Saturday, August 31, 2013

CINC's statement today.

More war?

Are we really considering entering another war right now?

The Waiting Game

A recent Washington Post article shows signs of progress in VA’s efforts to reduce the more than 800,000 claim backlog. Director Thomas Murphy reports that “the number of pending cases has decreased by 74,000 over the past 45 days.”

VA has pledged to complete all cases that have been pending for more than 125 days by the end of 2015. NBC News has reported that VA officials are indicating that St. Paul, Minnesota, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Providence, Rhode Island have already achieved this goal. This represents 3 of VA’s 56 Regional Offices. However, wait times at 12 VA Regional Offices still exceed 400 days on average.

While these reports may provide some hope to the thousands of veteran’s still waiting for their claims to be processed, the elimination of the backlog at the VA Regional Office level may be creating delays at the appeals level.

In 2012, the Board of Veterans Appeals handled 49,600 claims. In the first 6 months of this year, the Board has already received 37,000 claims. This number could reach 100,000 within the next 4 years.

Already veteran’s are experiencing wait times in excess of 1,000 days from the time an appeal is submitted to the Regional Office to the time a decision is issued by the Board of Veteran’s Appeals.

Efforts to reduce VA’s backlog at the local level does not currently include efforts to reduce the wait time for veterans who appeal Regional Office decisions, which is likely to continue growing as VA issues decisions on the more than 800,000 pending claims.

Board members hope that VA’s transition to electronic records will help to reduce this wait time. In the meantime, Laura Eskenazi, the principal deputy vice chairman of the Board of Veterans Appeals, reports that they have already begun hiring new attorneys to handle wave of new appeals expected as VA continues to process the backlogged claims.

To see the complete articles discussed above, please follow the links below:

Monday, August 26, 2013

The PTSD Series - Part 4

This posting will briefly discuss how to prove the final element of a PTSD claim to the VA: medical evidence of a link between the current PTSD and the In-Service Stressor.

Generally speaking, if you can prove the first element – a current diagnosis of PTSD – you can prove this element. Why? Because your psychiatrist or treating physician’s report to the VA should include not only a discussion of the diagnosis of PTSD as discussed earlier, but also should include some information about the event which caused the PTSD.

While this evidence will not be helpful to prove that the in-service stressor occurred, it will help establish the link between that stressor and the PTSD.

How much evidence of a link do you need? The legal standard is that the evidence must be in “equipoise”. Evidence is in equipoise if there is an equal amount of evidence on either side of a particular argument. All you need to provide is enough evidence to show that the in-service event that caused your PTSD was a “contributing factor” to the PTSD.

As long as your medical report properly describes the symptomatology of your PTSD, adequately describes the stressor event, conforms to the DSM-IV, and acknowledges and reconciles reports that support a mental disorder other than PTSD, then you probably have enough evidence to show the third element of your claim.

A special note – if you have been treated (or diagnosed) for an anxiety disorder or PTSD while in the service, you should include these records in your claim for disability to the VA – the VA has a duty to assist you in finding these records or any records that can help prove your claim. Why should you include them? If you were treated for PTSD while in-service, then it is hard to imagine circumstances where the treatment wasn’t for the in-service stressor event, or an in-service event which aggravated or contributed to a prior or current diagnosis of PTSD.

If you have any questions about whether your medical evidence adequately proves a linkage between your current diagnosis of PTSD and in-service stressor, you should consult with a Veterans Service Organization or a VA Benefits Attorney.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The PTSD Series - Part 3

The topic covered in this installment is the second element of a VA Disability claim for PTSD: The veteran must provide credible evidence of an “in-service stressor”.

In plain English, this means you have to show credible evidence that the stressful event or events that caused the PTSD occurred in-service.

There are, generally speaking, two categories of “in-service stressors”: a) Combat Stressors when the Veteran served in combat, and b) Stressors when the Veteran did not engage in combat or experienced a non-combat stressor. The standards are quite different, and will be discussed below. In either case, the veteran must be able to show that it is “at least as likely as not” that the claimed in-service stressor occurred”. You can show this by showing corroborating evidence of the stressing event and a stressor event that is capable of being documented.

Does the stressor need to be life-threatening? Not always. The Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims has found that while a life-threatening stressor supports a PTSD diagnosis, it is not a required element for a PTSD claim. (If you have been denied benefits for a PTSD claim because the VA concluded that the in-service stressor was not “life-threatening” you should consult a VA Benefits Attorney or a Veterans’ Service Organization to inquire whether you can obtain retroactive benefits.)

Returning to our topic, there are two categories of in-service stressors: combat related and non-combat related.

1) Proving a Combat-related stressor. Even a brief period of participation in combat will trigger provisions which are very helpful in securing PTSD disability benefits. If you engaged in combat, you only need to present your statement of the occurrence of the stressor event in order to prove this element.

The VA shall resolve every reasonable doubt in favor of the veteran, and may rebut your statement only be clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Unless the stressor is not consistent with you circumstances of your combat service (i.e., you have a non-combat MOS) or if there is clear and convincing evidence (this is a lot of evidence) that the event didn’t occur, the VA cannot generally rebut your statement. You will need more than just your statement, though. Additional evidence that can help are your DD-214, statements from your fellow unit members, letters home to family or friends, combat related decorations (Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, etc.) are helpful to corroborate your claim so that the VA is unable to rebut it. The veteran should provide information from the JSRRC (Joint Services Records Research Center) to help verify that the stressing event occurred.

2. Proving a non-combat related stressor. The VA regulations for proving a non-combat related stressor are a little more strenuous than the combat-related stressor. The VA’s PTSD Regulation appears at 38 C.F.R. 3.304(f), and requires that you, the veteran, provide “credible supporting evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred”.

