Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Now What

The last few months have been intense for me to say the least.  I can honestly say that I have never studied this hard in my life.  It wasn't that the material was all that difficult.  But the difference was that I wasn't being paid for the course or title this time.  The Army made schools easy.  You went to the school and that's all you had to worry about.  Yeah the pressure was intense, but your focus was school.  I have a new found respect for the guys I had finishing degree's on their own time in addition to working full time.

Supporting my wife's new career, pulling more weight at home, working full time and studying like a mad man for almost 6 months was way more difficult than I thought.  I had to give up a lot of things I wanted to do but that's ok.  That's always going to be the case when you want something bad enough.

More than three years ago, I got lined up with a mentor through American Corporate Partners and the whole idea of getting my project management professional certification began.  I did some research but I didn't really have someone to truly explain what it meant.  So I let it slide.  For whatever reason, it stuck with me and I finally met a few good folks that guided me along the application process.  Once I was accepted, I scheduled my exam.

Trying to teach yourself from a textbook after not going to school for the better part of a decade is the exact opposite of what you should do.  The funny thing is I already know how I think and best study and decided to try something new.  End result?  3 months of studying and a failing grade.  I wasn't confident that I knew the material and it showed.  It was so bad that I couldn't even be mad at the score.  Enter Ranger Buddies and the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

I took a month off of studying and signed up for a boot camp course to learn the test and immerse myself into the material.  I thought IMLC and Jumpmaster were like drinking from a fire hose.  This was like drinking water at the base of Niagra Falls.  What I failed to realize is that the knowledge was already there.  I knew the material but had no idea how to organize it.  So in four days, I basically learned a new language and came up with a game plan.

Over the next week, the typical life stuff happened.  Sick kid, sick wife, and a few extra hours at work.  Late night studying and finding every second that I could to rehearse throughout the day.  I studied the same way I did in Jumpmaster and avoided all the traps that I fell into during IMLC and another school, Ranger.  When test day came, I was distracted to say the least.  I left work to study a bit more and finally just went into the center early.  I couldn't take it any more.  I stuck to my test plan and it worked.  Never the easy path for me but I get there.  Hitting the finish test button was the most nerve racking moment that I've had in a very long time.  But it was either doubt myself or just go.

So what now?  Who knows.  And right now who cares.  I'm done and I'm gonna enjoy my Christmas break and some good old fashioned PT.  The big thing for me is that I did something.  I know more than I did before and I accomplished what I set out to do.  Another thing that I relearned is how to listen to friends.  Had it not been for them pushing and encouraging me, I don't think I would have gotten there.  It doesn't matter who you are, you are not going to have all or even the best answers.

Folks might be out there wandering around wondering what to do next.  But in truth we all are and we always will be.  Where I am right now is alright, but I want more.  There's more to do and always will be.  I think it's good to be lost sometimes.  To me, once you start moving, you have a lot more options when you don't have an ultimate goal or grand scheme.  And it's times like these that relying on your friends and family that is most critical.  Listen to them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Time Thoughts and Feeling Guilty

Jay wrote this just before Christmas - my fault that it didn't publish til after.  Pushups... Karl

Now that Christmas is around the corner I can't help but think about my service in the military. Christmas was just another day to me a few years back. On countless occasions I spent holidays low crawling through muddy water and humping weight on my back until my socks were blood red.  Now that I am no longer serving I can truly enjoy Christmas and celebrate the birth of Christ.

My first few years out of the military were a different story. I felt guilty sitting at family Christmas gatherings, while everyone was exchanging gifts. Guilty because I knew that guys were out on missions away from their families, embracing the suck.. Something I could not quite grasp at the time. I think I felt like this for a few reasons. Either way the guilty feeling can paralyze the strongest of people.  Since I left the military, not on my own terms, I had angst towards not doing the dirty work anymore. Honestly, I hated it. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about my experiences in the military and how much it impacted my life. I miss it, I miss the camaraderie. Blogging about it helps fill some of the void that I lack from not being apart of a team. This guilty feeling makes me feel less of a man. I know I shouldn't feel this way but I did especially fresh out of the military and in some ways still do. I was so used to deploying around the world to fight the terrorists of my country that not participating really ate me up.. This guilt drove me to be reclusive and to not want to partake in Christmas festivities. Over time I began to realize the sacrifice's that are made so we can all have a lifestyle of what we choose. Sometimes its easy to get caught up in the material aspect of Christmas. I just ask that during this holiday, try to reconnect with an old ranger buddy. It could help make the pain and guilt a little more bearable. It could help save a life.  

After learning to cope with the guilt, I can honestly say that holidays are a lot easier for me. Making someone aware of my feelings helps me understand my own struggle as well as makes my family aware of my situation. And just like Ranger Mcneill said, "surround yourself with good people." Surround yourself with people that understand your struggle.  I am excited to spend the holidays with my family and enjoy Christmas again. This is the first Christmas, since being injured, I can actually say I am excited about. During the holidays, please keep a close eye on a combat veteran that you know.

Merry Christmas! RLTW!

Another Page Down

The semester is finally over and we have come a long way in the past sixteen weeks.  From everything I have heard from administrators with the university and previous graduates, the first semester is the most difficult for students.  Within this semester, I have learned about multiple disease processes, the drugs to help treat these diseases, and how to apply the nursing fundamentals in a clinical setting.  Being an accelerated program there have been courses that have lasted eight weeks and others that have lasted all sixteen.  In order to successfully navigate this program, studying can be overwhelming.  Most weeks, I am putting in 30-40 hours of studying.  The policy for this program is that you are allowed to fail (< 77.5%) one course.  A student is allowed to retake that course, but will fall back a semester, graduating at a later date than the rest of the cohort.  So, going into finals week was stressful.  The exams were cumulative, as well as new material added on top of it.  My week consisted of late nights, drinking a full pot of coffee each night, taking half hour power naps to rest my brain, and eating nothing but junk (not the best combination).  Four test in four days, much worse than 565 miles in 28 days.

After the week was complete, I had received two A’s, two B+’s, two B’s, and a B- for the semester.  Although, I am happy that I got through the semester, I still feel like I should have done better, but that’s just how I operate.  Now, I have a rejuvenation and am wanting to finish this next one with a 4.0 GPA.  This previous one was a learning experience, like most periods of our lives.  I had to learn how to effectively study and learn at an academic level again.  I have always been a hands on, visual type of guy, so reading hundreds of pages in a text book is not the ideal situation.  Most of the time as I read, I would be thinking about work, paying bills, or just getting through the week.  I guess that’s how life goes as we grow up.  We find ways to pile more and more on ourselves in hopes that the results are in our favor.
With the semester ending, I am on my holiday break.  Three weeks of working and spending time with my daughter.  On the day of my last final test, I picked her up from her mother's.  As we drove that morning, I turned to her and said, “Guess what Elleigh? Daddy doesn’t have to study anymore for the next three weeks.”  She looked at me with a blank stare.  A few seconds later, a smile appeared on her face and she began to laugh saying, “Yay, daddy doesn’t have study anymore.”  My heart filled with joy.  That night, we sat next to the Christmas tree and started a new family tradition.  Sitting on pillows and under blankets, I read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  She loved it, although it took about twice as long because all the questions she had (mostly about how old Cindy Lou Who).  We read it every night following that.

