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No Angel – Jay Dobyns

Jay Dobyns is more than qualified to be called a “sheepdog”.

Jay Dobyns

During his 27 year career as an undercover ATF agent Jay did not wait for the wolves to come to us, he entered their dens and ran as part of their packs. Jay shares some amazing and enlightening insights.

He participated in over 500 undercover operations including working his way into the inner circle of the Hells Angels.  That journey was chronicled in his book “No Angel”, a New York Times bestseller.

Following a stellar collegiate football career, Jay joined the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. He started work on Monday and on Thursday was shot in the back and bleeding to death in the dirt and garbage of a trailer park.

He is the founder of the Jay Dobyns Group, a firm that provides covert ops training for undercover officers and their supervisors.  He shares that one of the most critical elements for these personnel is the ability to hide their fear and carry on with confidence. Similar to Dale Dye, he also provides authenticity consulting to film companies and just completed work on the film “Den of Thieves”.

Jay Dobyns experienced many dangers but one of the greatest was “losing himself” after so many years deep under cover.  The role he played became who he was and not his job, inflicting secondary damage upon his family.  Because he has personally wandered these dark passages, Jay dedicates much of this time to supporting various organizations that provide support to Law Enforcement personnel experiencing trauma, stress and depression. He specifically partners with  The Institute for Responder Wellness and Safe Call Now.

TAKEAWAY: “Sacrificing and being part of something where there is a greater good involved causes you..forces you to be humble and gracious because you know that regardless of how amazing you might be individually you are still only as good as the people that surround you.”


The Beauty of a Darker Soul – Joshua Mantz

The Beauty of a Darker Soul author Joshua Mantz experienced possibly the most severe trauma possible and lived to tell about it. Kind of….

Darker Soul

Joshua in recovery

While on patrol outside of Sadr City in 2007, a sniper’s round first struck down Staff Sergeant Marlan Harper and then ricocheted into Joshua’s leg, severing his femoral artery.  In a testament to his training, Josh’s first reaction was to drag Sgt. Marlan to safety.  But soon he collapsed and felt every moment as he bled out. He took his last breath and died.

Josh was dead for a full 15 minutes.  But thanks to a medical team that wouldn’t give up Josh came back. Miraculously, he suffered no brain damage and remembers every moment.

But he found that the trauma of dying was not the only challenge he faced.  For a decade he would struggle with depression, guilt and other feelings that nearly led to his downfall.  However, by embracing his demons he would come to learn some truths about trauma..truths he shares in his new book “The Beauty of a Darker Soul; Overcoming Trauma Through the Power of Human Connection.

Trauma does not discriminate and is not limited to warriors or first responders. During this powerful discussion, Joshua shares his death experience and some of seven tenants of trauma recovery that can benefit everyone who has experienced trauma.

All of us experience suffering throughout our life. But it can give us the capacity to empathize with others on a much deeper level. Leveraging our experiences to help other people is the beauty that Josh found in the darkness.

Josh is donating proceeds from the first week’s book sales to the Integrated Recovery Foundation, a non-profit that helps female victims of military sexual trauma.

TAKEAWAY: “Even in my darkest moments, there was always someone in my life who had the strength and courage to plant healing seeds in my mind that would start to grow. It was being receptive to that feedback that kept me alive.”


Christmas as a POW – Lee Ellis

Leon “Lee” Ellis spent several Christmas Holidays as a POW.


Col. Lee Ellis (USAF Retired)

During Christmas, most of us are surrounded by that which we hold dear; family, friends, peace and hope.  The promise of Christmas is one of hope.  Those who “Stand the Watch”; the men and women of our military forces, volunteer to spend their time away from THEIR families so that we can spend time with OURS.

For several Christmas holidays, all Lee Ellis had was hope.  He was shot down and captured November 7, 1967 during his 53rd mission over North Vietnam. He would be held as a POW for five and a half years, including several at the notorious “Hanoi Hilton”.