The VA must assist you in developing evidence that supports the existence of the stressor – unless there is no reasonable likelihood that the assistance would help to substantiate the claim. This evidence need not be found in your military records, although that sure helps. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has said that as long as you can provide “independent evidence of the occurrence of the stressful event, and the evidence implies [your] personal exposure”, you will satisfy this element. What sort of evidence should you get? Sworn declarations or affidavits from other soldiers in your unit would be most helpful – but not every event has witnesses. One thing is certain – a statement from your psychiatrist or treating physician that your version is credible is not sufficient.

In our next topic, we will discuss the final necessary element for a PTSD claim to the VA: the causal link between the diagnosis of PTSD and the in-service stressor.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The PTSD Series - Part 2

Medical Records

The topic covered in this installment is the medical evidence a veteran (or that veteran’s advocate, attorney or representative) needs to secure disability benefits for PTSD. As you recall from the previous blog post, medical evidence of a current diagnosis is the first thing the Veteran needs to prove in his/her claim for PTSD disability benefits.

This post will address the two big issues in this element of a PTSD claim: how much medical evidence is enough, and what type of medical evidence is needed.

How much evidence you need to prove depends on when you filed your claim. If you have a Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision issued after March 7, 1997, the veteran need only show that it is “at least as likely as not” that you have the PTSD condition. Prior to March 7, 1997, the standard was that the veteran needed a “clear diagnosis” of PTSD – this is no longer the proper standard. (If you have a BVA decision after March 7, 1997, which denies your PTSD claim on the basis of the lack of a “clear diagnosis” of PTSD, you should consider contacting a Veteran Service Organization or contact a VA Benefits attorney – the VA may have committed error in denying your claim).

The type of evidence necessary is this: an examination by a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist, and a written report. That report should discuss the doctor’s medical opinion that the incident you allege triggered your PTSD was medically sufficient to support a diagnosis of PTSD and that your symptoms were adequate enough for the doctor to diagnose PTSD. This gets a little tricky – you still need to prove the link between the stressor event and the current condition, and your doctor’s testimony that they are linked may not be enough. This is because the question of “linkage” is a question of fact for the VA, not a medical matter.

If the VA doubts the medical evidence you provided, it must follow one of two courses of action. It can either a) set aside its doubts and accept your medical evidence, or b) seek clarification of the portions of the report that cause it to doubt the medical evidence. If the VA does not get the clarification it needs, it can either a) return the report for more clarification or b) obtain independent medical evidence concerning the portions of the report the VA doubts or needs clarified.

Now that you now what (and how much) information you need to provide to VA, what does the doctor need to put in the report to aid your claim. It is imperative that your doctor follow the PTSD criteria in the DSM-IV; using an older DSM (DSM III and DSM III-R) is going to delay your claim and require medical reevaluation under the DSM-IV. This is because the criteria in the DSM-III and III-R are significantly different than the DSM-IV criteria.

The change to the PTSD criteria in DSM-IV benefits veterans in many ways, and leads to an interesting point. The VA used to use the DSM III and DSM III-R. In 1996, the VA adopted DSM-IV as the standard for evaluating mental health impairments. If your claim for disability benefits due to PTSD was rejected prior to 1996, and you have a diagnosis of PTSD dated after 1994, you may be able to reopen your claim for benefits and have it evaluated under the new criteria. At the very least, you should be able to file a new claim for benefits. You should consider consulting an attorney if this issue sounds like it might apply to you.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The PTSD Series - Part 1

Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD

A November 13, 2007, CBS report found that at a significant number of our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are committing suicide.

According to the report, since 2005, a total of 6,256 Iraq veterans have killed themselves after returning home. To put that figure into perspective, the total number of US Soldiers killed in Iraq currently totals around 4400. New reports are being developed and the suicide numbers continue to rise despite the efforts of all agencies involved in identifying and treating potentially suicidal military members.

One cause of these suicides may be untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition which, according to the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostics and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) is:

“[T]he development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury or other threat to one’s physical integrity…[the response to which is] intense fear, helplessness, or horror.”

In other words – seeing people kill or be killed on a regular and recurring basis can damage your mental health. It may start with a general feeling of emotional numbness after a traumatic event.

There may be guilt about surviving when others did not, anxiety, depression, flashbacks and nightmares, insomnia, and worse. Untreated, the condition can lead to drug or alcohol abuse and suicide.

Many veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD – sometimes it won’t surface for weeks, months or years. When service-connected PTSD surfaces, it is a compensable condition and the veteran is entitled to disability benefits.

A veteran may find it difficult to prove to the VA that he or she has PTSD. The next few days of this blog will be dedicated to laying out some basic requirements for proving entitlement to PTSD to the VA.

Generally speaking, to successfully claim disability benefits for PTSD, a veteran (or their attorney or advocate), must show three (3) factors:

1) Medical evidence of a current diagnosis of PTSD. A veteran need only prove, by competent medical evidence (consistent with the criteria of the DSM-IV) that it is at least as likely as not that the veteran has disabling PTSD.

2) Credible evidence of an “in-service stressor”. There are, generally speaking, two categories of “in-service stressors”: a) Combat Stressors when the Veteran served in combat, and b) Stressors when the Veteran did not engage in combat or experienced a non-combat stressor. The standards are quite different, and will be discussed in greater detail in the coming days.

3) A link, or connection, between the current condition and the “in-service stressor”. This is the murkiest element of the three, but generally speaking, if the Veteran can show medical evidence – by a lay expert – that the in-service stressor was at least a contributory factor for the current symptoms, then the veteran should be able to secure benefits for this condition.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why A Veteran Might Be Your Next Best Hire

Before I moved to Houston, Tx in March of 2012, I read an article in Forbes magazine that caught my eye. It stated that the highest paid salaries of adults aged 25-35 resided in my hometown of Houston. I knew that it would be a great idea for me to move home and have a built in support network of both family and friends, but little did I realize that I might stumble upon the holy grail of supportive cities.

