Retired Military Working Dogs Overcoming PTSD

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military working dog posing in a grassy area

The men and women of the United States Armed Forces aren’t the only ones who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from active duty — the dogs who serve so bravely alongside them often do as well.

Mission K9 Rescue, a working dog rescue in Houston, TX rehabilitates and re-homes retired military and contract working dogs. Since 2013, they’ve saved over 1,100 dogs and reunited over 540 dogs with former military handlers.

Often, retired military and contact working dogs have been in situations that have caused them severe anxiety and stress. Many retire with issues such as PTSD. These dogs need time with us to decompress and reintegrate into society, and Mission K9 Rescue works with these dogs to make them suitable for adoption.

Rehabilitating Retired Military Working Dogs Who Have PTSD

Causes — Retired working dogs frequently come to Mission K9 from high-intensity and potentially traumatizing circumstances. Many are trained for dangerous and high-risk tasks such as tracking, search and rescue, explosive detection, patrol, and attack, many of them undergoing explosions, air drops, and heavy-handedness by uncaring handlers. Because of this, many of these dogs exhibit PTSD. Of the dogs brought to Mission K9 Rescue, approximately 30% of military working dogs and 50% of contract working dogs exhibit PTSD. Contract working dogs are a higher percentage, as on top of the training and stressful scenarios, they are more likely to be handled poorly and often aggressively.

Removal From Kennels — After retirement, many military working dogs are stuck in kennels, whether overseas or stateside. The first step for rehabilitation of these dogs is to get them out of these kennels as soon as possible, one of the many reasons being that the kennel environment does not help their PTSD.

Symptoms — Dogs with PTSD may exhibit symptoms such as shaking, crying, and trying to hide. They can also be aggressive around people, including being resource aggressive. They may also not trust, occasionally mistrusting one sex over the other due to handler neglect or abuse. Various triggers from their service cause these behaviors.

Treatment Once Mission K9 Rescue determines a dog to have PTSD, they isolate them in their own play yard so they can get used to their new surroundings and begin to feel a bit more grounded and peaceful. Mission K9 Rescue will also make sure they’re not around any loud noises, which can trigger their condition. “We treat them all the same, giving equal amounts of love and care,” says co-founder, Bob Bryant. “If they cower or show aggression, we’ll take more time with them, working to gain their trust and love. Unfortunately, if dogs with PTSD have continued difficulties, we may have them prescribed Prozac or Trazodone, though we try to keep this at a minimum as there can be nasty side effects.” However, though Mission K9 Rescue can mitigate PTSD with time, love, and patience, “We unfortunately cannot cure it,” says Bob.

Adoption Despite not being able to fully cure PTSD, Mission K9 Rescue has seen many dogs initially exhibiting PTSD eventually decompress, become adoptable, and find happy homes with devoted caretakers. Behavioral changes that show less agitation, return of normal drive, and sociability are some of the signs we look for when evaluating a dog for adoption that initially presented with PTSD.

Awareness is the key for dogs with PTSD. It takes someone with patience, awareness, and compassion to take care of a dog that has any level of trauma. But as that dog begins to find peace in its new home and develops a sense of trust for its new owner, the richness of the bond can be incredibly special.

U.S. Veterans Magazine Wins Two Awards in One Week

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Tonya Kinsey smiles while holding award in her hands

U.S. Veterans Magazine, the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families, has been awarded two prestigious awards in just one week.

The first award was received on November 7th from Veterans Legal Institute (VLI). Each year, VLI reviews the contributions given by their partners and chooses a group to recognize for their continual support of veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine was the recipient of VLI’s Community Partner of the Year award for its dedication and contribution to veterans.

The second award was received just a few days later, on November 9th from the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC). Every year, the Board of Officers at NVBDC reviews the activity of their corporations, members, certified veterans and partners, and recognizes individuals and groups for their dedication to going above and beyond to support veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine and its Partnerships Division Lead, Tonya Kinsey, were the recipients of the Media Partner of the Year Award.