Lee said arriving at the Hanoi Hilton just before Christmas was both “good and bad” because that time of year they usually treated the prisoners better for propaganda purposes.   However, during the rest of the year he and his fellow POWs were kept in tiny cells, barely fed and often tortured.

Lee recalls receiving a package from home with warm socks, food and vitamins. However, his captors insisted he sign a receipt that stated “because of the lenient and humane policies of the Republic of North Vietnam.”  He refused to sign and went without the package. Because so many others did so as well, the next time packages arrived they were not requested to sign a receipt – a small victory.

Small victories were important. They developed techniques for resisting their captors.  A “tap code” allowed them basic communication and attempting to reach prisoners in solitary confinement to let them know they were not alone or forgotten was a high priority.  Very often under torture they would volunteer false information such as flight leaders named Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne.

Lee is President and Founder of Leading With Honor, a leadership and team development consulting company that provides leadership resources and training.  His clients include Fortune 500 companies and he is in great demand as a speaker.

Takeaway: “The best gift we can give to others during Christmas is the gift of encouragement and affirmation and acceptance to others. We needed that desperately in the POW camps and we gave it freely. I have tried to keep up that habit and I encourage others to do so.”


We Weren’t Flying Over Laos – Ed “Moose” Skowron


Lt. Col Ed “Moose” Skowron

Ed “Moose” Skowron accumulated more than 15,000 hours in the cockpits of both civilian and military aircraft. Some were combat missions over Laos that were not credited. However, it was his 99th combat mission in Vietnam that he remembers most.

Ed wanted to be a pilot since he was a child. He wanted to fly for the Air Force or Navy but admits he didn’t like school all that much, which limited his options.

The Air Force had a navigator training program that didn’t require a college degree so he signed up.  After beginning training his class was informed that the Air Force was short pilots and any navigator interested could test for pilot school. Ed jumped at the chance.

Some of his first training would be a Luke Air Force base outside of Phoenix, which would prove ironic later in life. As a 21 year old flying with nuclear weapons under his wings, he remarks why war is a young man’s vocation.

Ed jokingly confirms that during the early days of the Vietnam War “We were not in Cambodia and we were DEFINITELY not flying over Laos.” He relates one mission while “not flying over Laos”. A covert ground operator radioed he was popping white smoke to pinpoint his location. When Ed saw white smoke rising through the tree canopy he radioed back to confirm. The reply he received was “I did NOT pop smoke – put all your bombs on that location.” It turned out the enemy had been monitoring their radio frequency and ending up paying for that deception with their lives.

In Vietnam, 100 combat missions were required before being sent home. Ed’s last mission in September of 1966 was supposed to be a “milk run”. But diving to check out a burned out truck he soon found himself staring down the barrels of numerous anti-aircraft guns. He was hit and headed out to sea.  Smoke got so bad in cockpit that Ed couldn’t see his own hands.

He tried to eject but soon realized he had neglected to remove the seat pins during pre-flight checks. Luckily he was able to remove the pin and ejected.

The rescue crew that landed in the ocean to rescue him was reserve unit out of Luke AFB – they were on their very first mission and Ed was on his last.  When rescue crew landed, mortars and other rounds churned the water all around them. Ed recalls the pilots’ eyes were wide as saucers.  Despite a few wounds he was recovered and went on to a long aviation career.

TAKEAWAY: “You DID NOT want to get shot down over Laos. At least in North Vietnam there was a chance you would be taken prisoner.”


Wreaths Across America

Wreaths Across

Meredith Ford, Hospice-Veterans Partnership of Southern Arizona (L) Gold Star Mother Marsha Moon (R)

Wreaths Across America will be placing wreaths on the graves of fallen warriors at over 1,200 cemeteries across the nation, abroad and even at sea.  Their mission is to remember our fallen US Veterans, honor those who serve and teach children about the value of freedom. American Warrior broadcasts live from one of these locations; East Lawn Palms Cemetery thanks to the generous underwriting support of the Hospice- Veterans Partnership of Southern Arizona.