Once again, Forbes has put together another highly informative article that all veterans, especially those with hiring authority, should review.

by: Shane Robinson, Contributor

There are nearly one million unemployed military veterans in the U.S. according to the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, and the Department of Labor reports that, for some veteran groups, unemployment is more than 20% higher than the national average. At the same time, Silicon Valley Bank reports that 90% of new startups will increase headcount this year, but that many of them can’t find the workers they need to do so. How are our soldiers – individuals who’ve made extraordinary sacrifice and who’ve received some of the most sophisticated training and leadership experience available – not returning home to the job security and stability for which we’ve led them to believe they’re fighting all along? And how are businesses still struggling to find good talent when it appears to be abundant?

As an American, I’m disheartened by the stats, but it’s na├»ve to believe that we could fix the problem simply by plugging all the hiring holes with veterans – startups require specific talent, and vets often want the kind of stability that many startups couldn’t offer. As a former soldier, however, I know part of the problem is due to employer misconception – when I transitioned back into the private sector, some companies actually told me that my experience was too military.

As an entrepreneur, therefore, I feel a sense of responsibility to be part of the solution, and I think that now, perhaps more than ever, startups are in a position to grow their ranks and simultaneously reduce veteran unemployment. And to prove that it’s an accomplishable mission for companies – upstarts and established alike – I enlisted the help of LinkedIn, and Callaway Capital Management to understand the top reasons why these trendsetters hire vets.

Leadership readiness at every level

Working in an entrepreneurial environment is like working in professional sports or rock and roll. What matters most is not your age or tenure but rather the quality of your contribution, and often you must be prepared to inherit a leadership role at a young age. At 18 I was placed in charge of $5M worth of classified equipment. I have colleagues who in their 20s were appointed interim governors of entire towns in the Middle East. So it was no surprise when LinkedIn said the following about one of their own veterans, Ben Faw, who, along with fellow intern Tom Pae, spearheaded an initiative during InDay to give over 100 vets free LinkedIn profile makeovers:

Even though we have more than 238 million members around the world, we still behave like a 3,779 person startup. Things move quickly here at LinkedIn, so we’re always looking for talented professionals who are driven, nimble and collaborative… Ben’s high level of involvement, even as an intern, in our recent July InDay project is a perfect example of the type of self-starting and entrepreneurial spirit that we look for in prospective team members. – Brendan Browne, director of global talent acquisition at LinkedIn

Composure and creativity under pressure

Working in a startup equates to operating under extreme pressure. Despite the rigidity of military regulations and the certainty provided by standard operating procedures, officers and enlisted soldiers alike are accustomed to making significant decisions in the face of moral dilemma, under the threat of physical harm and in a myriad of other uncertain situations. The ability to creatively solve problems in the face of unprecedented situations is a quality for which startup,, has found immense value:

Startups have to be adaptive to market forces and outmaneuver competition. Veterans learned maneuver tactics the hard way, in unforgiving places like the mountains of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq. The talent they bring to has evolved our company from a military daily deal site,, to an identity solution that has the potential to serve as a model for the ecosystem of identity verification companies… Business has its stresses. But combat is a heck of a way to prove yourself capable of beating those challenges… The veterans we’re cultivating today were forged in the fires of a long war, and actually volunteered to join that fight. That’s pretty unique in our history. And we’re just now seeing how good these men and women really are.” – Matthew Thompson, co-founder and COO at

Big picture understanding, relentless attention to detail

Minimum viable product within startup culture is based on the notion of providing just enough detail to serve the higher strategy, and the military phrase, “good enough for government work” is actually a suitable comparison here. In all seriousness, though, vets are trained to keep a watchful eye on the big picture, while maintaining an immaculate sense of detail. Such ability is incredibly rare and has been of particular importance to emerging markets investment company, Callaway Capital Management, which was quick to offer up Scott Quigley, yet another veteran intern, as an example of this talent:

As a frontier market investment firm, we are constantly processing a wide range of data and research from around the world, often from environments in which the numbers can be less than reliable and difficult to use in a comparative context. To complicate matters, that information must be parsed for analysis by a range of individuals at the company – quants, economists and political risk analysts – each of whom possesses a different skill set and an often equally different style of communication. I hired Scott specifically because I knew his leadership experience as a captain in the U.S. Army would enable him to shepherd this process to create a seamless product and to do so on time, and, just as importantly, without alienating the occasionally competing personalities from whom those details came. Indeed military experience might be unique in equipping business leaders with this type of skill set.” – Daniel Freifeld, CEO and founder at Callaway Capital Management

The ultimate team player mentality

One of the first leadership tenets we learn in the military is that, to become a good leader, one must first be a good follower. In this sense, rising through the ranks is a rite of passage, which allows all military leaders to develop their own management styles based on the observation of their superiors – both good and bad – along the way. Working in any dynamic corporation requires a similar maturation-through-accumulation process, and often the most effective leaders are those who were able to mobilize their teams from the bottom of the chain of command, simply by setting the right example for others to follow:

Ben’s energy and enthusiasm for his veterans’ project was palpable and contagious across the company. It’s uplifting to see an intern like Ben, who’s only been at LinkedIn for a few weeks, take initiative and lead a project that impacted so many veterans. Ben’s work not only impacted the veterans that were helped that day; it also galvanized other LinkedIn employees who got a chance to interact with courageous vets, and LinkedIn members, who they might not have otherwise met.” – Meg Garlinghouse, head of LinkedIn for Good at LinkedIn

Uncompromising integrity

Integrity is a necessary ingredient in relationships with employees, strategic partners, clients and investors, and it can singlehandedly build or destroy a company. It is also one of the most transferrable characteristics that veterans bring to the private sector:
The Navy expects its sailors to “have the moral and mental strength to do what is right.” The Air Force says “integrity first.” In the Rangers, it was mission first, and always put others before yourself. Veterans understand loyalty and they understand integrity. You can trust them to do the right thing, even when no one else is watching. – Matthew Thompson, co-founder and COO at

