Every life has value and must be preserved, nurtured and celebrated to its greatest potential.

OneLifeWarrior advocates an unapologetic approach to living through Health Awareness and Risk Reduction in overcoming the challenges of life. It is our goal to create a living OneLifeWarrior metaphor of Resiliency and to inspire all Warriors to take the initiative in determining the course of their lives regardless of the adversity that lay before them.

OneLifeWarrior is founded as a multi-year campaign to foster Resiliency in service members, families and in America’s citizens. The OneLifeWarrior Campaign is dedicated to developing a Warrior spirit in everyone. Being a Warrior means combining physical and mental toughness with assuming responsibility for one's actions. “One Life” seeks to raise the national conscience on issues of individual and family wellness programming and long-term care for veterans. The Resiliency Run is the annual demonstration of our commitment to the ideals of the OneLifeWarrior Campaign.

OneLife News:

A Visit from Carol

While laughing with my children at the dinner table last night, I saw in the soft lines of their faces, their mother’s eyes smiling back at me. As they have grown older and their childish features have faded, the bridge of their noses and gentle brows have matured to resemble Carol’s classic Italian characteristics. The sparkle of their eyes and belly roll laughter brought her home to our table for just a flash of familiarity that settled on my soul like a soft snow at midnight.

Until next time, dear, sleep well.

God bless you, OneLife Warriors…keep running and I’ll see you tomorrow.

An Open Door in the Snow

Driving through the abandoned streets of the North End, Boston only hours after yet another massive snow storm left the city looking like a frozen walking dead episode. I had been in four wheel drive since leaving my house in China, Maine four hours earlier. Even though the fury of the storm had passed, the streetlights over Hanover Street still illuminated the last breath of falling snow and the wind formed drifts filling even the single center lane exhausted road crews had managed to punch through hours earlier.

My snowy drive from Maine had been contemplative and tenuous as I dodged plow trucks and 18 wheelers down Interstate 95 and Route 1. No radio. Just thoughts of my military career and trying hard to remember the faces of those who I had lost along the way. A rosary hung from the rear view mirror as I have gotten in the habit of praying during travel time and somewhere between Portsmouth and Charlestown, I decided to go to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross deep in the “bad part” of South Boston to seek peace from the sadness that consumed me. After setting my GPS to 1400 Washington Street, Boston, Mass, I began to churn through the maze of one way side streets and snow bank obstacles of buried cars.

Finally, I intersected Washington Street and looming before me were the massive stone towers of the 19th Century cathedral. I parked by backing my truck into an embankment just enough to all ill-tempered plow drivers to continue their work wrapped my scarf tightly and placed the rosary in my overcoat pocket. I exited the vehicle to realize that there was no sidewalk and walked instead down the main road to the front steps of the main entrance. There were no foot prints in any of the buried stone staircases leading to the heavy wooden doors, but I pressed on in thigh deep drifts to each of the four doors only do discover that each was locked tight. The snow had drifted three or four feet deep against the doors making them immoveable even if unlocked….a fate that proved consistent with each successive perimeter door tested. Again and again, I trudged to ascend each entrance to be denied by locked and buried doorways from the requiem that awaited me beyond the darkened stained glass windows.

At long last, I discovered a tunnel near an exterior maintenance shed at the far courtyard of the church that had been shoveled by perhaps a boiler operator or maintenance worker. When I pulled on the ring of the door, it moved. Again, I pulled, putting my weight into it and it breeched the snow enough for me to squeeze into the dark hallway beyond. I was met with the musty dankness of a 150 year old granite block basement and felt my way along the wall to the hiss and ping of steam vent pipes until I came to another door at the end of this passage that yielded light from the room beyond. Again I pulled on the door and it swung open with ease to reveal small chapel and altar fully illuminated. I passed through, then down another hallway, up a creaky wooden staircase, to another hallway, to another locked door which I bypassed through another hallway. Finally, I emerged into the main chamber of the Cathedral as a massive and unlit vacuous space. Despite the darkness, the altar glowed in gold at end of the main isle and beyond the sea of pews. It was silent, save the wind howling through the buttresses outside and warm enough for me to remove my gloves and the rosary from my pocket. I dipped my hand into the holy water basin, removed my hat to cross myself then walked to the front pew, left, and knelt to pray, completely alone in the peace of my refuge.

I prayed for peace, forgiveness, and for Captain John Hallett and his family, Carol, Mark and Mark, Josh, Stoney, Rosie, Nana, and the many other friends that await us on yonder shore. I was thankful also for the protection of the Lord and the recovery I have experienced. I prayed for the Lord to guide my steps and rejoiced in His mercy for all that I have done or failed to do.

The novelty of this peaceful moment in such a revered setting, to experience in solace, was the just reward of persistence and audacity in finding an [the] open door. Such is the way of life in demonstrating resilience to find the path that leads to an open door and despite the bitter cold, wind and rejection of barriers, having the courage to pass through to the reward therein.

Take your peace, my friends, and blessing to the fallen of my prayers. Pull hard on the barriers to find an open door in the snow in your lives and do not be deterred. Eat richly at the table of life, for you have well-earned your setting and portions.

