“Breaking the Wall of Silence” – MoH Recipient Forum on Active Duty & Veteran Suicide

"Breaking the Wall of Silence" - MoH Recipient Forum on Active Duty & Veteran Suicide

This powerful Forum features a multi-generational panel of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients sharing their insight, experience, and prospective on key factors surrounding active duty and veteran suicide.

The Forum’s focus is to reduce the stigma of openly discussing mental health and suicide prevention with our military community, while giving healthcare professionals and the average American a better understanding of the often unspoken struggles our service members face.

Featuring Medal of Honor Recipients: Allen Lynch (U.S. Army – Vietnam) and Flo Groberg (U.S. Army – Afghanistan). Moderated by Todd Connor (U.S. Navy Veteran, Founder of Bunker Labs)

The power of this program comes from the MoH recipients, who do not hold back in while sharing their personal stories of struggling with this issue. The Forum was organized with the simple idea of, ”If these heroes can talk openly and honestly about this topic, maybe we all can”.

Forum content is relevant for current military members, veterans, healthcare professionals, family members, individuals who work with the military community, and anyone who seeks a better understanding of the American Suicide Epidemic’s effect on our military population.

If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts or if you know someone who maybe in crisis…we strongly encourage you to reach out for help. You are not alone!

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 — (Press 1)

If you find value in this program, we invite you to share the video and/or use it as a training tool for your organization.

This program is presented by the Center for American Values in partnership with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

For more information about this and other programs contact the Center for American Values: (719) 543-9502


Hello And welcome to breaking the wall of Silence i’m matt albright And i’m humbled to be the director for This important program Today’s forum is a multi-generational Panel of medivhon recipients Sharing their experience perspective on Several of the key factors surrounding Active duty of veteran suicide This program is presented by the center For american values In partnership with the congressional Medal of honor society Two organizations whose mission is to Recognize service and sacrifice And inspire the next generation to do The same The focus of today’s forum is to open The conversation and destigmatize Talking about active duty and veteran Suicide in the military population We understand this subject can be very Traumatic to some of the viewers So we strongly encourage anybody that May be going through a crisis Especially our veterans or anyone who Knows a veteran that may be in crisis To reach out for help throughout the Program we will be sharing the Information Of the veteran crisis line at the bottom Of the screen Again you are not alone so if you’re

Struggling Please reach out for help veteran crisis Line is confidential And 24 hours a day there’s someone there To talk throughout this program we are Going to also Talk about other topics concerning Veteran suicide If you have any questions you can Go on the youtube live chat put them in Now we understand we might not be able To answer all those questions But we’ll do our best to get to them and We appreciate your passion for this Topic Today we’re proud to be joined by Moderator todd connor Todd is a u.s navy veteran and the Founder of bunker labs Bunker labs is an organization that Helps entrepreneurs In the military community start and grow Their business He’s also the lead facilitator at the George w bush institute for leadership And at the crane institute for Leadership And of course what would this program be With our recipients We’re proud to be joined by two Recipients from different generations But with a shared passion for our Veterans Our first recipient is a vietnam veteran

Alan lynch Allen often described himself as not the Stereotypical hero you read about in the Books He was bullied as a youth and that Bullying Led him to join the army in 1964. By 1967 he found himself with the 12th Cavalry In vietnam in december of that year The 12th cav was ambushed during that Ambush Three of the fellow soldiers that were With alan were wounded Allen selflessly ran into a hail of Gunfire Protecting these gentlemen and for hours Wave after wave of enemy attacked and Allen Single-handedly fended off this enemy And protected these gentlemen For this heroic action allen was awarded The medal of honor But alan’s interest in saving veterans Didn’t stop there After he retired or got out of the Service He started working with a va where he Was an advocate for disabled veterans And work directly with some of the high Uh Populations we work with today some of These at-risk gentlemen Of course our next recipient is florent

Flo groberg Flo was born in france and moved to the United states at age 11. He was an athlete attending university Of maryland When the attacks on 9 11 shook him to The core He was so inspired to serve that he Nearly quit college Until his father encouraged him to stay In and finish what he had started But his passion to serve our country Didn’t end there because when he Completed school He joined the army and became a ranger He first deployed in 2008 where he Experienced over 250 Encounters with the enemy he redeployed In 2012. This time as a on a security envoy On a fateful day that year he was Escorting a group Of coalition and afghan leaders Along with several high-ranking military Members from the united states Army flo noticed a suspicious individual Standing near the group when he Approached this gentleman He realized it was a suicide bomber flow Selflessly And immediately grabbed this gentleman And pushed him away When the blast exploded sadly lives were Lost that day

But flo’s selfless action saved many of Those lives We are extremely proud to have these Gentlemen talk about this subject We know that nobody here might be an Expert on this But all of us are truly passionate about Helping Our fellow americans especially our Service members through these problems So without further ado i’d like to Introduce Todd connor Thank you matt for that introduction and It’s such a privilege to To be hosting this conversation Moderating this conversation with two People that i Uh admire and and proud to call friends Uh al lynch and flo groberg uh thanks For the opportunity matt And and to the center for american Values uh and the congressional matter Of honor Society for jointly organizing this Program It’s a conversation that’s an important One to have and uh And i’m honored to be playing a small Part in it So so gentlemen i’m gonna lead us into The conversation And uh invite you to take yourselves off Mute um

