Criminal Minds episode, “The Fallen” shows lifelong emotional challenges of life after war…

Criminal Minds TV Episode “The Fallen”  Quote from this website…

“Episode Synopsis: The BAU travels to Santa Monica when burned bodies of homeless people begin showing up by the famous pier. Also, Rossi reconnects with his former Marine sergeant from Vietnam, on CRIMINAL MINDS, Wednesday, Nov. 14 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Emmy Award-nominated actor Meshach Taylor (“Designing Women”) guest stars as Rossi’s former Marine sergeant, Harrison Scott.”

New Directions has provided comprehensive services to thousands of veterans in Los Angeles County.

“Since 1992, New Directions has transformed the lives of thousands of U.S. military veterans. Unfortunately, many thousands of veterans remain homeless on the streets of Los Angeles County.”  Quote from this website…

“Los Angeles has the largest population of homeless military veterans in the nation. The V.A. estimates that more than 8,000 homeless veterans live on our streets, accounting for eleven percent (11%) of all homeless veterans nationwide. Many of these men and women suffer from Co-Occurring Disorders, including substance abuse, mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as chronic medical problems.”

My heart aches everyday for veterans of all wars, including “The Fallen” and those who struggled emotionally for a lifetime who are no longer with us… 

I was fortunate to watch Criminal Minds last night with my wife, Judy.  It was heartbreaking but very real to see an example of the vivid emotional pain of a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, homeless in Los Angeles.  Emmy Award-nominated actor Meshach Taylor is superb as former Marine sergeant, Harrison Scott, who helps the FBI team solve a case.  The story included excellent and very real flashbacks of Rossi & Scott in combat to demonstrate the reality of moral injury from the trauma of war It is rare to see this kind of candor and realism, especially with regard to the politics of war.  Political or “PR” decisions on the the part of leaders can be made without regard to the personal impact on those in the fight who are wounded or killed.  The trauma and moral injuries of combat, along with the politics of war, increase the emotional challenges for our soldiers returning home.

The Criminal Minds episode also featured New Directions, a well established veterans support organization and non-profit in Los Angeles.  We not only get to see the impact of war on soldiers returning home to life after war, but learn how we can help as citizens by becoming more educated and involved.  Awareness is the the first step in the journey of healing for individual veterans and our nation…  As a US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, and as a child growing up with a parent who suffered from his own US Navy combat experience in WWII, Criminal Minds “The Fallen” episode was an encouraging sign that someday the public might learn and appreciate the struggles of our heroes who return home to readjust in civilian life.  My hope is that our society will eventually recognize the struggles and needs of our warriors without a second thought…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Ft. Lauderdale/Pompano Beach, Florida… Are we really this far from home in Depoe Bay, Oregon?