God bless you, OneLife Warriors…keep running, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Audie Murphy’s Vision of America

In 1948, the most decorated soldier in American History returned to France where he had been awarded nearly every valor device including the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts….he recorded the following reflection as he entered the courtyard of a small village school that had been liberated by his unit among fierce fighting only a few years earlier…

“In 1948, I returned to France at the invitation of French Government. It was still a war-ravaged country … but this time there was something different. It wasn’t the absence of fighting, nor the silence of the big guns, nor the disappearance of uniforms and chow lines … I didn’t know what it was until one morning when I was taken to the grounds of a small French school. The children had been assembled in the play yard. They were grouped close together and arranged in wobbly little rows, their dark heads bobbing around like flower buds on long stems. One of the teachers rapped for silence. The kids quieted immediately and turned their eyes towards her. Their Faces were scrubbed and bright in the sunshine. The teacher raised her arms, and for a moment, there was no sound … Then the teacher brought her arms down and the kids began to sing … I Knew why I felt at home. The spirit of freedom was hovering over that play yard as it did all over France at that time. A country was free again. A people had recovered their independence and their children were grateful. They were singing in French, but the melody was freedom and any American could understand that. America, at that moment, never meant more to me … The true meaning of America, you ask? It’s in a Texas rodeo, in a policeman’s badge, in the sound of laughing children, in a political rally, in a newspaper… In all these things, and many more, you’ll find America. In all these things, you’ll find freedom. And freedom is what America means to the world. And to me.” – Audie Murphy

Despite what you may watch in the news and on television…I still believe in Audie Murphy’s vision of America…more now than ever.

God bless you OneLife Warriors….keep running, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

To My Fellow Veterans…

Sonnet VII

I’m writing this without my glasses, so you will forgive me for any typos…I think you will understand, ragardless. Before I left for work this morning, I happened to catch a few minutes of a movie that my children were finishing from the night before and a sonnet recited beautifully from Robin Williams’ character resontated with me in capturing my innate affection for all fellow veterans. I hope you will enjoy it and undestand its wisdom in describing both you as a veteran, and the common bond we all share.

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

- Pablo Neruda

God bless you, OneLIfe Warriors…keep running, and I’ll see you tomorrow!!

The Dark Side of TBI

The latest Rand study concludes that of the 1.64 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, 19.5% suffer from the effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) sustained during their deployment(s). My slightly damaged brain tells me that 1,640,000 X .195 = 319,800 young men and women meet the criteria for experiencing a TBI during their service in combat. The Rand Brief (Invisible Wounds: Mental Health and Cognitive Care Needs of America’s Returning Veterans) goes on to tell us that 57% of this enormous population HAS NEVER BEEN EVALUATED by a physician specifically for a TBI.

The news is not all bad, however, in that many of our service members (53%) have actually overcome cultural, institutional or practical barriers to help seeking behavior and sought treatment for behavioral health problems such as PTSD and Major Depression.

So what is the point?

If we add PTSD, Major Depression and TBI as the three major drivers in mental health problems in re-deploying soldiers with as many as 33% of all service members suffering from one or all of these maladies, then the number soars to 541,200 moms, dads, sons and daughters effected laying the foundation for a post war societal catastrophe similar to that experienced by the post-Vietnam generation. If we remove the humanitarian consideration and talk simply in terms of dollars and cents, the cost of the suicides alone since 2001, measured in Soldier Guaranteed Life Insurance, Lost Training Investment, Social Security Death Gratuity and other costs is $2.2 Billion. As a survivor of suicide, I can tell you that the river of tears that flow in the wake of suicide dwarfs the monetary measure.

Rand explains that the costs associated with providing our veterans high-quality care more than pays for itself in less than two years as an investment in productivity and reduced long term fiduciary pay back.

Since the war began, we have seen great advancement in the development of prosthetic limbs, robotics, and other forms of adaption technology as well as a shift in culture toward persons who have suffered amputations and other traumatic physical injuries. It is not uncommon at all to see service members missing limbs running marathons and living perfectly normal adaptive lives. Likewise, albeit at a much slower rate, the landslide of behavioral health data generated by the war has greatly advanced our scientific understanding of PTSD, Major Depression and especially TBI.

As it appears that we are making headway on the overall treatment of mental health problems coming out of the war, it is important that we gain access and treat this large population of TBI Survivors by helping them understand that the prevalent symptoms generated by these injuries are in fact behavioral health related. Much of the focus on TBI is on the neuro-psychological cognitive, executive function, fine motor and speech deficits with the effects of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation following as distant after thoughts. Much like the easy to identify effects of losing a limb, TBI research and testing is focused largely on the easy to identify and measure fore mentioned effects, which are more physical or ability related in nature.

The “mood” effects must be studied and treated in therapy with the same emphasis as the fine motor and other effects. And by treatment, I mean resisting the old standby of throwing jars of psychotropic medications at the mood problems to mask the effects of the chemical imbalances generated by the TBI. Let us instead favor starting with cognitive psyche therapy to develop coping strategies and skill sets prior to better living through chemistry in the form of low dose anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds, which have become a standard and unsustainable practice complete with often devastating side effects.

I know of what I speak. After suffering an embolic stroke as a marathon runner in August of 2014, I was plunged into the world experience of the wartime TBI posse and let’s just say it has been the most humbling experience of my life. My participation in the confusion, fatigue, reduced ability and especially the irrational anxiety, worry, sleeplessness and depression opened a whole new window of understanding for our generation of TBI survivors. As the saying goes, “rapid injury, slow recovery”. And I have clung to the kind words of a doctor who wisely advised, me, “Jack, do not grieve what you have lost, embrace what you have, and aspire to what you will recover…now do the work to get there.”

I offer the same advice to my peers in this journey with a re-emphasis of the OneLife Warrior central themes…don’t quit, get up in the morning, put on your shoes and live your life. Don’t believe everything you think. The world is richer for the light of your life here, so shine on. You are precious, irreplaceable and unique among all people. I love you and thank you for your service and immeasurable sacrifice to others.

In closing, let us turn our awareness efforts to the behavioral health component of TBI and tie that to the broader success in physical adaption and behavioral health treatment. By shining a new light into this dark corner of our service member’s re-integration, the path to a “new normal” and their destiny as America’s Next Greatest Generation will be realized.

God bless you, OneLife Warriors…keep running, and I’ll see you tomorrow!