“I am extremely proud of the work U.S. Veterans Magazine is doing through important organizations that value our veterans and give them vital resources when they most need them,” Kinsey stated of the honor, “I have worked closely with both organizations to help them expand their platform and highlight their stories.  We truly value their partnerships and are honored to have received recognition from both organizations!”

“We are so honored to receive these awards from these two veteran-focused organizations,” U.S. Veterans Magazine Publisher and Founder, Mona Lisa Faris, said of the awards. “Our partnership with each of these organizations works so well because our mission statements align. We were created to help veterans advance and both VLI and the NVBDC have the same goal.”

About U.S. Veterans Magazine

U.S. Veterans Magazine (USVM) is the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families. USVM is the link between the qualified students, career and business candidates from the ranks of our nation’s veteran organizations, educational institutions, corporate America and the federal government. We provide our readers with relevant and timely information about employment, recruitment, supplier diversity, education, wellness and benefits. We recognize the immense value veterans offer as employees, and link job seekers with companies eager to hire them. Our publication connects entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow their businesses, and for those seeking educational prospects and scholarships, we share the information they need to support their academic success. Visit our official website at https://usveteransmagazine.com/

About Veterans Legal Institute (VLI)

Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI) is an organization that provides pro bono legal assistance to homeless, disabled, at risk and low-income service members with opportunities for healthcare, housing, education, employment and more. VLI is dedicated to help current and former service members foster a sense of self-sufficiency for the future. To learn more, visit their official website at https://www.vetslegal.com/

About the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC)

The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) is the original Veteran-Owned Business Certification organization developed by veterans, for veterans. The NVBDC is dedicated to providing credible and reliable certifying authority for veteran-owned businesses of all sizes to ensure that valid documentation exists for veteran status, ownership and operational control. The organization even offers a FASTRACK process, allowing businesses who are already certified with other certifiers to qualify for Veteran-Owned Business Certification in as little as 30 days. To learn more, visit their website at https://nvbdc.org/

Cheeriodicals Team Delivers gifts of Appreciation to Hospitalized Veterans

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U.S. Veterans Magazine is an ongoing supporter of the VA Medical Center Cheeriodicals program.

The Veteran Cheeriodicals are duffle bags packed with patriotic comfort and care items, such as a soft blanket, tumbler, toiletry items and, of course, the U.S. Veterans Magazine!

To add to the impact, volunteers had the opportunity to join the Cheeriodicals team and hand-deliver gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans.

Volunteers packed 224 Cheeriodicals for veterans receiving care at the West Roxbury VA Medical Center.

Cheeriodicals were also delivered to VA hospitals in Phoenix and Charleston.

Find out more about Cheeriodicals here.

FOX Nation’s 4th Annual Patriot Awards Ceremony Benefitting the American Red Cross is Tonight

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Fox Nation Patriot Awards

By Kellie Speed

FOX Nation is hosting its fourth annual Patriot Awards at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida, tonight. You can catch the patriotic show live at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Nation, and it will also be offered in a repeat presentation on FOX News Channel on Sunday, November 27, at 10 p.m. ET.

Each year, the awards show honors standout Americans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in support of this great nation. The event gives true American heroes the recognition they deserve.

“It is the awards show that America needs and that America deserves,” said FOX & Friends Weekend co-host and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Pete Hegseth, who will return for his fourth year as the emcee.

Hegseth will join FOX News Media personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, Greg Gutfeld, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, Judge Jeanine Pirro, the cast of The Five, Harris Faulkner, Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Dan Bongino, John Rich, Mike Rowe, Nancy Grace, Lawrence Jones, Johnny Joey Jones and Abby Hornacek.

This year’s Patriot Awards include the Most Valuable Patriot Award, Heroism Award, Service to Veterans Award and Back the Blue Award. Additionally, The Five (weekdays, 5 p.m. ET), Tucker Carlson Tonight (weekdays, 8 p.m. ET) and Gutfeld! (weekdays, 11 p.m. ET) will present live shows at the venue.

