By JIM KEVLIN
COOPERSTOWN – On one of his Team Rubicon “deployments,” Frank Capozza and his team were “mucking out” a house destroyed by flooding and discovered the homeowner’s military uniforms hanging neatly – but now mud-covered – in a closet.
Only three uniforms could be saved.
“We brought them out and had them dry cleaned,” said Capozza. They sought out the man, a Korean War veteran, in his temporary quarters and presented them to him.
“He cried. And we cried,” said the former Cooperstown village trustee and Bassett manager who owned Cooperstown Event Rentals before retiring.
An Army veteran, Capozza is also a veteran of more than a half-dozen Team Rubicon deployments, returning the first week of this month from Mexico Beach, still recovering from Hurricane Michael, which hit the Florida Panhandle in September. He spent a week there in early December, too.
Team Rubicon itself grew out of a conversation nine years ago between two Marine medics – Jake Owens and Will McNulty – who had recently returned to civilian life, according to DJ Sprenger, a Team spokesman. Watching a TV report on the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, one said to the other, “We’ve got all these skills, let’s go.”
Rebuffed by the Haitian government, Owens and McNulty recruited six other medics, flew to the Dominican Republic, rented a truck and drove across the Dajabón River into the stricken country.
Before the government got around to expelling them, they “helped thousands of people,” said Sprenger. “They ended up running a community response, taking over makeshift hospitals.”