Appreciating what God has given

Appreciating What God Has Given

On Sundays I usually like to take some time to appreciate what my father God has placed in my life. I feel like if I don’t pause for a moment and take in the love and grace that he has surrounded me with then I will be on the cusp of lose it all. That’s one thing I don’t want to do, take anything that God has given me for granted. He gave me my beautiful wife and daughter, an awesome house and has helped me make stronger bonds with my friends.

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I love my daughter! This is how I get her pumped for school.

One thing that came to mind that I’m overly grateful for is for the first time ever I can go hours without pain in my back. For the past 13 years I’ve been struggling with chronic pain from degenerative disk disease in my back with 3 herniated discs. Quite honestly there hasn’t been a minute of my life since the injury that I didn’t feel pain in my back, until I started getting intense chiropractic therapy.

An organization I’ve become involved in recently,  Pain- Free Patriots, gave me a free grant to become pain free, as with every veteran that serves this great nation. For the past nine months I have gone to get adjustments, my back stretched ( best feeling in the world) and a micro-current therapy for my never and muscle.

I was amazed at the results I had after just a few weeks with them. There are days now that I can go without pain up until the final hours of the day. Before, it felt like someone was constantly stabbing me between my spine and lower left rib, all day.

The crazy part about this whole story was that God told me if I volunteered for the church more, he would heal me. For some reason I listened that calm voice in my head and went to help my church every day of the week.

After doing that for almost a month straight, I received a call from one of my friends to meet him and his buddy for a conversation. That’s when I was introduced to the program  and guess what, their facilities were located at a church Campus.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the humor that God showed. He placed the answer right in front of my face confirming all of the faith I placed into him as correct. That’s how things in life have started to unfold ever since. I have a sense to call a friend , I give them a call and they were thinking about me and my story.

Or another time when I was sitting in box seats at a Timberwolves game watching a soldier accept an award, I got jealous. I thought, ‘Why don’t I ever get recognition for the work I’ve done and still am doing for veterans?’ 

For some reason I had the thought that my time would come. A few weeks later I received a phone call to be honored at a Timberwolves game. How I knew deep down inside that it would happen has to be God. I know I can’t tell the future, it’s impossible.

Having taking the time to reflect on the positive connection I have with my God, I can honestly say that I’m blessed beyond anything I would have every imagined. I know that if I keep trusting in him that he’ll never fail me and my life will always move forward and never become stagnant.

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Heroes on Water

A Tail of Good Fortune

Good Fortune
At this time last year, I just finished writing the final draft of Combat Medic. I remember thinking, ‘Finally, I did it! I wrote the book I talked about doing for years.’

After months of typing, re-reading and correcting three hundred pages of the hell I went through in Iraq, I was done for good.

I haven’t told many people about my mood during the whole process. Only my wife, daughter, and my good friend Shawn can attest to the anger and hyper-manic state I was constantly thrown into.

After writing about gunfights in a cemetery surrounded by dead people and bones for seven straight hours… I wasn’t really pleasant to be around.

The Dilemma

One night after the fourth of July, I was having so many flashbacks I asked Shawn to come pick me up because I didn’t feel safe with crazy thoughts running around in my head.

I’m beyond fortunate that God placed good people like Shawn in my life who can relate to the situations I went through. He’s an Army Veteran as well.

He took me on a  long car ride then to a bar to eat and drink while I sat and poured out the dread that was going through my mind.

By the end of the night he ended up dropping me back off at home in a lot better mood than I was. If Shawn hadn’t of come I don’t know what kind of trouble I would have gotten into.

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My buddy Shawn taking a photo of the staff of Heroes on Water

Heroes on Water

That’s what every veteran needs in their life after  the Military, someone who truly understands the struggle when life get’s tough. I have constantly made myself available to every veteran I meet to insure that they have someone to talk to.

That’s the reason Shawn started a non-profit organization called Heroes on Water. We take Veteran from all government services out to fish on kayaks. It gives us time to talk with each other and create friendships.

