It’s a “beautiful morning” on the Central Oregon Coast, and everywhere in Oregon today! The “Rascals” helped me long ago to start my day on the right side while living in Hermosa Beach, Ca. I would jump out of bed early to catch some waves at the popular 22nd Street break a few feet from my apartment. I didn’t know it then, but surfing early in the morning before school and work was my “mindfulness” therapy… Living on the beach helped me “survive and thrive” as a young man. Surfing is a spiritual in the moment experience. The cool but comfortable waters on the coast of Southern California was delightful and refreshing. Being out in the water on some no brainer 3-4′ summer waves was the very best. I was able to tackle the serious part of my day so much easier at the time after an early morning surfing escape… The memories of Hermosa Beach and my experience living in this coastal town are treasured. Thanks to social media, new friends like Jim Kitchen, also from Hermosa Beach and now at the “Blue Sky Ranch” near Bend, Oregon, I have been able to revisit those “beautiful mornings” surfing at 22nd Street and many other great spots along the coast of South Bay. And, a Happy Birthday, to my son-in-law, James See, from San Pedro, who loves surfing far more than me…
The best therapy for coping with PTSD symptoms, especially anxiety, is laughing and laughing and more laughing.I walked into this type of therapy solution quite by accident by testing the waters early on in my career saying and doing stupid things, and being obnoxious.Of course, timing is everything.This is one of those things you see on TV that we are told not to try at home or it could be a disaster.And it was a disaster for me at times.But most of the time it worked, and it is still fun with my best friends even today.
The first time this really took hold and got my attention is when one of my bosses, Joe,Area Sales Manager, Western Union, Detroit, Michigan, walked into my office one day and raised up his leg and farted, big time!This happened around 1970 while I was being introduced to my new job as city sales manager for Western Union in Detroit.This was my first promotion to a serious management position, so my anxiety was at a high level.I really couldn’t understand why they sent me all the way to Detroit from Los Angeles as a 22-23 year old kid to take on this big responsibility to turn-around a sales team that was sitting on its hands for the most part.
So, old Joe broke the ice with a loud and thunderous fart.My creative talents helped me calculate immediately that this was a modeling behavior by a good leader that would help me with my own style, and to help me relax and be calm.And it really does work, especially if you are working in a highly stressful sales culture or any type of creative environment where people are generally goofy anyway.Don’t do this around serious accountants or boring office managers, or folks who do everything by the book.Being nuts on the job is usually not studied nor recommended in school either.
My friend and colleague Michelle Rosenthal got my attention with her daily “Healing Thought of the Day,” a highly favorite thought provoking reference… I share her post on my social network each day. But for today, and the beginning of a well deserved long holiday weekend for the hard workers of America, it is time for a good belly laugh… As indicated in the above excerpt from my book, laughing was one of the best therapy strategies used with my good friends and team members working in a highly stressful information technology business. Laughing continues to this day as healthy way to relieve tension in my post retirement professional life. During my IT career, we laughed all the time about stupid things mostly. We made fun of everything and everybody…none of it will be repeated here. You get the point…”laugh your ass off…” today and every day…
Spc. Travis Barrett, left, talks with Capt. Mickey Basham, chaplain of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, about an attack in Afghanistan’s Logar province that seriously wounded a member of Barrett’s platoon.
Martin Kuz/Stars and Stripes
By Martin Kuz, Stars and Stripes
PTSD’s prevalence changes attitudes on repressing combat trauma while deployed…
“PADKHVAB-E-SHANEH, Afghanistan — There was a time when Sgt. 1st Class Corey Hawkins showed concern toward fellow troops in a manner that more resembled a scolding. If his team, squad or platoon lost a soldier to serious injury, he offered words that pummeled rather than soothed.
The PG-rated, expletive-deleted version went something like this: “Suck it up. You can’t stop going — you have to drive on. This is the way it is.” He cared but refused to coddle, a devotee of the Army’s tough-love philosophy that molded him.”
