“Military Minds…” from Canada… A new outreach website to support veterans returning to life after war…

I decided to take my experience with PTSD and put it forward to educate others and help those who are like me. Visit us here often to get a unique insight into the lives of soldiers with PTSD. My hope is to raise funds through sales of Military Minds apparel as well as donations to help those who have selflessly served our country”.
Chris Dupee, Founder of Military Minds

http://militaryminds.ca/  Tattoo Therapy by Ivan Herderson…

“29 years tattooing outside of a military base, a couple years in the military and you have more experiences, stories and happenings than many might ever think one could have. I have had clients share the happiest, saddest and scariest things with me. I feel like the proverbial bartender. Given that people entrust you with their hide, many will let go of even more inhibitions and open their hearts as well….”


I have never been big on the tattoo thing.  My father had some interesting tattoo’s from WWII.  The one remembered most was the Polynesian Hula dancer that wiggled when Dad shook his arm.  But now I can see the therapy value for veterans who choose tattoo’s for a very good reason…healing.  A tattoo artist can be a great person to talk to about things no one else wants to hear or can understand…  The tattoo itself can be a reminder of those experiences in combat that take a lifetime to heal from trauma.  A tattoo can also represent a memorial to “battle buddies” and loved ones.  I might not be big on tattoo’s for myself, but know how critical reaching out and therapy can be for those who suffer with invisible wounds.  My perspective of tattoo’s is now changed forever knowing more about the healing value for warriors in particular.  Let there be tattooing!

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Spring break at Badlands National Park… More food for the soul!

Big Badlands Overlook by Photographer Rikk Flohr, 2008 Artist in Residence
© 2008 Rikk Flohr

Judy & Steve in Badlands


The Artist in Residence program at Badlands National Park was founded in 1996 and is open to all professional artists. Writers, composers and all visual and performing artists are invited to interpret this wind-swept environment through their work. The program provides time for artists to get away from everyday responsibilities to focus on their surroundings and their medium.

Badlands National Park  Quote from this website…

Good Times at the Badlands

“People are drawn to the rugged beauty of the Badlands. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.”


There is no better “food for the soul” then driving into the Badlands National Park on an early spring afternoon as we did yesterday.  The scenery is breathtaking and takes your mind to a beautiful spiritual level far away from the day to day human challenges we endure.  Judy and I took the alternate I90 route to Wall, SD through the Badlands and soaked up the warmer weather and amazing sites, including grazing bighorn sheep.  The history of this place is amazing.  Once completely covered with water and sea life…a climate similar to Florida with ancient mammals and palm trees everywhere.  All this changed over time as the climate became cooler and erosion created the spectacle we see today.

Ted Hustead and the “original” Wall Drug Store

We stopped for the night in the destination town of Wall, SD where Wall Drugs http://www.walldrug.com/ became famous.  We had enough time to go by the old historic town and hang out at Wall Drugs for awhile, a must see tourist attraction.  Wall Drug opened in 1931 during the depression as an ice store, and now it is famous worldwide and represents a must see historic site.   The business is also an example of the great entrepreneurship of Ted Hustead and his wife Dorothy.

Today we head west to see Mt. Rushmore http://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm as we make our way back to Depoe Bay, Oregon.  We can so enjoy our trip back home now knowing our granddaughter Jordan is doing great recovering from a successful heart procedure just two weeks ago today.  We are blessed on this Good Friday and celebrate our faith during this Easter weekend…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Sharing our backyard…Stunning Whale Cove on the Central Oregon Coast…

Whale Cove marine life…tide pools…and caves…

Little Whale Cove…only private beach on the Oregon Coast

Whale Cove is our home and Heaven on earth!  Click on this site to enjoy this beautiful video and the background music…by Bryce Buchanan

“This spectacular cove on the Oregon coast is relatively inaccessible to people and because of that fact, it remains in a healthy natural state. Seals have their pups here; bald eagles and herons and many other birds nest and fish here, mostly undisturbed. It is one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.

I am one of many people who are working to keep it that way. We have a plan to put most of the land around Whale Cove into permanent conservation. The plan is a co-operative effort between myself, North Coast Land Conservancy, Oregon State Parks and the Federal Transportation Department.