Good Ole’ Talk Therapy

I know that the VA has been taking the heat on a lot of their practices, they are good for one thing… talk therapy. There are hundreds of vets that trickle through the VA  hospital waiting for hours everyday.

I can’t name how many times I’ve traded war stories with Vietnam and World War II veterans while waiting for appointments or going through group.

If you’re a veteran or you know someone who’s a veteran, please don’t hesitate to share this information. Lots of veterans don’t try to fuss with the VA because of their bad rep… I don’t blame them.

I’m not saying the VA is great, but the relationships you can make with fellow veterans are awesome and could possibly save a life one day, so why not try?

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(From left) Me and Shawn on a Heroes on Water fishing trip.

Fortune

Heroes on Water

A Tail of Good Fortune (Short Read)


At this time last year I had just finished up writing the final draft of my book. I remember thinking, ‘I finally did it! I finally wrote the book I’ve been talking about doing for years.’ After 4 months of typing, re-reading and correcting three hundred pages of the hell I went through in Iraq, I was done for good.

I haven’t told many people about the mood I was in during the whole process. Only my wife, daughter, and friend Shawn can attest to the anger and hyper-manic state that I was constantly thrown into. After re-writing a couple of chapters about fighting in a cemetery surrounded by dead people and bones for seven straight hours… I wasn’t really pleasant to be around.

I remember one night I was having so many flashbacks that I ended up having to call my friend to come pick me up because of the thoughts that were running around my head. I’m beyond fortunate that God has placed people like Shawn in my life that can relate to the situations that I went through.

He ended taking me on a joy ride and to a bar to eat and drink while I sat and poured out the wells of dread that was going through my mind. By the end of the night he ended up dropping me back off at home in a lot better mood than I was. If he hadn’t of came I don’t know what kind of trouble I could have gotten into.

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My buddy Shawn taking a photo of the staff of Heroes on Water

That’s what every veteran needs in their life after being discharged from the Military, someone else that can get on their level when life get’s tough. I have constantly made myself available to every veteran that I meet to insure that they have someone to talk to.  That’s why my friend Shawn started a non-profit organization called Heroes on Water. We take Veteran from all government services and take them out on kayaks to fish. It gives us time to talk with each other and create friendships.

I know that the VA has been taking the heat on a lot of their practices, they are good for one thing… talk therapy. There are hundreds of vets that trickle through the VA  waiting for hours everyday. I can’t name how many times I’ve sat down and traded war stories with Vietnam and World War II veterans while waiting for appointments or going through group together. I don’t know where I didn’t have anyone that could relate to me.

So if you’re a veteran or you know someone who’s a veteran, please share this information. A lot of veterans don’t try to fuss with the VA because of their bad rep… I don’t blame them. I’m not saying that they are great, I’m saying that the relationships you can make with fellow veterans are awesome and could possibly save a life one day, so why not try?

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(From left) Me and Shawn

Fortune

Approaching New Territory: Tank & Jack


It’s been a few days since the last time I posted anything about Tank and I, but I have some great news! Tank’s meet and greet with the other couples dog was a success, they got along together like two peas in a pod. I love the fact that Project-Delta has taken the time to search for a couple that can give Tank just as much love as we can.

Watching the videos of Tank playing with Jack gave me a tingling feeling in my chest. I’m super happy to see him socializing so well, they played just like two kids on the playground. It looked like they even play hugged a couple of times. I loved seeing him so happy.

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Tank and Jack trying to get at the dog on the other side. LOL! So awesome to see.

For some reason I have a feeling that this was meant to be.

No, I’m serious.

To find a couple that has a dog almost the same age as Tank with the same characteristics goes against the odds so much so that I have to chalk it up destiny. I was meant to find Tank and he was supposed to help me connect with my emotions again.

Yeah it sucks that he is such an amazing dog with one trait that disqualifies him of being a service dog, but I know the love that we both gave to each other is serving a greater purpose.

