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Operation Surf – Van Curaza and Bobby Lane

Operation Surf

Van Curaza (R)

Operation Surf saved Bobby Lane’s life. Surfing saved Van Curaza’s life. Together, they are helping to rebuild and save other lives. Operation Surf is the subject of the award winning documentary “Resurface”.

Bobby said he wanted to serve with the best, so he became a Marine.  Serving in Iraq, his platoon suffered five roadside bomb attacks in the span of 11 days. Bobby was exposed to all of them but was so committed to the Corps he removed shrapnel from his arms and legs himself because he didn’t want to be sent home.

Operation Surf

Bobby Lane

Bobby says “You go to war but the REAL war starts when you get home.” He was struggling.  His fellow employees feared him.  His family didn’t understand. Physicians prescribed medication – lots and lots of medication.

When offered the opportunity to participate in Operation Surf – something that had always been on his bucket list, he accepted. His plan was to check that box and then commit suicide. But he found peace in the ocean. Bobby is still trying to figure out how to transition but the surfing community has welcomed him with open arms.

Van Curaza, the President  & Founder of Amazing Surf Adventures, had a rough start in life. As he got older, lifestyle changes began taking him down the wrong road of alcohol and drug abuse.  The one thing that kept him in order was the idea that if he were arrested he would not be able to surf.  He has now been involved with the sport for over 40 years.  Because surfing helped him turn his life around, he began offering those experiences to young people and eventually Veterans.

Operation Surf is a free program that exposes Veterans and active duty military to the healing power of the ocean through adaptive surfing and supportive curriculum.  An in depth medical study showed a 35% decrease in PTSD symptoms and a 47% reduction in depression among Operation Surf participants.

Takeaway: “The VA kept giving Bobby meds to address his PTSD related nightmares, but after only three days on the ocean all he dreams about now is surfing.”

 

Old Glory Relay – Marco and Diane DeLeon

Old Glory

Marco and Diane DeLeon

The Old Glory Relay honors the sacrifices of the thousands of men and women who have fought for America’s freedom and promotes the ideal of unity under the stars and stripes of the US Flag.  Volunteers with Team Red White and Blue are moving a flag 4,600 miles across the country. The relay began September 11th in Seattle and will conclude with arrival in Tampa on Veterans Day.

Marco DeLeon will be participating in the Tucson portion of the relay. Following the 9/11 attacks, Marco decided to join the military at the young age of 38. He was old enough to be the father of most his fellow recruits but felt that young persons should not be bearing the entire burden of this war.

He was assigned to the Arizona Army National Guard 180th Transportation Battalion and while deployed to Iraq, encountered a series of Improvised Explosive Device attacks that would cause severe spinal cord injuries.  His injuries were not readily apparent but after his return to the US, Marco gradually began to lose use of his legs.  He is currently confined to a wheelchair.

Together with his wife Diane, he was seeking help in dealing with the adjustment of returning to civilian life.  An internet search brought him to Team Red White and Blue. They were both attracted by the comraderies of others who might be dealing with the same rough transitions.

Diane is helping to organize the Tucson portion of the Old Glory Relay and Marco will be participating aboard his hand cycle.

Takeaway:  Marco said he wouldn’t want to go back. When he joined the military, he was searching for a way to make a difference. He believes his injuries have granted him the opportunity to fulfill that mission by inspiring others.

 

Transition from Military to Civilian Employment – Jeffrey Marshburn

transition

Jeffrey Marshburn is facing challenges making a transition. He is a highly competent and educated man.  He has three degrees including an MBA.  He has qualified for one of the most demanding organizations in the world and taught at perhaps the greatest leadership development institution on the planet.

So, why can’t he find a job?  Well, Jeff is a Veteran.  He spent half of his career as a member of the Special Forces and the other half as an infantry officer.  He concluded his Army career as Brigade XO at West Point.