The timing could not be better to share the above article in Stars and Stripes following my post about Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sgt Ty Carter. The business of “tough love” should not be connected with soldiers in combat when they are experiencing severe trauma almost every moment of the day. The tough love philosophy is meant for kids who need discipline and consequences not encouragement when they do bad stuff. Soldiers are fighting for human rights and freedom on behalf of America. Treating soldiers with compassion as needed during combat and when they return home, would better prepare warriors for transition back to civilian life, especially in re-connecting with children and families. All too often warriors return home with a “suck it up” discipline that effectively bottles up the invisible injury and pain of trauma in combat.
If my father had been better prepared for his return home from WWII, he would not have tried to raise us siblings like sailors aboard ship with the urgency of “battle stations.” As a parent with grade school and younger boys following WWII, Dad’s style was the same as his Chief Boatswains Mate (BMC) less than compassionate and tough guy role aboard ship. He brought WWII and the US Navy home to us and the kitchen was a galley. He often did the “boatswain’s call” when he was home and got us all out of bed very early in the morning…“Bosun Whistle.” (click YouTube demo). We stood at attention and responded to his commands before we could chow down for breakfast. All the US Navy nomenclature was used in our home to communicate. We were trained well as disciplined sailors… Dad even provided me with his US Navy Boot Camp Training Manual to study before joining the Navy in 1963. Boot camp was a snap for me… no question about it! My company commander was so impressed, I was appointed “master at arms,” a recruit leadership position. This job kept me from doing the hated early morning exercise routines for all boots and saved me from demonstrating a weakness in my left arm from my experience with polio at age two… I had to do push-ups with one arm, and got tired quickly… So went life aboard ship at home… The downside was we were kids and needed to act like kids in a family culture of kids growing up. Dad did not understand parenting, so he was the “Chief” not a parent. He lacked compassion and rarely showed any affection. Mother was in the same boat with us, and was emotionally numb. As a result we did not know how to act as kids. We suffered from over the top discipline including physical and emotional abuse. The “emotional neglect” in a toxic home can cause secondary or Complex PTSD in children. The symptoms are carried forward into adult life, and must be addressed at some point to reconcile and allow healing to kick in… Continued denial and stigma causes a sufferer to avoid treatment, and can be a lifelong challenge.
The real point with this posting is that helping combat veterans early on while deployed to make adjustments to military life and the discipline of combat before returning home can be very effective. Allowing “present-traumatic stress” treatment is a great start in preparing soldiers for the journey of healing from the trauma of war and helps them to be better spouses and parents once they return home. I am very encouraged by knowing that steps are now being taken to look at the human connectedness side of a soldier while in combat by starting appropriate treatment strategies during deployment, especially in combat… Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…
“Obama also praised Carter to speaking out about seeking help for post-traumatic stress.”
“Ty has spoken openly, with honesty and extraordinary eloquence, about his struggle with post-traumatic stress,” Obama said. “The flashbacks, the nightmares, the anxiety, the heartache that makes it sometimes almost impossible to get through a day.”
“So now he wants to help other troops in their own recovery, and it is absolutely critical for us to work with brave young men like Ty to put an end to any stigma that keeps more folks from seeking help.”
Staff Sgt Ty Carter’s commitment to join the PTSD awareness campaign by helping other troops in their own journey of recovery and healing is a selfless high honor to undertake… Talking about the challenges of life after war with other warriors who suffer, and often hesitate to take advantage of treatment, will save many lives long after the war is over… The stigma of moral injury and PTSD causes veterans, including 1st responders, to be in denial and avoid the treatment that is critical to living a healthy, happy, and productive life after war… More seriously, the children, families, and loved ones of warriors need more support to help them become the very best caregivers and minimize the risks of loved ones developing their own symptoms of PTSD. Healing is a lifelong journey for those affected by severe and prolonged traumatic events. It is not a journey to undertake alone…it can be fatal… Staff Sgt Ty Carter will make a huge positive impact for the greater good in showing others that talking about PTSD and receiving treatment along with family members, loved ones, and caregivers will move America closer to “winning the war-within that comes home with the soldier…” all too often ending in tragedy long after wars end… Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…
Veteran Lance Cpl. Victor Nunez Ortiz of Amherst, Mass., holds a picture of his best friend Jeovanni Lopez, a veteran who died in a car crash. Nunez Ortiz believes the crash wasn’t an accident but a suicide.