Pretty soon my family and I are going to be meeting with the couple to talk. Everyone at Project-Delta says that we will hopefully get along great and that when they do decide to take him, we will still have opportunities to get together to see Tank. I think that’s important because I feel like I’m giving away my kid because they didn’t act right. I’d never be ok with it if I wasn’t able to ween myself off of him… Ha!

In time I know that I’ll get used to him not being next to me constantly, but hopefully, not long after, I’ll start training another dog. They’re in the process now of screening dogs for a potential pairing. By this time next year I’ll hopefully have a dog that’s certified so that I’ll have no limits to what I can accomplished.

I’ll be making videos of the whole process this time and I can’t wait to start sharing.

Territory

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Living a Meaningful Life


I remember how my life was just four years ago, trapped inside of my head alone and filled with darkness. I never wanted to leave my apartment because of the random flashbacks and spouts of anger I had while being out in public. No one could see, feel or hear what I was going through. Everything I did to feel normal felt meaningless.

Every relationship I had started to slowly deteriorate away. It’s not like my family and friends didn’t try to help me, I just didn’t want their help. I thought they wouldn’t understand, which is true but it didn’t mean they didn’t love me and care about what was happening. I pushed everyone away.

One day I had a longing to get out of the pits I was trapped in. While on the brink of suicide I had a talk with God. He gave me the strength to see that I had the power to overcome my demons and that I needed to start having a relationship with him so I could start living a meaningful life.

From that moment on I have put all my faith into Him, a decision that I’ll never regret. I started going to church and  reading the bible daily, applying every scripture I read to my life. I started seeing a change inside and my relationships with friends and family started growing.

I would love to say the flashbacks and anger stopped, but it didn’t. I just stopped letting it control every aspect of my life so I could live a more meaningful one.

I urge every veteran that reads this to take the initiative to have a relationship with God so you don’t have to take the weight of life on your own. In time you will learn how to live a more meaningful life and stop letting the past run your future.

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Meaningless

Tank – Not Your Ordinary Dog

I’ve just received news from Project Delta that a couple in a town near me is interested in fostering and possibly adopting Tank. This coming up Sunday I’m going to bring him over to their house for a meet and greet. They really sound like a nice couple and I’m hoping the best for our upcoming meeting.

I really started to think about the awesome relationship that Tank and I have since  hearing he’ll be going to a better place soon. He’s saved me from the emptiness I’ve felt inside since coming home from war.What I’ve been actively trying to fix about myself for the past thirteen years was accomplished within a few months of being with Tank.

Tank isn’t your ordinary dog. He’s smart beyond belief. The first time I saw him I knew that there was something special about him. He immediately caught my attention the way that he was so cautious in how he approached everything. I was told not to pet him the first time he walked up to me, it took every ounce of patience that I had not to. ‘He’s such a pretty dog’ I remember thinking as he looked at me with his soft mahogany brown eyes as he walked past me.

It felt like the constant fog of anger and frustration that was over me parted. The calm came over me felt so good. As he made he second round around the room I was told to calm him over to me. All I did was say, “Come here boy!” and he ran straight into my hands. As I per him he rubbed his head across my leg over and over again

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Something started stirring up inside my chest that I haven’t felt in a long time. After a while I noticed that I had a smile was smeared across my face.

I knew he was the one. When everyone asked what I thought about him, I couldn’t help but to say yes. They told me that I would know deep down inside when I’ve found a great dog to pair, they weren’t lying.

The bond between us grew stronger the more time we trained together. After two months I noticed a huge change in how I approached the world. I started having positive thought instead of negative. My mind was clear enough for me to take my time whenever I had to go to a store with my family. If Tank wasn’t so overprotective he would have been the perfect service dog.

Now I’m stuck with giving this extraordinary dog over to a couple that he could possible grow a stronger bond with forever. It really sucks to think about it. I actually feel jealous, but I know he’ll be happier, especially with another dog’s  for him to sniff. Ha!

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Tank half asleep wanting more head scratches.

Ordinary

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The signs and symptoms of PTSD. Know them, save lives.