Habitual goal orientation

Veterans are accustomed not only to assessing situations and quickly formulating actionable plans, but also to performing After Action Reviews, which require all members of a team to identify areas in which a given strategy should be improved for next time. Startups call this process validated learning, and it’s an integral component of continued forward momentum:

When you’re working in an unstructured environment, the ability to define clear goals and then work with a high degree of discipline and focus to accomplish those goals is paramount. It’s an organizational leadership quality that my veteran hires consistently showcase, and it comes from a genuine understanding of both responsibility and accountability, as well as intimate experience in situations in which there is no clear precedent or path forward.” – Daniel Freifeld, CEO and founder at Callaway Capital Management

Will you follow suit?

Building a startup, or any organization for that matter, is like starting a revolution. As an entrepreneur you’re convincing anyone you can – your employees, your clients, your partners and your family – that you’re engaged in something worth fighting for. It’s a grind. It’s a battle. So who better to hire than a soldier?

More information on hiring veterans
The U.S. government wants American companies to help solve veteran unemployment, and in addition to launching initiatives like Joining Forces, Hiring Our Heroes and The Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, it has made available several tax credits for hiring veterans.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Air Force Adapted Sports in Las Vegas.

The U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Program invited me out to Las Vegas this week to participate with and be a mentor to wounded, ill, and injured Airmen.

Part of the challenge with participating in these camps is that many of the Airmen are at different stages of recovery.

With both physical and mental illness, the feeling of competition can reignite the fire inside to succeed, and that is what we are trying to do ... light the fire in those that might be struggling to find the next step in life.

With approximately 60 athletes in attendance, from multiple states over the western half of the country, this introduction to adapted sports camp is the largest the Air Force has held since the inception of the wounded warrior program.

Juggling personalities at these camps can be a bit like herding cats, but when everyone comes together and gets in sync, that's when the magic happens.

Smiles from ear to ear, high fives, cheers and the energy of the participants shines brightly against the desert sun.

Adapted sports hold a power for certain people, and I am one of them.

The power is in that fire I mentioned earlier. The drive and determination that might have been lost due to an injury or illness can be rediscovered and reinvented with new challenges.

A greater sense of accomplishment is sometimes realized when a person can complete new tasks after injury.

When dealing with the future of our military veterans, no challenge should be too great, no obstacle should be considered impossible.

We are transitioning more and more veterans into modern society over the next few years than we have been in the previous 20. And with the advent of new technologies and new career paths, anyone involved with transition assistance has a massive task on their plates.

I hope I can personally contribute to the success of my fellow Airmen.

My fire has been lit.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

A simple message.

It's amazing how much a logo can say to a community.

Taking care of brothers and sisters that served our country faithfully is a priority for many of us.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fireworks shouldn't be bothering me anymore.

I am sitting here, in the dark, listening to the fireworks going off outside of the hotel here in Moody Gardens.


It's been awhile since I was around fireworks and the reverberations bouncing off of all the glass in this hotel bothers me.

PTSD can be managed and overcome. I fully believe that.

But one of the major challenges is harnessing all of the negative feelings associated with "triggers" and being able to remain calm.

I am calm enough to type, but this whole time the hair on the back of my neck is standing up and I have an overwhelming urge to throw my kit on and jump into a bird and run an air assault.

I need to back up a bit here to give everyone some pertinent info...

I am participating in the Wounded Warrior Project's Moody Gardens Family Weekend. We are bringing Wounded Warrior Alumni together to network, relax, and learn about the opportunities to better ourselves and our family members through the project.

It is always a wonderful thing when I have the opportunity to participate in WWP events. From the monthly skeet shoots, to the weekend gatherings, to the hard work of giving back to our fellow wounded warriors, the project has things for all interests.

I will be documenting my experience this weekend and attempt to share the benefits I receive as a WWP Alumni.

Tomorrow should be better.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Veterans Administration and Congress

The Veterans Administration in Houston, Tx shares clinic and treatment options for Veterans in the Houston area. Also, the Honorable Congressman John Culberson gives us a perspective from the federal level as to what is being done and what is needed. Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Treating Post Traumatic Stress

Post traumatic stress is an emotional response that can have a detrimental effect on anyone's life. A contractor working for KBR in Iraq shares a video and a local doctor weighs in on therapeutic methods to effectively treat post traumatic stress. Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Fighting Post Traumatic Stress

In recent days, I had the pleasure of speaking with my friend Natalie Bomke, a morning news anchor with Fox 26 in Houston. She is passionate about sharing Veteran's stories, and I am so happy to be able to help in getting the word out for Veterans to take action early to prevent themselves from going down a road where suicide is even an option. See the whole story below. Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

HPD Crisis Intervention Response Team

The Houston Police Department has a Crisis Intervention Response Team, and is training officers on how to best deal with responding to Veterans in crisis within the local community. See the story on what they are doing in order to help.Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