“In the 12 years since American troops first deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 2.6 million veterans have returned home to a country largely unprepared to meet their needs. The government that sent them to war has failed on many levels to fulfill its obligations to these veterans as demanded by Congress and promised by both Republican and Democratic administrations, a News21 investigation has found.”
“Retired Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, an Arizona State University professor who is based in Washington, D.C., said most of the nation has little contact with the military since “the military represents just 1 percent of the population.”
“That means,” he told News21, that 99 percent of Americans “don’t know what a family is going through, don’t know what a military child is going through with a mom who deploys overseas … there’s a disconnection.”
I am reminded again today like every day since researching and publishing my book, and starting this blog two years ago that we are not doing enough to help our warriors when they return home. It is even worse when you start to dig into the affects of war on military children and families. And the worst part of the nightmare for countless American military families who are the caregivers of our warriors, is this is not a new story. We now know about moral injury, PTSD, soul repair, mental health treatment strategies, including alternative treatment connected to the subject of “mindfulness.” I like 1000’s of other military “brats” not only lived in a post war period but many have served and will serve in post WWII combat, including the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and post 9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… Now in the 21st Century we have whole new generations of youngsters who will serve in the Armed Forces of America and potentially in new wars around the world. It is like bad genes, the emotional baggage carries forward without a clear path to heal and support those who serve, including the children and families of veterans of all wars… I believe we should go back and pay attention to Native American traditions of healing warriors in their own communities with local resources, and “human connectedness” with family, friends and loved ones. Until we accept that it is the community not the government that is in the business of healing damaged souls from moral injury and in the long term treatment of PTSD, we will not get it, nor will 99% of the population of America who are not touched by war take responsibility… There is a silver lining in this painful discussion, however…at the very least we know what to do and the level of awareness increases exponentially through social media with each day. I am hopeful that in the not too distant future, local communities everywhere will learn how to execute effectively and circle around warriors when they return home just like Native Americans have done in the past and continue to this day… Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…
“Congratulations on writing an engaging story with perhaps the most vital of all children’s safety messages conveyed in such a warm and delicate way. You have managed to achieve the challenge of ‘preparing without scaring’ when tackling these important issues – I’m very impressed!”
“Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is a beautifully illustrated picture book that sensitively broaches the subject of keeping our children safe from sexual interference. This book was written as a tool to help parents, caregivers and teachers broach the subject with children in a non-threatening way.”
##### My family’s work with kids keeps us tuned into tons of references and resources connected with creating a safer world for all children. After browsing the “Some Secrets…”book website, listening to the book reading, and with a little coaching from my wife, Judy, it became apparent that this ground breaking children’s book should be made available to purchase on this website for parents, teachers, and children advocates everywhere… When listening to the book reading, I was startled but reminded of how dangerous and risky conversations with adults and older kids/teens can be when the talk and play leads to “let’s keep this a secret, promise?” This is when the red flag should pop up immediately for a young boy or girl, suggesting it is time to go home or to a safe place with other adults who are trusted… There are no secrets when kids are at play in a safe environment! I have had the “keep this a secret” experience a few times as a child at home and at play or in school. I know others close to me who have had the same experiences. If we are lucky enough as kids, we can escape the “secret” event without being harmed. But the risk for long term emotional damage is very high when children are subjected to others who have a tendency to take advantage of young children… Please take some quality time as a parent, teacher or child advocate to explore the value of “Some Secrets…” and purchase the book for your kids and others who would benefit. This is an example of a step that we can take as caring adults to help keep our children safe and protected from predators and bullies… Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…
Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.”
