I Got To Spend Time With Heroes

This past week I spent my days in the booth for Pathfinder Resilience at the Atlanta EMS World Expo. I  got to hang with heroes.

What kind of heroes?  The kind who were on duty for FDNY on 9/11. Joseph Hudak was kind enough to spend a long time talking to me and not once, not a single time, did he tell me who he was or why I should buy him all the beer he could ever drink. Nope, a humble, nice guy who was more concerned with how the people he trained and worked with were treated than any accolades.

I also Fan-boyed the women of the Patterson Fire Department. Now, why would I do that?  I loved watching them on LIVE RESCUE on A&E. I thanked them all and they were kind enough to chuckle and tell me in a lilting southern drawl that they weren’t from “that Patterson.” Oh. I meant Patterson, NJ. They laughed as they told me about all the other fan-boys who had thanked them and talked about their awesome dept. Instead, I realized that these three under-thirty women risked their lives as volunteers for their department. That’s pretty humbling. And they were sweet about it. Every time we ran into each other for the next two days we all smiled and waved.

So, what were we doing there?  Pathfinder Resilience  is the real deal in getting first responders up to speed in their ability to deal with trauma. Other programs all deal with it after the fact and try to “fix” broken people. We layer on the armor inside and out, and get them toughened up and smartened up to either avoid the bad things through mental agility, or to know how to “swim to the side of the pool” when they’re thrown into the deep end.

I love my job. I am so blessed to do this work. And after talking to dozens of people from different departments this week, it was clear to me that we are needed. I saw the pain in eyes, both young and old, male and female, as they told me their stories of trauma. Mind you, this is from people who aren’t big on sharing with outsiders. But I guess they trusted me because I look like Santa and shared my story with them.

If you are a first responder, the parent of a first responder, or the spouse of one – or the child of one – and want to talk about what we do to help them, shoot me a comment on the blog. Mark it personal and I’ll get back to you. 

We not only work with departments, but we work with individuals. Our goal is to lower depression and PTSD for our first responders, and take suicide off the table.

I honestly can’t wait for every class I mentor. I’m now the Senior Mentor, and I train the trainers. What a ride. I get paid to help people get better. 

Hug your first responder today. They need it!

Crazy Time For A Few Weeks

So it begins.

The work world of retirement is back for a few weeks. I have two new classes to mentor, some work to do with training mentors, work on an audio book (it’s a great book, but I signed an NDA until it releases), and taking care of my beloved following a joint replacement.

Oh, did I mention… well, other stuff as well.

I apologize for the light posting. But wanted to share this with you all:

 

I was at the airport, and the guy waiting for an Uber next to me asked about the shirt I was wearing. Turns out he’s a former cop who left after 13 years on the job because the job wasn’t the same anymore. Too stressful. We talked about Pathfinder Resilience and what I do there. 

And then I prayed for him. In public. At the airport.

It felt great. Pray for a stranger today!

 

Joe

TA-DA!

Many people get to be in their sixties and wonder where all the time went. Especially common is the observation that time seems to go faster as you age. 

Me?  I know where all of it went. It’s in the time-stamped files on my various computers. Some of it is homework from my students in the courses I mentor. Some of it is things I write that are heading toward publication. But by far the greatest volume has been the audio book work that I’ve done in the last few years.

I have spent hundreds of hours recording and editing audio books. Some my books, others for authors who have hired me. The quality at the beginning of the run was spotty. Largely due to the computer issues and sound problems of an old house. The last few years were much higher in quality: better microphones, better sound baffles – and better narrator.

Yes, you learn as you go.  I know I do a way better job now than I did at the beginning. For one thing, I’m more versatile. I’ve purposely read books for others that challenged me. I found out that I can do a good job on almost anything, but it takes extra work on some things.

Thus, it is with great pride that I can announce that DARK TRANSIT, a novel by Michael DiMercurio, is now available for presale on Amazon.

I spent about 120 hours recording and editing this work. My accuracy rate is about 99.996% – and when I screw up it is usually spectacular. The author found a blooper this morning – the day it went on presale. One word was wrong, but it will drive some people crazy. I won’t say what it was, but most people will will never spot it. He did, because he wrote the danged thing. But I did wait until I was about 10% into the book before I screwed up. And going back to change one word out of 209,000 is problematic after it has been put on sale at Amazon. 

I hope you get the book and the audio book. Kindle and Audible usually offer a good deal if you buy both. This book garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly. That’s a big deal. It is Michael’s first book in 16 years and I’m very proud to have narrated it.

And, remember:  you can give audio books as a gift. It comes out December 14th and would make a great Christmas Gift for the fan of military fiction in your life. I promise any submarine sailor in your life will enjoy the book.

My Deep Thanks To The Lopez Family

This morning I watched a video of the airport arrival of the remains of a United States Marine, Corporal Hunter Lopez. My eyes have dried enough to write this blog, but it will leave a little bit of my soul in California for the rest of my life. 

I’d like to tell an abbreviated story of his life. I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Lopez in this life, but in the next I suspect we’ll run into each other. The picture above is from basic training. The weary recruits are marched to a photo studio where a set of Dress Blues are waiting for them, devoid of medals and rank, as befits a recruit. You stand in formation and peel off one-by-one to go into the studio where they put a partial uniform on you. It is usually a “break-away” uniform, with no back, just a couple of velcro straps that hold it together at the collar and chest so it looks right. Takes less time. You do not smile for the photo: you’re a warrior. They don’t smile. In less than a minute you’re back out in formation. The whole training group runs through the photo in under an hour. Way under an hour. But now you have a picture to send to mom and dad, and if you’re lucky to your girlfriend who’s waiting at home for you. 