Wreaths Across America was the brainchild of Morrill Worcester.  As a 12 year old paper boy, he won a trip to Washington and his visit to Arlington National Cemetery left a lasting impression.  In 1992 Worcester Wreath found themselves with an excess of inventory for the holiday season so Morrill arranged to have the wreaths placed on graves in an older part of Arlington that was receiving fewer visitors.  His tribute went on without much fanfare until a photo of the adorned graves hit the internet and calls came in from across the country.

Wreaths Across

Specialist Christopher Moon, US Army

Marsha Moon is the organizer of the East Lawn Wreaths Across America event. Her son Chris Moon was a first round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves and received a scholarship to play for the nation’s #1 ranked college program.  But Chris Moon was a warrior – and a patriot.  According to friends, Chris believed that real warriors competed on the battlefield so he chose to forego a professional baseball career to defend our nation.  He became an Army sniper. On July 13, 2010 Chris succumbed to wounds suffered while serving in Afghanistan.  He is buried in the Veteran section of East Lawn alongside 16,000 of his comrades in arms.

As a member of the American Gold Star Mothers, holidays were particularly painful for Marsha and her family. Laying a wreath upon her son’s grave assures that his name will never be forgotten. Volunteers who participate in laying a wreath are encouraged to speak the Veteran’s name out loud and thank them for their service.  Listeners can support this amazing program by making a donation toward the 2018 event or volunteering to help lay wreaths at their local cemetery.

Meredith Ford is Communications Manager for Case de la Luz Hospice. The Hospice-Veterans Partnership of Southern Arizona is a part of the We Honor Veterans program that seeks to assure that Veterans receive the support and dignity that they deserve at the end of life.  Meredith shares how hospice care supports families and caregivers. The majority of patients remain in the home surrounded by their family with training and support from their hospice provider. The partnership also gathers the stories of their Veteran clients and submits them to Library of Congress.

TAKEAWAY: “It’s never too late to give our American Veterans a heroes’ welcome home.”


Boulder Crest Retreat – Josh Goldberg

Boulder Crest Retreat’s motto is “Healing Heroes. One family at a time.”

Boulder CrestTheir innovative post traumatic growth curriculum has helped over 3,000 warriors and is showing amazing results.

Josh Goldberg, Director of Strategy for Boulder Crest Retreat shares more information about this pioneering initiative and how it is helping warriors, first responders and their families. Their programs are offered free of charge to participants.

After retiring from a 21 year career in the Navy, explosive ordinance disposal technician Ken Falke found himself regularly visiting the bedsides of fellow EOD warriors injured in the war on terror. These experiences led him to create the EOD Warrior Foundation and witness firsthand the desolation and frustration experienced by these personnel during their recovery in DC area facilities.

On occasion, he and his wife Julia would invite these warriors out to their home on 37 acres of Virginia pasture. In 2010 he came home to find his wife and a friend sitting at a table with 3 empty bottles of wine and a hand drawn diagram of a plan to convert their pasture into a retreat for these recuperating warriors. Boulder Crest Retreat was born.

Over 2.7 million warriors have been deployed since September 11th, a number equivalent to the entire population of the city of Chicago. It is estimated that 700 thousand of these personnel suffer from PTSD or undiagnosed combat stress.  Often overlooked is the fact that combat related stress is also contagious across the entire family. Considering an average family unit of three persons, the number of our neighbors affected by this stress is closer to 2.1 million.

Boulder Crest Retreat’s main programs were designed by combat Veterans for combat Veterans and are distinguished by their non-clinical approach and emphasis on creating sustained results.  Their results speak for themselves; 40 – 60% sustained reduction in PTSD symptoms, 50% reduction in depression and an amazing 84% remission rate versus the 2% rate in “traditional” programs.

Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes) is an 18 month program that begins with a 7 day intensive retreat at one of the Boulder Crest facilities and continues with regular follow up.  They do not see themselves as a “catch and release” program.  They also offer PATHH programs for couples, family members and caregivers.