The TED community was deeply saddened to hear that Rita Pierson, whose powerful, funny, heartfelt talk kicked off TED Talks Education just a few months ago,died June 28, 2013 in Texas, at age 61.
##### My wife, Judy, encouraged me to listen to Rita Pierson’s talk. Without question this delightful and passionate educator with a powerful voice will be remembered for generations to come. She was the kind of teacher that kids love and never forget. Kids learn far more from teachers like Rita Pierson because she educated with her heart, love of children and work as a teacher. I know from my own childhood experience that teachers who made a difference were the ones who showed an interest in me, and made me feel good about myself. Teachers like Rita Pierson become mentors to countless children during their careers in education. Connecting with kids and building relationships are the qualities of great teachers and mentors. Many kids come to school not feeling the best on any day because of the typical challenges growing up and sometimes from living in toxic homes and neighborhoods before and after-school. Listening to Rita Pierson was highly encouraging and motivating to me because of my own work with K-12 kids as a board member of Neighbors for Kids, Depoe Bay, OR. Parents, educators and community leaders everywhere should listen to Rita Pierson’s passionate talk. We are fortunate to have captured Rita’s legacy for all to benefit for generations to come… Please remember Rita Pierson and her family in your prayers… Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…
I was deeply moved yesterday while talking with Circe Olson Woessner, executive director of the new Museum of the American Military Family… in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We talked for a long time about how children and families of the Armed Forces of America serve too, and long after the end of any war. My memory continues to return little by little of a toxic and painful childhood as a military “brat” born right after the end of WWII. But not every story of life for a military family should be considered “painful” or…a life experience we military kids should not feel proud as members of the military family serving America. We now have a better understanding of the challenges of combat veterans of all wars, representing over 20% of the military service population, especially with children and families as a whole. But often my posts dwell too much on the negative even though it is in the context of healing. I am happy to be reminded of all the positive aspects of American military family life through the generations. We lived in a “Quonset hut” (720 sf) on the US Naval Base in San Diego following WWII when Dad was stationed at the US Naval Training Center. Later we moved to a typical type neighborhood in Imperial Beach on Holly Avenue, known today as Holly Square, reserved for military housing. Talking to Circe and browsing the referenced websites helped me remember our home on Holly Avenue as a young boy about 5-6 years of age. I have vague dreamlike memories of playing in the neighborhood with my siblings. Until recently most memories from my early childhood were repressed. I continue to connect the dots while exploring my past…a very healing and mindful experience… My father, Vernon, was stationed at the US Naval Training Center in San Diego following the end of WWII. I remember the “hut” as a really small wide open home with no privacy whatsoever. We didn’t like living in wide open spaces in those days like we do now because the dwelling was just too small for comfort and privacy. I remember bits and pieces of playing with my siblings on the base, and the challenges of home life as a 5-6 year old kid… But the life of a military child is character building in many positive ways. We had to grow up fast and make adjustments that most kids don’t have to worry about. We learned early how to survive and thrive as kids living a different kind of life in the military culture, including Dad’s deployment during the Korean War. I also remembered a while ago, and wrote about when Dad returned home after almost a year serving on the USS Andromeda (AKA 15) during the war… The “hut” shown in the below photo from the documentary film “Brats…Our Journey Home…” helped me remember my early childhood on the US Navy Base in San Diego. I added a second photo showing how a typical neighborhood of Quonset Huts looked from the air at Pt. Mugu in 1946. Circe told me about the film during our phone conversation and sent me the link. Click the film title caption in the photo advertisement below… Making a new social network connection with Museum of the American Military Family… and friend, Circe, is a turning point for me on my journey of healing. With this initial introduction, I plan to collaborate more with Circe, and share the proud and deep history of the American Military Family… I am also proud and honored to be among the millions of military “brats” who served America too! Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…or download Kindle version…
About the Film
“U.S. military BRATS share intimate memories about their unique childhoods – growing up on military bases around the world, then struggling to fit into an American lifestyle with which they have little in common. Narrated and featuring songs by Kris Kristofferson. Interviews include the late General Norman Schwarzkopf and military brat author Mary Edwards Wertsch.”
