The “after-party”

Occasionally I give a speech.  Mostly to Military/First Responder/Veterans groups.  Sometimes to business’ or sports teams.  One thing that is always compelling is the “after-party.”

Let me explain; when I give speeches, I “wear my ass for a hat.”  Which is to say I do not hold back.  I am wide open about my shortcomings and failures.  Based on my experience, it’s the only way to be.  Admitting that I put a gun in my mouth in front of my wife and acted an ass and a fool on many occasions is not enjoyable.  It is however necessary. Why? Because of the “after-party.”  In the after-party, I have people come up and hug me and tell me very personal things.  Occasionally they are so personal that I get emotional with them.  I have done enough of these after-parties now that I have a few resources I can share with people who are suffering.  Sometimes I have to reach out to the people who’ve helped me so that I can find help for one of the after-party-goers.  The craziest part about the after-party is that I wish people could talk openly DURING the Q and A, the part before the after-party, because the things they say and the feelings they feel are very very common and it might encourage everyone to be more honest and forthcoming.

When I was dealing with my heaviest troubles, post being wounded and very suicidal, I felt like there was no way anyone could be as pathetic as I was.  I felt like I was the only human on the planet who couldn’t keep their shit together.  I was embarrassed and ashamed. I spent too much time comparing my insides to other peoples outsides.

I was also very wrong.

People are hurting.  People, all of us, go through tough times.

Waiting til the after-party to share them is an error because you don’t realize that there are other people who feel like you do.  Other people who have struggled with the things you are struggling with.

Today we hear the word “resilience” ad nauseam. We also hear “stigma” when we talk about mental illness.

Those two words are almost as over-done as “thoughts and prayers.”

What counts?  What isn’t worn out?  Finding a place where you can be true.  Where you can talk to someone who can help you get to the after-party, before the after-party.

Another thing that counts is stepping in for a friend when they can’t see that they are getting into a bad spot in their life.  That’s what my crew did for me.  They basically told me that I needed pros to help me sort through my suffering and self-pity and get on with being a human.

Ask for help.  If you don’t know where to go to ask, ask someone you love to help you.

If you see someone in your circle that needs help, do what you can, with love, to get them to a place, either physically or emotionally, where they can find relief and the tools they need to continue on.

We need to move past the mental health commoditizing and just take care of each other.

Seems simple.

Like the after-party.






I’m grateful that I live in a country where kids and adults can protest and have their voices heard.  The kids and adults  who are against the second amendment as it presently stands and the kids and adults  who are for the second amendment as it recognized today.

I’m grateful because it means that the first amendment is continuing the function..  It means that we as a nation, albeit one in a chaotic and tit for tat binary state, still think that freedom is important.

The smug “know it all” has just as much right to express her or his opinion as the self-described student.  I love it.  I love that everyone can express themselves without the fear of getting their head chopped off or their home burnt down.

Regardless of your view on any particular issue, you can go to sleep knowing that you have the right to disagree and express that disagreement, just like those that disagree with you.

I’d call that fortunate.

In some places, there is none of that.  There is only one way. And if that way is not your way, well…..fuck you.



free speech

I am 50 years old.  That means I am an infant on social media.  I am the founder of a non-profit that has a fairly significant social media following.  140k + facebook followers and several thousand on IG and Twitter.

My learning process has been an interesting assault on what I felt my beliefs were.  I thought I was all for “free speech.”  I really kind of still do feel that way.  But here is the reality of it.  When I go on my social media accounts and see some of the things that have been written, I lose my mind.

An example: “Thoughts and Prayers.”  Is that not the most benign statement there is?  Is there any statement currently being used in our lexicon that has less meaning? It is used so often that it seems it’s in a race with the word “like” on the track to the verbal destruction of the human soul.

“Like….thoughts and prayers is like….so like….. over-used!”

Another one that gets me is when people include their faith in their comments.  After serving in multiple combat zones where the manipulation of religion was at least a small part of the problem, I cringe when people bring their religion to the show, so to speak.  Having said that, let me be even more honest…when I see and read ignorance distributed by arrogant humans, especially when there are real evils being subverted by their righteousness, It makes me very, very angry.  An example is when I read supporters of a certain senate candidate in Alabama comparing his accusers of “persecuting him like Jesus,” I completely shut down.  It is no different to me than when a Taliban spokesman espouses the view that “women only have 1/4 of the brain of men.” Ignorance is everywhere. Even in the US of A.