PTSD Symptoms: Know Them, Save Lives


The main reason I wrote Combat Medic was because God told me it would help save lives. It wasn’t easy sitting down every day for four months to write down the most dreadful memories that I remember. The only way I was able to bear it was keeping in mind that writing my story wasn’t just going to help me understand what happened to me, it was going to educate the world on what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is so people can start getting the treatment that they need.

I took the time to write about PTSD at the end of my book to draw the reader’s attention back into the main focus of my story. If you would like more information on PTSD you can find it on wikipedia.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder develops in some people that have seen or lived through a scary or dangerous event. It causes people to isolate themselves from things that remind them of the experience. It makes a person feel numb and void, forcing them to be less interested in things they used to enjoy. It causes people to hear and see things that aren’t around in the form of a flashback making it feel as real as the first time. Recurring nightmares won’t allow a person to forget what happened. It’s a tough fight to go through on your own.

If you know someone who’s currently struggling with PTSD, be there. Even if they push you away because they think you won’t understand, be there with open arms to catch them when they fall, even if you don’t understand, because no one else will. Well over 22 veterans commit suicide each day in America, proof that war never ends; even after you’re safe at home. I almost became a statistic, but by the grace of God I was given the strength to fight and go after a better life.

In time I’ve found that talking to counselors has helped with sorting through the pain and darkness I’m feeling. It also helped that I had a loving girlfriend who was willing to listen and try to make things work as best as possible. If I didn’t have her I wouldn’t be here today.

If you’re a veteran and need help, go talk to someone. If you can be seen at the Veterans Hospital, talk to a counselor. Find out if they can get you help. If that doesn’t work, try talking to family or friends, anyone you can to get whatever you have trapped inside, out. Find God as well. Try to build a strong relationship with Him because with His help you can make it through the impossible.

If you are in need to talk to someone because you’re in a crisis, do what I did and call the Veterans Crisis line: 1-800-273-8255″

http://amzn.com/B01FTA9J7K

Symptom

Reaching the Plane of Acceptance


It’s been a tough couple of weeks since I found out that Tank can’t be my service dog. It’s hard to think about what I have to do. I’ve made the decision to let Tank go and start the search for a new dog. After having him for three months I feel like he is a part of me.

I love him, but my needs out way my wants. When I made the decision that having a service dog would be beneficial to my life, I was thinking of a future without limitations on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. A service dog would allow me to go out and talk about my story without the anxiety and worry that PTSD brings.

Tank is a great dog and it’s hard to even think about letting him go, but I have a mission that I have to accomplish and he can’t help me fulfill it. He belongs with someone that won’t demand so much from him. All he really wants to do is go outside to play, get his belly rubbed, and eat and sleep most of the day away.

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Tank loves riding in the car!

I told Lindsay that we would foster him until they find him a good home. It is one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in a long time. I wish I could have two dogs, but that is too much work for me and I don’t think Tank would adjust well with another dog taking his place.

I’ve already noticed a change in our relationship since I’ve stopped bringing him into public with me. He is super clingy after being home on his own for a couple hours. I feel like he knows that something has changed when he sits and stares at me when I come home. I wish I could just talk to him and tell him to stop lashing out. This is the only time in my life that I wish I could talk dog.

As I go about my day without Tank now, I’ve noticed my anxiety has increased and I’m a bit more jumpy than before. My mood changes rapidly when I have to go out into public. I don’t know where all the anger comes from that builds up inside of me, it’s so overwhelming that it makes me nauseas. It’s strange how I notice all of these things now, but before Tank I was used to feeling this way.

That change inside of me has pushed me to a place of acceptance when it comes to my decision for Tank. He brought about a change inside of me that I don’t ever want to let go. Having a service dog will help improve my life greatly. It’s depressing to think about Tank not being able to fill that role, but knowing that such a change is possible gives me hope for the future with another dog that, hopefully, will take a permanent place by my side.

Acceptance

How to: Stop Blood Loss with Minimal Effort (3 Steps)


Before I joined the Army, I had no idea about the human anatomy. If someone got injured in front of me, I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea of how to help them. It’s pretty sad the more I think about it. If everyone was taught the basics of blood loss prevention at a young age, we would have a lot more lives saved.