Wish us luck. This unique natural area deserves protection.”

Bryce Buchanan


I am so proud and pleased to share this video of the stunning beauty of the area and beaches surrounding our home in Little Whale Cove near Depoe Bay, Oregon.  In the almost 8 years living here on the Central Oregon Coast, we can never get enough of Whale Cove a short walk from our home.  There are many days during the summer that we feel there is no other beach in the world like Whale Cove.  Even during the winter we venture down to the cove and beach, which is highly protected from winter storms.  But never do we take the risk of making our way down the path at high tide when there is a storm.  The entire beach disappears at times.  We can stand safely at the top of the cliff and storm watch on those days.  Whale cove is a very favorite beach most anytime to experience total freedom.  It is also a highly spiritual spot where Siletz Native Americans lived long ago.  We residents of the area also appreciate the healing value of Whale Cove.  There is no other place like it on the planet!

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Caregivers of soldiers with PTSD must practice “self care” to prevent burnout…

Caregivers of service members diagnosed with PTSD may occupy a different and greater care-giver role, upon their service member’s return from deployment. In many circumstances caregivers may be thriving in this new role, but they can prevent and reduce the experience of caregiver burnout by implementing strategies that support self-care

http://www.army.mil/article/96120/  Quote from this site…

“The VA has outlined some care-giving tips that can be useful for family members who are experiencing caregiver burnout. These tips rely strongly on participation, education, and social support.

One way to try to remember the VA’s tips is through the use of the acronym, “PEAS.”

Participate in your service member’s behavioral health treatment. Encourage him/her to seek treatment when needed. 

Educate yourself about PTSD, the medical facilities in which your service member receives treatment, and the routines of your service member.

Attend to warning signs of potential relapses or suicide risk.

Seek social support and engage in other positive self-care activities. It is okay to ask for help as a survivor of trauma and PTSD, according to Bob Delaney, author of Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-Traumatic Stress, and namesake at Delaney Consultants.”

In my own experience as a PTSD centric family member and caregiver, we most often dismissed ourselves as needing help even when the symptoms of PTSD began to appear as part of our own behavior.   You know, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”  So we all joined in the fire storm big time making matters exponentially worse.  One crazy bunch of people acting out together provides little or no healing value whatsoever.  Caregivers need to stay healthy to provide strength and leadership in a dysfunctional family situation.  Otherwise the family unit will self destruct and not achieve the happier place we are all seeking together as a team. 

As family caregivers please be guided by the bigger picture of healing together as a team.  Practice taking care of yourselves as described in the above “PEAS” tutorial.  Remember the goal of unity and the desired outcome of achieving a happy, healthy, and loving family unit in life after war.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” Beautiful healing music from the Warford Foundation with Sandra Dimitrov…

Sandra Dimitrov

Warford Foundation  Click this site…for song and video…

Published on Mar 13, 2013
This video is to thank The Warford Foundation & it’s founder Parthenia Warford for
the support they have given me during my time being homeless. I am blessed to have you in my life. I do not own copyrights to some media used in this video.
You can go to http://thewarfordfoundation.org/home/ to find out more about this wonderful
organization and what they do….or check them out on facebook….https://www.facebook.com/TheWarfordFo…

Anytime you doubt your strength just listen to this song and video.  We are at our best when we have no choice but to pick up the pieces and go forward…  The Warford Foundation is doing amazing work for the homeless.  It is my honor to share this video and the music of Sandra Dimitrov.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story


Soldier Hard’s Hip-Hop Lyrics reveal PTSD’s Rough Edges

18 Feb 2013
Sleep-starved from a repeating nightmare and weary from wondering when all that therapy would reignite his fading hope, former Army tank gunner Jeff Barillaro took aim at his stubborn target with an attack as brilliant as it was simple. He decided to break up with PTSD.
And he would do it in his increasingly famous style — studio-recorded hip-hop, under his stage name, Soldier Hard.
“I thought: If I could write a letter to PTSD, what would I say to PTSD? Then I thought: Oh, wow, this is going to be powerful,” said Barillaro, an Iraq War veteran, out of the service since 2010, who has steadily gained fame among active-duty troops, young veterans and their families for his bare, often-bleak music about the daily demons of living with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 
Last May, “Dear PTSD,” streamed from his busy mind to his scribbling fingers and, ultimately into a microphone: “Did you listen good when I said, Leave me be? PTSD, get the hell away from me. Cuz you held me down, didn’t even let me sleep, didn’t even let me breathe, didn’t let me live in peace.”