And it isn’t really that he CAN’T find a job, he spent a great deal of time and energy preparing for the transition. It is more of the case that after nearly 30 years of service in the military, he is struggling to transition to a civilian job that brings him the same sense of purpose he had while serving in the military. He finds himself in his third job in 18 months.

In his recent Havok Journal article “Reflections on Service, Reflections on Sacrifice” Jeff explains why so many Veterans have trouble transitioning from military to civilian jobs.  Jeff cites an “..almost PTSD-esque” transition to the civilian employment sector. Listeners will find his observations enlightening.

It’s NOT because Veterans are “troubled” or somehow “broken” by combat. It is about modifying thirty years of mental muscle memory.  From simple things like how to go about scheduling a doctor visit to the cultural challenge of attempting to integrate into an organization that often does not emphasize the same values that the military does. While many civilian employers recognize the value of hiring Veterans, just as many have not developed a good formula to best integrate these excellent human resources into their corporate culture.

TAKEAWAY: “How do you become a force multiplier in an organization where the concept is foreign?”

 

Night Stalkers Pilot David Cooper

Night Stalkers

Chief Warrant Officer 5 David F. Cooper (Photo Credit: TDSC)

When you are a pilot for the Army’s elite 160th SOAR Night Stalkers, there is no such thing as a “normal day”.  But November 27, 2006 was a day David Cooper won’t forget.

Cooper was flying an AH-6 “Little Bird” as lead in a six helicopter formation delivering Special Operations Forces on a mission north of Baghdad.  The Night Stalkers earned their nickname as the first unit to fly using night vision equipment. That day they were flying in broad daylight across a featureless Iraq desert.  David says that because of the clandestine nature of their missions, it is rare to hear ANY radio traffic, so it came as an extra shock when he heard words that, up until that moment, he had only heard in World War II films; “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday..”

A lucky RPG round blew off his wingman’s tail rotor, forcing him to make a running landing at 60 miles per hour.  The crew members were injured but alive.  The Special Forces and Cooper landed to secure the crash site while the remaining helicopters returned the injured pilots to base.  Before a recovery team could arrive, an enemy force that included trucks with heavy anti-aircraft guns arrived and began firing at the US Forces. In the wide open desert, the team had no cover. Cooper and his co-pilot took off to engage the enemy and draw fire away from the ground troops.  He was flying at 140 mph at altitudes of less than 75 feet, pouring fire into both the enemy vehicles and terrorists firing from a nearby building.  Things were so intense that his co-pilot took to firing his rifle out the helicopter door.

Coop says “Soon, we were out of ammunition but not out of bad guys.” He landed three times under fire to reload his armaments & fuel from the crashed helicopter, each time returning to the fight. His actions that day earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, an award second only to the Medal of Honor.  Add that to a resume that includes a Silver Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars and fourteen Air Medals (7 with Valor Device) and one can see why David Cooper was elected to the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2010.

One of the F-16 pilots providing close air support in this battle was Major Troy Gilbert, who gave his life protecting the ground forces. The pilots injured in the original crash walked right past the doctors, jumped into another AH-6 and returned to the scene with the Quick Reaction Force.

TAKEAWAY: Cooper accepted the Distinguished Service Cross with words one might expect from a true quiet professional; “I accept it on behalf of all Night Stalkers, past, present, and future.”

 

Thank YOU! Please Keep Spreading the Word!

American Warrior Radio just surpassed 100,000 visitors for the year!

When I revived the program following the founder’s untimely death, with absolutely ZERO knowledge of doing a radio show, I was inspired by his mission; to educated and inform our population about those who protect us on both the home front and abroad.

I have no idea that we would see this kind of progress and am very pleased we are reaching a national audience now.