10 Reflections of a Warrior.

The writing below does not belong to me. I cannot take any credit for its content. I can say however, that it is an enlightening reflection on how numerous veterans may feel in today's time of war. The piece below hits home for me. And I am a transitioned, business professional, out in the civilian market, working my behind off to do what is right for the veteran community. But the demons lurk and tug at heartstrings. They are still woven in the framework of my mind, body and soul. Training, good training, does not just go away because we take our uniforms off and return home to put on a suit and tie.
Sometimes, the training becomes our instinct, and in those moments, we are truly vulnerable.
1. He is addicted to war, although he loves you. War is horrible, but there is nothing like a life-and-death fight to make you feel truly alive. The adrenaline rush is tremendous, and can never be replaced. Succeeding in combat defines a warrior, places him in a brotherhood where he is always welcome and understood. The civilian world has its adrenaline junkies as well; just ask any retired firefighter, police officer, or emergency room staff if they miss it. 
2. Living for you is harder. It would be easy for him to die for you because he loves you. Living for you, which is what you actually want, is harder for him. It is even harder for him if you are smart and do not need him to rescue you, since rescuing is something he does really well. If you are very competent at many things, he may at times question if you need him at all. He may not see that you stay with him as a conscious choice.
3. "The training kicks in" means something very different to him. It is direct battle doctrine that when ambushed by a superior force, the correct response is "Apply maximum firepower and break contact." A warrior has to be able to respond to threat with minimal time pondering choices. While this is life-saving in combat, it is not helpful in the much slower-paced civilian world. A better rule in the civilian world would be to give a reaction proportionate to the provocation. Small provocation, small response (but this could get you killed on the battlefield). When the training becomes second nature, a warrior might take any adrenaline rush as a cue to "apply maximum firepower." This can become particularly unfortunate if someone starts to cry. Tears are unbearable to him; they create explosive emotions in him that can be difficult for him to control. Unfortunately, that can lead to a warrior responding to strong waves of guilt by applying more"maximum firepower" on friends, family, or unfortunate strangers. 
4. He is afraid to get attached to anyone because he has learned that the people you love get killed, and he cannot face that pain again. He may make an exception for his children (because they cannot divorce him), but that will be instinctual and he will probably not be able to explain his actions.
5. He knows the military exists for a reason. The sad fact is that a military exists ultimately to kill people and break things. This was true of our beloved "Greatest Generation" warriors of WWII, and it remains true to this day. Technically, your warrior may well be a killer, as are his friends. He may have a hard time seeing that this does not make him a murderer. Although they may look similar at first glance, he is a sheepdog protecting the herd, not a wolf trying to destroy it. The emotional side of killing in combat is complex. He may not know how to feel about what he's seen or done, and he may not expect his feelings to change over time. Warriors can experience moments of profound guilt, shame, and self-hatred. He may have experienced a momentary elation at "scoring one for the good guys," then been horrified that he celebrated killing a human being. He may view himself as a monster for having those emotions, or for having gotten used to killing because it happened often. I can personally recommend 'On Killing' by Dave Grossman. 
6. He's had to cultivate explosive anger in order to survive in combat. 
7. He may have been only nineteen when he first had to make a life and death decision for someone else. What kind of skills does a nineteen-year-old have to deal with that kind of responsibility? One of my veterans put it this way: "You want to know what frightening is? It's a nineteen-year-old boy who's had a sip of that power over life and death that war gives you. It's a boy who, despite all the things he's been taught, knows that he likes it. It's a nineteen-year-old who's just lost a friend, and is angry and scared, and determined that some *%#& is gonna pay. To this day, the thought of that boy can wake me from a sound sleep and leave me staring at the ceiling."
8. He may believe that he's the only one who feels this way; eventually he may realize that at least other combat vets understand. On some level, he doesn't want you to understand, because that would mean you had shared his most horrible experience, and he wants someone to remain innocent.
9. He doesn't understand that you have a mama bear inside of you, that probably any of us could kill in defense of someone if we needed to. Imagine your reaction if someone pointed a weapon at your child. Would it change your reaction if a child pointed a weapon at your child?
10. When you don't understand, he needs you to give him the benefit of the doubt. He needs you also to realize that his issues really aren't about you, although you may step in them sometimes. Truly, the last thing he wants is for you to become a casualty of his war.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A note.

Iraq war veteran Daniel Somers committed suicide following an arduous battle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that was caused by his role in committing “crimes against humanity,” according to the soldier’s suicide note.

Somers was assigned to a Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad which saw him involved in more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee, in addition to his role in conducting interrogations.

 Below is his suicide note. It tells the world what he was thinking before he made his final decision.

I share it with the hope it will provoke thoughts on how we can beat this challenging and multifaceted issue of military veteran's suicide.

I am sorry that it has come to this.

The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term.

You will perhaps be sad for a time, but over time you will forget and begin to carry on. Far better that than to inflict my growing misery upon you for years and decades to come, dragging you down with me. It is because I love you that I can not do this to you. You will come to see that it is a far better thing as one day after another passes during which you do not have to worry about me or even give me a second thought. You will find that your world is better without me in it.

I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. 

Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. 

Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “overprescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for

Since then, I have tried everything to fill the void. I tried to move into a position of greater power and influence to try and right some of the wrongs. I deployed again, where I put a huge emphasis on saving lives. The fact of the matter, though, is that any new lives saved do not replace those who were murdered. It is an exercise in futility.

Then, I pursued replacing destruction with creation. For a time this provided a distraction, but it could not last. The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

I thought perhaps I could make some headway with this film project, maybe even directly appealing to those I had wronged and exposing a greater truth, but that is also now being taken away from me. I fear that, just as with everything else that requires the involvement of people who can not understand by virtue of never having been there, it is going to fall apart as careers get in the way.

The last thought that has occurred to me is one of some kind of final mission. It is true that I have found that I am capable of finding some kind of reprieve by doing things that are worthwhile on the scale of life and death. While it is a nice thought to consider doing some good with my skills, experience, and killer instinct, the truth is that it isn’t realistic. First, there are the logistics of financing and equipping my own operation, then there is the near certainty of a grisly death, international incidents, and being branded a terrorist in the media that would follow. What is really stopping me, though, is that I simply am too sick to be effective in the field anymore. That, too, has been taken from me.

Thus, I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war. 

Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out—and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better without me in it

This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. 

And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried I am free.

I ask that you be happy for me for that. It is perhaps the best break I could have hoped for. Please accept this and be glad for me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Death Dreams.

The nighttime can be the worst time for some of us.