Under his stage name, Soldier Hard, Barillaro founded a nonprofit record label, Redcon-1 Music Group whose mission is “To help control symptoms of PTSD for our warfighter community through Music and Making Music.”
The label not only produces the work of other talented veterans, it provides workshops and other events to veterans and their families. Quoting Ron Borczon, a professor of music at California State University at Northridge who specializes in music therapy, “Through the musical experience, they find hope that they can get better.” He points out that the act of performing and listening to music lowers stress levels and reduces heart rate and blood pressure.

The official website for the label states that music therapy can help control anxiety and bring comfort both to those suffering from the condition and their families. His hard-driving lyrics and those of a number of other veterans have touched the lives of thousands of vets and their families. Visit their website to sample the music and explore where and how their programs work:  http://www.redcon1musicgroup.org

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Most older veterans live with the pain of war for their entire lives… The stigma and lack of treatment for PTSD created denial and often self medication treatments…

Albert Perna, a World War II veteran, speaking at a Congressional event in 2004

Is there an end to trauma for older veterans?  Quote from this site…

Who knew much about post-traumatic stress syndrome in 1945? The term didn’t enter the official manual of psychiatric diagnoses until 1980; effective treatments didn’t become widely available until the late 1990s.

So when Cpl. Albert Perna returned from World War II, “They said: ‘You’re discharged. Go home and go to work,’ ” he recalled. “Nobody told us anything.”

The prevailing medical advice — even for someone like Mr. Perna, who had fought in North Africa, Italy and France, who had been wounded and spent six months in a German P.O.W. camp — amounted to “put it all behind you.  “The John Wayne approach,” said Joan Cook, a Yale psychiatry professor and researcher with the National Center for PTSD. “Older vets believed in that. For many years, they hid their symptoms.”

My father, Vernon, suffered severely from the symptoms of PTSD for is entire life following WWII and Korean War.  Like Albert Perena and countless others who experienced extended deployment and combat during WWII, they were told to “go home and forget about it.”  We now know how painful it was for these warriors of that time who never forgot for a second seeing battle buddies killed, the carnage of the dead on the battle field and at sea, and the killing of innocent citizens.  “Forget about it,” not a chance…  Often they were overcome by alcohol as a form of self medication and destroyed their families with angry behaviors and physical abuse.  Many were able to have successful careers that channeled their anger and hyper vigilance in constructive ways.  But the anger continued at home with their families, which were destroyed over time with toxic and extreme dysfunctional behaviors.  We also know now that above all else the children of these families suffered the most by carrying the toxic childhood conditions forward as secondary PTSD to the next generation.

Older veterans who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD and have never had any treatment do not have to live with the pain.  My father received treatment later in life and really calmed down and achieved some level of peace of mind.  Most of we boomers who coped and lived with PTSD, both from secondary PTSD growing up with a parent from WWII, including the added emotional impact of combat during the Vietnam War, have the toughest time with age without therapy and reconciliation.  In my view, we should all have the goal of peace of mind before leaving this planet for good…

My recovery process is considered by many to be remarkable.  I was in denial until age 64 when first discovering my father’s root causes of his own abusive behaviors and alcoholism that resulted from the horrors of extended combat duty during WWII and again during the Korean War.  After revisiting my childhood years living in a highly toxic home and understanding my father’s PTSD, I am now able to separate the abusive behaviors from the person.  I see my father as a hero who served America with honor and pride.  He along with tens of thousands served in combat and saw the worst of human moral failings.  These men had close “battle buddies” who were killed in action.  They saw carnage years at a time, and the worst of it with innocent civilians, including children being slaughtered as collateral damage.  Many suffered in POW camps and were tortured.  It is horrific just to think about let alone experience directly for an extended period of time.  And now we know how all of this affects families, especially children.  So we see a nation in shock from generations of war… 