Last year’s Patriot Award recipients included “Most Valuable Patriot” Olympic Gold Medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock; Award for Heroism recipient Lt. Col. (Ret.), Former Green Beret Scott Mann for his work in Afghanistan with Task Force Pineapple; “Modern Warrior” recipient Army Sergeant First Class John Goudie, and the “Courage” award recipient posthumously awarded to Todd Beamer in United Airlines Flight 93 (accepted by his parents David and Peggy Beamer).

They also paid a humbling tribute to the nation’s 13 fallen heroes killed on August 26, 2021, during the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan – Marine Corps Lance Corporal David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Darin T. Hoover, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan C. Knauss, Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem M. Nikoui, Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Marine Corps Corporal Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared M. Schmitz, Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak and Marine Corps Corporal Daegan W. Page.

Keep an eye out in the next issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine for a full feature on the event.

For more information, be sure to visit nation.foxnews.com

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) : Victories for Veterans

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Give a Minute to Support Victories for Veterans. America’s veterans are on their most important tour—the tour of their lives. DAV, a leading nonprofit, is helping more than 1 million veterans in life-changing ways each year.

While serving in Vietnam, a grenade took Michael Naranjo’s eyesight. His fingers became his new way of seeing. Starting with a lump of clay, he learned to create objects of beauty with his hands. Today, he’s a successful sculptor. Each year, DAV helps more than a million veterans like Michael in life-changing ways — helping them to get the benefits they’ve earned.

Support more Victories for Veterans®. GO TO DAV.ORG

Veterans and the Oath of Enlistment: Thank You for Your Service

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John Register

By John Register

Thank you for your service!

As a retired combat disabled veteran, I have heard this heartfelt statement from many proud American citizens. I always hear it in terms of deep respect for the sacrifices men and women have made to defend our nation.

Yet, now, in this time in history in our nation, I have been thinking deeper about what these words, “thank you for your service,” actually mean.

Here’s what I mean. When I ask a person who has just thanked me for my service, what do you mean by your words? They often tell me, “well, you protected our nation,” or will say, “you fought for our country.”

Both of those are true; however, they are also byproducts of the service oath I took when I enlisted into the United States Army.

I believe what we’re missing in American Society today is honor, respect and truth for what the military service member has signed on to do. There appears to be an assumption of what “thank you for your service” means. There is no recollection or call back to the oath of service each enlisted, or officer takes to begin the process of service to our country.

The oath I took was “to support and defend the United States Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

What this means is my combat service was in defense of the United States Constitution. It was not to an individual or a group. Even though the next lines say that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States, there is always an exception to the policy if an order is in contrast to the defense of the United States Constitution or is unlawful.

The next question I asked myself was when was the last time I read the United States Constitution? I realized I had not done so in quite some time. So, I downloaded the app and read through the document on Memorial Day.

What fascinates me about Article 5 is that despite the best efforts to get it right, the framers of the constitution wrote this Article to let future generations know it could be amended. They knew that what they wrote had to be a living document to stand long beyond their years on this earth.

Another interesting point about “thank you for your service” is the assumption that my amputation came due to my combat experience.

Often amputees, who served or have not served, will be mistakenly identified as service members because of their disability. I represent 70 percent of those who were not injured in combat — though my disability occurred while on active duty.

When building the United States Olympic and Paralympic Military Sports Program, the issue that gave me the greatest concern was well-meaning charitable organizations that only wanted to serve those who were injured in combat. They had no idea the rift they were causing in the hospitals because they were separating who was more worthy of their “thank you for your service.”

I was recently talking with a business coach friend of mine who served in Vietnam. When I shared with him my sentiments around, “thank you for your service,” he shared with me that when he got out, he was never un-oathed.

This, I believe, is the bond that connects every service member, regardless of branch, together. Just because service members transition back to civilian life, hopefully with an honorable discharge, it does not mean we have thrown away the oath to protect the United States Constitution.

So, the next time you either hear, “thank you for your service,” or you say it to somebody, remember what the oath of service says and what it protects. Our democracy will stand or fall not on one leader but on our vigilance to defend the United States Constitution.

There remains deep respect in America for the sacrifices men and women have made to defend our nation. Let us honor those who served by understanding the United States Constitution is the depth of our defense.