It is usually when I begin to dwell and reflect upon those lost souls who have already made the journey into the great unknown.

Each of us, as humans, will experience and feel loss in our lifetime. It is truly inevitable. What is it they say... "death and taxes"?

When dealing with loss, coping skills are a necessity. And recognizing when your emotions begin to influence decisions, is also a necessity for personal success.

Humanity has proven time and time again the when our emotions are running wild, it is usually not the best moment to make any decisions which have an affect on life as we know it.

Judgement can be skewed when developing emotions are allowed to take over our lives. And for those dealing with post traumatic stress... well, our emotions can take over all too quickly.

Both my wife and I had similar dreams last night. Similar in the theme of death.

Hers was a dream that focused on the suicide of her best friend from home. Mine was surrounding a suicide bombing that I was involved in back in Afghanistan.

But when we awoke from our nightly slumber, each of us was in a different mindset, and noticeably so.

Sarah fought tears throughout her morning routine, and I remained mostly quiet. Reflecting on the violent events that were playing out in my dreams only moments before.

Her friend committed suicide last fall, and the stings of emotions are still burning freshly in her mind. I cannot believe that almost 3 years ago I was ready to do the same thing to my partner of only a few years.

Ready to make the final decision of my existence. Blinded by emotion and selfish enough to think that taking my own life, might better hers and those around me.

Blind to happiness and ignorant in the labor of love necessary to sustain a productive marriage.

It pains me to see someone I care so much about, hurt so deeply, and I am powerless to stop it. Many of us have or will in this lifetime experience significant losses.

I am dwelling on the events of this morning mainly because I see them as a perfect eample of how differently two humans can process a significant loss of life.

I am prone to becoming unusually quiet and stoic, while my wife can show and process her emotions right up front.

Is this a cultural difference? Upbringing? Military training?

I discover and observe the coping methods of those people I am exposed to in my daily life, and am somewhat jealous.

Jealous because I do not feel emotion when a traumatic event happens. Everyone else can cry and feel sad right away it seems. I become numb and cold. Calculated. Strategic.

For me emotion is not so simple. I internalize and analyze events repeatedly ... replaying the memories like some broken record. Scratching the same grooves of vinyl over and over, until there is a breaking point where the record cracks and falls to pieces.

Post traumatic stress, it seems, can effect us all.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Suicide is a topic that is all to close to home for many families in America. And it is extremely close to home for a growing number of military families as the numbers for 2013 are trending upward.

“A veteran or service member returning from a deployment, [whether] at home or abroad, is subject to a certain amount of distress,” said Jacqueline Garrick, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. “Regardless of where they served, there still are challenges when they return home, and we want to encourage them to seek help.”

Officials at the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments are attempting to avert suicide by making sure families, friends and communities that surround veterans and service members are aware of the signs and symptoms of suicide, to get those at risk into treatment right away, Garrick said.

Garrick said seeking early treatment before the symptoms worsen is vital. Veterans and service members who stall treatment might do so for many reasons, such as fear of losing their jobs, “but they [should] see it as a way to save their careers,” she added.

“Seeking help is a sign of strength,” Garrick said. “They won’t lose their jobs, and avoiding help doesn’t make an individual’s concerns go away."

“Letting problems get worse doesn’t make your career get better,” Garrick said. “The problems that are not dealt with are just going to manifest themselves and get bigger further down the road. We want to encourage veterans [and] service members to get help early, because it does make a difference in the long term.”

Suicide is not unique to the military, Garrick noted, adding that it is a societal issue, and successful treatment is easily available. For veterans and service members, Garrick said that help is available around the clock at and through the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, which offer confidential chats and texting capabilities.

The website offers a wealth of resources, including the announcements, videos and a variety of information on how to seek help for service members, friends and families, Garrick said.

Garrick noted that in addition to the need for family members to help distressed service members and veterans, the family members themselves can be distressed, and should take advantage of the resources and seek help if that’s the case.

The topic of suicide will be discussed in greater detail on my blog in the coming weeks and days.

We can stop Veterans from making that ultimate decision, I have faith.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Earned VA benefits are just that... earned.

They are not something to be taken lightly or simply brushed aside and not utilized because certain Veterans are personally financially successful.

When you sign up for the U.S. military, you are signing a contract that binds you to serving the federal government and with that agreement, you say you are willing to die for the cause.

You are saying that you are willing to be sent to the ends of the planet, and engage in life altering combat, in the best interest of the people of the United States.

In response, your government is agreeing to take care of you, in the event that you suffer from life altering conditions, in the performance of your duties to the nation.

But in addition to that, there are certain benefits that are made available to you, specifically because you agree to serve.

I know due to the nature of my job and speaking with Veterans everyday, that many of my brothers and sisters are not well educated on the process to file for and receive any of these benefits.

Most of us know about the medical benefits, but many also do not know about certain others, such as the VA loan, the Vocational Rehab program, or even unemployment compensation post service to carry you into the next job.

Below, I pulled the VA benefits table from their website just in case any of you have not seen it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Warrior Athletes.

Throughout the process of training for competition, athletes have been photographed and interviewed by various news agencies.

Here are some of their images.

Getting the message out.

I had the pleasure of speaking with a couple of members of the media today about adaptive sports as tools to aid in recovery.

Since meeting fellow veterans who also participate in adaptive sports, I have gained a new perspective on life.

Overcoming mental and physical obstacles through healthy competition is a spiritual and physical life extending practice.

Below is one of the spots produced by the U.S. Air Force Academy's Den Mar Services Team.

Thanks so much to those guys for helping me get this message out to my fellow veterans.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Prince Harry and the 2013 Warrior Games

Prince Harry was a gracious and inquisitive guest during his time at the 2013 Warrior Games here in Colorado Springs.

He spoke of possibly hosting an international set of games in the United Kingdom in the future.