And another chapter of my life comes to a closing.  Each page a continuation of the previous, slowly unfolding into a story that I will be able to tell my daughter one day, and hopefully she tells hers.  As I pursue the composition of this tale, I cannot help but think about the extent of my own family tree.  I can only go back to stories of my grandparents.  I hope that I can leave the impression on future family generations that I was a man of the highest caliber.  Right now, being able to leave an impression on my daughter, guiding her to making the right decisions, is where I begin.  Eventually, the snowball effect will take hold and she will be telling her children the same things that my father and mother had told me.

Chasing another page, another chapter, and another goal is where I will be, same place, same mentality.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

GallantFew Goes Hollywood

Last week Ranger Schlitz and I went to Los Angeles.  Mike had some doctor appointments at the UCLA Medical Center, provided by Operation Mend and when he travels he needs a fill-in caregiver so Momma Schlitz can have a break.  Mike knows I'm always looking for ways to get to LA to work on veteran issues, so he invited me to come along.  Here's a few of the things we did.

We held the first LA "First Saturday" event on 12/7.  Held at a cool spot in Hollywood and with a dozen attending, a new tradition has begun. We have a vision of First Saturday breakfasts all across the USA -  Informal breakfasts where veterans can come to meet other veterans for networking, new relationships, opportunity, sometimes just someone to talk to.  We don't want anyone to have to make reservations or even buy anything if they can't afford it - but someone has to take charge, identify a place and get it on the schedule.  Is there one in your neighborhood?

We were beyond privileged to be invited to stop by Nick Vujicic's birthday party.  This phenomenal man was born without arms or legs. Life Without Limbs tells about his work and ministry.  Nick wants to partner with GallantFew to help reduce veteran suicide and I have a follow up call already on the calendar.

Next up, Pro-bono Legal Services for veterans launch - hosted by the law firm Akin Gump and 1st Ranger Battalion Veterans Attorneys Richard Welsh and Jeff Zuidema, this new organization helps veterans in the LA area with legal services.  GallantFew has a motivated group of veterans who are now attorneys organizing all across the country.  If a veteran needs legal advice we want him or her to be able to have the initial discussion with a veteran attorney.

Navy Special Operations (and Ranger) veteran Casey Gray asked us to speak at the LA Veterans Committee.  This group brings together political figures, the American Legion and the Bar Association.  Look for a 1st Saturday event to pop up at American Legion Woodland Hills Post 826 soon.  Casey also organized the 1st Saturday event.

Mike Schlitz is now a Gary Sinise Foundation Ambassador.  Gary invited us to "lunch" at his office which turned out to be half office Christmas Party and half Mike Schlitz recognition.  Gary presented him with a framed certificate honoring Mike's sacrifice and service.  "Lieutenant Dan" is a very special person - a celebrity who doesn't act like a celebrity and who pours his heart and soul into caring for active duty and veterans.  If you're looking for a charity to support (other than or with GallantFew) I can't recommend the Gary Sinise Foundation any higher.  First class.

Monger, Gary Sinise, Casey Gray, Mike Schlitz

A visit to LA would not be complete without seeing Ranger veteran Rafe Delli-Bovi.  Rafe is a former Director of the US Army Ranger Association and is a Senior Veteran Service Officer with the DAV.  If you are in the LA area and need help with your claim, Rafe's the man.

Schlitz, Rafe Delli-Bovi, Monger, Gray

Finally, we had a wonderful meeting with Patricia Kennedy who founded Step Up 4 Vets (we met her at the LA Veterans Committee meeting).  Trivia - Patricia was one of the finalists to play Lois Lane in the 80's Superman flick, but she lost to Margot Kidder.  Our gain, though - as Patricia has turned her talent and passion for the arts into a program that helps veterans.  We are looking forward to partnering with Step Up 4 Vets in LA, NY, and (hopefully) Dallas!

Schlitz, Patricia Kennedy, Monger

We're moving now into a time of the year that can be incredibly painful for veterans and families.  The holidays that fill so many with happiness and joy for others are stark reminders of hurt and loss.  Keep your eyes open for warning signs - we all follow different social media groups, and it's impossible to list specifically what you should watch for - but if it looks off to you, dig in a bit more.  If it worries you reach out to me or to Clarence.  You'll find our contact information at the top of the GallantFew webpage.

RLTW and V/R  Karl

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Surrounding Yourself with Good People

            Day in and day out you are always around people. People you may like, love, hate, despise, etc., but you still have to get along with each type of person within your job, school, or whatever places you around people each day.  What I want to talk about as far as transitioning from military to civilian life is the people you are around in your off time or free time.  Suffering from any kind of mental issue/disability from the military can be mentally exhausting especially working or whatever you do all week long within the civilian world.

            Good loyal friends are few and far between, you may only have a few true friends throughout your lifetime.  It takes time to find these types of friends unless it’s like a childhood friend you grew up with.  Suffering from PTSD there are so many things that trigger my PTSD symptoms, and I never know which one I may get really mad, sad, anxious, or depressed.  I don’t want to trigger these symptoms, so I try to surround myself with friends and family that I know I can trust and not place myself in uncomfortable places or situations.  I like to have someone with me at all times (unless I’m in the tree stand hunting) that I can trust to look out for me and can help me out if need be, in case something sets me off that wouldn't set off the normal person.  I have my small circle of family and friends that I truly trust, but expanding that circle can be a hard and hurtful, daunting task over time.

            True friends that care about you and want to succeed in life aren't always going to see eye to eye with you and you may fight or get really mad and say things you or them wouldn't usually say; but they will never hurt you physically or mentally and if they do, they will make the effort to make things better.  Sometimes they may be right and you have to make the effort to fix the problem and let them know how you were wrong and sorry and they will except that and be glad you admitted you were wrong; most times they will respect just that much more for admitting you were wrong and that you want to move forward and go on with life just like nothing happened.  That’s the people you want to surround yourself with, at least for me.  The ones that you don’t want to surround yourself with are the ones that go out of their way to hurt you and blame everything on you and never except the fact that may have been the one who was wrong.  One of the hurtful things about that is that you may have loved this person and been good with them for months or years and think that you know them, but you find out quick in all reality that you never truly knew them and that can tear you up inside, break your heart, or leave you feeling awkward and hopeless.  Those are the ones you have to branch away from.  It may be hard at the time and feel as if you should maybe forget about it and just go on like nothing ever happened.  But in the long run it may be best to branch away, because you don’t want to be around someone who has the ability to bring you down, (you will know in your heart if you should branch away or not from this person because like I said before good friends may not always see eye to eye, but you will know by what the person has done and how they act if you should branch off from them).

            The point I’m trying to get across is to surround yourself with good people who care for you, want to help and see the best for you.  These people need to be ones that you can trust to always be there for you when you need it and the ones that can help you throughout your hardships.  I’m also not trying to say never and go out and have a good time with new friends, but just to be careful and never put yourself in a possible situation to get yourself hurt.  There are many people out there who say they want to help you, (there are a lot of very good organizations) but you have to take the time and effort to be cautious in doing so to make sure they are someone or people who really do what they say they will do like the GallantFew organization has done for me.

-Bryant McNeill 

Monday, December 16, 2013

The mettle that we are made of

"It reveals the mettle that you're built of, that you spent your life building on...what you are.  I learned from my Dad, in his final day, how to die with courage and grace."
                                                                                      - Doc Cheney, 3/75 Ranger.