Pompano Beach Night View,_Florida


Its name is derived from the Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus), a fish found off the Atlantic coast.[10]
There had been scattered settlers in the area from at least the mid-1880s, but the first documented permanent residents of the Pompano area were George Butler and Frank Sheene and their families, who arrived in 1896 as railway employees.[11] The first train arrived in the small Pompano settlement on February 22, 1896.[11] It is said that Sheene gave the community its name after jotting down on his survey of the area the name of the fish he had for dinner. The coming of the railroad led to development farther west from the coast. In 1906 Pompano became the southernmost settlement in newly-created Palm Beach County.[11] That year, the Hillsboro Lighthouse was completed on the beach.[11]
On July 3, 1908, a new municipality was incorporated in what was then Dade County: the Town of Pompano.[9] John R. Mizell was elected the first mayor.[9][11] In 1915, Broward County was established, with a northern boundary at the Hillsboro Canal. Thus, within eight years, Pompano had been in three counties.[9] Pompano Beach experienced significant growth during the Florida land boom of the 1920s.
Following the population boom due to World War II, in 1947 the City of Pompano merged with the newly-formed municipality on the beach and became the City of Pompano Beach.[3][9] In 1950, the population of the city reached 5,682. Like most of southeast Florida, Pompano Beach experienced great growth in the late 20th century as many people moved there from northern parts of the United States. A substantial seasonal population also spends its winters in the area.
The city of Pompano Beach celebrated its centennial in 2008.[2]
Judy’s friend Skye back home recommended Pompano Beach, so we headed there as our first outing after arriving in Weston, Florida,,_Florida near Ft. Lauderdale this past weekend.  We needed a couple of days to rest our “60 something” bones following a hectic schedule of travel, visiting, and play since starting our journey almost two months ago.  Once we land on the beach anywhere it doesn’t feel that far from home back on the Oregon coast.  Except for the pleasing and glorious balmy breeze, the beach and ocean appear the same as home, not to mention all the Palm Trees.  Before planting ourselves on the beach, we had lunch at Flanigan’s. The  fresh seafood on the east coast is abundant, especially favorites like Mahi Mahi and Swordfish.  Grouper is the local favorite, and is now included on our list as well.
We are taking a break for a few weeks in South Florida following the long journey of getting here from Depoe Bay, Oregon.  This is kind of the turning point of our journey since we will begin to head back around mid December.  So far, Judy and I are on top of our game, and feel pretty good for the long trip.  Other than getting lost at night in most places in Florida, we are doing well.  Good thing for Judy’s skills using Google Map…  Otherwise, not sure where we would be right now…  I even forget where we are at times, and Judy has to remind me.  We are at Starbucks right now in Weston Town Village plotting our next move…  Stay tuned…
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Paul K. Buck, Vietnam veteran heals in life after war with his own moving poetry and work with the Museum of Military History in Kissimmee, Florida

Paul K Buck, second from right, discusses exhibits with visitors at Museum of Military History

In honor of veterans of all wars…


When he was a boy,
He dreamed a boy’s dreams
Of fishing and hunting
And other boy things


But as he grew older
Many things changed
His hopes and dreams
Had been rearranged


A job, a girl
A shiny new car
A place of his own
And traveling far


Then the winds of change
Again start to blow
In a far away land
To war he must go


He tells his girl
I’ll come back to you
But first this little job

That I just have to do

But when he comes home
He seems to have changed
Quiet and somber

He’s just not the same


She will never know
How when alone he may cry
Remembering how he watched

Many brave men die

She will never understand
No matter how she tries
The fear and the hate

That she sees in his eyes

So they drift apart
And go their own ways
As alone in his heart
For forgiveness he prays

 Paul K. Buck
Paul was drafted in Oct. of 1965 and completed basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky. From there he went to Ft. Sill for AIT (Advanced Individual Training) on the 155 Howitzers.  He also volunteered  to attend cook school for six days. Paul shipped out with C Btry. 6th of the 16th Arty. in May of ’66 for Vietnam.  Paul went over as a “bastard” Battery without a division.  His team was attached to the 1 st. Cav. Division in the central highlands of Nam.  Paul explains that the tour was pretty boring and uneventful with the exception of a few sniper and mortar attacks on our LZ’s. (landing zones)  All of this changed when his team experienced a Howitzer blow up, killing four guys and wounding many. That was a very bad day for Paul because one of his buddies was cut almost in half starting at the shoulder and going down across his body to the waist.  He was burned almost beyond recognition and the smell of burning flesh still lingers in Paul’s mind… 
I had the honor of meeting Paul K. Buck this week at the Museum of Military History during an open house to launch a “German POW” traveling exhibit showing the history of WWII German POW Camps in Florida and the stories of POW’s from 1942-1945.  Paul is a quiet man with a heart of gold.  He feels blessed in his life, but also struggles with the painful memories of war.  His poetry is a source of healing and to listen to Paul recite verses is moving and captivating. 
Paul lost the love of his life, wife Linda, to breast cancer not very long ago.  He gives his wife credit for keeping him on his feet in life after war.  The journey of healing for warriors and others who suffer from moral injury and the symptoms of PTSD has a deep and loving connection to loved ones.  Paul now lives with his brother, Brad, in Florida, who is at his side providing love, friendship and moral support.
Quoting Paul K Buck, I have no idea what the future will hold for me, but I pray for the strength to handle whatever comes my way.”   Paul thinks of the guys we lost everyday and has a hard time talking about it sometimes.  But he has always tried to be as open as possible so people will understand that a heavy, heavy price has been paid for all the freedoms we have.
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

“Museum of Military History provides a historical glimpse into our military heritage.”

