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The Darby Project: Investing in the future of Rangers

Charities geared toward veterans do a whole host of things. The ones you typically hear about are throwing fundraisers for worthy causes, giving to homeless veterans, or helping those suffering from the wounds of war. Others take alternate routes, seeking to empower veterans long-term as they often struggle to adjust to a strange and unfamiliar civilian life.

The Darby Project, the Ranger-centric arm of GallantFew, is of the latter group.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This expression applies to the non-profit sphere quite aptly — the Darby Project does not simply aim to alleviate the problems of transitioning Rangers as they arise, they aim to teach Rangers across the board how to deal with them themselves. Empowerment is the core idea that fuels this project.

I spoke to Bryce Mahoney, Director of the Darby Project, for more information. He describes it as “a proactive response to a transition program that is not designed as a one-size-fits-all process.” He made it clear to me that their goal was to facilitate a successful transition — to provide active duty Rangers with the information and resources that will prove to be invaluable upon their separation from the military. Bryce spoke to the anxiety felt by many former Rangers, especially when in conjunction with bad financial decisions or unrealistic expectations they have when leaving such an elite part of the military.

“Our ultimate goal is to pair brand new Rangers with an assessed and trained veteran Ranger mentor who can give him advice on a myriad of topics: financial freedom, locating resources for the VA, the value of physical health, or even possible career choices.”

I asked him how he intended to make that happen — a thing like that would not only take significant efforts on the outside, but it would also mean serious policy change within the Ranger Regiment itself. “Actually, the biggest highlight of this year has already included changes in that direction. We’ve been spending a lot of time recently working with the 75th Ranger Regiment, helping them write a policy letter ensuring that this transition process would continue for multiple years.” Policy letters like this are no small thing, and this is extremely important if the Darby Project hopes to continue this program despite the regular changes in command (otherwise it may become a passion project for one commander, but not a priority for another).

Solid, definitive action like this is a hallmark of The Darby Project, as they continue to fight for Rangers and their successful transition into the civilian world. After all, even the Rangers who stay in the military for their whole career will have to transition eventually.

But if a Ranger doesn’t take advantage of the benefits available to them, they may still find themselves in a world of trouble. “I’ve seen Rangers struggle with pride, more than anything. We are bred in the military, and especially in the Regiment, to think that we are the best, we deserve the best, and that we have earned the best. I have seen guys prevent themselves from getting a decent paying job with a lower responsibility level because they feel they deserve more, even though they haven’t proven themselves to that company yet. This often snowballs to financial instability, anxiety, and sometimes substance abuse.”

He went on to describe how important it is for Rangers to break out of their circle. Many Rangers feel like anyone who wasn’t a Ranger or in the military have nothing to offer them. This is understandable, since they have such a unique, incredible experience with the Regiment, but it’s simply not true. “The strongest network I’ve had since I got out came from like minded people who live right in my community, social media friendships are great, but nothing replaces a physical network,” Bryce said.

“The problems these Rangers are dealing with? I’ve felt them myself. The greatest decision I ever made was to open up my mind to the fact that there are more men that are out there who can provide me with accountability, community… and they don’t have to be former Rangers. When I accepted that, they helped me get past the low point in my own life when I was divorced, homeless, and struggling.”

To contrast with many of these stories, Bryce told me about Steven Brown, in charge of the Darby Project’s business development. He left the military and went to work at BAE Systems, “in the basement.” There, he proved himself and worked his way up successfully. “He set the standard, proved himself, and they rewarded him.”

These are the stories that Bryce, and everyone else at the Darby Project, wants to hear more often. They want to enable more people to take the path of Steven Brown, successfully transitioning into the civilian world. They believe that Rangers ought to follow their ambitions or dreams (or maybe come up with some in the first place) outside the Regiment, and that they ought to be able to do it in a smart, realistic, and practical way.

Check out the Darby Project here.

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Susan B
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It’s great that they are taking the bull by the horns, so to speak. By making it a solid part of their transitioning future, more Rangers can see it being used and learn to depend upon it when it’s their time to get out into the wholly different civilian world. I’d like to see the same in all the services. Rather than basing their pride on what they do IN the service, it would be nice to have pride in what they are accomplishing together out of military service. I love the success stories, and the sense of accomplishment that… Read more »

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