Honoring 1st Responders – Recovering after Sandy’s Devastation..

New York’s Financial District


“Cuomo: First responders saved hundreds of lives in NYC area”


“SANDY: Inland first responders head east”

Tens of thousands of 1st responders in the local communities affected by Sandy are now on the job 24/7 as they are every day serving and protecting the public.  Thousands of the same 1st responders from other jurisdictions around the country are heading east to help support the efforts to save lives and recover.  We should all take a moment today to honor 1st responders everywhere for their service.  We are blessed with the best and the finest, our friends and neighbors, who work everyday to protect our safety…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Lovers Key State Park, near Ft Meyers, Florida. Love at first sight…

Lovers Key State Park Beach

http://www.floridastateparks.org/loverskey/  Quote from this website…


Lovers Key is a 2.5-mile stretch of beautiful beach. along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. It was selected as the #4 beach in Florida by the Travel Channel. A courtesy tram is available to the south beach where a gazebo, restroom and picnic area are located. A beautiful walk over two bridges takes you to the mid portion of the beach, which is left natural, with no facilities. The north beach is accessible through the north honor gate at Big Carlos Pass. We suggest you explore all three areas of the beach and discover their unique attributes.

Old friend and former Nortel colleague Dan Gillenwater, who now resides in Ft. Meyers, Florida, recommended this isolated beach to us yesterday.  We were not disappointed!  Turtles are highly protected in this area.   The “Lovers Key” name appears to come from the turtles because of the natural habitat and huge mating season that attracts sea turtles from all over the world…  I made this up…  Turtles are protected in Lovers Key State Park.  But when access was by boat only long ago, this was an ideal place for “lovers” to escape to the romance and privacy of this very isolated and beautiful area.  As legend would have it, the name “Lovers Key” was born… 

We met Dan at the Lazy Flamingo http://www.lazyflamingo.com/ later in the day for a long awaited reunion.  Dan and I have been connecting on Facebook for a couple of years now, which gave us the opportunity to get back in touch after over 20 years.  When we planned our road trip earlier in the year it was a must to get together in person while spending time near Fort Meyers.  It was fun and a tad emotional to revisit our time as team members back in the day fighting the old battles and winning wars at Nortel Networks.  Fresh oysters and local grouper were both delicious selections on the menu along with a few beers to top it off. 

Circling back with old friends and family during our journey has been very special indeed…  I was very happy to sign and share my book with Dan as well…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story


“Purple Heart Trail” – Highways and Bridges Honor Purple Heart Legacy

http://www.purpleheart.org/PHTrail/Default.aspx  Quote from this site…

What is the Purple Heart Trail?

The purpose of the Purple Heart Trail is to create a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges, and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal.
The Purple Heart Trail accomplishes this honorary goal by creating a visual reminder to those who use the road system that others have paid a high price for their freedom to travel and live in a free society. Signs placed at various locations annotate those roads and highways where legislation has been passed to designate parts of the national road system as The Purple Heart Trail. The actual format and design of the signs varies from state to state. There are currently designated sections in 45 states as well as Guam.

During our journey across America and into Florida, we have seen so many symbols and honors for veterans, showing the patriotism of all Americans and legacy of veterans of all wars.   It is a compelling statement of support for all who served in the Armed Forces and loved ones who served too.  While driving on Hwy 27 from Orlando to the Ft. Meyers area we noticed the “Purple Heart Trail” described above.  This is a nationwide non-profit fund raising effort to name roads, bridges, and trails all over America to honor the legacy of those who received a Purple Heart for injuries while serving in combat.  You can help support this noble cause by clicking the above website and learning more about the program and how to help in your own state, county, or local government jurisdictions.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Mental health professionals urge more action on PTSD awareness and treatments…

Scope and Implications are Stunning!


The StarPhoenix…

Mental health adviser urges PTSD action

By William Marsden, Postmedia NewsSeptember 25, 2012

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/health/Mental+health+adviser+urges+PTSD+action/7293930/story.html#ixzz27xu2MZWxory.html#ixzz27sIW45iv

“More than 10 years of war in southwest Asia has created a major problem in military families of post-traumatic stress disorder that will remain a paramount healthcare issue for years to come, according to a high-level tri-country symposium held here Monday.
The symposium, which featured top military and civilian experts from Britain, Canada and the United States, marked the first time the NATO allies have come together to share their experiences and knowledge of PTSD.”