John Register is a combat Army veteran, two-time and two-sport Paralympic athlete and Inspirational Keynote Speaker. Book John to speak at your next conference by visiting johnregister.com.

Charlie Mike: “Continue the Mission of Life”

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The mission of Charlie Mike is to save the lives of those still carrying the unseen wounds of combat, one veteran at a time.

Our vision is to help Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors help one another “Continue the Mission of Life,” in whatever form that may be. We believe that by standing together at home, just as we stood together during war time, we will help each other succeed in getting back to life.

Charlie Mike will save lives through a multi-faceted approach to help each veteran “continue the mission,” to never quit, and to address their daily challenges. This approach is based on three pillars that focus on creating stability for each veteran we serve.

The three foundational pillars of Charlie Mike are universal yet tailored to each veteran, designed to address the challenges they face. Each person’s experience is quite different, even if similar challenges or needs are exhibited. These pillars are designed to address three key areas affecting veterans today: PTSD and TBI, suicide and sexual assault.

Pillar One: Mental & Emotional Stability

Creating mental and emotional stability is the foundation of everything Charlie Mike will do within the veteran community. Mental and emotional instability are the unseen costs and casualties of war, and they are quite common. When progress is made, healing begins, and life changes for the better. The resulting stability allows for the other aspects of “normal” life to be within reach.

Pillar Two: Stability in Daily Living

Creating stability in daily living is part of the overall goal and mission of Charlie Mike. Once mental and emotional stability are created, daily living will get easier, be better, and more productive. The issues are complex and challenging, but the approach is simple. Helping veterans find and learn tools to become self-reliant is the best gift we can provide. This daily stability will provide a foundation for participants to sustain themselves for the rest of their lives.

Pillar Three: Stability by Serving Others

As much as veterans miss their teams, they miss the service. In the volunteer force of the U.S. Military, everyone joins for various reasons. The service aspect, however, is an integral part of the job, and is instilled by every branch of the military. Once discharged, those who have deployed often miss the high tempo, the austere environment, the challenge, and even the danger. Very few things in life will ever compare to or compete with wartime service. This causes a lack of stability as veterans struggle to find meaning in “normal life.”

Charlie Mike has a solution: getting veterans back into service. Creating stability by serving others is a simple approach for long-term healing. When we serve and help each other, we serve a higher cause, and yet gain personal benefits that are immeasurable.

Charlie Mike

Charlie Mike was created by modern combat veterans who know the realities of war and the realities of returning to civilian life. We understand the mental and physical tolls, the challenges, and the struggles. We understand what veterans want and need in order to cope with these life challenges. Our work will create a new community, a new forum, and new programs to help former war fighters integrate back into “normal” life after military service.

Veteran Suicide & Focusing on Suicide Prevention in the Military

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A marine sits with his hands in his faceon the ground contemplating veteran suicide

Since the beginning of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s tenure, he has been adamant about the importance of mental health in the military and prevention of veteran suicide. Secretary Austin has announced the establishment of a new program aimed at tackling one of the greatest issues surrounding mental health and military personnel: suicide prevention.

Secretary Austin’s newly established program, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), will address and prevent suicide in the military pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

“We have the strongest military in the world because we have the strongest team in the world,” Secretary Austin stated upon establishing the program, “It is imperative that we take care of all our teammates and continue to reinforce that mental health and suicide prevention remain a key priority. One death by suicide is one too many. And suicide rates among our service members are still too high. So, clearly, we have more work to do.”

a military servicemember holds a pistol struggling with veteran suicideThe SPRIRC will be responsible for addressing and preventing suicide in the military, beginning with a comprehensive review of the Department’s efforts to address and prevent suicide. The SPRIRC will review relevant suicide prevention and response activities, immediate actions on addressing sexual assault and recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to ensure SPRIRC recommendations are synchronized with current prevention activities and capabilities. The review will be conducted through visits to numerous military installations, focus groups, individuals and confidential surveys with servicemembers contemplating veteran suicide.