“It’s hard to imagine a military BRAT’S childhood. Moving from base to base around the world, they are at home everywhere – and nowhere. There are 2 million children being raised in the military today. An estimated 15 million Americans are former BRATS. They include singers Pink and Lionel Richie, author Suzanne Collins (of the “Hunger Games”), basketball star Shaquille O’Neal and Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, actors Julianne Moore, Robert Duvall, and Neil Patrick Harris, and many more.”
“The reality of the situation is this… We don’t get enough education on ourselves. Every firefighter knows how to put out a fire. Every cop is meticulous on his car stops; every medic can do an IV in seconds, but when it comes to mental health we are way behind. With the everyday stressors that First Responders go through on a daily basis, it should be no surprise that some crack under the pressure. It does not need to be this way. With the right education and self awareness, we can make a difference and stop seeing lives lost because of mental health issues.”
“Follow the Light”
Take time each day to honor the 1st responders in your community. Just about every day we hear sirens in the distance no matter where we are in urban or rural communities. It is no different here on the Oregon coast with the very busy Hwy101, a 400 mile plus stretch of the most stunning coastline anywhere in the world. But we do have accidents just like every other community in America. We also have highly dedicated and passionate 1st responders who stand by 24/7 every day of the year to keep us all safe and save lives. Just yesterday Hwy 101 from Depoe Bay to Newport was blocked for many hours. Although 100’s of drivers were frustrated, we all knew that a life was being saved somewhere down the highway a few miles. As it turned out and as reported by the media, an elderly lady drove off the highway and rolled over onto the beach below. This is a cliff area and potentially would have the worst outcome in an auto accident. The good news is she was saved and transported to Corvallis for medical treatment. It was an “all hands on deck” example of 1st responders getting to the scene in time to save a life. We are thankful and proud of our 1st responders who often are confronted with traumatic events that most of us never experience. As America’s first line of homeland security, the heroes who keep us safe in our local communities, including fire, police, EMTs and USCG, often need our support while they heal from the symptoms of PTSD. Next time you see a 1st responder, who may well be your friend or neighbor, please thank them for their service to America… When all the wars are behind us many combat veterans returning home to life after war choose a career as a 1st responder. Thank them twice… Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order…
The Gary Sinise Foundation and the Get Skills to Work… collaboration with GE is a good example of keeping the focus on veterans returning home to life after war. Just because the wars are winding down and the media is taking its attention off the challenges of veterans readjusting to civilian life and finding jobs, employers should not take their attention off the value proposition of hiring highly skilled veterans. I was very fortunate when returning home following my US Navy experience in 1965. My vocational training to become a Radioman was the very best. These skills and the passion to get involved in the evolution of information technology in the early days allowed me to start my career with the Western Union Telegraph Company. Western Union launched the first domestic telecommunications satellite, Westar I in the early 70’s. Western Union helped start the technology boom of a global telecommunications system from space without the need for long distance landlines or undersea cables. This first step was the beginning of the “digital age” and cost effective electronics starting a technology revolution that continues into the 21st Century… We are still experiencing huge growth in the information technology business, especially with “cloud” computing, website development and social media. Thousands of veterans are trained in the many skill sets involving hardware, software, network management, technical services and engineering support while in the Armed Forces. Veterans bring 100’s of other skills and leadership qualities to the workplace. Many start their careers early and enter college while in the service. Veterans are often “workforce ready” when they return home. I am reminded each day of being blessed so long ago by receiving the opportunity to start my career in the information technology business. Every veteran should be at the beginning of the line for employment consideration when they are close to being separated honorably from the Armed Forces of America. We owe so much to the veterans of all wars. The least we can do is to make it a priority as employers to bring them back to the workplace and help them make a happy, healthy, and productive transition to life after war… I know from my own experience that going right to work using my fresh new skills from the US Navy changed my life forever… Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order