Please keep spreading the word!  If you have an idea about a story that needs to be told, please send us a note to: warriorradio@cox.net

 

Team Building in an Elite Unit – Charles Faint

Charles Faint wanted to provide his West Point cadets with a real life examples of team building.  But he had to get approval before he published the article “Competition, Call of Duty and ‘Naked Chicks with Guns’; Lessons on Team building from an Elite Special Operations Unit”.

team

The issue also caused quite a bit of controversy around his family dinner table – particularly for his daughter Emily.  Emily shares HER perspective to begin our show.

This excellent article highlights Charles’ duty as an intelligence officer with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.  Known as the “Nightstalkers” this elite unit is comprised of the best qualified aviators, crew chiefs and support soldiers in the Army.

Soldiers who volunteer for this select unit are by their nature highly competitive. This desire to be the best at everything manifested itself in some strange off duty competitions including pushups, yoyos, geography and even juggling.  But competitiveness translated into mission effectiveness; EVERY soldier in the unit wanted to be the best at performing their duties and mission objectives.

One area of competition cited by Charles came about when the pilots challenged support staff to a Call of Duty video game competition.  At first the support staff got their clocks cleaned. But they turned it into a team building exercise. They strategized, practiced, and even engaged their technical experts in using a higher powered computer to give them a half second processing advantage. Soon they were beating the pilots.

Everything the team did together, whether playing Call of Duty or eating together built relationships of trust – a basic and important element of team cohesiveness.

His intelligence briefings often included film of previous missions set to a soundtrack & soon became a crowd favorite. One week, bad weather meant there was no mission footage to show. At that point in the briefing Charles informed attendees there would be no “predator porn”.  This was greeted with booing and catcalls.  After a pause he announced that he DID have a picture of naked chicks with guns.  Charles received a hard stare from his commander but because he trusted Charles, he allowed the briefing to continue. The actual photo he included in his briefing is posted above.

Charles emphasized that Naked Chicks with Guns was in quotation marks. He discussed what the Army DOESN’T do, including actually showing any sort of disrespectful photo in a briefing or actually referring to a fellow soldier as a “chick”.  This reduces trust and runs counter to team building.

Takeaway:  Those pilots were waiting for the green light from us, and when it came on they went for it. They didn’t need my “but..” There was no time for “but..”  “But” causes hesitation and hesitation gets people killed.

 

Law and the Military – Attorney Matt Randle

law

Attorney and Army Veteran Matt Randle shares key points that members of the military should know about civilian law.

We begin by discussing Veterans Courts. The first Veterans court was established in Buffalo, New York in 2008. There are current Veterans Courts in all 50 states.  The purpose of the courts is to allow for rehabilitation in a non-correctional system setting.  Any Veteran is eligible for the program but the degree of qualifying offenses vary by jurisdiction. While Veterans may request the alternative track, the final decision remains with the prosecutor.

 

Matt cautioned active duty military members to obtain outside legal advice before choosing the Veterans Court option. What may seem like a less painful path MAY have adverse effects upon a military career.

Matt and one of his law partners are both Veterans. He believes this gives them special insight when it comes to representing members of the military. This especially applies to law involving divorce decrees and other settlements impacting military benefits. Matt estimates that as many as 10% of their cases involve correcting judgements that did not take into account the unique aspects and regulations of military service.

Members of the military must also be extra cautious because some charges may create complications that civilians don’t have to consider. As an example, he cites the fact the even a misdemeanor domestic violence charge could result in the military member being prohibited from being in possession of a firearm – a critical tool for most military professions.

Matt’s advice to members of the military who find themselves in a situation involving civilian law? First, inform your chain of command and second, contact an attorney.

Matt served five years as a combat medic. He deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was also honored to have been involved in a special mission to repatriate the remains of a US service member from the Korean DMZ 70 years after they were killed.

Matt was a Tillman Foundation scholar and has appeared as a subject matter expert on CNN, Dateline News and in the Wall Street Journal.