And you know i want to get this started By sort of reflecting on you as medal of Honor recipients I know that you are each asked to Represent a range of Topics to engage the public and in order To advance the lives of military Veterans and their families people look To you Uh for for leadership and for frankly to Be spokespeople for issues that are Relevant that matter And we will talk about suicide awareness And prevention um But i want to start we’d be missing an Opportunity if we didn’t start with a Question on leadership Which is as a medal of honor recipient How you have Assumed this role some have talked about The the quote weight of the medal For both the honor but also the Obligation and responsibility that it Assumes for for yourself and for your Life And you both assume that role uh with Great tenacity Carry that weight uh i’d love to hear Your perspectives about How you have constructed um your role as A leader in our country Amidst the range of you know uh Questions that you get asked and the Opportunities that you have and the

Obligations that you hold How have you thought about your your Role uh as a as a leader and as a Spokesperson for the military community Um flo if i can if i can start with you Then we’ll go to al First of all matt thanks for the Incredible introduction Uh you’re on point uh todd It’s always a pleasure working with you And specifically sharing you know the Screen with you and I’m just deeply honored that i get to Also deal with uh my good friend allen Who’s A great role model for the younger Generation and For my generation specifically that we Get an opportunity to follow in their Footsteps I think for me it’s simple it’s about Staying humble I just i look at the the metal i look at Myself As a courier of the metal representing Our nation because it’s uh It is part of who we are in essence as Americans And it’s just like wearing a uniform you Have to have um You know the integrity and the Responsibility and and the mindset that You’re going to go out there and honor Your uniform and those who you serve

With Uh every single day and then you’re not Going to a lot complacency Can then or take advantage of it so i Look at the metal as a platform to Represent my country Most importantly to represent the four Individuals commercial Griffin major gray major kennedy and Reggae who didn’t come home After what happened on august 8012 and You know they the president obama put The medal around my neck and He used the words of hero and That always felt uncomfortable uh Specifically because Of those guys who didn’t come home but Most importantly because i felt like That day was The worst day of my life and i can’t Ever look at it as a way of Justifying any type of award instead i See it now as a responsibility To make sure that because of the Platform that it does provide That i take advantage of in a sense of Bringing some good into the community Our veteran community and whether it’s Suicide prevention whether it’s mental Health whether it’s talking about Uh injuries uh or you know veterans Transitioning you and i did A lot of work together us supporting When i was at boeing uh supporting

Bunker labs because it’s it’s game Changing the way you’re Changing lives by providing these Entrepreneurs the opportunity to really Succeed And know that they can succeed in our Industries So i’m using the metal as a way to to You know serve Right um and i’m hopeful that in the end When it’s all said and done That i would i would have represented my Nation in a metal and every individual That’s associated with this specific Metal that Around my neck would honor Thanks well alan your thoughts I i think when i first got the medal i i Wish i could credit the the recipient That told me this because I think it’s one of the most important Things a recipient can learn and that is That Earning the medal is the easy part Wearing it that’s a little bit more hard Because it’s a lifelong thing if you do It right Many times in my life i didn’t do it Right i was a young kid i was back from Vietnam It was the 60s it was the 70s you know But the older i got the more i realized That That this wasn’t about me this was about

All of the people that we lost in Vietnam all of my friends that You know had their lives wrecked because Of vietnam Uh and then as we went into you know the Different Wars the you know gulf won and then the War on terror It became even more of a responsibility Because There were when i got the medal there Were like almost 600 recipients Now there’s what 67 of us around there So the weight of responsibility has Increased As our numbers have decreased i think is Very important this is the best This represents the best of the of the Armed forces And we have to carry this properly uh to Do the job right It’s a lifelong assignment a lifelong Assignment i Appreciate that al and uh and certainly You know can just attest to to the role That both of you have fulfilled With with that humility and with that Sense of obligation Um i want to ask a question for staying In the theme of leadership which is you Know both of you Uh have had the opportunity to speak to Hundreds if not thousands of people Including in forums like this who are

Eager to hear your own personal story of Heroism Um that matt shared sort of the Highlights of but also eager Uh you know i think to understand the Fabric of this nation Um whatever you know and we can we can Acknowledge too that our country’s at a Fractured place and we’re coming through A global pandemic and you know The challenges are real um alan you’ve Got obviously some more Lived experience than myself And others what are your travels and Conversations with americans everywhere Taught you about the nature of this Country the men and women who serve in Particular And maybe even just this question of What what is it that makes this country Special I’d love to hear your reflections on Kind of where you’re at if you’re an Optimist why you’re an optimist And uh and what makes this this country Of ours that we love uh Special um well for me it was my time in The military i You know i’m a i was a white kid from a White neighborhood this was Back when they still had you know Colored and white drinking fountains in In georgia and to Be in a world war two barracks and and

For the a lot of the younger veterans They have No idea of the experience of being in a World war ii barracks where everything Was done communally There were no dividers between the Commodes and all of this And i learned to work with all kinds of Different people you know i was a i was A Very sheltered kid other than being Bullied and to be in a barracks with White people black people hispanics um Kids with college degrees and kids that Only had sophomore year in high school And to learn to work together and i Think that’s the thing that makes this Country great is the fact that we have a Military That is civilian-led and it’s a military Where we all Learn how to get along and everyone that Goes through basic training knows If the drills are made happy ain’t Nobody going to be happy So if we can tap into that veteran Population As our younger veterans are doing quite Well at I think we’ve got a lot of we got a good Chance We just got we got to get rid of the Silliness Well what would you say what’s your