Boulder Crest is entirely privately funded are Josh encourages anyone interested in their programs to contact them directly at info@ bouldercrestretreat.org

TAKEAWAY:  “If you are a combat Veteran, first responder or a family member and you don’t have the life you want – if you are struggling, hit us up..we are here for you.”


Innovations from World War II – Craig Suter


Innovations made during the Second World War are still with us today – and some of them may surprise you!  A really entertaining and enlightening chat with Craig Suter, author of “The Inventor’s War; The Durable Ideas and Innovations of World War Two.”

In order to find information for this compilation Craig had to read over 450 other books, period magazine stories and even research old newspaper advertisements.

Some of these innovations came about due to an obvious need; pressurized cabins so that bombers could fly above enemy anti-aircraft fire, sunscreen for the troops in the withering Pacific campaign and radio controlled machinery. But others..well listen to the podcast but here are some teasers.

  • The filling in Twinkies was originally banana flavored but replaced with the recently invented artificial vanilla while there was a shortage of banana transports during the war. When bananas once again became readily available, the manufacturer tried to switch back but consumers liked the vanilla better.
  • M&M’s found their way into soldiers rations but the only color was violet because it was one of the few dyes not rationed.
  • Duct Tape resulted from the Army’s request for an item to keep ammunition dry in wooden crates. But creative field troops soon found it convenient for covering airplane gun ports and the ventilation ducting in planes and automobiles. That is how it got its name.
  • One of my favorite childhood toys – The Slinky – actually came about by accident when an engineer working on a method of protecting vital electronics of warships. He accidentally knocked over a prototype and watched in amazement as it “walked” off the workbench.


Perhaps my favorite is the amazing story of Ralph Teetor.  Blinded as a child he nonetheless went on to become an engineer responsible for some of the innovations we enjoy today.

Craig says he is working on a second volume.  Enjoy today’s show and keep an eye out for his next book!


“Sometime” Never Comes

Claire O'Brien

Claire O’Brien
Photo Credit: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

“We should have you on the show sometime.”  This week that became my least favorite phrase.

It has been four years since I stepped up to assure that the messages of American Warrior Radio would not go silent upon the untimely death of the program’s founder Dave Sitton.

My initial decision was driven by passion for the message, not business sense.  Many listeners and guests are surprised to learn that the radio station does not compensate me for broadcasting the show. Quite to the contrary, I pay them for the pleasure to rent an hour of their airwaves.  Thanks to our generous advertisers, this year will mark my first that American Warrior Radio will not be a very expensive personal labor of love.

My fourth year as host marked another important threshold. American Warrior is gaining sufficient traction that publicists, movie studios and public relations firms are now calling us suggesting their clients for guest spots on the program.   We still do most the research and bookings ourselves, seeking out stories that inspire and need to be heard by the 99% of the population who never served in the military. But getting phone calls from New York, Hollywood or…Sioux City Iowa can be a real morale booster.

This brings me to my least favorite phrase.  Not long ago I came across a series written by Tim Gallagher of the Sioux City Journal. It was about women veterans. One in particular fired my imagination; 95 year old Claire O’Brien who volunteered for the WAVES during World War II and served our nation for two and a half years.  HERS was a story I wanted to help tell.

So I contacted Mr. Gallagher and not long after received a phone call from Claire O’Brien.  Her voice was strong for someone who had witnessed nearly a full century and she said she would be happy to come on the program.

Year end is always tough. Programming is adjusted to fulfill promises. Many Veteran’s charities make a special push during the holidays.  “Yes, we must have you on the show sometime.”

Claire O’Brien died this past Sunday.  Luckily for our nation, her story had been told by others.  But there remain so many others from her generation whose story, whose messages, if not recorded will be lost forever.

Douglas Dillard

Doug Dillard

One year ago, we had Douglas Dillard on the show. He jumped in behind enemy lines during D-Day, survived the Battle of the Bulge and went on to lead covert operations in both Korea and Vietnam.  He held every rank in the Army except General. Doug was a great interview and we agreed that he should come on the show again sometime.  In September I received a note from his daughter – Doug had passed.

