Friday, May 31, 2013


I've been giving some thought lately to why some people deal with the worst possible thing that could happen to them - multiple amputations, horrifying burns and scars, death of friends - yet meet each day with a smile on their lips and a pep in their step, and other people who don't have a fraction of these challenges seem barely able to go on.

+Michael Schlitz arm, photo from Wounded Wear event

Seems to me there is a split second opportunity in a human being to choose his or her response to every single thing that comes at them, every second of the day.  The very thing that most separates us from the animals is that we have the ability to control our reaction to things - we have "response-ability".

But still what is it that makes one able to choose their response?  Is it something that is innate, natural, either you have it or you don't, or is it something you can learn, develop, refine?

I believe it's both.  I believe that a person's ability to choose his or her own response to a situation is hard-wired into our very beings, and further that if one doesn't exercise that ability to choose a response to a situation then that response-ability becomes less effective.  Practice it more, it becomes easier and more effective.  Always assuming the worst, is in a way practicing choosing that response.  Eventually you'll come to believe the whole world is out to get you.

A quick example, and one I think I read in a Stephen Covey book long ago (I searched for this example online but failed to find it, so I'm paraphrasing from memory).  He gave the example of a man, sitting in a restaurant, with a couple of kids running around amok.  They were terrorizing the other diners, spilling drinks and making the entire atmosphere unpleasant.  Covey said he got the man's attention and said "Sir, excuse me, but would you do something about your children?  They are ruining everyone's meal".  The man looked up and then at his kids as if he just saw them for the first time.  He said "Oh, I'm so sorry - you see we just came from the hospital where the doctor told us their mother would die soon and I guess I'm not sure what to do next".  Covey's attitude went from "you jerk, control your worthless kids" to "what can I do to help you".

What changed in the situation?  Covey's perception of what was going on in the man's mind.  How many times have you been sure the truth was "A", when in reality it was "B" or even "X".  How many times have you been embarrassed because of your reaction to "A"?  I know it's happened to me, and I feel pretty stupid and embarrassed when it does.

So how to exercise this response-ability muscle?  One way is to see a situation and then imagine several different reasons behind why the situation is as it is.  Then pick a reason that doesn't upset you and go with that until you learn otherwise.

Here's a simple example.  The next time someone is driving too slowly in front of you, instead of getting irritated at the idiot who should NOT be on the road and in your way, imagine it's a new teenage driver, being extra careful.  You don't know what the real situation is, but your reaction to that situation is entirely different (or should be - if it's not we should talk).

Give it a try.  I suspect your blood pressure will go down a few notches, and you might not damage or even ruin a treasured relationship.

RLTW  Karl

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Moving Day

Time really does fly, doesn't it?  It seems like yesterday that I had just moved into my first apartment since getting out of the military.  But going through all the major events that have happened while living here, I am glad to be moving on.  Since living at this location, I have lost a job, gone through unemployment, found a new job to make ends meet, tried to reignite the relationship with my daughter's mother only for it to fail, enrolled in school to get a second bachelor's degree, got accepted into Nursing School, gained 20 pounds only to lose 15 of it and then gain 20 back... And the list goes on.

The most significant thing that I have experienced was getting to know myself again.  You see, I kinda got a little mixed up between being a soldier, a father, a husband, a member of a team, a son, a brother.  I played so many roles that I forgot to play the role of ME.  But because of living on my own in a two bedroom apartment, sharing parenting time of my daughter, I have had plenty of time to get an idea of who Cory Smith is.  

With this move, I am turning the page and moving onward in this adventure called life.  It's a great feeling. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well.  Today I am coming to you from the road.  For the Memorial Day Weekend I am traveling with my daughter to Latrobe, Pennsylvania. In case if that sounds familiar, it is home of Arnold Palmer (golfer), Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers), and Rolling Rock Beer (which was bought and now is brewed out of Jersey).  But most importantly, it is the place my grandmother and grandfather grew up.  My grandfather went to school with Mr. Rodgers and my grandmother dated Arnold Palmer.  It's kinda funny that I was born on September 10, because it is the same birthday as Arnie. 
It has been a little over 4 years since I have been here.  The last time I visited was while I was in AIT.  It was for the funeral service of my grandfather Don Smith.  I am going to call him "Pap" for the remainder of this posting.  