…with heroic accounts of bravery and sacifice, from those who have fought to maintain our freedom!

Veterans Day 2012 – We Salute Vietnam War Veterans… A special tribute “50 Years Later” from USA Today and National Geographic Channel…

(Photo: By Jack Gruber, USA TODAY)  Quote from the editor on this website…

“2:09PM EST November 8. 2012 – Our nation’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War officially began on Memorial Day this year, when President Obama led a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
But for the men and women who served during the war’s 13 years under four presidents, the memories of fallen comrades and of lives forever changed have remained vivid each day throughout the ensuing decades.”
USA Today’s Special Edition, 50 Years Later is a beautiful “salute” to all Vietnam War veterans.  As a Vietnam era veteran who served in the US Navy, I have a special place in my heart for all who served during this time.  I have many friends who served with honor, and family members as well.  My cousin, Mike Schaub, was a Purple Heart recipient who passed away recently as a result of both visible and invisible wounds from the war.   Mike struggled his entire life following the war with his injuries and never recovered.  He suffered with the pain of physical wounds and symptoms of PTSD.  He became estranged from his family and apparently died alone from poor health resulting from many years of alcohol and drug addiction.  As in the case of many families, including my own family’s post WWII experience, we did not know or understand the symptoms of PTSD and often separated ourselves from those who suffered.  If we had been more aware, knowledgeable, and compassionate, it is possible that countless Vietnam veterans like cousin Mike, may have had a better chance to recover and enjoy a healthy and happy life after war…
I purchased a copy of “50 Years Later” from the news stand this last week for $5.00.  This USA Today and National Geographic Channel Special Edition is a keepsake and treasure that should be on your coffee table or in the library at home.   Inside is a “Salute to the Veterans of the Vietnam War” with stories of men and women who served from all 50 states.
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina, Florida

Fernandina Beach
Fort Clinch Guns

Fort Clinch is a 19th century brick fortress begun in 1847 after the end of the Second Seminole War. It was named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch, important figure in the First and Second Seminole Wars. The only battle to occur at Clinch was when Union troops recaptured the fort in 1862 after Confederate forces seized control the previous year. Fort Clinch served as the base of Union operations in the area throughout the Civil War.
In 1935, the State of Florida bought 256 acres (1.0 km²) that included the then-abandoned fort and the surrounding area. Fort Clinch State Park including the fort, opened to the public in 1938.
We returned to Judy’s roots in the Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach, Florida area  Several generations of Judy’s family lived in this area, and some of her cousins still live nearby.  We had a fabulous reunion with Judy’s cousin, Ann and daughter Dodie, yesterday.  Hours of conversation could not possibly catch up on all the past and current happenings with the two cousins who felt a natural kinship and connection.  I enjoyed learning about Judy’s family and roots as well.  We drove by Grandma & Granddaddy Scott’s home on Cedar St. in Fernandina, and Judy took a couple of photos.  Growing up, Judy and her sister Jan lived in nearby St. Mary’s, Ga.,,_Georgia.  They spent memorable weekends and summers with their grandparents in Fernandina Beach and on Cumberland Island.  We also walked the historic district near the waterfront and marina.  We found a great coffee shop with Seattle’s Best on the menu to remind us of home in the Pacific NW.  We are clearly very far from home right now, but not thinking about heading back just yet.  The most emotional part was visiting Judy’s parents, Dale & Mid, at their final resting place in nearby MacClenny, Florida.  We paid our respects by planting an American flag to honor Dale’s WWII service, and a white wooden cross with flowers to represent her parents’ Christian faith.
Military sites are always an interesting part of so many of the places we have visited, including Ft. Clinch, which was a strategic base during the days of the Union Army.  Now a Florida State Park, it is another reminder of our rich history honoring those who served America in the Armed Forces.  Go to the above site and learn more about Ft. Clinch. 
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