Just think about, most people get seriously injured with other people around. The quick actions of one individual can be life saving when someone is on the ground profusely bleeding out.

It’s really not that hard to stop the most basic cuts and scratches. With enough practice you can even learn how to use a tourniquet to stop arterial bleeding.blood-drops

Step 1- Get over the shock of blood or death– Yes… someone just got jacked up right in front and blood is everywhere. Yes, they look like they might die and they will if you don’t get over yourself. The only difference between a hero and coward is the choice to either do something or do nothing. Both get scared and both don’t really know what to do, but the hero sucks it up and tries their best. So be the hero, tell someone to call 911 and start thinking about a course of action.

Step 2- Asses the patient– You have to figure out what kind of wound you’re working with. Not every patient is presented the same way. Maybe someone is knocked out on the ground and blood is coming from somewhere but you can’t see where. Drag your hands on the outside of their body until you find a wet spot, make sure you get a good look at the wound and the bleeding.

If it’s a deep cut and dark blood is flowing out then you need to get your hands on something to roll up and place over the wound. You could take off your shirt or their’s, ball it up and place it on the wound.

Step 3- Place firm pressure on the makeshift bandage. A good medic knows that most bleeding can be stopped by holding pressure on the wound for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let go of the pressure unless you need to get to another cut. If someone is around, tell them to hold the pressure while you dress up their other wounds.

If there is brighter red blood gushing out of an extremity ( arms or legs) and pressure isn’t stopping the bleeding, then there is an artery cut. The only way to stop arterial bleeding is by placing a tourniquet above the cut to constrict the artery and stop the flow of blood. This is more of an advanced technique, but it is really simple.  Here is a good video by ZombieStrategic that shows you how to apply a good tourniquet.

Hopefully after 10-15 minutes an ambulance will have arrived to give more advanced medical treatment and get the patient to a hospital. If not just wait and make sure the patient is comforted until they arrive.

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How to: Conquer your fears (3 steps)


Most people in the world have a fear of something. A fear of heights, a fear of spiders, and some people are even afraid of Cats. It’s been built into us by our creator so that we stie clear of things that might cause us harm.

The old flight or fight mechanism sometimes takes control of our emotions to the level of unrealistic fear. We were born with only two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of being alone. Every other fear in life has been learned mostly because of situations that  people go through. So there is a way to conquer your fear , right? What’s been learned can always be forgotten, all it takes is making the effort to.

Try these three simple steps to conquer your fears and start believing that you are more than the fear inside of you.IMG_0318

Step 1– instead of reinforcing your fear of something, try replacing your negative experience with a positive one. For instance, your afraid of heights because you brother used to hang you out of your third story window and one day he dropped you and broke your leg. Ever since you have panic attacks every time you look out of a tall building.

Instead of giving into the fear and constantly running away, try facing your fear head on by going to the top of a tall building every week until your comfortable with it then invite your friends or family so they can put you in good spirits while you do the thing you fear most. Eventually , after practice, your fear will become a distant noise.

Step 2– Speak against your fear, go to war with it, don’t let it gain control you. When you feel like running, speak out loud against what ‘s provoking you. It’s something inside of you that tells you something is wrong, so if you get in the habit of speaking the opposite of what you think and encourage yourself out loud, your fears will start to be drowned out by what you truly value if you want it bad enough. Who cares if people think your talking to yourself , at least you know yourself well enough to know you aren’t crazy. It’s for your health to overcome fear.

Step 3: Perfect love drowns out fear , no matter how big it is. So what is perfect love? It’s knowing that you can trust the promises someone tells you and you confined in one another. It’s easy to find perfect love, God Gave it to us when Jesus sacrificed himself for us. If you can find and have a relationship with Jesus and your lord God, you’ll find that the love that surrounds you every day is more than the fear of anything in this world.

If you can truly try with all you heart to face your fears then you can conquer them. It just takes digging deeper into your heart for the encouragement to live a life without fear.
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