This past week, my best friend CPT Cory Brown, lost his grandfather.  This man was more than just a grandfather to Cory.  To Cory, his grandfather played the role of the father figure.  So, this has been a difficult past few days.  When I received the news, I canceled my plans the next day to be there for my friend.

Cory and I met in college.  Seven months after meeting each other, we both left for the Army.  He went to OCS, and I, the enlisted route.  I went on to the Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, GA, and he went on to be an MP officer in Grafenwoehr, Germany.  I missed his wedding due to my first deployment, and only saw him a few times over the stretch of the next few years.  As I was getting out of the military, he was finally off on his first deployment.  Never during our military careers did we ever cross paths.  Our main line of communication was an occasional email or message via Facebook.  But, he was always there for me when I needed him to be.  As I went through my divorce, and Run Ranger Run, I received nothing but positive reinforcement from him.  Many times he would say the things that I didn't want to hear, but needed to be said.  An occasional, "Smitty, get your head out of your ass," or, "I'm gonna come over there and knock some damn sense in your head," was appropriate at times.

Today, at the funeral, I witnessed my best friend be the man that his grandfather made him out to be.  He stood at the podium in his ASU's, fighting back tears, struggling with every other word to describe the love and admiration he has for his grandfather.  Cory wants nothing more in life to be half the man that his grandfather was.  But I can tell you this, his grandfather watched from heaven today, knowing that his grandson is twice the man that anyone could have imagined him to be.

The integrity of our character is defined by our actions in times of adversity.  Like the quote above, today I saw my best friend's mettle, the inner workings, the strength of which he is designed.  Ever since I have known him, he has done everything within his power to be more than where he came from.  He constantly feels he has to do more, whether it be another deployment to get more stripes on his uniform or one day work for a certain government agency.  Many times he can be his own worst enemy, causing more stress than needed.

Growing up, I was told by my father that you will only have one or two friends in your life, but you will have many acquaintances.  The way to distinguish the two is by differentiating which ones would give up their life in order to give you yours, and you do the same for them.  Today, I got the chance to experience the true friendship that I share with Cory.  I can only hope, that one day, I am half the man that he is.      

Friday, December 6, 2013

Learning to Transition to Civilian Life

Today TNAV welcomes a new member of our blogging team. ~km

My name is Bryant McNeill and I served in 1/75 Ranger Battalion for 6 and a half years. I was shot in Iraq on the night of and early morning of December 1st and 2nd, 2009 and had to have my left leg amputated as a result. When I was in the hospital in recovery I had many visitors showing support from both the military and civilians. These people made it out to seem like the military was going to take complete care of me financially and medically after I was out of the military. Now four years later I am finding out how completely wrong I grasped the picture they painted out for me.

I currently work full time and go to school full time (which the G.I bill pays for school and E-5 BAH every month) while trying to support a family of 2 kids and a wife and I can barely make ends meet financially even being paid 80% disability by the VA. Financial problems are very hard but the hardest thing for me I have found to be is the transition into working in the civilian world. I have almost lost my job twice over things that would be considered no big issue in the military. In the civilian world I’m learning how easy it is to mess up and have to suffer huge consequences. I just can’t act or speak the way I could in the military. Everyday I’m learning how I have to sit back, keep my mouth closed at times and not let the little things bother me. The small things I will admit I have a problem with letting them get to my head and caring too much what others think about me. If I want to make it in the civilian world I’m going to have to help myself and learn to control my feelings and not sweat the small stuff, which is way easier said than done.

What I’m trying to get at here is that the civilian world is not going to change it is what it is, you have to learn how to live in it and how to succeed in it. This is a lengthy process and won’t happen overnight, but day by day things will get better as you learn how to fight and conquer your inner battles. Don’t get me wrong you WILL run into those very hard days and this is where you can’t let them set you backwards, you have to pull through and always keep moving forward.

-Bryant McNeill

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What is Run Ranger Run?

Run Ranger Run then...

In the past month, there has been more people joining the Run Ranger Run Facebook page. A question that I get more than any other is, "What is this thing all about?"  So, instead of having to sending the same message out, I figured I'd go ahead and knock out an all encompassing entry to hopefully answer any of those questions.

Run Ranger Run, like most things, started out as an idea.  At the time, my daughter's mother and I were going through marital difficulty.  At the time, I was assigned to 3/75 Rgr Rgt at Ft Benning, GA.  My daughter and her mother had moved back to Indianapolis, and signs of salvaging the marriage were no where to be found.  I was still had an obligation to my country, and was held in place until my time in service had been concluded.

The day before initiating the journey
After my daughter left, coming home from work was the worst part of my day. It felt like I was a stranger in my own place.  I started running to escape reality.  On the first Tuesday of October, 2011, I was joking around with my pastor about having the idea of running home.  As I laid down on my inflatable mattress that evening, I couldn't get the idea of running home out of my head.  So, the next day when I got home from work, I started running.  That night, I ran twelve miles (the furthest I've ran at one time).  Over the next two months, my mission was to get home to my daughter, and help highlight the struggles that Veterans go through as they transition out of the military.

Run Ranger Run now...

Run Ranger Run is camaraderie.  Run Ranger Run is teamwork.  Run Ranger Run is never giving up on each other, and completing the mission together.

Run Ranger Run is a month long event where teams of two to ten people complete a total of 565 miles in the 28 days of February, replicating the distance and time it took me to make it home.  Individuals on the team don't have to be geographically located near each other, which makes this such a great way to reconnect with friends, other service members, and family across the world.  The mileage that teams track can come from running, walking, biking, etc.  So, if there is ten people on a team, each person has to average 56.5 miles for the entire month (which averages a little bit over 2 miles per day).

This past year, Run Ranger Run had teams participating in three different continents and completed enough mileage to circumnavigate the world 1.5 times.  Many teams ran in remembrance of fallen heroes, naming their team after those individuals.  But, no matter the reason for certain teams running, the miles that were accumulated changed lives.  Not only did it bring the community together, but it showed war-fighters that there is a vast network of folks out there ready to support them as they transition into the unknown (see below for note from Karl on how we use the funds).

The run changed my life.  It gave me a new perspective on life, and the vision to overcome the obstacles in front of me...one step at a time.

To sign up as a team, or to join a team go to the Run Ranger Run home page.  

It felt great to have her back in my arms
Karl writes:

With Cory's OK we decided to expand on and honor his initial achievement.  Since most of us are not athletes of Cory's caliber, we thought that teams of ten could accomplish what the team of one - Cory did - 565 miles in 28 days.  

The number one goal of Run Ranger Run is awareness.  Awareness of veteran issues and what GallantFew does to help veterans.  The second priority is fund-raising.

Many nonprofits hold banquets, large 10k races or other events that cost a lot of money and raise relatively little after expenses are paid.  Last year the first ever RRR raised over $125,000 at a cost of about $17,000 (to pay for tees, credit card transaction fees, etc).  The majority of that money is still in the bank.

We have plans to hire some social worker case managers that can help us facilitate mentoring relationships.  We are funding 1kVets with six month subscriptions for veterans.  This great partnership with a for-profit company that has built a fantastic tool to help leverage social media like LinkedIn really amps up a veteran's job search.  That service typically costs about $100/month, we are getting six month access for one veteran for $150.  We want to provide this to initially 1000 veterans (that will cost us $150,000).  Already about 20 veterans are enrolled.  If you need employment help, go here and sign up.