As an older American who served in the US Navy during the Vietnam era, and as a child of a parent who experienced direct combat during WWII and Korean War, I know something about the lingering emotional pain of war on veterans and the families who serve too…  It is time in our later years to find peace.  You don’t have to “suck it up” anymore.  You have earned America’s respect and deserve peace of mind.  Don’t hesitate, find a treatment therapy that works, start talking, and making a difference by helping others find peace of mind.  A warriors work is never done.  In life after war, it is still our duty to serve others and make a difference…  We all deserve to be happy and at peace with ourselves and those we love…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Stories that strengthen families…and interpersonal communications…

The Stories That Bind Us
Sarah Williamson

Families may want to create a mission statement similar to the ones many companies use to identify their core values.

Published: March 17, 2013

Stories that bind families together…  Quote from this site…

“Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.
Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.
“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.”
“Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”
I tend to “over-communicate” say those who have worked with me in professional life.  Always the strategic planner, making sure the dots get connected so that my team confronts challenges head-on and does not react during a crisis and fail in achieving the desired outcome.  Problem solving has always been part of my DNA.  I don’t usually wait around for a problem to rear its ugly head and make matters exponentially worse, especially costly bottom line mistakes.  It is simple, winning is my goal for the team.  Reacting when it is too late rarely produces positive results.
But the above article suggests we translate this business management discipline to the family circle by creating a mission statement.  Sounds like a great idea.  But I more often than not fail at interpersonal communications in a family scenario because communications can be highly charged with emotions and subjective thought process.  Reactions are usually defensive and even words by themselves are taken to mean something else.  The key is finding common ground during a highly stressful and emotional family circumstance.  Who really gets all this complicated problem solving stuff and why do families need to engage in team building?
For starters, the family unit is sort of a business structure but it is very personal and includes potentially dangerous politics among extended family members and the like.  The family works much better if someone is picked to lead during a critical time.  This family member or facilitator is given the freedom to kindly problem solve so that other family members see the positive step and the value of making life easier on the family unit.  Timing is also very important and should be discussed up front so that family members are receptive and willing to work effectively as a team.  Minutes of meetings are critical, including action items.  Each family member knows their individual role and the action items they own.  Team building with these simple steps will likely result in positive not negative results.  Reinforcing the greater good of the family and establishing ground rules may well provide a path of far less frustration during a critical time.

It was helpful for me to write this post and to be reminded of the heartfelt challenges families often face.  It is also worth thinking about and trying to use skill sets learned in business that may have great value mitigating a family crisis.   Our mission is to help each other more effectively under highly stressful and emotional circumstances.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Awesome disabled veterans making a huge difference in life after war…


“Welcome to VETSports, a nationwide non-profit aimed at helping veterans overcome their injuries through adaptive sports, physical activity, and teamwork!”

Saw a bit about this guy on last night’s news. Pretty cool!

“It’s all about the experience, and letting America and Welcome to VETSports, a nationwide non-profit aimed at helping veterans overcome their injuries through adaptive sports, physical activity, and teamwork!these guys know that not all disabled veterans are going to be a statistic in the news,” he said to the Long Beach Press Telegram. “I’m here to combat the suicide rate, homicide rate, divorce rate statistics. I just want to get out there and prove to America there are awesome disabled veterans out there and we are making a stand against that.”

Byron Lewis
Author of The Magic of NLP Demystified
and Sobriety Demystified

Byron Lewis, Author, writes the third of a three part series on Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) therapy…a case study…

This blog is being presented in three parts. The first introduced Alex and the diagnosis of PTSD. The second blog reviewed some of the research into the mechanisms of the brain that result in formation of PTSD and introduced a unique state-of-the-art treatment using techniques from NLP. This posting demonstrates how and why this treatment works. Throughout these postings I have highlighted certain words with links to additional information if you want to read more.

Byron Lewis

Author of The Magic of NLP Demystified

and Sobriety Demystified
Part 3:  Treating PTSD

Because of the way the memories associated with trauma are stored, they are extremely resistant to change. The most widely used PTSD treatment methodologies require the individual to repeatedly re-experience the traumatic memories. The theory is that the repeated exposure results in what behavioral psychologists call extinction. This is where a new memory is created to block and temporarilyreplace the problem memory. The extinction-based exposure treatments are often combined with cognitive-behavioral training (sometimes called cognitive processing therapy) where the individual is taught to recognize and challenge negative thoughts and with medications to help mitigate some of the symptoms.
The problem with these approaches stems from the resilience of the memories created at the time of the trauma and the nature of extinction. Since extinction does not remove or alter the target memories, they tend to re-emerge over time and in other contexts. The only other alternative, then, would be to somehow alter or eliminate the original problem memory.