Assessment you know i Agree 100 percent with alan in regards To The uniqueness in the military is that You can take people from all sorts of Background Different colors different religious Preferences sexual preferences Educational backgrounds and put them all You know in the same uniform And in the end they’re going to love Each other and be willing to die for Each other it’s the most Unbelievable setting you could ever Experience in in a lifetime And so there’s a lot to learn from that What i found interesting is how divided Our country has been recently And then a guy like me i can go to Boston massachusetts i can go to You know la or any other places like san Diego To alabama or lubbock texas and no one Cares that you know i was born in france No one cares that My middle name is not mad no one cares Of the way i look they just care that Hey Lick this dude serve his country and Appreciate that So in the end they’re still at the core This whole America you know mindset of like if you If you’re willing to fight for this

Country i don’t really care where you Come from Unfortunately i think that today’s uh Settings in terms of social media in Terms of The the information dissemination across And some of the rhetoric are happening Sort of blind us but if you close the Door and you take that all away And you put us on a room together we can Have a very intelligent In conversation that’s going to lead Somewhere where we have common ground I will always say this we are really Good at fighting internally And and calling ourselves names at times And being angry with each other but the Day that An external factor comes in and tries to Destroy our Our our way of life and our freedoms It’ll matter if you’re republican Democrat Green party uh whatever color you are There is no one that will be able to Destroy our foundation Our core except us and so we need to be Cognizant of it i have never been in my Life more Nervous about our foundation than i am Today because We are our own worst enemy just like Suicide and mental health And that’s one thing that is is really

Important for us to have that direct Conversation Because we can fix it but it’s going to Take us to take that step forward And but i believe we will i’m an Optimist in that sense You know when you’re in combat You don’t ask what political party what Color what race you don’t ask any of Those questions If your buddy’s wounded you don’t go out And check his id You know you don’t you don’t look him up On the computer check his id make sure That he’s the right kind of per You go out you get them You know i saw white guys wrestling Black guys black guys rescuing and on And on It doesn’t matter in combat why does it Matter here where we got Geez more than we can count we’re rich I appreciate this and and we could have Uh and should have more conversations About You know these experiences these Touchstone experiences from the military That Uh that teach us as you said alan yeah We we can do this we’ve done this in our Lives and i think there’s a lot that the Military community can teach Our society at large about how to live Together and be together

Um flo you touched on this um We’ll we’ll turn our attention to to the Headline of Of today’s conversation which is suicide Suicide awareness Um and the battle that we face you know Sometimes internally Sometimes in the company of others dr dr Philip smith and i want to credit uh Dwayne france for providing a lot of This thought leadership dwayne is the Director of family services The family care center and is executive Director of the colorado veterans health And wellness agency And is a real leader in the field of Veteran mental health um But he shared some resources dr phillip Smith of the university of south alabama Says that suicide is both common and Rare It’s rare in the sense that we may go Several years without experiencing a Personal loss to suicide But it’s common in that just about Everyone has lost Someone they care about to suicide many Service members and veterans have a Brother or sister that they serve with Who they have lost to suicide for many That number is uh is greater than the Number That was lost in any other way including Combat

There are anywhere from uh one study Says 115 to 130 people that are impacted By A single death by suicide the image’s Impacts can be greater or lesser Depending on the level of connection Someone has to the deceased But those are those are big numbers as Survivors of suicide law Sharing personal stories we know can be A helpful way to educate others While also supporting those with the Same experiences The first question i have for each of You is is do you have any personal Connection to This issue of suicide just to Begin to frame the conversation flow can I start with you Yeah i i mean uh i went through it with My own self right where i was thinking About commit suicide when i was in um In the hospital i was influenced by My i guess i would call them i call my Internal demons but also by the drugs That i was getting a while to read To deal with my injuries i’m limb Salvaged i lost a piece of my left leg From the bomb And so when i was sitting in a hospital For five months uh Inpatient 45 months inpatient i was You know really beating myself down with Survivor’s guilt

Trying to replay the scenario over and Over again and then you add Um you know oxy ketamine uh You know the lotted and all sorts of Different drugs into your system Those demons became very very much Um uh unbeatable and so i i used to Remember i said that a couple Couple of months after i started my Really my recovery i remember saying Like this No taliban al-qaeda chechnyans anything Anyone that i’ve ever fought against it Was as strong as my Internal demons but i would say the First time i’ve ever experienced Um you know the reality of suicide is When cal lewis killed himself Um and in april of 2011 and i was the Acting company commander and i had to I just had a conversation with him uh Probably the day prior I was supposed to uh be training that Following monday for uh air assault School And i got that call early on in in the Morning And to go to his house and i saw Obvious you know i didn’t see his body But i saw i read his letter Uh he was obviously influenced with Pills at the time And he just gone through a situation Where he felt like he just can get out

Of it And and the consequences were too high For him to continue on living but he Made a An emotional decision that obviously Cost him everything And so that was tough for us um he was One of our leaders He was a great nco not much officer and It was a one of those moments where You’re asking yourself How you know taipei type of guy how Could he do that And then you realize that’s because he Was a type 8 type of guy And he just got himself in In a position where instead of being Able to share it he just took it all in And unfortunately the outcome was the Worst possible outcome which it was him Taking his life Thanks for that story uh alan any any Stories that connected to this Conversation Oh yeah my um well two um My brother-in-law um Killed himself he had his were A little bit different circumstances Than we normally read about but he’s Still considered one of that 22. he had Pancreatic cancer And was getting treatment by the va and They were jacking him around And he had a home health care visit and

