Foreword by Blayne Smith
Written by Christine Fennessy
We encourage, even implore our members to make personal connections within their communities. We ask that they share their stories. We understand that this requires a certain degree of courage and willingness to be vulnerable. Veterans do well with courage…often not so much with vulnerability. Though it is sometimes hard, this is perhaps the most critical step in improving veteran reintegration, and ultimately building stronger American communities. We must know each other to trust each other and, as my dad always told me, “trust is a must.”
As my good friend, JJ Pinter, and I embarked on our month-long challenge to work out with at least one new veteran each day, it occurred to me that many of you don’t really know me. Sure, I’ve shared some pictures of my boys on Facebook. You might have met me at an event, talked with me on the phone, or read something that I wrote, but you still don’t know me. My story is one that needs to be shared. It is important not because it is extraordinary, but because it is all too ordinary.
Since I’m not good at talking about myself, I’ve decided to share this great piece by Christine Fennessy. She contacted me a while ago regarding a story she was writing about running, soldiers, and Post Traumatic Stress. She spent some time with me (and my family and friends) in 2012. The following comes from those conversations, and does a far better job than I possibly could of telling my story. Frankly, this forced me to be far more vulnerable than I would have liked. However, I know too many veterans that look great on the outside and feel like hell on the inside, and if this gets even one of them back on track, it is well worth it to me. Want to know why I care so much about the work we do? Here you go:
A Soldier, in Parts (more…)
“The idea here is that to live as fully as we might, to truly be all that we
can be, we must constantly challenge ourselves to make the most of our God-given talents.”
On Friday night in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the UM chapter of the Student Veterans of America hosted a dinner to benefit Team RWB. General (Retired) David Petraeus was the guest of honor and keynote speaker. He spent over four hours at the event, speaking with people, taking pictures and talking to veterans about their service. When it came time to present his remarks, the 275 people in the audience heard several powerful messages. But Team RWB is 31,000 members strong—and we felt that many of you would like to review some of the thoughts General Petraeus shared with us. (more…)
Written by Sean MacMillen
Between 2004 and 2008, I spent a majority of my time in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as an infantry officer. In July of 2008, I left the Army; however, not on my own accord. It is rather embarrassing to say this, but I had gone from being a respected leader and battalion executive officer to an Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) rehab failure. I did not realize the toll that multiple deployments took on my mental health, and I self-medicated with alcohol. I did not want to admit that I had any chinks in my armor like a drinking problem. The next several years were a blur, and I lost myself along the way because I would not reach out to others. My thought was that I was physically and mentally tough; I could not have any problems. Hell, I was an Airborne Ranger!
Over the course of a few years, my life fell apart. My life was in shambles, and I was in a very dark place. I felt like there was nowhere to turn, and figured I would just die drinking. PTSD and alcohol dependence were killing me physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. My will to live was pretty much broken. Honestly, I did not want to live any more. Physically – I weighed over 230 pounds and could not run a mile without inhaling small trees and furry animals. My blood pressure was through the roof, and my cholesterol was sky high. My waist size was ginormous! Mentally – I was all over the place. Severe depression and anxiety ruled my life. Ending it all rattled around in my brain several times. I was pissed off at the world, and I was just a very angry person. Socially – I had no friends and pushed my family away. I had totally isolated and withdrew from everyone that cared about me. Spiritually – I had no faith in anyone or anything. Nothing mattered anymore!
Fast forward to April 2013 when something very special happened as I was beginning to get my life back on track. I hooked up with a group of veterans who enjoyed physical activity, and needed an outlet. We formed a group called Team VA – Fear the Kilt. Kilts with our service tartans became our rallying point. Ironically, at our first race as the crazy kilters, we ran into someone with a Team RWB shirt. This is the point that my life definitely changed. I found what I had been missing since I left the Army. Genuine people. The brotherhood. The camaraderie. People who understood me. Nothing but positive people who embraced teamwork. (more…)
Written by Sue Ellen Landwehr, Team RWB – Danbury
As the season of official gift giving winds down, I feel compelled to tell you (or anyone that might listen-lol) about one of the greatest gifts I have received this year: Team Red, White and Blue.
Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. I wish I could tell you that I became involved with Team RWB so I could support veterans, but for me it was the other way around – a veteran reached out and supported ME.
My fitness journey, like so many others I know, has had its ups and downs. A year ago I was considering weight loss surgery because I had become so discouraged with my efforts. Then I got a dreaded call; my husband, a career firefighter, had been injured at work. He received a concussion and an injury that required surgery. While I was grateful his recovery was assured, I had a mortal moment while taking care of him…I HAD to start taking better care of myself. I confided in a dear friend (coincidentally – a veteran) and joined a gym. We met three times a week. I went no matter how I felt, and many times thought it was pointless! Through the snow, slush and rain, I showed up. He had me start a food journal and text him whenever I went to the gym. (more…)
Written by Joe Miller
One of my rationales for leaving the Army was having more time for fitness, but it was decidedly frustrating leaving the Army with panic attacks and asthma from PTSD and Industrial pollution in Iraq. Using an inhaler is not a great way to do speed work.
Something in me changed this year. I started setting new post-Iraq personal bests. In a year where I sought to thrive because I have PTSD, I chose to believe that I survived for a purpose, and I have seen some incredible gains. I dropped 55 minutes off my 50 mile PR,and I came in over an hour faster at the Bradbury trail series.
These gains came from a year of owning PTSD. Becoming a proud and public person with an inappropriately stigmatized disorder made me realize how I thought I was weak before Iraq, and that is why I succumbed to invisible wounds. I had to realize I was wrong. That all started with Team Red, White and Blue who not only supported me, they celebrated me and called me an ambassador.
I returned to my bread and butter training. I always did better climbing up mountains than hitting my track splits, so I ran a mountain run and two stadium workouts a week. A bad day at a marathon kept me off of my marathon PR but I shattered my best time in every single race since. I was strong before PTSD, but I let myself believe I was weak, and consequently I trained in a way that gained me very little.
After the best run of my life at this year’s JFK 50 miler, I started my winter treadmill speed work. Things were going well, I’d kept my gains in my first workouts. I ran my first sub six minute mile since I was a cadet at North Georgia College. Then I decided to run sub seven minute miles for four miles. I held out for five and set an actual, not post Iraq personal best. That is not enough. Now I want to beat that snot nosed, LT and Cadet. He was strong, he did the work to give me the strength that made me survive, but that won’t stop me from ‘Eagleing Up’ and beating all of that kid’s records that I can in 2014.
1 mile 5:40 post Iraq 5:55
2 mile12:07 PI 12:44
5k 18:50 PI 21:10
5 mile 33:52
10 mile 1:08:00 PI 1:20:00
100M registering for my first this June