As a nation, our journey of healing begins today…

Steve at Bryce Canyon National Park

I believe Mitt Romney is a kind and decent man.  I believe the same about Barack Obama.  For me, the highlight of the long and bitter campaign was Romney’s concession speech.  To be sure, we all know that compromise and reaching out is both healing and productive in life at the personal level and in politics.  It is worth listening to Romney’s concession speech more than once.  We should all take his advice and move forward in a healthy and productive way to solve the problems facing our nation…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Jim Lommasson’s “Exit Wounds” shows life after war with moving stories from soldiers and stunning photography…

A collaborative photo and oral history project about the trials of homecoming by Jim Lommasson and returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Exit Wounds is a traveling exhibition and book project.

“Being thanked for doing something for America feels very awkward. I never felt that I was doing anything for America. I was doing it for the people that I was there with. I will happily accept thanks for the job that I did for the soldiers. I want people to know most returning veterans don’t always feel good about what they were involved in. Vets don’t always feel good about what they’ve done. Not everyone wants to be regarded as a hero, or welcomed home as if there achieved something. Or that they should be thanked when they’ve experienced things that should not have happened. If we are going to commit ourselves to a conflict, we need to commit ourselves to the consequence. People need to share that burden, and listen to the vets.” – Mylan
Photos taken by service members during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The EXIT WOUNDS exhibition contains over 2000 photos from soldiers.
“I don’t Know “Katrina’s 5. Mom’s 25. Mom’s going to war–soon, too soon, not soon enough. I don’t know. We are watching, “We Were Soldiers.” She says, “Mommy, that’s war.”  “Oh, Sweety, don’t worry, Momma’s just driving trucks.” January 15th, no sleep. Making love to him for the last time– maybe–could be–maybe not–I don’t know. Kisses. So many kisses, tears, I love you’s. I miss you right now! I’m not even gone and I miss you right now! Don’t let go of me. I can’t get close enough. Tighter. I turned off the alarm. Who needs it. It’s January 16th, 4:00AM. I am in the shower with him. He brushes my hair. I put it up according to military regulation. Brown T-shirt, DCU bottoms, tuck in, chinch the belt, wool socks, tan boots. DCU top. IDENTIFICATION TAGS! For just in case.  Maybe, could be–maybe not–I don’ know. How does a mother say goodbye to her five-year-old child? What kind of goodbye is it? Is it the last goodbye? Maybe, could be, maybe not–I don’t know. So kiss her while she sleeps, pat her strawberry blond hair, one last take-it-all-in glance. Turn around–don’t look back–keep going and walk out the door. For the last time? Maybe–could be–maybe not–I don’t know.” – Mandy Martin about leaving for war.”  Quote from this website.  Click and watch trailer…

Jim Lommasson

November 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Gerding Theater at the Armory in the Ellyn Bye Studio Lobby

1128 NW Eleventh Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209

“When does a war end? Does it ever? Many returning soldiers bring wars back with them, and these wars can reach beyond the battlefield or firefight, infiltrating the very thing that defines comfort and safety: home. The trials of homecoming are vast and complex, often resonating with tales of Odysseus’ journey back to Ithaca from the Trojan War. Photographer James Lommasson has collected oral histories from returning soldiers and documented their struggles at home. In this conversation, participants will consider the wars at home faced not only by returning veterans, but also by communities at large.”