 

The SPRIRC recently started installation visits to prevent veteran suicide. The installations that will be utilized in this study will be:

  • Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • Camp Lejeune, N.C.
  • North Carolina National Guard
  • Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
  • Camp Humphreys, South Korea

By December 20, 2022, the SPRIRC will send an initial report for review in advance of sending a report of findings and recommendations to Congress by February 18, 2023.

“As I have said many times, mental health is health — period,” Secretary Austin additionally stated, “I know that senior leaders throughout the Department share my sense of commitment to this notion and to making sure we do everything possible to heal all wounds, those you can see and those you can’t. We owe it to our people, their families and to honor the memory of those we have lost.”

To view Secretary Austin’s full memorandum on veteran suicide prevention and updates on the SPRIRC, visit the Department of Defense’s website at defense.gov.

Source: Department of Defense

Man’s Best Friend Reduces PTSD Symptoms

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Man Hugging his service dog

According to a new review of evidence-based studies, military veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from reduced symptoms and enhanced trauma treatments when they partner with assistance dogs and help with their training.

Seven scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals found that assistance dog training and partnering produced “moderate-to-significant” lowering of PTSD symptom scores in line with those reported in gold-standard trials of trauma interventions supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The studies, carried out over the past five years, looked at a range of programs, from partnering veterans with fully-trained assistance dogs to teaching veterans how to train assistance dogs. All seven studies found reduced PTSD symptoms after participants completed service dog handling instruction. Two others, which used follow-up measures, found a long-term reduction in symptoms.

Chris Diefenthaler standing with his PTSD service dog
Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

“Assistance dogs improve the lives of countless thousands of veterans around the world by helping with practical tasks, enhancing independence and boosting well-being, dignity and confidence,” said Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). “These studies indicate that properly trained assistance dogs are both life-saving and life-changing for veterans suffering from PTSD. They are proof that assistance dogs have a major role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and support of military veterans with severe combat trauma.”

Eleven assistance dog programs across the U.S. including eight accredited by ADI — participated in the studies carried out by behavioral scientists, military psychologists, public health experts and social workers. Researchers reported that “veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but [they also] experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.”

One study found “a statistically significant decrease in PTSD and depression symptoms…participants reported significant reductions in anger and improvement in perceived social support and quality of life.” In another study, researchers working with veterans being treated for chronic severe combat trauma used eye-tracking technology to measure the psychological effect of training a young assistance dog. The more time veterans spent in close contact with the dog, the less time they spent looking at threatening imagery, and they paid more attention to “pleasant” images.

In four studies that utilized control groups, symptoms of the assistance dog participants were reduced more than those of the control group, and few improvements were found in the treatment-only comparison groups.

“The scientific evidence is conclusive,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director of ADI member Warrior Canine Connection. “These seven scientific examinations provide the long-awaited evidence that assistance dogs are both popular and effective at reducing trauma symptoms and improving the quality of life for our veterans. They also indicate that partnering with an assistance dog can enhance the perception of standard trauma treatment. PTSD is projected to remain a chronic and debilitating condition for thousands of veterans. It is imperative that assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD be fully integrated into military and veteran trauma care.”

Source: Assistance Dogs International

I’m a Vietnam War Veteran. Here’s How Writing My Memoir Has Helped Me Heal

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Bill Taylor, Vietnam Veteran, dressed in suit coat smiling in a library

I fought in Vietnam for 13 months at the age of 18. After my tour in Vietnam, I returned home a changed man. And while there was nothing extraordinary about my experience compared with others who had fought, I remain changed by my experiences there.

It’s estimated that around 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans have experienced PTSD in their lifetime. The disorder, however, doesn’t have to be as a result of war; it can be caused by any traumatic experience. For veterans who have fought in wars, PTSD can be lurking just under the surface and ready to take the place of rational thought. It pushes you into an uncontrollable urge to win the perceived battle. My urges are deep-seated and come from just over a year of constant combat.