Another program is ground-breaking PTSD therapy led by Dr Carrie Elk out of Tampa, Florida.  We want to bring her to locations across the country to help veterans learn unique and powerful methods to defeat PTSD. Her methods have helped a number of Special Operations veterans in a secure, confidential manner.

There are many more initiatives, too much to write here.  On a personal note, I am the only paid full-time GallantFew employee.  The first two and a half years I was unpaid.  I am not retired from the military, although I do receive a partial VA disability.  Starting in 2012 the board voted to pay me $36,000 a year (it was that or I had to cut back time here and get a job).  Mid 2013 they raised me to a level that next year is $50,000.  I will not take a dollar more in salary from GallantFew, and I pray for the day I can do it again for free.

Much of the intimate, personal work we did (and I say WE because of the volunteers) is too private to openly discuss.  We will never parade a veteran's problems around on TV to ask for money, and RRR allows us to fund-raise during one time period a year and not ping you every day for money.  We have prevented suicides, prevented homelessness, helped veterans get great jobs and created great relationships.  We have also begun pushing our message that it's the military's job to make civilians into soldiers, not soldiers into civilians.  They need to keep their focus there.  It is the responsibility of each and every community to welcome veterans and assist them in their transition home.  Your help and involvement in Run Ranger Run helps ensure we will expand that message, expand our capacity and do more and better work for more and more veterans.  ~Karl

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


WANTED: Veterans
Our mission is simple--to educate Veterans with no prior computer and network experience to the level of Information Technology experts in a matter of months. This program is open to all Veterans including those who served in Active Duty forces, as well as in the Reserves and National Guard, from every branch of the service. This school has been approved to accept Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) benefits from eligible Veterans; full and partial scholarships will be available for students not eligible for Chapter 31 benefits.
After completing the Acuitus Information Technology School in Palo Alto, CA, Veterans will be ready for placement in Information Technology, System and Network Administration careers across a broad range of industries including high-tech but also health care, insurance, finance, telecomm, energy, and manufacturing. We work closely with our Fortune 500 corporate partners to ensure that each of our students will graduate with high-value, high-wage employment opportunities. Our graduation rate is 97%, most are employed within several months of graduation, and our graduate's starting salaries are close to the industry average salaries for all ITs.
This totally immersive school is a five-month commitment. Our school is supported by the White House, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and our corporate partners.
We are currently accepting applications from all interested individuals.
REGISTER NOW for classes starting in January 2014, and every month thereafter at: http://www.acuitus.com/veterans
Find more information regarding this program at the VA Center for Innovation site: http://www.innovation.va.gov/program-digitaltutor.html •OK to highlight this job opening for persons with disabilities •Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster. •Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
Posting ID: 4215914269

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dream Big

The further I get away, in time that is, from that moment I decided to leave Active Duty, the closer I come to realizing that I should have stuck to my guns and my initial plan.

We have a skill set and an attitude that no one else on the planet has.  Save one country and there's a good book out there that I recommend, "Start up Nation".  It really does say it all and I believe whole-heartedly that GallantFew is capitalizing on two of it's cornerstones.  Entrepreneurship and the Veteran network. Check out 1KVets and the whole idea behind it.  What Karl and Sudy are doing is spot on.

We have created great things and accomplished monumental feats with little more than the will to do so.  We inspired others to follow us in the face of almost certain failure and come out on top. Over and over and over again.

Our economy sucks.  The government, it's agencies and a lot of civilian corporation post positions to cover their backs; building a "Look at me, I'm doing great things for Veterans and our economy" facade.  Yet we see through the BS.  ACAP, well intentioned as it is, is a joke.  Career advice from folks with little to no experience in the civilian market and job fairs with companies that have little to no experience with the military...that recipe ain't gonna taste too good.

So what are YOU going to do about it?

My whole life, folks have told me that I couldn't or wouldn't.  Too small, too slow, not smart enough.  Well I did.  Still am doing.  But somewhere along the way I lost sight.

We need to dream again.  We need to hold on to that dream and be willing to suffer to make it work.  People gravitate towards us.  Capitalize on that.

The transition is hard.  We lose our network of friends and support.  We lose our mission.  The jobs we take don't take care of us and don't mean as much to us.

That's fine.  When you realize that a job is nothing more than a means to an end and you have an ultimate goal or DREAM, life becomes a little more clear and a lot less stressful.

My goal is to support my family and be able to spend time with them.  I want to support myself, be my own man.  100% self made and sustaining.  My mission is to get there.  My dream...I let it slip away and I was miserable.

I started to dream again.  I read only things that help me imagine more and support my dream.  Here's another blog that I read (http://www.jamesaltucher.com/).  This guy is out of control.  Just my style.  It's going to take a lot of time.  I'm OK with that.  It's going to take even more work.  I'm enjoying that work.

What are you going to do?  Figure it out.  Don't stop until you get there and surround yourself by only those that will help you get there.  Everyone else and everything else is irrelevant.

Over the last few weeks, things have been coming into my view about this whole topic.  Certain celebrities telling kids that no one owes them a damn thing and to just get a job.  That dreams take a lot of work.  That they suck as people because they only care about themselves.  Athletes that are told they aren't good enough to play college or professional ball and write angry letters to powerful people and constantly prove everyone wrong.

I'm surrounded by Veterans like Mike Schlitz and read articles about Cory Remsburg.  These two men inspire the hell out of me.  "Never tell a Ranger what he can't do."  Are you kidding me?  The dude said it with a smile too.  The audacity.  I love it.  Mike pours every ounce of energy he has into others.  In a recent interview he did, Mike told us what made him turn that corner, and I'll paraphrase here...."That spoon saved my life."  Immense challenges, ungodly pain and they shrug it off like it's nothing.  Hell it seems like they enjoy the challenge.  And on top of it all, I'll bet those two men smile more than anyone they meet.

The safety of our country is still on our shoulders.  We just don't need an M-4 to ensure that safety.  The development and mentoring of our brothers and sisters in arms are still our responsibility.  But we're more spread out now.  Find them.  Actively seek them out.  Be that person that never stops riding their butts.  You might be the one to save their life or jump start the next big idea.

It's up to us.  I've seen the competition; it's not very impressive.  We all see what is being "done" to fix the economy and "our" situation.  No one can do what we do.  So, let's get to work and redefine the 1% that everyone is so pissed about.  We're the 1% that matters and no one is going to see us coming.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Veteran Employment??

Often times reverting back to your military training to push through obstacles is necessary. Sometimes I feel like guys get stuck with trying to get as far away from military customs as possible. Over time and through many of my experiences I still lean on my military training to push through obstacles. Something that I find is very helpful in working through important tasks. I have learned that priorities of work and staying healthy keep me on top of things.

As I start to work with more and more veterans, I keep reminding them not to lose sight of where they came from. Showing men and women that what they learned throughout their military experiences can actually put them ahead. But on the other hand it can be a struggle to persuade civilians that military service has its pay off.

I am getting ready to graduate in May and right now I have been stuck with finding a job. Marketing myself to civilian employers is something I find very frustrating. Making myself look appealing using civilian verbiage and translating my military jobs into civilian skills is also a daunting task. I have found a few resources helpful but the most frustrating about all of this is what the VA has not done.