The photography and stories from the soldiers themselves says more about the emotional challenge and pain of life after war than all of the books, news stories, TV, film, and social media combined.  This doesn’t mean we should stop all the other excellent ways to educate and make the public more aware of the legacy of war.  But my friend Jim Lommasson’s unique photographic presentation, along with the stories connecting the human experiences of homecoming and life after war, provides a powerful view that proves the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”   This is a book that should sit on your coffee table so that everyone who comes to your home will see it,  pick it up, and browse the photos and stories that touch your heart.  This stunning pictorial and the stories truly connects the emotional toll of war and the challenges of homecoming…  My heart goes out to veterans of all wars and their loved ones who can suffer for a life time with moral injury…
Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Sharing Beautiful Music to Warm your Heart from One Life Community Church, Seattle. Washington


My nephew, Rich Sclafini, is co-pastor of this special place of worship in Seattle, Wa.  Rich and niece, Jen, and their amazing kids, Jack & Glady, live nearby.  Rich loves music, sings, and plays the guitar along with his official duties as co-pastor.  He sends me some of the most spiritual and healing music from time to time.  This composition, With Everything, is another example of moving lyrics and instrumentals working together perfectly.  When Rich said, “I listened to the song all day,” it was time to take a break and listen more than once myself.  Enjoy!

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

“Secondary PTSD!” Do we get it? “When S*** Rolls Down Hill…”  Quote from this website…

When the S*** Rolls Down Hill…“Secondary PTSD is not a disorder which is recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (as of the fourth edition). However, if you lived with someone
who suffers from PTSD, you may notice yourself beginning to “mirror” some of their
behaviors. This transformation is called
Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

If you want to learn about the reality of Secondary PTSD, go to the above website.  If you want to learn about my own family’s lifelong experience with Post WWII Secondary PTSD and Moral Injury, read my book.  My story is a non-fiction case study of what happens when a parent is affected by extended combat duty and the symptoms of PTSD or better stated, “Moral Injury.”

Decades following WWII family members suffer from the symptoms of PTSD.  My mother at age 94 still has flashbacks of the the emotional and physical abuse connected with being a military spouse and mother, who spent decades as the sole care giver for Dad.  He spent 66 months in continuous combat duty before and during all of WWII, surviving Pearl Harbor and the Asiatic Pacific Theater as a US Navy veteran.  If this wasn’t enough, Dad was sent into combat duty again during the Korean War.  

I describe our family experience in my book as an evolving and painful tragedy that destroyed our family over 7 decades, and still lingers as we continue our lifelong journey of healing.  In my view, not enough attention is given to the exponential effects of Secondary PTSD on the family of a parent who struggles in life after war.  The above quote is appropriate, and I could have not said it better, “when the S*** Rolls Down Hill…”  The legacy of war has an enormous cost on the families who “serve too!”

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

1st Responders Cope and Live with the Stress of Trauma…

Mark Lamplugh Jr., Founder 1st Responders Treatment 

Nathan’s Story…Quotes from the above website and story…

“Last year on April 11, 2011 my little brother Nathan went home to be with Jesus at 3am in the morning. Nathan was 27 years old and

had a heart of gold. He would do anything for anyone…. But he struggled with the horrible stuff he saw while being a firefighter and emt. He was broken inside and my family did everything we could do to help him get better. Problem was he didn’t want to admit he was weak and needed help.”

“My family helped him through many nights of him being upset and drinking to help forget his sadness, but it only made things worse cause he would cry on my dads shoulder telling my dad how much it hurt him to see the child that died or the father that was taken from his family too soon.”

The brave men and women who seek careers as 1st Responders,  represent our neighbors, friends, loved ones, and family members.  They  experience traumatic circumstances daily in their work.  The devastation of Hurricane Sandy and other recent public safety disasters of our time, remind us that just next door or down the street, or a volunteer co-worker who spends the weekends away or on-call, can suffer from the symptoms of moral injury and PTSD.  They often suffer in silence with severe emotional pain for fear of the stigma of mental health challenges.   The stark reality is the risk of being dismissed from the work they love making a difference for others and saving lives.  How do we help 1st Responders seek treatment without risk to careers?  And more importantly, how do we help mitigate the symptoms of PTSD, which is potentially dangerous to 1st Responders themselves, the public they serve and to their loved ones, who take on the symptoms of secondary PTSD?

Find out if you have a “1st Responder Treatment” resource like the one described in the above website in your area.  My bet is there is probably help like this in many cities and communities around the country.   If there isn’t start one…  Do not hesitate!  You owe it first to yourself, then family & loved ones, and especially the friends and neighbors you are protecting…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story