 

Purple Heart Wines & Purple Heart Foundation

Purple Heart

Bill Hutton, Sr. V.P. Purple Heart Foundation

The Purple Heart is awarded to military members wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces. It is the oldest military award still presented to US Service members.

This week we discuss the Purple Heart Foundation and Purple Heart Wines– a unique and delicious fundraising initiative of the C. Mondavi and Family Vineyards.

 

The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Composed exclusively of decoration recipients, it is the only Veterans organization comprised strictly of combat Veterans.

Purple Heart Wines

John Moynier, Winemaker – Purple Heart Wines

The Purple Heart Foundation is the fundraising engine of the MOPH and Foundation Senior Vice President Bill Hutton begins the show by outlining the programs offered to Veterans and their families through the organization. Bill is a retired Marine wounded three times and also earning a Silver Star during his service in Vietnam.

 

The Foundation and MOPH have a number of continuing initiatives and Bill was careful to emphasize that their programs and services are available to ALL Veterans, not just those who earned a Purple Heart.

John Moynier enlisted in the Air Force during the Vietnam era and spent the majority of his career as a military sentry dog handler and trainer. Upon departing military service he decided to pursue a degree in Veterinary Science at the University of California Davis. Instead, he found himself drawn toward their highly regarded viticulture program. He has been a winemaker for 41 years, thirty two of which have been with the C. Mondavi and Family Vineyards.

John has been involved with this special project since 2014 and, as a Veteran himself, he is thrilled to be part of this unique fundraising program that supports Veterans. So far this year, they have donated $40,000 to the foundation.

TAKEAWAY:  This is a wonderful wine and they could probably charge more per bottle. But a reasonable price means more people can enjoy – and support – the Purple Heart Foundation.

 

I am Suicidal and I Won’t Give Up – Sean Cavanagh

 

suicide

Sean Cavanagh has struggled with thoughts of suicide for two decades.

Several hundred times the dark thoughts have come, ranging from deep depression to a moment when he sat in his bedroom, a loaded Glock in his hand. A member of both the military and law enforcement community for two decades, he was well aware of the stigma attached to suicide so he kept his struggle to himself.  Then, following conversations with two separate colleagues who were suffering, he confessed that he TOO struggled with those demons. Following those interactions he decided to share his pain publicly..very publicly by posting an open letter on the Havok Journal website.  That gutsy moved proved cathartic to both him and to many warriors who are fighting a similar battle.

Sean has taught suicide intervention as part of training for police personnel.  Sometimes he taught the course while feeling suicidal himself. But he found strength and determination to move forward one more hour, one more day, one more week.

Sean believes that the nature of law enforcement/military jobs creates an extra challenge because they are taught to compartmentalize.  The pragmatic issues of safety & security also complicate matters for members of these disciplines who may wish to seek help.

As a hostage negotiator, Sean has had to talk people out of committing suicide. During our conversation he also shares signs to look for and appropriate actions to take if you suspect a friend or colleague may be struggling with thoughts of suicide.

TAKEAWAY: For every suicide there are a thousand deaths among those left behind.

If you or someone you know is struggling with this issue please visit:

Vets 4 Warriors OR call the Veterans Crisis Line  (800) 273-8255

 

Have You Checked out our Podcasts?

Over 12,000 persons have this year!  If you haven’t visited recently, here is what you may have missed:

In addition to some names you might recognize like Roger Staubach, Dale Dye, Jim McDivitt and Radney Foster we have also spoken with others whose names might NOT be so familiar but are true American Heroes:

The brave helicopter pilots who landed on a cliff side to rescue Marcus Luttrell in the “Lone Survivor” story

A Marine pilot who earned FOUR Distinguished Flying Crosses in Vietnam, returning from one mission with palm fronds stuck in his tail section.

A soldier who was a teenager when he jumped into Normandy, survived the Battle of the Bulge and went on to lead clandestine missions in both Korea and Vietnam.

Check out our podcast archives using the tab above, now conveniently organized by broadcast month!