I have visited the job board at my local VA multiple times. There are anywhere from 2-5 postings a month.  I found out that the most government entities have the authority to hire veterans on the spot if they meet certain qualifications. Most of which I meet unless its at a higher GS level position. After I spent numerous hours of researching how to fill out a government job application online I figured out that some of the jobs the VA posts are not necessarily available. Most of the jobs they showcase are just jobs that can only be accessed if you are already employed by them. This to me is very frustrating. I went to the HR department to discuss this issue and they basically talked in circles to get me out the door. The lady told me that the VA was on a hiring freeze. Fair enough by why do they say they are hiring veterans? I have also talked to the Army Wounded Warrior representative here in my home state about the same issue. He confirmed that the VA only posts the positions to cover their back. Basically saying that the jobs are there to check a box so the VA can say they are veteran friendly. This is only my experience, maybe someone has had better luck?

So if America is saying that veterans have an opportunity to integrate back into the work place I want to know how that all works. The VA is not the only place that has talked in circles about hiring veterans. Its going on in many places and the veteran unemployment numbers reflect my frustration. I am tired of hearing that veterans have a way to get jobs and are wanted but in reality nothing is happening. I don't want to work at McDonald's and I did not use my Post 9/11 school benefit to flip burgers. Enlighten me, America!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fraud Alert Warning - VA Phone Numbers

FRAUD ALERT:  Veterans should be aware of a marketing scam targeting callers trying to reach the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Call Center or GI Bill Call Center.  A marketing company has established two fraudulent numbers that differ from the two official VA call center numbers by one digit.  If the fraudulent number is dialed by mistake, the answering party will offer a gift card and try to obtain personal and financial information, including credit card information, from the caller.  The answering party may even transfer the caller to the VA after the caller’s information is obtained.  Note that VA will never ask you for a credit card number or banking information over the phone. Before giving personal sensitive information over the phone make sure you know who you are taking to.

                The numbers to be avoided are:

                800-872-1000  (the VA National Call Center number is 800-827-1000)

                888-442-4511 (the VA GI Bill Call Center number is 888-442-4551)

                VA has notified law enforcement authorities to address this situation.  Please pass this information along and post on your websites.


Well there's the motivator so now it's time for the lesson.  I wrote a while back on taking care of yourself and some of the things that I do to take care of myself.  What I've learned is that there are only a few things that you have more control over than anything else in life.  Your morals and principles.  Your health.  And your personal hygiene.

Health, attitude and hygiene are all intertwined.  This is hitting home for me more and more recently.  I've had two folks that I work with be admitted to the hospital for some form of heart disease (and I use disease very lightly).  Don't get me wrong, they're in a bad spot health wise and it's not a joke.  Not only are they sick but I suffer production wise as well. I spend more time with them than I do with my family so yeah, I care.  I see the fear in their face. I see how they carry themselves and the level of effort they put into their work performance.  And it's their fault.  They ask for help and don't follow through and wonder why this is happening to them.

People generally eat like crap and the end result is a lot of things or conditions that can be easily prevented.  Poor diet and no exercise equals low energy, poor health and injuries.  And for me, I'm grumpy.

A few months ago, my wife got the genius idea that she wanted to do a body building competition.  Although I genuinely disagree with what those folks do to their bodies, she needed something to focus on and focus she did. I am very proud of the discipline that she showed with her diet and working out.  I ate  the same things she did with the exception of the "blood" that runs through my veins....beer.  I cut way way back on that though.

End result, both of us shed unneeded body fat, felt better and we actually saved a lot of money.  She looked fantastic and I cannot begin to tell you how much her attitude changed.    I, on the other hand still looked like I got beat with a bag of nickels but I was in great shape and felt awesome.  See, cooking for yourself is rewarding and batch cooking, then packing your meals prevents you from buying garbage snacks or lunches.  Winner Winner, chicken most of the time for dinner.  And I'm not a tree hugger by any means but the amount of garbage that we produced dropped by almost 2/3's.  Yes, I did the math.

So, here's some advice.  Diets don't work.  Don't believe the hype.  "Oh but Susie lost all this weight in 30 days"....how's she doing now?  Probably fat again, starving and lost as to why it happened.  Eat fresh food, lots of green veggies and cut out the sugar and fat.  Educate yourself on what is actually in your food.  Processed generally means garbage.  If you can't pronounce the long list of ingredients....chemical poo storm.  

Can you cheat and eat the bad stuff still?  Heck yeah you can.  Just not all the time and not in huge quantities.  Food is fuel and that's it.  When you eat what is also just as important as what you eat.  Eat consistently throughout the day.  If you starve yourself or cut too many calories, you're body is going to start wondering when it's gonna get food again.  Then it starts storing fat to protect itself.

Water is good.  Gatorade, supplements, Mio's, whatever....garbage.  Think about it, it's not sugar but tastes like sugar.  Why?  It tricks your mind into believing it's sugar.  What do you think your body is going to do with it?  Use it like it would sugar that's what.

Getting up and moving or getting on the elliptical for 8 hours then "pumping iron" on a machine that has a rubber belt is crap.  Put in the work.  If you lift weights and you don't go to failure...not going anywhere.

The idea that there is a quick fix or a miracle product for being healthy is a marketing ploy.  It'll lead to nothing but an emotional roller coaster and for some folks, that's the exact opposite of what they need.  What works is a solid plan executed through hard work and discipline.  There are no short cuts in our previous professions and there aren't any out here.

The focus here is that you are in control.  And there are two simple ways that you can start moving in a direction that will have direct and indirect impacts on how you feel mentally, emotionally and physically.

I'm happy to say that I'm back to eating right and working out.  And studying, cooking, cleaning and getting beat up by my 4 year old son after I work a full day.  I'm more energetic and even tempered.  It really is up to ourselves.  I like quotes, so here's one by I don't know who.  "The only respect that matters is self-respect".  When you accomplish something, it means more than if someone had given it to you.

People treat you differently when you are confident and happy.  Why?  Probably because you're treating them in a positive way.  Food for thought.

There's a stud Ranger out there right now that has a mission.  He wasn't doing so hot a while back.  PTSD cannot be seen and it's tricky to deal with to say the least.  He got off of his duff, went and saw some friends, drove across the country and went sky diving.  He's fired up now and I'm sure he's gonna do just fine.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he's gonna take one hell of a lead on fighting PTSD.  And that's what it is.  A fight.  When in doubt, attack.  He's attacking and from what I can tell, he's enjoying the hell out of it.  It's amazing what changing your environment and being with good folks will do for you.

Work hard.  Play hard.  Look good.  Feel good.  Get moving.  Take care of yourself and if you need some help on whatever, just give me a shout.

This picture was taken around 0300 during a 12 hour GoRuck Event.  I went from 155 lbs and around 20% body fat to 140 lbs and 8% body fat in about 2 months while training for it.  And yes, I wear RPs every chance I get.

listen to www.blogtalkradio.com Friday afternoon to hear more about the Ranger that changed the direction of his life.  km

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Don't Wait.

Two nights ago I got a text no one wants to get.

"Hey man, XXXX is dead!"

"Whoa, what happened?"

"I don't know but you know I've been working with him for a long time and I went to his Facebook and there are lots of RIP, 'Sorry you're gone' messages."

