother

Sarah Vaughan, center, is surrounded by several members of Team Rubicon, an international organization of military veterans and first responders that does disaster relief and service projects around the world. Team Rubicon was at Vaughan's last weekend to do fire mitigation work in the forest around her home. Vaughan is a Gold Star mother.
Buddy Sims|Special to the Daily |

Project Golden Eagle

The project name is derived from our Gold Star mother Sarah Vaughan and Eagle County.

Total man hours: 200

Command man hours: 70

Sawyer man hours: 63

Swamper man hours: 67

Total volunteers: 20

Team Rubicon members: 18

Spontaneous volunteers: 2, including one from the local VFW Post.

Canine mascots: 2

Team Rubicon is a military veteran-based disaster emergency response and service organization. They’re international and boast 35,000 people around the globe.

Of those, 85 percent are military veterans. The other 15 percent are first responders such as firefighters and paramedics.

EDWARDS — Love and laughter often start with a grateful heart. Sometimes so do chainsaws, especially when they’re the harmony to the music of our lives.

Sarah Vaughn had company last weekend when 18 members of Team Rubicon, a military veteran-based international disaster relief and service organization, worked two days to drop almost 200 standing dead trees and provide fire mitigation in the forest around her place.

They did it because Sarah Vaughn is a Gold Star mother and because it needed to be done.

“You tell a veteran that we’re going to do a service project for a Gold Star mother, this is what can happen,” said Scott Pottratz, who coordinated this project.

Project Golden Eagle

Team Rubicon names its service projects. This one was Project Golden Eagle. Golden because Sarah Vaughn’s a Gold Star mother and Eagle because it’s in Eagle County, Sarah Vaughn said.

Sarah Vaughn is a Gold Star mother because, in June 2006 her son, Lt. John Shaw Vaughan, was serving as an infantry officer in Iraq. He was born in Vail, graduated Battle Mountain High School in 2001, was loved by thousands and was killed by a sniper in Mosul, Iraq, when his platoon was attacked. John Vaughn was 23.

Over the two days last weekend, 18 people worked the forest around Sarah Vaughn’s home, paying their own way and camping out to do it. O.B. Nelson had them camping — glamping, some said — at his place. Smiling Moose Deli sprung for breakfast.

“I couldn’t be happier. It was such a wonderful thing for them to do, and to happen to me,” Sarah Vaughn said. “It’s such a fabulous organization.”

Chainsaw safety

Along with being a firefighter with the Eagle River Fire Protection District, Pottratz also runs Continental Earthworks, a local wildfire mitigation and forestry company.

He was doing a chainsaw safety clinic at Sarah Vaughan’s place in Cordillera and told her he’d love to bring Team Rubicon to work on her place.

Pottratz has known Sarah Vaughn for years and taught a chainsaw safety class on her property.

“I realized how overgrown it was and how many dead trees were standing. I asked her permission to get Team Rubicon up here,” Pottratz said.

Pottratz is from Eagle County. The rest of last weekend’s Team Rubicon crew rolled in from Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

“You have everything from missile guidance technicians, to recon Marines to submariners, to a guy who drives a fire truck,” Pottratz said.

Here’s something you didn’t know. Team Rubicon loves their chainsaws so much, they name them instead of numbering them.

Here to help

Team Rubicon has sped to help people in the Texas floods, West Virginia floods, Colorado floods, wildfires in Colorado and around the West … just about anywhere disaster happens.

In Colorado’s High Park fire, some of them ended up in a children’s camp. The camp’s insurance company wouldn’t let anyone play there, because insurance companies are professional fun suckers. And because dead trees could fall on little kids.

So, Team Rubicon cleared 10 acres of standing dead timber in three days so kids would have a place to play.

Why name it Rubicon?

When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon at the head of his legions and marched on Rome, it marked a point of no return. The phrase “crossing the Rubicon” has since become a reference to any group committing itself to a risky course of action.

On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hundreds of thousands were killed, nearly 1 million Haitians were left homeless in a matter of moments.

Two Marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, knew they could help. Together with six other veterans and first responders, they gathered funds and medical supplies from friends and family and flew into the Dominican Republic. They rented a truck, loaded their gear, and headed west to Haiti.

On Jan. 17, 2010, despite government and large aid organizations advising them not to proceed, Team Rubicon members crossed the Artibonite River separating the Dominican Republic and Haiti, carrying crucial gear and medical supplies to the people of Port-au-Prince. Once across, they were irrevocably committed to their task. Hence the name: Team Rubicon.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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