I can remember the morning I found out that he had passed away.  I had to get a Red Cross message so that I could present to my commander, who didn't like the idea of me going to the funeral because it wasn't immediate family. But, being the acting 1SG of my company and having a great advocate as a PSG, I was given a weekend pass.  

Pap was a quiet man.  I consider him a "behind the scenes" type of man;  he would fix everything before anyone knew that it was broke.  My grandmother told me after his passing, there wasn't a day that passed when he didn't tell her he thought she was beautiful.  

In early 2008, when I enlisted on the Army, my family came to Indiana to send me off.  By that time, Pap's body had pretty much given up on him as he fought Parkinson's, and his speech was limited. He cried when I brought up the military.  You see, Pap was in the Army in the early 50's.  He never spoke of it though.  He knew a little bit of what I would be facing as I was the first person in my family to go to the military since his time.  

I remember saying bye to him for the last time and giving his frail body a hug... He spoke as loud as he could, which was only a whisper, and said, "I Love You."  As I said, he was a quiet man...but when he spoke, you listened.  So as I made my first exit from a perfectly good aircraft, I thought of Pap.  

This Memorial Day, he will get to meet his great granddaughter... my daughter. 

May you have a a wonderful weekend and set aside some time to remember those that have stood up for this great nation.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fitting In

So after a year and a couple months, I finally feel like I'm fitting in.  Being a mental health clinician, I get the chance to make a difference in people's lives.  This makes me feel like I'm back in the military again, from a first line supervisor position.  I get the chance to guide some minds that are traveling off course.  According to BusinessWire, two-thirds of Americans are unhappy with their jobs.  In my opinion, if you are unhappy with your job you are a member of the living dead (and not the zombie kind).  Waking up with no sense of purpose, is the same as living no sense of purpose.  If you aren't happy with your job or life, it's time to make a change.  I'm not saying that you need to quit your job, but you need to change your mission.

For a while, I found myself working the night shift in a warehouse, something that felt like a giant leap backward.  After a couple moths of working there, I gave up on trying to find a new job.  I kept thinking to myself, here I am with a BS in Public Relations, a military background in special operations, and I am working a job that takes no initiative or thought. I was even put on suspension from this job because they said they needed a proof of a high school diploma... they said my official college transcripts were not enough.  I was flabbergasted by that response.  But, the point behind this is that I ended up saying "enough is enough, I gotta make a change."  So, I ended up looking at opportunities I was not so qualified for, and utilized the few local contacts that I had.

A week after plugging away, I had a couple opportunities on standby.  So, I decided to quit my job; not the safest strategy.  After a few interviews with each of the organizations, I found myself with two job offers.  To think, I had given up on finding a new job, then all of a sudden the tables had turned.  Sometimes the waiting is hardest part, right?  After careful consideration I chose the mental health clinician position.

Now, I am happy.  I am currently waiting to hear back from Marian University on the status of my application for their nursing program.  I am finishing up my prerequisites for it and if everything goes according to plan, I will start in August for my BSN.

Happiness didn't pop up because things finally started going my way.  Happiness came around because I made it happen, and I stopped looking at my life as being dull and unfulfilled.  I finally became comfortable with the idea of 'this is who I am.'  On the day I die, the only person who is going to say if I lived a good life, is me.  No one's opinion will matter.  So, live it up!    

Friday, May 3, 2013

Really what's the big deal? Why we detest posers.

"'s really not that important to be on a Facebook group.  Get real."

In the work I do with and on the behalf of veterans, it seems like I see a constant parade of people who claim to be veterans but who never served.  It absolutely astounds me how many they are, how creative they can be, and how brazen they can be to appear as a real veteran.  Sometimes it's even a real veteran, but one who claims schools, awards or achievements that they did not earn.  Interestingly enough, I've never had a poser pretend to be a tanker, artilleryman, cook or radio operator - they are always Rangers or SEALS and to a less extent Special Forces (Green Berets).