He was in excruciating Pain and um Nothing helped and the home health care Nurse came in And one of his friends were there you Know you know Doing what friends do and she told us Later after he had Killed himself that the home healthcare Nurse was just Horrible in her attitude towards him And uh he called everybody he called all Of his friends he called my wife and Told her he loved her and he never said Anything about killing himself but He had been going through these changes And then he uh He he did it and we went and Drove to las vegas where he was living And took care of everything My one of my very best friends and i and I need to tell this story because this Is this is how that that one little Pause between thought and action really Is Important um mark Is a it’s kind of funny it’s kind of Funny we when we do schools He asks the kids you know do any of you Know a rocket scientist And they all of course don’t know what He says you do now mark got his phd In computer programming back in the day When

You know computers were a whole lot Different than we have now Great guy uh was working for ibm Had done work with nasa as a contractor And Developed post-traumatic stress he was a Tunnel around vietnam And he always had essential tremors the Ptsd Brought it up really bad to the point That he couldn’t hold a cup of coffee he Was shaking so bad And one day um unbeknownst to any of us Because he never called us he decided he Had enough And to show you the kind of guy he was He went out and he laid a tarp out In his backyard and because he didn’t Want to make a mess for anyone to clean Up That’s just the kind of guy he is and He said i had the gun to my head and i Happened to see katie Which is his dog his he has a service Dog for the trimmers And he said it was That fast who’s going to take care of my Dog And he put the gun down so i find out That he did this Because i he had um he had to get into The hospital not for any ptsd that He dealt with himself at that time but Uh

He almost had a heart attack with one of Her golf outings for a foundation Didn’t bother to tell anybody the whole Bleeding day So i stopped to see him on my way back From an event up with madison And i see he has a 24-hour nurse and he Says But he got a nurse for like this you’re You look fine to me says Well when i got admitted i made the Mistake of telling him i was going to Take my life a few A few days ago almost like a week ago And they decided that i needed a 24-hour Nurse So he gave all of his guns he willingly Gave all of his guns Of which he had a few to his brother who Keeps him for him And he made a promise to to all of his Friends myself included That he would not again in something Like that He’s as good as his word wow We are sharing uh the number for uh Suicide Veterans and crisis hotline so to extend Anyone needs that resource i think it’s Showing in the Bottom third of the screen it’s a Resource that we should have and share With those that may be needing it uh Thanks for sharing that story

Something that we know is important as a Protective gear against suicide Is connectedness uh which can exist Uh you know al in your story even with a With a Service uh service animal right just Just this connectedness to something That is relying on you This this need for connectedness is Supported by research From the cdc’s suicide prevention Technical package as well as the va’s National strategy to prevent Veteran suicide one contributing factor To suicide according to Dr thomas joyner’s interpersonal theory Of suicide is a sense of isolation And a disconnectedness from others when Someone does not feel as though they are Integrated Into a social group they feel a low Sense of belonging And a sense of alienation research Indicates that suicide rates go down During times of celebration as well as During times of hardship or tragedy Both of which make people feel more Connected to others around them which is Interesting Both celebration as well as times of Hardship or tragedy The sense of connectedness is really Critical for veterans and their families Where having previously been connected

To a highly integrated social and Professional group Leading that group can make the sense of Socializing even greater I know that’s an experience that a lot Of military veterans Can relate to um conversely the presence Of strong relationships has been shown To reduce the likelihood of suicide Attempts And so if a veteran or family member Feels as though they have someone that They can reach out to And talk to without fear of judgment or Shame then the service member or veteran Has a better chance of coping With whatever their current life Stressors are um The question is this you know Connectedness can mean different things To different veterans Uh and encouraging veterans to engage in Community events that are engaging Them is a strategy to reduce suicide But how do we do it building strong and Trusting relationships If that is a protective factor how do we How do we do that as a as a policy Framework as A community how do we make sure that People are connected if we believe that That really is A key a key tool here flow Start with you i think he’s a

Conversation Right now the the problem is We’re all connected and it’s about The consciousness to be able to see that If a person is starting to disconnect Uh that there’s potentially something Happening but not obviously For it or not And then it’s about listening to me it’s What Really works like i was when i was going Through my My situation i didn’t believe When i was in denial internally in my Own situation Second i didn’t feel like i I could anyone would understand um Third i thought i could beat it and Fourth I uh didn’t want to bother people with It So you know it’s so you have you go Through all these situations and you Internally At different stages where you’re you Don’t want to be a nuisance to other Folks around you But then travis mills walked into my Room and he had heard that i was like i Was pissed off he had no idea no one Really knew Actually about like what was going on if Not they probably would have put me in On the fourth floor at walter reed but

Um Instead he came in and he had heard that I was angry and feeling sorry for myself My injuries and he’s a quadruple amputee And he just came in with a smile on his Face and reminded me that Um you know we’re alive and we’re Breathing and we have an opportunity to Honor our friends with income home And that i still had a purpose and that You know i I still had a responsibility to to go And honor The duty and so based off that Conversation we chatted About 15 minutes but he opened up a Pathway Sort of a light for me to to drive on And see that you know what Okay so i i’m still worthwhile i still Have a You know people can still depend on me For something And it allowed me to start opening up But i still went through it Pretty pretty difficult time part of it Was because i couldn’t sleep And things like that but with pts but it Really when my wife Um came into my life was the first time I slept in two years And then when i started talking after Receiving a medal it really became Therapeutic

So it’s important to stay connected but The the hard part about it is Understanding when a person is Disconnected and That is none of my friends knew uh I would you know you can fake it too and Right in in a setting and you would have No idea and then that’s when the Shocking part comes like wow he took his Life well she took her life i Had no idea we’re just hanging out but That’s because At times we we you know we hide it And because we’re either not is it is it A shame of it or We truly believe that we can beat it Ourselves because we’re that type of Personality so I would say the challenge is for people Around us Our friends our family to pay just a Little bit more closer attention And then any type of warning signs you Know to go out there and have a Conversation without being Without accusing anyone of anything um And then i’ll i’ll keep it i’ll leave With this This like i might start with like what We’re doing eliminating the stigma That having these thoughts is bad and That you’re That you’re weak um or that you Shouldn’t be having it