I hope you pursue that dream Captain Wales. Thank you for being a devoted leader and soldier.

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Sarah Evans carries the torch.

Air Force Captain Sarah Evans was the torchbearer for the U.S. Air Force Team at the Opening Ceremony of the Warrior Games presented by Deloitte on May 11, one day before Mother's Day.

Sarah spoke with me last training camp about her story and the challenges she faced with her recovery and the obstacles she has already overcome.

She was selected to be the official U.S. Air Force Torchbearer during the Warrior Games Opening Ceremony.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Let the games begin.

Prior to the start of the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, which run May 11-16, athletes and supporters gathered at the Athlete Welcome Reception, May 10, at Penrose House in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Guests included Admiral James Winnefeld, ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Misty May-Treanor, three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball.

Being a part of the U.S. Air Force Team is an honor and a privilege that only a few have known. The evening was dedicated to meeting and greeting fellow athletes, distinguished visitors and key sponsors of the games.

The following day, we gathered to make our entrance to the games. Each team made their official entrance and greeted invite only spectators.

The energy in the waiting area flourished, and stories of triumph during medical treatment dominated the topics of conversation.

Each team made our way to "the tunnel" and walked to our seats.

Prince Harry of Wales was a special guest and has remained an active participant in the games for the United Kingdom team. Even participating in a seated volleyball game, where his youthful, fighting spirit showed through.

I am off to capture a bit of the seated volleyball game tonight, so I will have more to share later.

Go Air Force!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Finally here.

We made it. 50 athletes, Airmen from various walks of life and each with stories of triumph and recovery.

I am so proud to call myself an Airman again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The rush.

The past 24 hours have been filled with check-in's, paperwork, team meetings, and clothing issue.

Situations military veterans are all too familiar with.

But, there is some icing on the cake.

When we learned of our lunch yesterday at the U.S. Air Force Academy, we were all pretty curious about what was going to go on there and how we were going to get some chow in between training sessions.

I was stuck at the hotel without a ride when my trusty old pal (and former supervisor), Mike, came by to assist me in getting to the lunch.

Bonus about having Mike pick me up ... we went straight to the top level of the chow hall and I had the privilege of being right next to the action as my fellow teammates entered the facility.

It is a pretty amazing rush of energy when a crowd of more than four thousand cadets and Airmen cheer for you and your team. The thoughts of gold medals and winning events rush through my head like something from a movie montage.

The thirst for winning is accompanied by a deeper sense of accomplishment for many of us involved in these games. You see, everyone involved in the Warrior Games is a part of their respective branches wounded warrior program.

In recent days, in response to the ongoing need for continuing care, each branch of the military established their own individual wounded warrior outreach program.

Some are older than others, but all are in existence to provide care to any seriously wounded, ill or injured veteran identified on a casualty report, or recommended by the medical community, as having highly complex medical conditions identified by the medical community.

Also included are veterans who have been referred to the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or other mental health conditions, or who have been retained for more than six months on medical Title 10 orders, or returned to Title 10 orders, for medical conditions related to deployment.

Many support organizations exist on the outside of the Dept. of Defense, but most are non-profit organizations that focus on the overall broad spectrum of military veterans.

This is a wonderful thing in my opinion, and partnered with government sponsored warrior outreach offices, the network of support services available to today's separating veteran far outweighs any in history.

Veterans support networks play an integral part in disseminating VA benefits information, and by combining forces with government outreach offices, medical, educational, and VA home loan information can reach a wider audience.

This should only be viewed as a positive thing.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Last night was our first night reuniting as a team after a two and a half week break.

The Air Force Warrior Staff organized a visit from the USAF Academy cheerleaders and Gen. William Shelton, Commander of the US Air Force Space Command.

Feelings of excitement and joy were shared by all in attendance, and the team kept arriving even throughout the night last night due to some weather delays in other parts of the country.

This experience, for most of us, will be the ultimate sporting experience we may have in our lifetime.

We are competing at an Olympic level, in the Olympic Training Center, here in Colorado Springs.

All of the nutrition, exercise, and evening strategy sessions, are leading up to this coming week.

This time of challenge and endurance may be the defining moment in recovery for some of my teammates and I.

With my personal struggle to transition into the civilian world, this sporting event, reenforces teamwork in the truest sense. The sweat, the screaming, the injuries ... all of it now must be put on the back burner because the time to train is over.

The time to compete is here. It's time to win.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Day of Service - The Babins

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of organizing and leading a "Day of Service" community service project, benefiting a deserving Texas Veteran family, The Babins.


This community outreach program is something that I have a passion for because it directly impacts my fellow Texas Veterans.

The project was organized in partnership with the Association of the United States Army, the Wounded Warrior Project, TexVet, and my company, Security America Mortgage.

Our goals were simple, provide basic home maintenance services to the Babin family and show them that even though their son's time serving in the military has come to an end, the Veteran community at large still supports them and their sacrifice to America.

After the events of September 11, 2001, Corporal Alan “Doc” Babin, Jr., enlisted in the Army at the age of 22.  He wanted to do something where he could help people and insisted on becoming a medic with the elite 82nd Airborne Division.  Alan was constantly a body-in-motion, surrounded by friends and brightening peoples lives with his amazing smile.


On March 31, 2003, the 82nd was engaged in heavy gunfire on a bridge over the Euphrates River when a call for a “Medic!” rang out.  Alan ran out from a covered position to rush to render aide to his fellow soldier when he was shot through the abdomen.  He remained on the hood of a gun-truck for 3 hours before being safely evacuated from the battlefield.

His heroic actions inspired his Unit and, for his bravery, he was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” for Valor and the Purple Heart.

Alan has survived over 70 surgeries, a stroke, meningitis and a long, complicated medical journey.  Doctors expected him to live out his life in a nursing home - but God (and his mom) had a different plan.