I Had to Get My Story Out 

When I came home, I knew I had an amazing story to tell. It took me nearly 50 years, but last year, I published my memoir, On Full Automatic: Surviving 13 Months in Vietnam. I always knew getting my story down on paper would be a great way to explain to those who have never fought in a war, what it’s like to actually be there. What I didn’t expect was that the whole process would be so cathartic.

Here’s How Writing My Book Has Been Healing:

I’ve Found a Way to Honor the Heroes I Knew in Vietnam

I’m not the hero in my book. People have said to me, “Thank you for your service. You are a hero in my eyes.” But I’m thinking, “I’m not the hero. The guys in my book that I wrote about are the heroes. Especially those that gave their all, they are the real heroes.” I was just a scared kid and in a lot of ways it was pure luck that brought me home at the end of my tour. Many guys weren’t as lucky.

Bill Taylor in battle uniform early Vietnam war days
Just south of the DMZ before our battle during Operation Buffalo

In writing my book, I’ve been able to tell the story of all the men I knew. Many of them lost their lives but writing about them is a way of honoring them. They are back with us forever. My story is their story, and it’s finally being told.

I’ve Helped Other Survivors Process Their Own Experiences 

So many veterans come home from war and can’t talk about it. They keep their experiences bottled up inside, where they can do real harm. But people respond to shared experiences. When I’ve talked to other vets who have been through war, our stories just come out automatically. It completes, verifies and justifies something inside us. I’ve had a lot of feedback from other vets who have read my book and feel that by telling my story, they have found healing too. In a way it’s their story, the one they weren’t able to tell themselves or to their families.

I’ve Given Those Who Weren’t There a New Understanding of War

On the flip side, many people who haven’t experienced war don’t know why the vet acts the way they do. They may see erratic behavior in a loved one and not know why their behavior has changed. I’ve also heard from a lot of readers who in reading the book finally understand. If you haven’t experienced it, you just don’t know. My book has given people the experience of being there. It has opened their eyes like never before.

I wanted people to know what happened. I wanted to get those memories out of me. And now that it’s all out in the open, it’s there for everyone to see and experience. When I’ve traveled to talk at book clubs, I’ve had some amazing experiences. At times I’ve had up to 20 people surrounding me asking questions. And that’s 20 more people that have a better insight of what veterans have been through.

I’ve Learned How to Process and Control My Own Emotions 

When I first sat down and actually wrote my book, I didn’t experience healing immediately. It wasn’t until I started going through rounds of editing that the real healing set in. The first time I edited my manuscript, I cried after each story. Then the second time, I cried. Third and fourth times the same thing would happen. But the more I edited the less I would cry. And now I can tell the stories when I speak to crowds of people and for the most part, do not have a problem anymore.

A lot of veterans attend support groups and share their stories. But for those guys who just can’t talk about it for whatever reason, writing can be very therapeutic. I’m not suggesting that everyone write a book. And grammar or spelling shouldn’t be a concern. A lot of guys are just like me; they went into the military straight from high school. But it’s about getting your story out on paper. Once it’s there you have a choice. You can save it and share it with your children or grandchildren, or you just tear it up. The important thing is that you got your story out.

Mindset: The Secret to Living

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When one discharges from the military, veterans are often left with the gigantic task of reintegration. To describe this journey as “daunting” doesn’t even cover half of it.

Not only do these veterans have to deal with an entirely new set of norms and procedures; they also often come with scars of war such as survivor’s guilt, missing limbs, tinnitus, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) just to name a few. Add on the feeling of a general lack of support from society; it is no wonder why many veterans go into complete isolation, or worse case, commit suicide.

I saw my first Special Forces (SF) person in basic training. I, along with the rest of my company, looked at them with reverence and awe. Like a sort of real-life Rambo. We all thought that there was nothing that these guys couldn’t do; they were the best of the best; they were elite. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that individuals in the SF community go through the exact same struggles that veterans do. I had the privilege to speak with 27-year Navy SEAL veteran Jason Tuschen, former CMC (Command Master Chief) and current CEO of Sylabs, Inc., about his struggles, lessons learned and mindset.

Paul Peng: Out of your 27-year career as a Navy SEAL, what was your most trying time?