Turns out the young combat veteran, who has struggled with his transition from the day he stepped back in the USA, had overdosed.

The outpouring of love, respect and camaraderie being posted on his Facebook page is heart-warming.

And too late.

I can't help but believe that if his brothers-in-arms had stayed in contact with him after discharge - and I don't mean sharing videos of getting shot at while getting wasted together on the phone in contact - I mean let's figure out how to work through our transitions together, because despite all the government programs, the companies spouting jobs for veterans, despite all that the most powerful influence in a veteran's life is that of the men and women with whom he bled.

I watched this young veteran reject the assistance of nearly every person in his life.  He lost his wife and young child to divorce.  He failed to get employment.  He carried massive emotions, memories and guilt - and shouldered it alone and when it became too much to bear, he got high.

Just a couple weeks ago he told a GallantFew volunteer: "If it weren't for you in my life I'd be dead".

Then he overdosed.

They developed a relationship because both were combat veterans - but they didn't deploy together.  The GallantFew volunteer couldn't really, truly challenge this young man because they weren't in the shit together.

I don't believe he did it intentionally, but he might have subconsciously.  Someone from his squad or platoon might have been able to kick his ass just enough to get him to get sober - to get help. Or maybe not.  But we won't know now.

But we will have some nice, heart-warming posts on Facebook.

Don't wait.

Reach out, and reach out now.

Find that Ranger buddy, Battle buddy, the person who had your back while they had yours.  Tell them you love them.  Tell them you respect them.  Tell them your transition was harder than you ever imagined it would be - then tell them you need them.

Watch the Spartan Pledge here.  Get your Battle to watch it too.  Take the pledge.

Stay alive - both of you.

Post pictures of the camping trips you'll take together, the movies you'll see, the grandkids you'll have... not Rest in Peace, brother.

Don't wait.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Army Dad fights for custody

I have been meaning to bring this story to The New American Veteran blog for some time now.  It hits close to home with me, and I am sure there are many of you out there that have experienced something similar.

Quick story for anyone who is a first time reader and/or may not know me.  When I was still in the military, stationed down in Georgia, my daughter's mother decided to separate from me and take my one year old with her back to Indianapolis.  I did everything I could in order to keep her with me, but I was limited in power because I had my obligation to the military.  It was a horrible waiting game, but it was all I could do.

Last year, there was a story that was ran on multiple media outlets.  It was the story of an Army father who was fighting for custody of his daughter, but this was a much more complex case than my own:

"Lynne and Jeff Chafin had married in Germany in 2006, and Eris was born in that country a year later. Lynne Chafin took her daughter to Scotland when Jeff Chafin was deployed to Afghanistan. He was transferred to Huntsville in 2010, and Lynne Chafin visited Alabama with her daughter in an effort to reconcile. The attempt proved unsuccessful; Jeff Chafin filed for divorce and custody. Lynne Chafin was deported in February 2011 for overstaying her visa after she was arrested on a domestic violence charge. Jeff Chafin cared for his daughter for several months until a federal court ruled against him later that year (ABA Journal)."

So now SFC Chafin finds himself in a difficult fight.  When the mother was ruled to return to Scotland, she took their daughter, Eris, with her.  Jeff has been fighting for custody ever since.  He tried to appeal the ruling over the custody, but was dismissed by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals.  But, Jeff did not stop there, taking this case all the way to the US Supreme Court.  In February 2013, the ruling was overturned by by a 9-0 vote in the Supreme Court, giving him the ability to appeal the original custody ruling.  Two years of tiresome fighting just to be able to appeal the ruling, he is now back at square one.  

After reading about this story, I immediately looked Jeff up on Facebook.  I sent a message to him to keep pushing forward, of which he responded that he will never give up.  This morning, he updated his Facebook status stating:
Jeff and his daughter, photo from Bring Eris Home Facebook page

"Next Friday is the next stage in my fight for Eris. I will FINALLY get my appeal (of the original court order) 2 long years after Eris was sent away. It is sad I had to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court to have this chance but I will take it! Oral arguments will be heard by the 11th Circuit Appellate Court in Montgomery Alabama next Friday. If this court decides I wrongfully held Eris in the United States then I will have to fight custody in Scotland and also pay my ex’s lawyer fees of $94,000.00. If they decide I didn’t hold Eris here then the fight for custody will be here in the US and at the same time I will file paperwork in Scotland to try and get Eris brought back home. Plus, not having to pay the lawyer fees. If you are anywhere in the Alabama area, you are more than welcome to join us in an exciting day in court."

Many of us understand the burden of fighting for custody of our children.  SFC Jeff Chafin is a true fighter and his voice is finally being heard!

If you want to read more about SFC Jeff Chafin's story, please visit his Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/BringErisHome/info.

Also, here are some links to his story:




Landmark Insights: The three-part myth of "is, because, and I"

Landmark Insights: The three-part myth of "is, because, and I"
by Joe DiMaggio, Landmark Forum leader
November 12, 2013 09:00 PDT

Superman had issues with Kryptonite. For Achilles, it was his heel. For us, it's the three-part myth of "is, because, and I." With this myth in place, the freedom, power, and dimensionality available to us in being human are blocked—circumstances have the power, not us. The three-part myth manifests in ways that seem so logical, so accepted, that it's virtually impossible to recognize its presence, impact, and influence, let alone imagine that there's another whole reality available to us—another possibility in living.

How the three-part myth plays out:

"Is" implies there's a "fixed" world out there—that things are just "the way they are" and that the only option available is to adjust.
"Because" implies that the model of "cause and effect" is essentially a done deal—one thing causes another. Intervening or altering the course of events isn't logical or likely, and the only option is to adjust.
"I" implies that who we consider ourselves to be is who we actually are, when in fact it's just a compilation of responses and decisions unwittingly put together long ago to deal with failures to do or be something—that we now think of as our true and definitive nature. Again, the only option is to adjust.

But the myth is in fact a myth. "Reality" is not fixed—it's a phenomenon that arises in language. The world does not speak, only we do. Each moment's meaning "occurs" against a background of understanding, and how the world "occurs" to us lives in language—it's there that access to restoring our power lies. From there, we can reveal and dismantle old assumptions about the way things have been or the way we thought they had to be. Reality is declarative, interpretive, and actionable—we have dominion in the world of saying. Recognizing that shifts our relationship to the world. It doesn't just lead to a different view, it gives us hands-on access to a world that's malleable and open to being invented. It's where transformation lives.

So for me, there was an opportunity to change the status quo even though it seemed fixed in stone. Landmark is a multi national global company with revenues in the tens of millions of dollars. They have a policy to help police, fire and clergy through scholarship. So one day I asked about scholarships for military personnel and Veterans. I was told they didn't have an official policy, but I was welcome to take it up with corporate. So I did. I worked with the Landmark organization for over two years to create something from nothing.

I enrolled them in the possibility of creating a scholarship program for Veterans through the VA and Veteran Service Organizations. I wrestled with liability questions, policy questions, corporate  structural alignment issues and more. I could only do so much at a time, but I didn't quit. Once I got Landmark on board I realized that I just changed the way a multi national global company with revenues in the tens of millions of dollars does business with the government of the United State of America by creating a program where they officially recognize the VA as a customer and Veterans and military personnel for scholarship through VSO's. Now I had to find and enroll a VSO to funnel Veteran's and military personnel through to classes. That is how I cam to be a part of GallantFew.