Or you know because you have a tiny Heart syndrome things that we used to Call ourselves back in the day To be open to talk about that the Reality that hurting is okay it means You’re alive It also means that your problem we need A little help and you shouldn’t be Ashamed of that Instead you should embrace it it’s an Injury and you can recover from it We’re going to talk about stigma next i Want to i’ll ask you on this question of Connectedness You know how do we how do we keep folks Connected or slow mentioned how do we Begin to know when folks are choosing This connection is maybe a symptom Or a warning well there’s a couple of Things um first off it’s important Who you’re connected with when i was Really having struggles and you know the Going through the roller coaster ride That is ptsd and i’m sorry i’m I’m old so ptsd is what it is for me It’s a multi-generational panel that’s Why we said so yeah So um it was a roller coaster ride i Mean there would be times where i was I was great and then i would be suicidal And I had plans and the things that stopped Me Were i was scared that my kids

Would know i did it and so i tried like Figuring out ways to have an accident That i could just you know See myself hitting the you know brick Retaining wall and You know ended up paralyzed instead of Dead so You know a lot of those kind of thoughts Go through And then i started hanging out with Other vietnam vets But they weren’t good they were great Friends but they weren’t good for me Because we had Wonderful pity parties and we were Drinking And we were in that you know life sucks Yeah life sucks let’s have another beer And you get into this vicious cycle And it was very hard to break out of That Um so it’s it’s important that when you Connect with people you connect with Positive people that are Are really working on getting well I call it fighting the dragon you you’re Never going to beat it But you can kick the crap out of it if You have the right tools I went into therapy twice once was In the late 70s and that was only Because i almost punched out my boss I came my fist was in the air had he not Smiled i’d a decked him

That smile saved me from going to jail I quit my job i walked away and the blue Ribbon got me back working with the va I had to go in and apologize the second Time i Just got sick and tired of being sick And tired all the time I got tired of riding the roller coaster And i i got tired of Every time christmas came i hated it i Hated the holidays And so i i started seeing betsy uh one Of the vet centers And she wanted to put me on medication And having worked with the va in the 70s That was a no deal so i told her that i Would do whatever she said I put myself completely in her hands and I worked my ass off Um it ended up with me visiting Finding finding my buddy’s grave Uh he was killed by friendly fire and uh He lived in shellsburg wisconsin so i Had to go out to shellsburg Which is about four hours away find his Grave I had to film it and then i had a shirt With my kids was kind of something old Something new kind of thing It was so cathartic um I shared with them you know Finding his tombstone and uh All of that i have had Marvelous christmases and holiday

Seasons since It was like the veil was lifted Um the other thing and i got to Recommend this because it is It has kind of changed my life and it’s Really changed my son’s life Is ours probably one of the best Podcasts you’re ever going to find if You’re Wanting to struggle if you’re having Some struggles it’s called the art of Manliness And they have cohorts and my son who had Gone through a divorce His first wife died then he went through Divorce he was having some rough times He started listening to it and he joined One of the cohorts which is Strenuous life in fact he wears a Bracelet That says do hard things he’s now Rocking with a 50-pound pack He’s on these challenges where he rocks You know weekly Uh and monthly in fact i took him deer Hunting And it was the first time he fired a Rifle the first time he killed a deer And the first time he gutted it And i said you know what this gives you And i was thinking props against his Brother And he said no i get a badge and it’s It’s that kind of thing that he’s

Involved in that’s very positive And i find wrecking myself and i got a Bad back But i carry 10 pounds sometimes i try to Go to 15 but Uh it’s we got to do physical stuff That’s what my my shrink told me was i Got to be physical I got to walk in the woods i got to get Out do things I so appreciate you and alan and we will Share in the chat if we can do this The art of manliness and check that out As a resource Um and so both of you Acknowledge uh sort of intervention Moments And getting support and resources for You to move past those Those points in your own life um flo you Brought this up dr Edgar villarreal is on the is watching Live now and he’s uh with the va eastern Colorado healthcare system Part of their suicide prevention program And he’s asking a question About about stigma you know what would You say to those in our community that Struggle to seek support Due to the stigma that exists around Mental health And suicide and obviously there’s been a Lot of conversation around this it’s i Presume a better picture today than it

Was after vietnam but Still there’s work to be done how do we How do we address the stigma Around mental health well You talk about it at the highest of Levels You have people stepping up and have That conversation and share Story i think you know alan brought it Up and you brought it up It’s it’s about sharing stories about Hearing Some potential idols of yours right who Are going who have gone through some Really difficult times and you kind of Realize like oh my gosh like really that Person went through it or was going Through this i had no idea Uh and you you break that that stigma Of well only a certain type of people Can could potentially go through this or If you’re a suicidal you know you have a Tiny heart syndrome I’m a hypocrite right i um when i was in Afghanistan my second tour i I put it one of my my uh sergeants in Targard for The last four months because he had a Breakdown right before patrol and i All i could think about at that moment Was like man this guy’s broke tiny Harden syndrome is weak And then i can’t trust him to an extent I mean he was struggling and