Jason Tuschen: When Dave Tapper was killed in action (KIA) on August 20, 2003 in Eastern Afghanistan. Dave was one of my closet friends. We deployed together at SEAL Team 3 and worked closely at NSWDG. He was a husband and father of four kids. His youngest son and my son were born a month apart. Any death is a tragedy. But when it is someone close, it is gut wrenching. I will never forget carrying his casket at Little Creek, Va. while the bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” standing at Arlington listening to Taps as he was lowered down; nor the brotherhood we shared. As I progressed up to the rank of CMC, I had to handle several tragedies. The last one that I had to be a part of before retirement was when Chuck Keating IV died. He was KIA in Northern Iraq May 3, 2016. Any death in the Teams is hard, but Chuck’s was especially so because of how much media attention it got. Myself and Capt. Gary Richard had to go to both his parents and his brother (also a SEAL) informing them that he was KIA. The whole process of getting the proverbial 2 a.m. phone call, hauling ass into work then telling the next of kin is the worst task a leader has to do. But it pales in comparison to what the family has to endure.

Peng: To you, what’s the difference between the mindset of a SOF (Special Operations Forces) member versus conventional forces?

Tuschen: Humble confidence. We train with a sense of urgency and to the worst-case scenario. You definitely learn humility by training that way. It is physically and mentally exhausting, but you know that when you deploy you are as well trained as you can be and feel prepared. However, there is always room for improvement. You continuously strive for virtuosity knowing that you will never attain it. That is “humble confidence.”

Teamwork. In SOF, we are very aware of our strengths and weaknesses. As a result, we are able to complement each other, covering for each other’s weaknesses. Making an unstoppable team.

Taking Ownership. Take ownership of your mistakes, that’s how you learn. In SOF, we spend a lot of time going over lessons learned so that we don’t make the same mistake twice.

Mental Toughness. It is the union of discipline and courage. Courage isn’t just running to the sound of gun fire, but doing what is right, regardless of apprehensions or fear. Discipline is doing what you know to be right regardless of any distractions or discomforts.

Peng: How was your transition to the private sector after serving 27 years as a SEAL?

Tuschen: I did not find it too difficult. I retired because I realized I needed to be uncomfortable again. I became comfortable with the problems I faced and my authorities. Heck, I had my own parking spot! I needed to feel like the “new guy” again. I loved every moment of the SEAL teams, but I am not defined entirely by being a SEAL, and I never let it define me.

Peng: Why do you think so many veterans, including the SOF community, have a tough time transitioning?

Tuschen: I think, particularly in the SOF community, it’s very easy to let your job and lifestyle become your identity. The longer you stay in, the more likely you will fall into the identity trap. Once you have achieved such heights, becoming the “new guy” again in a completely foreign environment, can be extremely daunting. The environment you move to next most likely will not share the values and morals that you have grown to respect and love. That can be extremely frustrating if you stay stuck in the past. You have two choices: go forward and be uncomfortable or stay stuck in the past. I call it the “Uncle Rico Syndrome.”

Peng: What advice can you give to transitioning SOF members and veterans that are struggling?

Tuschen: I would tell them to apply the same physical and mental energy that got you through selection or basic training and apply that to your new task at hand, starting as the “new guy.”

Nobody cares that you were in a combat zone, been through life-threatening events or were in Special Forces. Many civilians will think that you are a robot or the “angry veteran,” even though you and every other veteran knows it’s false. Instead, use your experiences to your advantage and GET AFTER IT! Be humble and confident. Be prepared to prove yourself all over again.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Multiple Hire GI Hiring Events During June-December!
    June 21, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  2. REBOOT WORKSHOP – VIRTUAL
    September 12, 2022 @ 8:00 am - January 20, 2023 @ 5:00 pm
  3. Elder Customers –Treating Customers with Empathy–Virtual Event
    December 14, 2022
  4. 2-Week Virtual REBOOT Workshop
    January 9, 2023 - January 19, 2024
  5. CCME 2023 Professional Development Symposium
    January 23, 2023 - January 26, 2023