I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural convention sponsored by Randy Sutton, Retired Lieutenant of Las Vegas Metro PD and founder of the Wounded Blue. The conference is to support public safety officers who are suffering from trauma related injuries, both physical and mental. My relationship with Randy began when he was kind enough to endorse my book, Bridging the Gap: An Inside Look at Communications and Relationships After Traumatic Events, which, by the way is available on e-book now and in bookstores on December 14. The conference was amazing and the way I got there was a whole other story. We will start with the other story.
As a retired 26 year officer/detective I experienced a lot of traumatic events. These events resulted in PTSD, which led to me shutting down, not talking and of course that lack of communication and connection led to a divorce. Being a slow learner, I tried again, with the same result. After the second divorce , I spent three years alone at my cabin. That is when I learned how to take an accountable look at myself. I was the only one involved in both relationships and did not like being a two time loser. Were there things I would have like changed in my spouses? Yes. Were there things they contributed to the problems?Yes. But that is their journey. I can only change me and I did. During this time, I felt the desire to assist others in not doing the same stupid things I did. My overall goal became to assist other officers in reducing the effects of PTSD, not getting divorced, and not committing suicide. I didn't know how that was going to work or even where to start. I talked to a counselor friend about putting together a class and shared some of my rough ideas. A couple of weeks later, I suddenly woke up early, grabbed a pen and a notebook and started writing. I wrote for four hours. I didn't even know what I wrote. I read it later, then took to my friend and she said, "wow, you are 60% done, now finish it." I did, and that is the basis of what I teach now in my program. This program led to the teaching I do and the book I wrote which was pitched to one publisher, and accepted. I truly know it is inspired because of the way it happened and I'm no genius.
Now to the rest of the story (stole that from Paul Harvey). I was scheduled to be in Florida for a few weeks so did not register for the Wounded Blue Survival Summit. Some things in life changed and we decided to come home early. While I was on layover at the Atlanta airport I received a call from Randy Sutton. "Hey, are you coming to the summit?" I looked at my wife and she not only said yes, but "by all means, yes. You need to be there." What an awesome lady and five days later we were in Las Vegas. What an incredible conference it was.. There were over two hundred and fifty participants. Some from Seattle, San Diego, Connecticut, Texas, and all places in between.Each had a story. Many involved in shootings, horrific traffic accidents, and all manner of traumatic events that have broken people. Each had a story of overcoming and growing. Many were forced to leave before they wanted. Most Importantly, each wants to make a difference and make life better for those who are still in "the business". Top line presentations by Kevin Gilmartin, Dave and Betsy Smith, Randy Sutton and Bob Bemis, Jason Schechterie, Giovanni Rocco, Jamie Borden, Cathy Bustos, Charles and Kelli Lowe, Silouan Green,Vicki and Brent Newman, Mike Murphy, Dr. Trevor Wilkins, Dr. Andrew Dennis. These people are the rockstars of presenting for law enforcement trauma. Entertainment was education as well with Ryan Weaver, former military and Mike Mancini, the Worlds Funniest Cop.
It was amazing to be with like minded people, knowing that we can make a difference in the lives of others. As I teach in Bridging the Gap, change begins with one person and continues one person at a time. It starts in our most important community, family. Then it ripples out to our other communities, work, religious, sports, school. This conference showed me that the ripple is started and now becoming a wave. This wave will build until it becomes a tsunami. Why aim small, we just have to start small and create the peace we want in our community and communities.
Thank you to Chris Hoyer (Phoenix PD ret.), Chris Gregorio (Seattle PD), Sgt Ken Frownfelter (Grants Pass PD), Sgt Matthew Lynch (Sedgewick County SO), and so many others I cannot remember you all. Thank you for setting up PEER Support Teams. Thank you for seeing the trauma and the need to deal with it. Thank you for being the ripple that is turning into a wave that cannot be stopped.
Thank you to Randy Sutton and to Michael DiChairo (Wounded Blue Board of Directors(Director)) for giving us the place to learn, connect, and get the ripple going.