The NLP V/KD technique has been successfully used to treat phobias and symptoms of PTSD for almost three decades.

<!–[if !vml]–>This is precisely what Gray and Liotta suggest. Citing the relevant research on memory in their article in Traumatology, they describe a physiological mechanism that actually changes memories using what is called reconsolidation. They cite studies with humans that clearly demonstrate that the emotional component of a traumatic memory can permanently modified or eliminated while leaving much if not all of the rest of the memory intact.

Researchers discovered that for a brief window of time after a traumatic memory is recalled, it becomes unstable and receptive to having additional “information” added to it. Then, once it “reconsolidates” itself, it has changed and retains that additional information. The addition of new information effectively removes the extreme emotional response so that the next time it is remembered, it won’t have the negative emotional impact the original memory had. 

Now that Alex is relaxed again, the NLP therapist asks him to imagine he is sitting in a movie theater looking at a picture of himself up on the movie screen in a comfortable situation before his first deployment. Then he surprises him by asking Alex to imagine he is floating away from himself in the theater and that he floats up to the projection booth where he can see himself sitting in the movie seat watching the picture of himself on the screen. Alex struggles briefly to picture this, then closes his eyes and indicates that he is there in the booth watching the scene below.
Squeezing his arm gently, the therapist says “Good job. You’re doing great. Now, if at any time you start to feel anxious, I will squeeze your arm like this to remind you that you are watching from behind the glass in the projection booth, OK?”
At this point, the therapist takes Alex through a series of visualizations of the events that triggered his PTSD memories, changing the “movie” to black and white, running it forward and backward, and speeding it up and rewinding it. As he goes through the exercises, Alex begins to become aware that he is less and less upset by the images in his mind. It is as if the events are actually becoming “just a movie” instead of real traumatic experiences.
The NLP V/KD technique has been
successfully used to treat phobias and
symptoms of PTSD for almost 3 decades
Gray and Liotta propose specific treatment protocols for what is known as the Visual Kinesthetic Dissociation (V/KD) technique that has been successfully used by practitioners of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) for over a quarter of a century to eliminate the fear-related emotions associated with phobias and PTSD. [Note: The NLP Research and Recognition Project asked a number of NLP experts to put together a standardized version of VK-D so as to allow it to be scientifically researched. That version, Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM), has been clinically studied at a number of University sites and is ready to begin scientific pilot research.] The process uses a simple imaginal procedure where the individual is first asked to briefly remember the troubling memory. This opens the window to the now unstable memory. Then the individual is directed to picture himself watching himself watch a movie of the traumatic experience. The individual is then asked to alter the scene in a number of specific ways. These procedures actually restructure the original memory so that as it is reconsolidated, it carries these revisions with it.
The next time something triggers the memory, it will become conscious, but without the traumatic emotions that were originally associated with it. Research, according to Gray and Liotta, shows that these revised memories tend to strengthen over time. In addition, the process introduces a renewed sense of control that is often missing in PTSD clients. Unlike current PTSD treatment regimens that can take weeks, months or years to complete, the V/KD technique can be completed in only a few sessions.
Alex returns to the therapist a few days later with his wife who tells him she is relieved that Alex seems much more relaxed than he has been since he returned. The nightmares stopped right after the last session and haven’t come back. Alex and his wife return a month later for a “check-up” and again after three months, and each time they report that things continue to get better.
The treatment techniques described above, while they sound simple, can only be successfully applied by someone trained in the highly sensitive skills of behavioral observation learned in the study of NLP. There is a group of professionals that have designed a number of research programs to scientifically demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique at three research sites: Syracuse University in NY, at the Brain Resource Center in NY, and at Ohio University. To find out more about this promising technique and to donate to the funds needed to complete this research, please go to the NLP Research & Recognition Project at http://www.nlprandr.org.