“We don’t want the people of Canada, the leadership and the soldiers themselves to conclude that since we are sort of drawing down on the combat operations that we are going to see less of the mental health issues that we are seeing impacting our members and their families,” Colonel Rakesh Jetly, psychiatry and mental health adviser to the Canadian Forces Surgeon General, said. “For years after deployment conditions can emerge.”

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/health/Mental+health+adviser+urges+PTSD+action/7293930/story.html#ixzz2AVHpGKc9

The recent tri-country symposium, a gathering of NATO allies, addressed very serious life after war consequences of PTSD and moral injury on families.  In the past, when wars ended we often dropped the ball on the intergenerational affects of PTSD and the lingering affects on families.  More awareness and research has provided a more realistic and urgent focus on life after war by developing plans and provide continued support to families who otherwise might have to live and cope with post war trauma.  But we still have the stigma of mental health issues, especially for younger veterans who need to find jobs, finish school, and support families.  The younger generation of warriors often have to “suck it up” for fear that diagnosis and treatment of PTSD could hold them back or actually ruin their chances for a career.  We must continue to find ways of removing the stigma of mental health challenges and create of culture of early treatment without the perception of risk.  Those suffering from the symptoms of PTSD may function effectively for the most part during the work day, but often have severe problems coping away from school or work when home with their loved ones.  Families consequently face toxic conditions at home, including emotional and physical abuse, creating an exponential secondary PTSD circumstance, as happened in my own family for many decades.  Reading my book is an excellent way of looking closely at a real life case study of living and coping with PTSD without treatment.  My book can be purchased from this website by clicking the book cover to the left of the top of this posting.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Getting Back to “Keeping it Simple!” Visualizing a plan for change and success…

Visualize yourself “cooking and booking” down the slopes!

http://coachingleaders.co.uk/how-to-do-things-better-the-new-behaviour-generator/  Quote from this website…

“NB. If you are already an NLP practitioner and you covered this on your practitioner training, compare this version of the process with the one you know. I’ve simplified it to its essentials.

1. Describe a behaviour you would like to be able to do, or how you would like to be able to do something better. Start from a belief and internal dialogue of ‘I can do this’.
2. Create a mental ‘movie’ in which you see yourself doing the new behaviour the way you want. Make sure the picture is big, bright and vivid. Add sound so that you see and hear yourself. Adjust the movie until you are satisfied with the new behaviour. (Extra tip: for most people, looking up and to your right as you do this will help. For a few people – usually if you’re left-handed – looking up and to your left will work better.)
3. Step into the ‘movie’ and check how this feels. Make any further adjustments you need to until you feel the way you want. (Extra tip: for most people, looking down towards your dominant hand will help you get in touch with what you are feeling).
4. Imagine seeing yourself use the new behaviour in 3 or more opportunities in the future to generalise the new ability out. Again, looking up will help you to visualise.”

Early on in my career in particular, I was forced to go with my gut because my education was limited along with experience.  “Keeping it simple” at first sounded like the lazy way to go, and it was my secret and a way to cover up the lack of tools to work with.  Although at times it seemed like risky business, it was the only way to survive for many years while pounding the pavement in Los Angeles during the early years in the telecommunications business.  I goofed up often, but making mistakes was the key to a practice of “lessons learned.”  I visualized myself succeeding by modeling other successful professionals in the IT business as well.  I observed them carefully and wrote down some of the steps and practiced, and practiced, and tried out techniques in my sales approach and leadership style.  This common sense approach really worked for me.  Making mistakes was so punishing that revisiting frequent mistakes and making adjustments became an obsession.  I got better and better at my game along the way…  My behavior changed dramatically over time in very positive ways that helped me engage customers more effectively, work with team members who made a difference, and make sales…lots of sales…  When everybody wins, you win!