After spending over 2 years in hospitals, he has since then been clawing his way back to health and inspiring everyone who meets him.  His determination and courage during rehab are legendary and he remains positive day-in and out. Alan loves participating in adaptive sports - taking up to 3 ski trips a year since 2006 and this summer made two river rafting trips in Colorado.

With his mother, Rosie, as his full-time caregiver, advocate and biggest fan, Alan has re-learned to breathe, talk, eat, move his limbs and to find a “new normal.”  He continues to help others “off the battlefield” by sharing his journey, making a difference in the current health-care systems and to be an agent for positive change.

Alan resides with his parents in Round Rock, Texas, and continues to enjoy “LIVING LARGE” with the encouragement of his Sister (Christy) his Dad (Al Sr.), his Mom (Rosie) and the support of many, many Patriots.

His father, Al Sr., a Commander for Round Rock Police Department, shares full time caretaker duties with Rosie.

And that comes with some challenges.

"Home ownership is a 24/7 deal anyways," said Alan Babin, Sr. "So taking care of Alan and trying to get him to all of these different events that we try to keep him involved in, sometimes you just don't have time to get to the things that you need to fix around the house."

Even after everything Alan has survived, he still encourages everyone he meets to, “Never, never, never give up!”

More "Day of Service" projects are coming soon to a Texas town near you.

It is my eternal goal as long as I walk this earth to help my fellow Veterans. Count on that.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A couple of my favorite survivors.

Earlier this week I mentioned a couple of young women that gave me a new perspective.

This is some footage of the two Airmen that encouraged me to look at cancer and non-combat related injuries from another perspective.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans is an athlete who experienced her left leg amputation only one year ago.

She doesn't let it stop her from competing in the Warrior Games.


Wes Glisson

Wes has made such a amazing comeback after experiencing a head wound during a deployment to Iraq.

We spoke at length about his challenges today.


Jennifer Kyseth

Jennifer and I spoke this afternoon and she shared some of her thoughts on the Warrior Games and recovery.

Shawn Schwantes

Shawn Schwantes, U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party Instructor, sat down to share a part of his story with me this afternoon.

His is another unique story with a challenging and rare syndrome.

Coach Cami

Cami Stock, Associate Head Coach of the USAF Warrior Games Team 2013,  gave me a few minutes this afternoon, rushing in between commitments for the team.

Stock, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, fits right in to the coaching staff with her own experience as a professional athlete.

Coach Bales

James Bales,  Head Coach for the USAF Warrior Games 2013, was so kind to give me a few minutes this afternoon.

An orthopedic surgeon, who also runs triathlons professionally... here's my time with him.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cancer free.

Goodnight everyone. Long day, insomnia kickin, tired tomorrow.

Morning 2 in Colorado Springs.

Today should be another productive day for all the USAF athletes. Although, for our track and field folks, it's pretty cold outside and snow is on its way in this afternoon.

This morning I was running a bit behind as I did not sleep well last night. Hopefully, this won't hurt my shooting skills too much.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Orion Orellano and the end of day 1.

Briefly, I want to mention the tragedy we as a nation experienced this afternoon. My heart goes out to all of those citizens of Boston and the cities around the nation with families attending the Boston Marathon.

The Airmen attending the Warrior Games Training Camp worked our hearts out during our individual and group events. Each respective challenge attacked and shared by athletes with common grounds. I had the opportunity to speak with one of these Air Force Warrior athletes this evening.

Monday Morning Video Update

Today is our first day of training for this weeks 2013 USAF Warrior Games Training Camp. I will be doing video blogs all this week to add some more personal insight from other athletes here on this blog. Check back all week for updates and stories from Active Duty and Veteran athletes. I'm about to start practicing with my pistol, but will have another update later in the day.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Year two.

Today marks the begining of my second year as a civilian.

One year ago, yesterday, I woke up in the morning, in my old childhood bedroom, at my mother's house in Houston, Texas.

I was 29 years old, with a pregnant wife, 3 months along, carrying twins.

I had no job lined up, no apartment, no home of my own.

A large dog and a couple of cats were already on my "payroll" as well.

I no longer had anyone to make me get up and out of bed, or telling me that I needed to put on a uniform and shave my face.

I was, after 11 and a half years of active military service, alone and adrift in the civilian community.

All I had was a few new suits, a decently polished resume, and a mountain of determination in my heart.

I had no option to hang out and meet up with old friends. I didn't have the time to kill, nor the money to burn through, to even realistically move into my own apartment.

I felt angry. I was upset at myself for all of the turmoil and chaos surrounding my transition to the civilian world. I wanted to be a civilian, but I also wanted more time to line things up and work out plans in order to become successful.

Time is never on your side when awaiting discharge.

It's never too early to plan what's going to happen after the last day you have to put on that uniform.

Once it comes off, and goes into the storage box, attic bound, a change seems to happen.

It is a change that can either go very wrong, or very right. And the decisions made at that point are so critical, as they can determine the next few years of life.

Will it be a constant battle and struggle? Or will it be a ride of excitement and creativity?

I have worked tirelessly to ensure the latter.

All of the skills that I learned in the U.S. Air Force have helped me to transition into a new position in life.

One that demands leadership, professionalism, and poise.

Many times during my duties working in the community, I am one of the few Veterans that people are exposed to. So the burden is on me to show that we are a capable and respectful bunch.

Over the past year of life, I had two beautiful children, started a brand new job in an industry new to me, performed weeks of charity work, given jobs to veterans, helped homeless veterans find a place to live, and networked with other successful veterans to continuously develop and enhance our local community and the lives of those around us. 

For me, the transition is scary and challenging, but is also the most rewarding time of my life.

What are you doing to plan your transition? Who have you networked with? Do you understand the value of personal presentation? Can you adapt your resume and skillset in order to translate your worth to a civilian employer?