I went to my facebook settings and disallowed posts that contained: Trump, Clinton, Obama, Amen, Jesus, Muslim, Christian, Islam, Prayers, Service, Republican, Democrat, God and a few cuss words that I don’t want to share.  I felt good about taking those words out of play in my little fiefdom.  A fiefdom that was granted to me by the supporters of our cause.  Many of those people say “Thoughts and Prayers” quite a bit.

But back to my point here……..In the United States of America, we have the right to express ourselves openly and honestly.

Do I truly believe in the right t free speech?  If I do, I shouldn’t regulate what anyone has to say unless it has the ability to cause incredible harm.  Hurt feelings are not harm.

One of my favorite follows in social media is on Twitter. It is @MuslimMarine.  He engages all comers in discussions about Islam.  He is exceptionally brave in my opinion.  I am proud to read what he writes.  Sometimes I disagree with what he says, but he has earned my respect for being courageous enough to step into the fray.

I want to believe in free speech even when it isn’t easy for me personally.

I believe that the loud voices of those of us who fought for the rights we as Americans enjoy, are needed right now in our culture.

We are needed because we actually had/have “skin in the game” in earning those rights and we need to be the voice of reason during this time of hate and bigotry and the insane contest to be designated as the most victimized segment of our great culture.

I don’t believe disrespect ever solved anything.

I don’t believe kindness ever stopped progress.

Now….go to my facebook page and write “Thoughts and Prayers” 100k times…I promise I’ll let it roll.



Thankful Thursday onnaccounta 501c3’s

This is a pic I took of myself and Mina today at the Brain Treatment Center 

I am about halfway through a treatment regimen that has significantly improved my life.  It is an amazing procedure that I think more people need to know about.  I am not going to waste your time trying to explain exactly how it works because I can’t give it justice with my limited vocabulary.  What I can say is that I am off all meds.  All meds.  Even the self-prescribed ones.  I sleep 8+ hours a night and my associated ptsd symptoms are so diminished that I can barely remember what it was like to be angry and agitated and hyper-vigilant all of the time.

There are many people responsible for the science behind this treatment.  I am grateful for their hard work and dedication.  This treatment has helped many of my former crew-members as well as children with debilitating autism. It has also helped other adults who have suffered from various mental health issues.  It is an amazing process and I look forward to the day when it is available to everyone.

I really want to thank two organizations.  These two organizations have been instrumental in getting me and more than a few others from my crew, into this life-changing process.  All Eagles Oscar is a relatively new organization that was started by a friend, Brandon, who was a member of the Ranger Regiment in the US Army and was also a member of the SOCOM Care Coalition. He helped me and hundreds of other veterans transition from active duty military to the civilian world.  He and his organization, working closely with the “Tip of the Spear Foundation” has raised the significantly large sums of capitol it takes to pay for combat veterans like myself to get this treatment.

The Tip of the Spear Foundation and All Eagles Oscar provide the funding and logistic support for special operations combat veterans to get the absolute best mental health treatment available.  In addition to taking care of me, they are also assisting with the same treatment for my spouse.  This is an amazingly generous gift.  Our families endure difficult times on the rough ride through our combat deployments and the tough transition between military and civilian life.  I am exceptionally grateful for the assistance we have received and I encourage any of you who may read this to click on the associated links and make a donation to further this cause.  I know that All Eagles Oscar and Tip of the Spear Foundations have a long list of waiting veterans and family members, who need and deserve the best treatment available.

Links to learn more:

Here is a link describing briefly what the BTC provides:

Thank you for taking the time to read this.



Lessons with Mina

Every day I navigate life with my Dog Mina.  We leave the hotel room to go out for a break.  This means two elevator rides and a walk around the block to find an acceptable place for her to do her business. Once that is accomplished, we head back up to the room to do the breakfast thing and take care of a few emails and phone calls.  Then we get back in the elevator, this time with many humans inside, to head to our daily medical treatment (I’ll write about that later).  Most of the humans on the elevator are either afraid of Mina, or neurotically attracted to her.  The afraid humans are easy.  I just have Mina sit and she is quiet and the elevator trip goes well.  The neurotically enthusiastic crowd are FAR more difficult.  Sometimes we get statements: “That’s a Malimoy” which is purposely misspelled here because most people don’t know how to say “Malinois.” Phonetically it goes like this: mal-in-was.  Or I get the even better statement; “didn’t know they allowed Dogs in this hotel?”  Sometimes people ask questions; “Is she friendly?” To which I usually answer, “well, that depends” which is difficult for the questioner to take because all they really want is the fastest, most polite way to put their hands on Mina. Then there is the “Is she a service Dog?”  To which I reply yes, and if the elevator ride is long enough, the asker almost always has a follow-up question: “What does she do?” To which I reply, “well are you sure you want to hear the answer to that question?” This is confusing to the questioner.  Befuddled, most of them say “yes.”  So I then go into a story about how I was in the service and was injured and struggled with depression and was suicidal and then I acquired Mina and she helps me get out of myself and be a (hopefully) better human.  This causes a great amount of discomfort.  The questioner generally realizes that they really didn’t want to know the answer. The questioner then stops staring at Mina and I can see the screams in their mind for the elevator ride to be over expressed in the lines on their forehead.  The questioner still has it in themselves to muster up an insanely benign “thank you for your service” or “well I’m glad you have her” on their brisk exit from the elevator.