This anecdote brings me to the above website quote and resource.  The practice of visualizing success and really seeing yourself in highly positive ways, “kicking butt and taking names,” works.  As an example, I finally started visualizing myself not being angry and acting out, including observing folks that were able to manage angry behavior effectively.   I also learned through a self discovery process, the roots of my angry feelings, which made a huge difference. Click and read my “Self Discovery” model, http://livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com/2012/04/guest-contributor-posting-to-combat.html.   It has been a lifelong journey, of course.  Healing from traumatic experiences either as a child or in adult life takes time, and creates a more challenging road ahead.   Be patient and never give up…  The path to a better quality of life both personally and professionally is hard work… 

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

The Museum of Military History touched me personally during my first visit…

New 10,000 sf Museum of Military History near Orlando, Florida

http://www.museumofmilitaryhistory.com/  Quote from this website…

The mission of the Museum of Military History, Inc. is to educate,
increase awareness, build knowledge and understanding of the American military experience
through interactive, interpretive exhibits designed for visitors of all ages.
The museum strives to…
• enhance the public’s knowledge of the American Military Experience during wartimes over the past 100 years.
• fill a critical cultural and historical gap in Central Florida and therefore boost tourism in key markets that are currently being underrepresented.
• create more interest and understanding in the everyday solider and patriotism for today’s America.
• offer a venue with interactive displays and simulators for the public to enjoy, where they can learn about the sacrifices that were made to ensure the freedom of this nation.
• observe, honor, and promote all veterans and patriotic holidays in cooperation with local government and communities.
• provide an opportunity through membership and volunteerism for veterans to be a part of a world-class community organization.
Following is a note of appreciation to the Museum of Military History…
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story
“Thank you for taking the time to introduce me to your unique and ground breaking Museum of Military History!  I am also honored to become a member of your most worthy and impressive museum honoring and supporting veterans; including the families who serve too, and each of the branches of America’s Armed Forces.  Your mission statement, including “awareness” of the cultural impact, history, and true costs of war touched me personally as a US Navy veteran and son of a WWII and Korean War veteran.
I am also proud and honored to share my non-fiction book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story as a reading list reference and resource for the museum with the goal to promote your mission of “awareness,” especially the impact of war on families.  Although my story honors my father, Vernon H. Sparks and veterans of all wars, it is focused on the families of our veterans who do so much to support their loved ones while they serve and upon return to civilian life.  For many combat veterans like my father, the war never ended when they came home.  Veterans and their families lived and coped with the trauma of war, often in silence, and without adequate treatment for moral injuries suffered while in combat theater and in life after war.
As a new member, I am looking forward to making a difference in helping your non-profit in appropriate ways, including your planned grand opening event on November 9th.  I will also consider making available the contents of my book and research to assist the museum in developing future exhibits and presentations.  I also intend to write a specific posting for my blog, http://www.livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com, to share the good work of the Museum.  You can also use my Amazon.com author page as a reference, http://www.amazon.com/Steve-Sparks/e/B0070CJDCM/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0.  My publisher and friend, John McClure, CEO, Signalman Publishing is also a member of the Museum and has agreed to assist appropriately in representing my book.  Finally, we can connect on both Facebook and Twitter as well.
I’ll look forward to hearing from you regarding the details of your upcoming grand opening event on November 9th.”
All the best,
Steve Sparks

Sign petition to help veterans avoid foreclosure. You can take a minute to do this and make a difference for our heroes today!


Veterans should not be in this circumstance!

Sponsored by: The Veterans Site  

When our veterans return from service or deployment, the last thing they should have to worry about is their housing circumstances. Yet, too many soldiers return home to find themselves unable to pay for their own residency. In these tough economic times, many families face foreclosure through no fault of their own. It’s inexcusable that veterans have to battle with banks for a fair hearing after returning home. 

 The National Association of REALTORS® created a program designed to support military families avoid foreclosure and keep their homes. Operation Home Relief has helped countless service members — whatever the circumstances — become educated about foreclosure and be able to pay their mortgages.