Often, “sometime” never comes.  If you know a Veteran from that generation, ask for their story. Record it if they are willing to share.  Their sacrifices must transcend time.


2nd Battle of Fallujah – Donald Baker, USMC


Donald Baker in Fallujah. Photo Credit: Patrick K. O’Donnell

The 2nd Battle of Fallujah was the bloodiest of the Iraq War.  So then why don’t more people know about it?


Donald Baker is a Marine Veteran with 9 years of service including three deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.  His path to becoming a Marine was set forth by two elements; his father’s service as a Force Recon Marine in Vietnam and Donald’s dream of becoming a filmmaker.

One of his early films about World War I won an award and motivated him to make other movies about war.  But Donald believed he could not properly tell stories about war if he had never been in the military or seen war.  Inadvertently he would find himself at the tip of the spear in a battle that would become part of Marine Corps lore; the most brutal house to house combat since Hue City in Vietnam.

Before returning home, his Gunnery Sergeant said something that would come full circle; “The world doesn’t care, they have already forgotten you. They’ve already moved on.”  Donald has found that when he mentions the 2nd Battle of Fallujah he often gets blank stares. This reinforces his belief in the need to tell the story of his fellow Marines at Fallujah. His article “This is Why Fallujah is One of the Marine Corps Most Legendary Battles” was recently published by We Are the Mighty   .

Much like the Marine battles of World War II, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah was fought up close and personal with rifles, hand grenades and Bangalore torpedoes. Donald shared that sometimes the enemy was within inches of his muzzle. Donald related one particular mortar attack that wiped out all but two of his seven man machine gun squad.  He also shares his respect and admiration Patrick O’Donnell, a civilian author and historian who stood shoulder to shoulder with his platoon during the battle.

So long as they speak your name, you shall never die. Here are the names of comrades from Donald’s Company who made the ultimate sacrifice at Fallujah:

  • Sergeant William James – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Nicholas Larsen – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Staff Sergeant Russell Slay – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Nathan Wood – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Corporal Theodore Bowling – Nov. 11, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Benjamin Bryan – Nov. 13, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Michael Hanks – Nov. 17, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Luis Figueroa – Nov. 18, 2004

TAKEAWAY:  “I think every Veteran has to deal with thoughts about their brothers who didn’t get to come home. It weighs upon your heart. They don’t get to tell their story so it is up to those of us who are left to be able to do that for them. “


Veterans Day – Maj. Gen. Ted Maxwell and PFC Jessica Lynch

Veterans Day

Maj. Gen. Edward Maxwell

Our Veterans Day show features guests from the one of the highest ranks to the lowest; Major General Edward Maxwell (US Air Force) and Private First Class Jessica Lynch (US Army).

Maj. General Maxwell is the Component Commander for the Arizona Air National Guard. He is an Air Force Academy graduate and also holds an MBA from the University of Arizona.  Ted is a command pilot with more than 4,500 flight hours – some in the skies over Iraq.

Veterans Day

Jessica Lynch

Jessica Lynch came into the public eye when her Army convoy was ambushed March 23, 2003 in Iraq. She was wounded and captured by enemy forces.

Despite serving for different lengths of time at different ranks, both Jessica and Ted’s observations when discussing Veterans Day share several common themes; their admiration for Veterans of the previous generation and the importance of supporting and taking care of Veterans who have returned from war.

Ted and I discuss my perception of the growing gap of understanding between our civilian and military populations. We also touch on the emergence of a “warrior caste” in America – families with multi-generational traditions of service.

Ted and I also discuss one of my biggest gripes; people who wish Veterans a “Happy Memorial Day”.

In the 15 years since her combat experiences, Jessica has become a teacher and has been very involved in programs that support Veterans and their families.  Reflecting upon Veterans Day she says that it should all be about the love, care and support our communities can provide for those who served.

Both Ted and Jessica feel very confident about the young people that are now stepping up to “fill their boots”.

TAKEAWAY: “The best thing that people can do to honor the service of Veterans is to learn more about what we do and the challenges our families may face.”