I'm not going to pick apart or talk specifics about how they pose because we don't want posers to learn from other posers' mistakes and gain the knowledge that will help them better fool others.

The quote at the top of this article - "'s really not that important to be on a Facebook group. Get real." was sent to me by someone who is either a man pretending to be a Ranger veteran, or his wife pretending to be him pretending to be a Ranger veteran, or who knows.  Bottom line is, someone who is not a Ranger (and it's easy to determine) claimed to be one, tried to join an online social network for Ranger veterans that has clear guidelines for who is allowed to join.  Then he/she threatened me when I called them on it.  We did our due diligence and established the guy's real service record, which contains a discharge with bar to re-enlistment and no Ranger tab - and possibly even a forged discharge DD214.

But the quote "really not that important to be on a Facebook group" is where I'm focusing.

The veteran community of the past relied on VFW Posts and American Legion Halls where they gathered, talked, shared.  Those days are gone.  In a city like Dallas when it takes 45 minutes to drive ten miles and gas is nearly four bucks a gallon, veterans aren't going to slog it over to the VFW.  Especially when virtually every VFW I've set foot in (and I've been in a lot - and I'm a life member) reeks of cigarette smoke and is not a visually appealing atmosphere.  I personally have never set foot in a VFW or American Legion and said, "Dude, I gotta come back here more often"!

The veteran gathering spot of today is the online social community.  Facebook groups such as the US Army Ranger Association (closed, meaning one has to apply to join and be confirmed) and others have filled a badly needed gap to help overcome the isolation that a veteran feels when he or she is having difficulty finding a job, or identifying with college classmates, or communicating with family members.  This isolation can grow into a giant monster that can become consuming - and it grows faster with alcohol, drugs, and VA prescriptions.  This monster has claimed the lives of some of my friends.

I've had Army Rangers tell me that a Facebook group helped provide the comfort and connection to their brothers such that after one lost several buddies on the battlefield, the Facebook group - the members actually helped him process that grief by giving him an outlet to communicate and to reach out to trusted members of one of the most elite fraternities on earth.

So when a poser thinks it's not really a big deal, it is quite literally life and death.  That, is a big deal.

There is another reason that I personally detest posers - actually you could probably count hundreds of thousands of those reasons, but I'll talk about four of them.  Two are the hands one of my best friends left on the battlefield in Iraq.  One is the eye that a friend of mine lost in Afghanistan.  One is an MH-60 Pave Hawk  USAF Special Operations helicopter - one that crashed in the Great Salt Lake twenty years ago killing twelve of my friends and changing my life forever.

It's a big deal.  To borrow the words of the Vice-President, "It's a BIG f'ing deal".  You violate our trust, you violate our sanctuary, you disrespect the men and women who laid their lives on the line to give you freedoms of which you'll never understand the true cost.  Then you get offended when we expose you for the liar, fake and fraud you are.

Well, we'll keep exposing you.  We will never take action to harm or threaten you physically - because we swore an oath to protect you.  We will however report you to law enforcement, ask reporters to write about you, we will publish your proud poser photos, and we will ask the VA to make sure you aren't fraudulently receiving benefits.  Sometimes we'll just look at you in a way that tells you, "we know".

Posers come in all shapes and sizes.  They pretend to be Generals and they pretend to be heroes.  Sometimes they look the part, sometimes they look homeless.  There are several clues that always send up the antenna, the most well-worn one: "It's classified top secret".  There are others, but as I said, not into educating posers.

This - is a poser.

More posers - this article hit the San Antonio airwaves this week.

Finally, in a hugely ironic twist of fate, remember the parade float containing wounded war veterans that was hit by a train last year?  They had all received the "hunting trip of a lifetime" - except one of them was a poser.  What better way to get a free deer hunting trip than make up a bunch of stories and fabricated documents?  Well, his wife paid the price for his deception when she lost her leg in that accident.  Now every time he looks at her the rest of their lives he has to come face to face with the outcome of his lies.

Sometimes the worst punishment is having to live with yourself.

By the way this, not a poser.  And he's one of the reasons too.

Rangers Lead the Way.