Occasionally I’m a jerk and I just stare at them.  They can’t help themselves.  They truly don’t give a shit about my service, they just want to talk about and pet Mina.  They just want to get to their pumpkin spice latte as soon as possible and be on with their day.

Sometimes though, like yesterday, two young ladies and their father stopped me on the street and were so genuine and kind that I talked about Mina for 5 minutes with them.  They were a bit afraid of her, but wanted to interact with her and understand why the fat guy with a pronounced limp (me) is bumbling along with this beautiful creature.  I told the story and waited for more questions and we all walked away, we includes Mina, feeling good about the exchange.  The lesson I learned from this collective experience is that sometimes I try to press myself into exchanges with people that I want to have without thinking about their situation.  Sometimes this happens with people who are seriously busy and with whom I didn’t take the time to observe their demeanor before I opened my mouth and forced them to have to deal with me because they are polite. I think about all of the times I have interrupted people because I felt my need to be addressed outweighed their need to carry on their conversation.  I think about how these frustrating experiences for me are actually opportunities to see how I can be a major pain in the ass sometimes.  I get it….this is essentially the self reflection of a 9 year old, but we all get to where we are supposed to be in our own way I suppose.

Today, I want to be kind to people on their journey to their latte.  I don’t know what is going on in their lives and I sure don’t know what they are really heading into when they start their day.

Sometimes I think being clever is the best thing.

It’s not.

The most important thing for me to be today, is to be kind.




I have been going through a brain treatment plan and it has awakened some of my inkling for writing.  I have a book coming out in May. My friend Christian D’Andrea worked very hard to make it what I’m told is a very good read.

I’d like to write about a problem that I feel is getting out of hand.

Good people are buying Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd puppies and then finding out that they don’t really want them.  This leaves the puppies in a bad way.

Several movies and tv series have recently exposed the American public to the amazing capabilities of these types of Dogs.  The problem lies in what isn’t shown in those features. The work and commitment it takes to have a dog like that in your family is very significant.

The reason Malinois and Dutch Shepherds are so valuable to police and military units is that they are exceptionally “high-drive” Dogs.  This means that they have more energy than most Dogs and that they are more difficult to deter once they are on a mission.  That may sound cool to you, but in reality, these Dogs are a serious pain in the ass to have as a pet.

I have a Dutch Shepherd named “Mina” shown here in the photo:

Mina is a service Dog and she does pretty well in most situations.  I spent every single day of her life from the time she was 11 weeks old until she was a year old, training and working with her.  She was my job. To this day I need to be very very careful with her.  She recently completely ruined the two back seats in my SUV because she was searching for a tennis ball.  THOUSANDS of dollars worth of damage.

My fault. Not hers.

If you are interested in getting a Malinois or Dutchie puppy, I suggest you think twice. If you still want to check it out, find someone you know who has one of those puppies and spend 24 hours with it.

These Dogs are seriously a handful.


Do yourself and the puppy you think you want, a favor and be realistic about your expectations.

The shelters are FULL of good dogs that want nothing more than to be with a family who loves them.  While malinois and duchies are “cool” right now, they are not bred for the standard domestic life.  They are bred for high energy situations where their athleticism and drive will create successful situations for law enforcement and military specialists.

Please think long and hard about getting one of these dogs.

In the short time that Spike’s K9 Fund has been together, I’ve received over 15 calls from people who have purchased a Malinois or Dutch Shepherd puppy and then realized that they were not a good fit for their situation.

These are good people who mean well.  They just didn’t know what they were getting into.

Please, if you think you want one of these maniacs in your family, make certain you are ready for the hard work that comes with that responsibility.