It was a good decision not to put him on A patrol but I could have done so much more for him And so you fast forward you know a Couple years later Actually this was in stop nine um you Fast forward a couple years later here i Am it’s in my hospital bed And i’m going through my own struggles And started realizing like Doesn’t matter if you’re ready to Qualify division 1 athlete Uh you can bench you know those guys i Can breath 400 pounds whatever it is The brain is a is a muscle and it’s it Can get injured and so And when it is injured you need to go You know you need to be open And and accept recovery measures and to Do so You probably need to talk to someone as A professional and you probably need to Be able to you know open Up on what your symptoms are you’ll be Incredibly surprised at how many people Have gone through similar things Everything you everyone’s got his Injuries are unique but people have gone Through similar things And then you know share it the Greatest things ever happened for me is Being able to Allow my feelings to be you know out There and so that i

That weight that i carried inside wasn’t There anymore And i did not realize how many of my Friends had gone through similar things I did not realize how many people were Going through that these things at that Specific moment and they came to me Like so uh can i talk to you about What i’m going through because i can’t Believe you went through this And that you’re so open about it and Then they share and it becomes this Opportunity to really you know take that That the monkey off your back It needs to be from from everyone we are Doing it today There are you know individuals who have These platforms that need to be able to Open up and share their struggles and That Hopefully that allows others to see that You’re not unique In the sense of like no one feels that Way and you’re a bad person for it Or you’re weak instead you’re a human Being and It’s okay to be in pain it’s okay to be Scared Because that is what we do as human Beings it’s mostly Okay to share because you’re gonna find People that will listen first And then guide you in the right Direction but so

That’s my non-professional You know recommendation and advice it’s Worked for me so far Yeah al what would you say on how do we Remove the stigma You you’ve seen this over the course of A few decades in your own life how do we How do we get folks to get the help they Need I think first of all we have to realize It’s not about us I mean it’s great to put on the big Macho you don’t beat your chest and You know i can tough my way through it But We have mothers and fathers and Spouses children We need to focus on on them what is good For them And you know it’s like it was like with Me do i want my kids growing up Going my dad killed himself do i want Them to have that stigma Do i want my that i want my wife to go Through well My husband killed himself evidently i May have done something wrong or worse Yet the kids saying the same thing What did i do so it’s not about us we Have to get past this idea that it’s all About Me that’s that’s how i started to heal With with the ptsd was It’s not about me it’s not about my

Trauma My trauma diminishes when i’m helping Other people So you’ve got to get help um If you if none of us can handle it Ourselves i don’t think There there’s it just sneaks up on you And it gets you the worst possible time That’s what happened with me over she’s The last since 1973 when i had my first Real bad episode So it’s it’s kind of like we have to Treat it like it’s our enemy It’s out to kill us it’s out to take our Life And we can’t let it win not only that But we have a duty To live the lives that our brothers and Sisters could never live That’s why it’s important to get help They would love to have the life we have Now So we have to get help and if it takes Going to therapy Then you do that if it takes quitting Drinking then you do that you know The one thing that we don’t understand Is Not every veteran suicide Is counted when i was with the va many Years ago we We did a um a thing where the eggheads In washington decided that they didn’t Want to

Have people uh institutionalized And so they just discharged people that Had been there for 20 years We had people kissing trains getting Drunk and walking in front of a semi None were counted as suicides today we Have veterans that are Overdosing having accidents Drinking themselves to death So just because you know you you don’t Fit that role of i’m suicidal are you Doing drugs Are you doing alcohol if you are then You need help And there’s plenty of help available Just get it If i can jump in and talk and alan i Want to put a little spin on what you’ve Talked about In regards to the um you know It’s not about you in a trauma And i think it’s really important to Also Highlight something and this this has Been a big deal is that I know of an individual that you know Killed himself because Of that mindset where he he felt like he Couldn’t fail his family But in the end he realized well That pain of flying point for them is Even bigger And it added on even more stress and he Just figured that he was even hurting

Them even more So i agree with that to to the extent But i also want to make sure that You know when when you when we recommend And again everything else is just this Is also having a conversation Right we’re not saying put more Different type of pressure and stressor On top of yourselves right It’s more absolutely yeah it’s more About recognizing that You know these people around you they Want to help and they love you And they want to be there and what’s Going to be hard for them is Not understanding they had an Opportunity at some point to be there to Support you So instead of even just going out there And And trying to deal with your demons and Battling your demons just for them Bring have a conversation with them Because they’re going to save your life And that’s the beauty of family that’s The beauty of friendship that’s the Beauty Of just being able to share a little bit Of that pain And let it just dissipate out of you Um so that is that to me is very Important because i agree Uh just like serving and It’s easy for us to go serve put on the

Uniform you know i i volunteered A lot of you know in your generation Allen didn’t even get the opportunity to Volunteer they were voluntold They were forced to put and to go into Your descent you were in But we used to always say like i didn’t Want to come home I was okay if i came home in a body bag I didn’t want to come home without my Hands or my legs or blind But our families would have to live with That for the rest of their lives And that’s the part that really breaks Your heart I think that’s um one of the things that You know you you have to fix yourself That has to take a priority um But you know i’ve seen so much and Here’s the thing And i’ll just give you a quick what Happened um My dad developed lung cancer in 1993 And he got really sick and So we were taking care of him and you Know my mom and my dad were Uh in in great need and the more i Concentrated on my mom and dad The less my symptoms were And after my dad passed away after a a Very Tough year uh we were all focused on mom And uh about a year and a half Just about a year and a half later my