Over the years our warriors have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms and liberties.  When they come home, we should make every effort to give them the community support needed to kick-start back into civilian life, including ensuring they don’t lose the homes they bought prior to entering the military, and face foreclosure when returning home from fighting a war on our behalf.  PLEASE take a moment and click on the above site to sign this petition.  It is the least we can do to help in some small way…
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story





Protect children! Learn how to recognize child abuse


Anonymous said…

“Then the day my husband lost it with our son I couldn’t take anymore. I had to call the police & have him removed from our house, I was advised by the police to get an order of protection against my husband. I went to a local women’s shelter to get the OP. BUT before I went in I spent 20 minutes on the phone again with his commander. I wanted to make sure the OP was in no way going to hurt my husbands military career. The commander said no as long as he was not convicted of anything. He strongly agreed that getting the OP was the right thing to do. That I needed to keep our boys & myself safe. He said he would do everything in his power to get my husband help before something happened that would ruin all our lives.”

While feeling blessed with my life at age 66, I can’t shake the baggage connected with my toxic childhood living with a parent who suffered for many years following WWII with severe emotional challenges and complex PTSD as we define it.  Dad served in combat for all of WWII then more combat duty during the Korean War.  He did not take ownership for getting help until later in his life.  My family struggled with PTSD for decades, including being affected ourselves as siblings with secondary PTSD.  My mother to this day at age 94 still has flashbacks of the nighmare of trying to help Dad for so many years, and protect us as best she knew how.  But to take action, as in the above quote from an anonymous military spouse, would have ruined Dad’s career in the US Navy and post military professional life working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the rest of his career.

Although I now understand the circumstances of moral injury and PTSD, and no longer have any anger connected with my childhood, the pain and sadness is still there, lingering each day, with terrible memories.  No child should have to grow up in this kind of insane household and suffer in silence while parents try their best to address their own challenges.  We must figure out a way to protect children to give them the best chance to grow into happy, healthy and productive adults.  My work today is to make a difference by helping others become more aware of the tragedy connected with moral injury and on families as a whole.   It is healing for me each day to write blog postings like this one, but still painful to think about the countless number of children in past wars and today living with the scary and uncertain behaviors demonstrated by a parent affected by moral injury as a combat veteran or even under different types of severe traumatic events in life.  It is often invisible by day, but at night at home the anger is unleashed on family members and loved ones.  The kids in particular demonstrate behaviors at school and away from home that should be recognized and appropriately observed and if necessary reported.  Please review the above website and study the following symptoms of children who live with abuse at home.  Please do your part in helping friends and family become more aware.  You may save a kid from a life of sadness and pain…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Recognizing Child Abuse

The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect.

The Child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lacks adult supervision
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home

The Parent:

  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home
  • Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs

The Parent and Child:

  • Rarely touch or look at each other
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative
  • State that they do not like each other

Journey of Freedom… from Mexico Beach to Summer Bay Resort, Orlando…an amazing journey so far…

http://www.mexico-beach.com/  Quote from this site…


Home to some of the world’s most beautiful white-sand beaches and clear, clean emerald waters.
White and more white sand on Mexico Beach
Shadow of Steve taking this shot of Judy

http://www.summerbayresort.com/  Quote from this site

Our Orlando resort is located on a secluded, private 64-acre lake, is quiet and away from it all, yet just minutes from the most popular attractions and activities in the world. Summer Bay Resort Orlando is just 6 quick miles from Walt Disney World® Resort offering complimentary scheduled transportation and within a thirty minute drive from the Universal Studios® Orlando Theme Park Complex and Sea World Parks and Entertainment®. Check out what all the rave’s about today and come and stay the Summer Bay Resort Way”

Judy checking out Summer Bay amenities
Summer Bay Resort Lake

A secluded lake front beach at Summer Bay

Judy and I have traveled over 4000 miles so far on our “Journey of Freedom” as we have coined it along the way.  No firm schedules and plenty of time to take side roads to meet the real folks who live in the small rural towns along the way.  We took the Gulf Coast route from Pensacola to Orlando.  This scenic route http://www.floridascenichighways.com/big-bend-scenic-byway/ was well worth the extra time.  We didn’t waste anytime once arriving to Summer Bay Resort to think only about rest and relaxation for a few days to allow our “60 something” but young at heart bodies take a break.  The weather is perfect, balmy, about 80 degrees during the day.  We will be in Florida for about two months starting this week to really explore this beautiful country from every angle, while catching up with friends and family along the way.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story