The point is; the idea of a fixed reality is just an idea, a myth, a theory, a story. It's not real. False barriers get in our way of our ability to transform our perception of what is possible. If I don't believe I could do it and didn't take action to convince others to support what I was doing then it would not happen. The fact that I can create a new reality is an awesome feeling and you can too. You just have to believe you are more powerful than an idea, which you are. Business, social change, revolution, war, love, are all sparked by a notion, idea, a perception that in time becomes fixed and therefore perceived real. If we look beyond the perception we can see possibility. Possibility creates and opportunity for action.

What perceptions are you trapped in? What ideas are holding you back?  What space do you now see for action? What action will you take to transform your possibility into reality? Go forth and make it happen.

Here for you.
Larry Zabel

to learn more about the program Larry set up with Landmark, visit http://www.gallantfew.org/the-gallantfew-landmark-chapter-31-vre-program/ ~km

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quantity vs. Quality

This argument is ongoing and will never go away.

Ok, the first part of that statement is true.  The second part is not.  It's a balancing act for sure but why would producing a lot of things that are crap be acceptable in any arena?  Ok, cheapo Chinese toys maybe that you pay a nickel for.

We can take this in a million directions but let's just look at a few.  1. Physical fitness.  2. Professional schools and graduation rates. 3. Producing goods.  4. The last one that I want to talk about is networking.

Let's look at physical fitness first.  It's not necessarily what you do but how you do it.  You set a goal, so let's use a half marathon race you want to complete.  You can run a bunch of miles at a greater distance than the race requires and build confidence that you can run that far.  Good job, you can run a lot. Quantity.  But an approach that focuses on quality will yield greater results with less work.  Pace conditioning runs, stretching, strength training, circuit training and other endurance disciplines like cycling will give you a more balanced fitness level.  Less injuries along the way and you'll probably surpass your goal time for the race.  Each workout plays a specific role and all of them support the end result.  Endurance and fitness are an accumulative effect.

Ok, now let's look at schools.  It could be an university, NCOES or whatever.  What's going to benefit the organization or society as a whole; lots of graduates that are unqualified or a smaller number of graduates that actually learned something and are better off?  Standards are set and should be enforced.  I know a lot of folks that have very advanced degrees but have no idea how to convey what they've learned or worse, don't really know anything.  But they graduated.  Therefore, the ROI (return on investment) is pretty much "0".  Our job market is flooded with college graduates that can't find jobs.  Why?  We can point to a lot of things.  But aren't you glad you have that bachelors of arts degree?  The competition is stiffer and we're searching for more things to better qualify ourselves.  In my opinion, when a degree shows nothing more than the individual had the discipline to go a little further and is equated to a HS diploma, we're in a bad spot.  It also means that there are less folks out there doing something tangible.  But that "dumb" guy who joined the Army or went to tech school have jobs and "do" stuff.  Hmmm.

Producing goods is on the chopping block next.  I live this.  There's a lot more to just cutting a part.  But like in doing anything, if you rush through it and skip steps; you're going to end up with some good and some bad.  Why not slow down and make something great every time?  Sure, you're not going to be flying through jobs like crazy.  But as the part or parts flow through follow on processes or when you ship them will not be returned and create repairs or rework.  That first process' efficiency might be great.  But if you create more work for someone else and it doesn't ship on time, does that really help?  Do the hard work up front and pay attention.  Produce quality every time.  Quantity will happen and is a byproduct of quality in this case.

Ok, now networking.  I'm definitely not a professional in this realm by any means.  But here's what I've learned so far.  First, know who you are and what you want.  Second, always be yourself and professional.  Third, find folks that will make you better.  Surround yourself by great people and you'll inherently become better.  And last but not least, keep working to maintain that relationship or network.  What some folks fail to realize is that networking is nothing more than relationship building.  You don't want to build a relationship on a lie do you?  It might work for a while but sooner or later it's gonna get you.  So who do you associate with?  If you find out that they offer nothing to you and you cannot offer anything to them; put them in the "whatever bucket" or drop them.  Great, you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn.  Do you actually know and interact with them?  Probably not.

Now your network is cleaned up, you interact with them on a regular basis and you're learning from them.  Hopefully, they're learning or getting something from you as well.  People help people they like and trust.  It takes time and if you've never shook their hand or met face to face, it's going to take more time.  Do the hard work up front and keep working.  I know who I am and I know what I want.  I also know that how I act carries over to the folks I associate with.  So being professional and personable is very important.

It's all a learning process and failing is a good way to figure out something doesn't work.  It doesn't mean you are a failure or a bad person.  Thomas Edison said something to the effect of "I've never failed.  I've just found a million ways that didn't work."  Making the transition and finding that career is tough.  But every job is a means to an end.  You might have that ultimate goal in mind but you might have to shovel some dirt for a while to get there.

Or like me, you have an idea but not really. You plod along until that initial idea surfaces again and you realize that's what you really want.  In the mean time, you plan your scheme of maneuver and bore others with your words of wisdom and failure hoping it'll help them.  It's amazing how clear things become when you focus on quality vs quantity.

I recommend for anyone wanting to understand how a corporation works and how you can make yourself an important part of it, read the very short book "What the CEO Wants You to Know" by Ram Charan  ~ km

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veterans Day Speech

I was invited to give a speech about being wounded in combat at Maize South Middle School in Kansas on November 8, 2013. This assembly was something the schools staff and students put together to honor our nation's veterans. It was a complete honor to be invited. But I was very apprehensive about going and talking about my injuries. I was nervous because I had not really shared much about my story, other than through blogs and small talk. This was a great test and challenge I completely accepted.

I was mostly worried about my delivery and keeping my emotions at bay. But as I entered the gymnasium I realized that most of what I was scared about seemed to dissipate. I felt at home again. I saw many familiar faces, recognized old coaches, and talked with young kids. (The Veterans) We ate, read some very funny cards from young students, and mostly enjoyed ourselves. It was a great time.

The atmosphere is just how I remember it; warm and welcoming.  I had the privilege to talk about my experiences at a school I found myself in. A place where I was pushed and encouraged to reach higher. Also was the place where I watched the Twin Towers fall. It came time for me to give my speech and as I grabbed the microphone my words just started flowing. I talked about how I trained and volunteered during a time of war. I talked about funny instances being young and stupid in the military. I challenged everyone in the room to make their life count. I had fun with it. It felt good.

When I wrapped up the speech, every single person stood up and began to cheer and clap. I felt great, but I was mostly proud of myself for simply doing it. I was happy I kept my emotions under control and was able to connect to the audience and the veterans in front of me. When I sat down, I felt relieved. I had overcome a huge obstacle that had been nagging me by turning down opportunities to tell my story. To honor the men that I had served with and to keep serving the veterans that transition is something I value. I am no longer afraid of telling my story, I am proud to tell my story.

After I handed the microphone off to Jim, the principal, he turned to the crowd and applauded my speech and pointed out some key messages. He then told Maize Middle School, "that I had a great story to tell and that what I have overcome made me a model American and a model Maize High School graduate." This statement completely wiped out my doubtful thoughts about my story and has sparked something new. I now have the ability to tell others why I am here and at the same time honor my Ranger buddies who never made it home. I never thought I would do this or overcome this fear. I never thought I would face my story and inspire others by it. But I found that even though there were 1,000 people inside that gym, I connected to everyone of them by something I experienced.