Mother had a massive stroke and i was Concentrating on going out and visiting Hercus She was she was totally gone i mean she Was alive but The body was gone the brain was gone she Was just there and i would go out every Weekend As much as i could and i was totally Focused on that And what i realized afterwards Was that the more i was concentrating on Her The better i felt emotionally in myself And i was going right back into some Negative symptoms And i i was like I went out to the woods this is where i Always find peace Uh i went out to the woods and i was Walking and i was Watering and i realized that when i was Kind of in in my Not safe kind of anybody i don’t care About you But in my heart concentrating on helping Others I felt better and i started with my wife And my kids And then i started you know with Veterans and i’m you know i’m 75 years Old i’m I’m still doing stuff but it’s it’s Because i care

And i don’t feel the pressure to be when I’m not I’m comfortable with who i am but It’s it’s a two-way street i guess But we got to fix ourselves i can’t help You if you You i can’t help save you if i’m if i’m Drowning Yeah that that theme of uh of generation Service to others Is is so core to our humanity and our Our well-being you know and it’s it’s Innate when we’re in uniform that you Have that kind of Shared concern for others and and we Have to in some ways find that Uh after service and um i just i still Relate to that Um we have a comment from carrie butler Uh boulter excuse me who’s a mental Health clinician Uh uh with the el paso county uh Colorado sheriff’s department she just Wants to say thank you for sharing your Stories Uh because by doing that you’re helping To destigmatize Getting help and asking for help so she Offers that We have a question from michael hartford With the marcus institute for brain Health Uh and uh the gary sinise avalone Network and he’s asking you about

Invisible wounds um you know tbis Traumatic brain injuries and mental Health disorders These are considered signature wounds For the post-9 11 combat veterans Arguably existed pre-9 11 as well Although without much of a language Around it or understanding And he’s asking what are your thoughts And experiences regardless of What era uh to sort of the relationship Between veterans suicides and invisible Wounds You guys have spoken about this but you Know broadening the aperture of Of health and and uh and wounds that we Can’t see There’s um a friend of mine jim mukayama I was my battalion commander when i was In the reserves one of the Great people that i’ve had the privilege Of knowing A phenomenal phenomenal leader And he came up with something um several Years ago that he’s working on now and It’s called the moral injury We’re taught not to kill And yet we’re put in a combat situation Where we have to do that just that And we have to make instantaneous Decisions so along with post-traumatic Stress You have the moral injury of dealing With

You know the guilt of what you had to do In combat Uh and the in the what you should have Done but didn’t do and what you did do But shouldn’t have done Kind of thing going on so there’s a lot Of A lot of difference not only the poster Not the um traumatic brain injury Um but also that moral injury and and All of those need to be addressed And they’re all just a little bit you Know the the tbi Is certainly a traumatic injury to the Brain but the ptsd And the moral injury they’re they’re the Same but they’re they’re so different Yeah yeah that the moral injury and the Conversation around that flow how do you Think about these different yeah i had a Traumatic brain injury from the blast And so it would freak me out because for Six weeks i They would come in and show these cars These animals like a giraffe and I knew what it was but i just couldn’t Remember the name i couldn’t do simple Math I’m a math guy so that that really Freaked me out but how many quarters in A dollar That was very difficult for me to do Follow simple instructions Uh you know when i was in a wheelchair

To tell me you know here you know Make a make a left out of your room go Down the hall make the third right And then knock on the second door and I’d make a left and go down the hall and I forget what right i was supposed to Make So that was really really frustrating Because You’re realizing that the most important Part of your body Is now functional right and if that Doesn’t function right Nothing else function is going to Function And so that became a very intense early On Um the first six weeks at the hospital And then one day they came into cars i Was like that’s a giraffe and they’re Like well you’re healing That’s like thank the lord right they Appreciate that uh but the moral piece Too Plays such an important role that’s Probably one of the biggest You know wounds that we need to deal With and again it goes back to Being able to share uh i uh Never lost a second to slave for the Things i had to do in afghanistan And and combat i lost a lot of sleep uh For my friends who didn’t come home and Trying to figure out ways that we could

Have been better And you know change the outcome of that Specific decisive day Uh but i also have lost sleep and seen Things you know Um on what happened with civilians And that’s the horror of war and i think That when I you know i understood the enemy and i Actually respected my enemy And so i we i understood the ground game Is that He is trying to kill me and i am trying To kill him and that is the just You know every day that was a duty what I didn’t never could Truly understand um though i understand The settings Is deaf with civilians and kids and Stuff and that really shook me to my Core And i think those those are the very you Know very sensitive wounds that i’ve Carried around my life and I’ll i’ll tell you it’s i can still i Can picture right now Two little girls in 2010 in the corner Province of afghanistan right outside of Uh comet outpost um in maine and They were getting out of school in short Mortar um we were We were ambushed while the boss was Ambushed and we went out Quick reaction force and one of our

Mortar team Shot a mortar and the base plate came Off and it came short And it killed two girls so And i had to go identify the bodies and Take pictures and talk to the To the elders in that in that village And start bringing them back to our boss For competitions uh conversation and Apologizing of course that is Probably the most grotesque image that i Will always carry for with me The rest of my life and that is a that Is a wound And um you start adding more and more on Top of those that becomes a very Dangerous setting So i’m it’s therapeutic that i get to Share that with you today I’m open about it i understand that There was the consequences of the Environment that i was in which was war War is ugly right we everybo trust me I’m not a proponent i’m not an advocate For war i would say Avoid it as much as every time if you Can But that’s also a reality of the setting That we were in so I i agree um you gotta i still think It’s For me it’s the same thing same solution One don’t be afraid to talk about it Share um hopefully you have people that