Basic training photos stick around your whole life. Mine is on my wife’s dresser. My mom has one. I probably have one as well. In Hunter’s case, his mom and dad are both Sheriff’s deputies, so they would admire their son in uniform and know that kinship that cops and the military share.

It is debatable which one is the most proud of the other in this photo. Dad’s a Captain in the department, Hunter is a Corporal. For those not in the military, being a Corporal in the Marine Corps is a big deal. You are finally a Non-Commissioned Officer. You are someone.

I love this photo. The exhausted young recruit is gone. This is a young man  who knows exactly who he is. He’s ready for the world. I can’t tell from the photo what his rank or the location is, but he’s a handsome young fellow. The salt of the earth: he is America.

Here we see Corporal Lopez arriving home. Surrounded by his brothers in the Corps. He is already gone on to his destiny, but his remains are being moved around one last time. He’s already made the long trip from Kabul to Dover and then home to Southern California. Soon his travels will be complete and his body can be laid at rest.

In watching the arrival of his body at the local airport, I thought of how that might have played out if it was me and things were different. I tried to imagine my mother and father attending to the side of an aircraft, next to the hearse. I couldn’t imagine it. Perhaps, given the time in which I served and the missions we did, I would be forever where I fell. And that would be okay as well, for I’d be with my comrades in eternity.

The assemblage on the tarmac was quiet. A mix of military and law enforcement, as well as Hunter’s family. As the aircraft began preparing to surrender his body, the deputies presented a salute. A lone Highlands Piper played a tune to greet the warrior at the end of this leg of his travels. Pipers are significant to warriors, and I’ve had them at funerals and weddings alike. It is part of who we are, and the haunting skirl of the pipes is as much a part of that identity as the uniforms we wear. 

When the remains were brought out of the aircraft, and put on the stand, the family came forward. The rending grief was palpable through the screen. His mother knew that a part of her was inside that casket, and yet her son was not really what was left. Just a body. His father and siblings were present as well, and they all leaned on each other, and the Marines, to steady them as the move to the hearse took place. 

Now, with everyone presenting a salute, six Marines lifted the casket and solemnly carried it to the hearse. Not a cover (hat) tilted too much, every seam aligned, perfect uniforms in honor of a young man of their tribe. 

Once the body was in the hearse, they backed up, aligned formation, and waited. Stock still. Not moving any more than their comrade in the back of the long-black vehicle.

His mother approached the hearse and leaned against the side window, looking at the flag wrapping her son in his final journey. She’s a lot stronger than me. I could see the toughness it took to do that. But she’s a cop, and a Marine mom: both rare birds.

And that may be the thing I will carry away for the rest of my life: the image of her leaning against the hearse. 

You see, freedom isn’t free. Orders have consequences. And Corporal Hunter Lopez paid the piper for all of us.

Thank you, Corporal Lopez. I salute you and ’til Valhalla….

 

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Lunch Time For Heroes

The last year has been incredibly hard for First Responders. I know this for a fact, because I have more than a few that are friends of mine, and I’ve got 100 of them in my class that I mentor on resiliency.

Consequently, I have a suggestion for you: adopt a substation/fire house/precinct. 

 

I don’t mean you have to let those characters in on the inheritance, but pick a group and do something nice for them. 

Now, in 2021, you have to do this the right way. They aren’t always receptive to you showing up with a pan of brownies. Besides the fact that a couple of the readers might load them up with funny edible substances that contain THC, there is a justifiable concern for contamination on purpose, or disease.

Here’s how you do it in a few short steps.

First, decide who to support. Law Enforcement, Fire, or Paramedic/EMT. 

Talk to the person in charge if you don’t know someone at the location. Find out how many people work there (*they may be touchy about providing this information, so make sure you can provide references*) and if it’s an organization that has shifts reporting/living there, find out when they eat dinner. Firehouses are a great bet for this, they cook for themselves and usually try to eat at the same time. Law enforcement and medics have a shift change, and if you bring a meal, cookies, ice cream sundaes, whatever, you could do it an hour before shift change so both oncoming and offgoing can enjoy the food.

Next, plan a menu when you know what the needs are. If you are a church or social group, you can get together and do a couple of pans of lasagna, hot dish, ribs, whatever, and the assorted salads and deserts. Throw in a couple of beverages for each person to be served and disposable plates/silverware. Saving them the cleanup is a big help. 

If you aren’t part of a group, but just want to do this because it feels right, you can find a restaurant they like and cater it in. A full meal for 15 people is about $200 at an inexpensive but good Mexican place around here, because it’s way cheaper when it’s a pan of enchiladas, beans, rice and tortilla instead of individual servings. Not a lot of money if you plan for it.

Now, don’t wait for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving: do it next week. Yes, they work hard all year long, and Sunday the 19th is every bit as big a blessing as a holiday. 

I know morale is low in many of these organizations. Partly because since the Chinese Virus hit, people call them out for the smallest malady. One fire department I know has seen its calls more than double in the past 18 months. It’s wearing these folks down. Your plate of rigatoni and garlic bread will do more for morale than a dozen other things you could do.

That’s it. Just do something nice for them because you can, and they need the boost. Doesn’t have to cost a bundle, but the dividend for them is huge.