I dont think that the Middle Schoolers, Staff, and Administrators realize how much they helped me. They were not only a motivated bunch but they pushed me past a fear I have never faced. I want to tell them all "Thank You" for listening and helping me through that obstacle. I will never forget that experience.


This picture is a reminder that we all still have a purpose.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Veteran suicide: 22 a day and counting

During my first semester of Nursing School, I had the opportunity to research a sentinel event in the health care industry.  A sentinel event is any unanticipated event in a healthcare setting resulting in death or serious physical or psychological injury to a patient or patients, not related to the natural course of the patient's illness.  Performing surgery on the wrong patient, an instrument or object left in the patient following a procedure, and accidental death of a full-term infant are all examples of sentinel events.  Being a Veteran, I did a database search for any sentinel events at VA Hospitals.  The results of my search left me disgusted.  A majority of the first twenty results were involving the Atlanta VA Medical Center.  

Joseph Petit was an enlisted soldier who one day wanted to be an Army Ranger.  Following his initial entry training, Petit injured himself doing a parachute landing fall during Airborne School, and had to be medically separated from the military.  Over the next two decades, Petit not only battled physical pain, having to use a wheelchair to get around, but also mental illness.  He suffered from major depression, auditory hallucinations, and had suicidal ideation on a regular basis, attempting to take his life once before.  A little over a year ago, on November 8, 2012, Petit went into the emergency room to seek help to eliminate the voices that he was hearing that were telling him to hurt his mother.  As protocol is, the ER transferred him to the mental health inpatient unit.  The next morning, Petit was discharged by his psychiatrist.  

Petit's family had contacted the hospital to make sure that he was doing okay.  They were told that he was discharged and they anticipated his arrival back at home soon.  That day, Petit never came home.  Following his discharge, he wheeled himself into a bathroom on the eighth floor and locked the door behind himself, and committed suicide.  A staff member found his body twenty-four hours following his discharge, in the bathroom, in his wheelchair, with a trash bag over his head and a blue cord tied around his neck.  Petit had breathed his last breath in anger, frustration, and hopelessness..

When I did my run from Georgia to Indianapolis, the Department of Veteran Affairs stated that there were 18 Veterans committing suicide each day.  Now, two years later, the number of Veteran suicides per day is 22.  Let's do some math:
22 x 365 = 8,030/year 

According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), there are roughly 30,000 Americans that commit suicide each year.  So, if we take the amount of Veteran suicides per year (8,030) and compare it to the suicides by Americans, we get this:

27%, 1 out of every 4, one-quarter of all U.S. suicide is Veteran related.  There is no easy way to put it (I'm not a statistical genius, but these numbers are from two organizations and I just did the math).  This is a huge problem that we are facing.  If you are a Veteran who is successful in life and not doing anything to help out your battle buddies, you are WRONG.  You can be the greatest psychiatrist, social worker, or doctor in the world, but you are not going to get inside the mind of a war fighter like another Veteran can. 

In the time it took me to write this, another Veteran has taken their life.

For a great grassroots effort to prevent Veteran suicide, visit www.descendantsofsparta.com.  km

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

On this Veterans Day it is my great honor and privilege to salute and say thank you to each of you who have worn the uniform and stood between us and those who would threaten our freedoms.

To those who served and fought in WWII and Korea - you set the standard and the example for us to follow.  Too many of you are crossing over to the patrol base on the other side every day.  Thank you for the sacrifices you made, years away from family, too many comrades lost.  We will always remember and honor you.

For those of you who served in Vietnam or during the Vietnam War, welcome home and thank you.  If we said thanks every day for the rest of our lives we would still not have said it enough to make up for the poor welcome you received when you came home.  Thank you.

Those of you who served during the Cold War, thank you for standing tall and for your part in rebuilding the military after Vietnam.  It was a challenge for our country to move from the draft to an all-volunteer force.  For those who volunteered, or who stayed on after being drafted, the professionalism and capabilities of our modern forces are your legacy.  Thank you.

Fewer than 1% of the US population has served in the military since 9/11.  Such a tiny fraction to bear such a tremendous burden - but bear it you did, and many of you volunteered to serve after 9/11, knowing we are a nation at war.  For your bravery, your courage, and your sacrifice, we say thank you from the very bottom of our hearts.

To all veterans - from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard - again, thank you.  I wish for each of you a very happy Veterans Day.  Remember that regardless of where you are in your transition - whether it begins next year or has been ongoing the past twenty - GallantFew stands ready to help you.

V/R  Karl

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rest in Peace, Ranger

A small crowd stands, shivers, nervous, unsure
The family, numb from raw emotion, does as told
Wait here - first the Old Guard band will go
A sharp rap of drum sticks will mark tempo

Then the caisson, horse-drawn
Full with majesty, history, sorrow, bearing our fallen
A casket, covered in cloth of red, white and blue
Field of stars aligned over a gallant heart now still

Next stern faced men in tan berets, black boots gleam
The set of their jaws reveals determination
This unit has taken a loss for our nation
Yet unsung, unknown, the fight does not pause
Their comrades unhesitatingly Ranger on

The family, clutching each other, drawing strength
Taking steps forward they don't want to take
Old veterans, some stooped, some limp, all with pride deep
Proud to have worn the scroll, proud to have earned the tab
These Rangers are here a vow to keep

We follow, family but not family
Past rows and rows, aligned perfectly
Memories of soldiers standing at attention
While the caisson passes in review
A breeze seems to whisper, then words that soar
Normandy, Vietnam, Grenada, and more

A final parade, witnessed by living and by dead
Many with deeds unsung, deeds unsaid
Privates and generals, sailors and airmen
All the same, all in formation

 Finally we halt and strain to see
Soldiers from the Old Guard
Pulling another comrade from the caisson
The metallic squeal of the rollers protesting
As if wanting to keep the burden

In perfect step the comrades move
Past an honor detail of stern faced men in tan berets
The beautiful, horrible coffin
A warrior Chaplain speaks the final words of comfort, of love
"In life he honored the flag - In death the flag honors him"

A sergeant barks
Crack! The rifles bark back
Ca-chink the soldiers the slides rack 
Bark! Crack! 
Bark! Crack!
Three perfect volleys
A final salute

Beautiful, horrible
Majestic, haunting
My eyes grow hot, I remember
Too many times I've heard it play
Standing by a Ranger grave

Perfectly folded by perfect soldiers
A flag given to a mother
Forever now member of a club
She didn't want to join

The Secretary of the Army
The Chief of Staff
Kneel and whisper words
Numbly she clutches the flag

An airplane overhead engines howl
Taking off from Reagan International
Do the passengers know what goes on below
The history, the tradition, the pride, the pain, and the wounded soul 

A warrior class, men in berets of tan
The finest warrior clan in the history of man
Serving a people free to be ignorant
Of the sacrifices made on their behalf

These men ask not for medals, honors, or fame
All they ask is to serve their country
To be part of this unit, to experience the camaraderie
To have the word "Ranger" before their name

Rest in peace, Ranger
For you no more danger
Your work here is done
Valhalla now your kingdom come

Absent comrades we will toast
In our memories, always foremost
We will continue to lead the way
Til we join you on the high ground someday

Rangers, Lead the Way.

- Karl Monger, 2013

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