Will are willing to listen and not judge You But in the end you got to do the same Thing too you got to be willing to Listen to others And see what they what they want they Have to say because What whatever they’re sharing could Really change your the course of your Life Thanks for sharing that flow and um and And that openness Um you know i think it’s safe to say That there’s so much that we’re still Learning about brain health And and there’s massive investments Being made and i think that It’s going to be a lot more Sophistication in time to come about how Our brains Work and how we treat our brains um i Want to Um we’re getting into time i do want to Ask this question because It’s relevant to the conversation it’s Maybe a sensitive one i don’t know if It’s sensitive or not But it’s something that you acknowledge Alan and it’s it’s firearms Kind of in the context of all this um According to the department of veterans Affairs nearly seven out of ten veteran Deaths by suicide are the result Of firearm injuries um and

Nationally about half of all suicides Are by firearm And so how do we how do we talk about Firearms in the use of firearms Um which which again because of its its Finality as an instrument In a suicidal kind of moment impulse The stakes are really high 85 percent of Suicide attempts with a firearm are Fatal And successful in that sense how do we Have the conversation about firearms and Firearm safety Uh in the military community given its Relationship to suicide In one sense i think it’s a matter of Personal responsibility When i feel years ago when i had A few guns when i was in that place Where i was contemplating things I locked my gun cabinet i put the keys Somewhere That were very that was very difficult To get i literally literally had to Climb up And get them i took the ammunition i put Them someplace Else i kept it all separate I think what my buddy mark did hey Brother Take my guns until i’m Feel like i can have them again i mean It’s we have to be responsible for Ourselves we have to be responsible

To our our our spouse our whoever we’re Living with are partners You know and that’s part of that job the Other thing is is if you’re a good Friend It’s kind of like um i think it’s one of Those platonic arguments you know Are you going to be the friend that’s Going to take your buddy’s gun and he Had to maybe hate your guts Are you gonna be that kind of a good Friend and i think that’s the kind of Friends we have to have that’s the kind Of friends i want But if i get into a point where i’m in That kind of a ditch i want someone to Love me enough To smack me in the mouth and take my Guns I i couldn’t agree more i look i think Weapons Guns specifically are an instrument you Remove guns if a person Really wants to kill themselves there Are multiple ways to to Kill yourself unfortunately you do pills You can get a knife you can do whatever I know you want to say these two idea Things but it’s so in the end it’s about It goes back to being to helping that Person And and you know i i listen i have a Firearms in my home Um i am you know i support firearms but

I am your biggest proponent and advocate To support mental health amino recovery Pts ptsd You know um the invisible wounds because That to me is what we need to solve Uh and i i don’t i i i just personally Cannot associate An excuse almost right Behind that topic i do recognize it and I think you know allen brought up some Really good ways to to deal with it And uh if that’s the case you remove the Instruments that potentially can cause Harm right but you gotta also go out There and put all the resources On deck to support that person too so That they that We get healthy Yeah uh gentlemen um I so appreciate again just how you’ve Showed up this conversation and uh And the honesty that you’ve you’ve uh Sort of brought forward uh The question last question is this which Is what’s your charge to the folks that Are listening in I mean you know people look to you for For the Medal that you that you wear and carry Uh for leadership but what’s the role That you would give everyone else To play in this conversation from Wherever they’re at whether they’re just You know active duty sitting on you know

Sitting on the sidelines working in Mental health What’s your charge for uh everyone that Might be listening Uh flo let’s start with you if we can You have an ability to save that person In front of you that is struggling You don’t have to wear a medal of honor You don’t have to have a phd You don’t have to have any of that all You need to do is be a caring Compassionate Individual that is willing to listen and Willing to go out there walk the walk With that person through their recovery Or through their dream That’s it be open-minded about it don’t Judge Be there for them that is you know There’s what 68 medal of honor Recipients Right uh the most important person in The world is Carson my wife right That is every single day when i wake up Around me I need you know she listens to me i do The same with her Be in your environment be open to Listening open up your eyes And then walk the walk to support those Individuals that need the help And then lastly be open with yourself When you’re struggling i don’t i i

No more of this it’s okay i’m not that Person or like i’ll get through it Because you’re then you’re gonna add Another day on top of that another one And then become stronger and stronger What you’re doing is you’re feeding Those internal demons that’s what i call Them I’ll call them dragons i call them Internal demons you’re giving them Strength and power and then they’re very Creative At finding ways to trick you why because They are you Yeah your thoughts your charge i i As i was coming out of a lot of my Issues I i found i needed a moral code and Serendipity i was giving a talk at a Rotary and the guy gave me one of the Challenge coins which had the four-way Test on the back of it And i have found that that is exactly What i i needed It’s is it the truth is it fair to all Concerned Will it build goodwill and better Friendships is it beneficial to all Concerned And when you live by that the first Thing that you do as a veteran is you go Well wait a minute i’m feeling bad am i Lying to myself Am i lying to my spouse am i lying to my

Friends Am i telling them how i really feel is Doing what i’m going to do going to Build a better friendship with my wife And my kids Is going to be beneficial to them to my Husband my spouse to my friends my mom My dad So it’s kind of like if we have a moral Code and we live by that Even as a therapist you know am i Telling you the truth About yourself you know they kept Telling my dad when he had cancer that We couldn’t kill We can still treat it They couldn’t you know they told my Brother-in-law they could treat it they Couldn’t Be honest have a moral code live by that Outstanding thank you both uh I know a virtual round of applause and Gratitude for uh For your service the nation your your Service now um Your your story and uh just who you are As humans i’m I’m grateful uh to call your friends and And appreciate this conversation so alan And flo thank you guys Both so much and uh matt i’ll turn it Back over to you Uh to close this out thank you for the Opportunity to have this conversation

You

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