The Morning Formation Podcast

"Drive On Podcast" Crossover Edition with OEF Veteran Scott Deluzio, author of "Surviving Son"

April 06, 2022 KP Season 2 Episode 15
The Morning Formation Podcast
"Drive On Podcast" Crossover Edition with OEF Veteran Scott Deluzio, author of "Surviving Son"
Show Notes Transcript

Warriors, Fall In!

Today, I am welcoming a special guest who is an Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran. Like many of us, he experienced the tragedy of war, but also took on a tragedy within the ranks of his own family- His dear brother was killed in Afghanistan on the same deployment in 2010. Overcoming this heartbreak was one of our guest’s greatest obstacles and today he is driven to reach back and help out our Veteran community with understanding resiliency to meet triumph. His vision is to teach our community of the positive options we have to thrive toward our life goals. 

I’d like to welcome, Scott DeLuzio, who is the author of “Surviving Son,” a book inspired by his brother, Steven’s, honorable service and geared to help the Veteran Community cope with making sustainably better life choices.

Scott DeLuzio's Website:
https://survivingsonbook.com

Drive On Podcast IG:
https://www.instagram.com/driveonpodcast/

Intro Music: Mournful Middle Eastern Duduk by iCentury (Downloaded from Envato with License)

KP:

This episode is powered by Aktau education, go to www dot ATT now education.com For free comprehensive educational resources and opportunities for active duty veterans, military spouses, and children.

Scott DeLuzio:

My my brother he was, he found some cover. It wasn't the best cover, obviously. But he went to go turn around to yell something to some of the people who are kind of behind him a little bit off on the side. And as as he was about to start talking, he his head kind of jerked back and he fell back on his assault pack, and he was killed pretty much instantly. After that he was he was shot and killed.

KP:

Warriors fall in it's time for formation today and welcoming a special guest who is in Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran. And like many of us, he experienced the tragedy of war, but also took on a tragedy within the ranks of his own family. His dear brother Steven was killed in Afghanistan on the same deployment in 2010. Overcoming this heartbreak was one of our guests greatest obstacles. And today he is driven to reach back and help out our veteran community with understanding resiliency, to meet their own triumph. His vision is to teach our community of the positivity and the different options that we actually have to thrive towards our life goals. I'd like to welcome Scott deluzy Oh, who is the author of surviving son, a book inspired by his brother and his audible service, and it's geared to help our veteran community cope with making sustainably better life choices. Scott, I want to thank you for joining us today. Hey, thanks for having me, I really appreciate the opportunity to come on your show and share my story, my brother's story and just talk about kind of the journey along the way. Scott, you know, the honor is all mine. And to have a fellow combat veteran on the show is a true a true honor for me, because you know that this statistics show that less than 8% of the entire US population ever serve in the United States military. And then on top of that, less than 5% ever actually go to combat. So I really appreciate you and thank you for taking the time for me today and and for the audience. And it is an absolute honor. Just to jump right into it.

Scott DeLuzio:

I just I just want to say this much when I started doing a little bit of, of background on you and learning your story. It's quite amazing that both you and your brother served in the military at the same time. I mean, I'm part of a huge family, myself, and I'm the only family member to have served during the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, let alone actually serve in one of those two wars. I started out enlisted in the National Guard like yourself, and I decided to commission into active duty, fully understanding that I would most likely be deployed. When you and your brother both signed up for the military. What was that conversation like? When you decided to join specifically during a time of war? Yeah, so when my brother and I were growing up, we grew up in a very patriotic family. So we always looked up to the military respected the military,

Unknown:

police, firefighters, first responders, we we always looked up to them and respected them for the service that they did to not only to our communities, but to our country as well. And I remember when we were growing up, we my parents took us up to an Air Force base nearer near our house about maybe 45 minutes away from our house, and we grew to the grid of the troops coming back from Desert Storm. So like that was a big thing for us. But that we got to do that. That was that was something that to us was very meaningful, because, you know, those were the the superheroes that were looking up to that was the you know, like a lot of times people are looking up to sports athletes or movie stars or things like that. Those were the Michael Jordan's have for us, you know that that was that was who we looked up to. And so when 911 happened, I was in college already. And my brother was my younger brother, Steven, he was in high school. It was just the two of us. And I and I wanted to just drop out of college right then and there and join the military. That that thought crossed my mind. I slept on the decision ultimately decided that I probably knowing myself, I probably wouldn't come back to college if I dropped out at that point. And I decided, Okay, I'm going to stay with college. I'm already, you know, a year plus in to college, and you know, I might as well just stay in and finish that. If there's any sort of military response. It's going to be longer than you know, the next few years so I'll have my chance to get into it if I really want to at that point. Fast Toward a few years, my brother in 2004, he met up with a guy, he was going to school up in Vermont, to college. And he met up with a guy who was in the Vermont Army National Guard. And he started to learn a little bit about what that was all about. And sounded like it was interesting to him, and he wanted to join so so he ended up joining the Army National Guard in 2004. And went to basic training the following summer, and went through all that, then he was going to his training and drills and everything. And that was kind of kind of what his journey into the military was like. And after learning about what he was doing, and what it took to join the army, it sort of planted the seed in me a little bit, and it said, this might be something I want to reconsider, you know, I back in 2001, I thought about joining the military, just dropping out of college and joining. But I never really knew about the reserves, so the National Guard, and that, to me, it was like if you're going to be in the army, you're full time. Like that's it, you just just do that. And so this opened up a new world of possibilities to me. And so I started thinking and overthinking over and then one day in 2005, I heard a report on the news saying that the military was struggling to meet their recruiting numbers. And that really pissed me off. It just got under my skin. And I was like, Where, where did all these people go? Who after 911 they were ready to move mountains to go, you know, take the fight back to the enemy and get payback and revenge for everything that took place on 911. And then I realized, well, crap, I am those people who had that, that was me, and I still haven't done anything about it. And here I am. Sitting here, I, I am a college graduate, I have a good job out of college. And I'm enjoying all of the freedoms that these people that I grew up respecting that they fought for. And I'm not doing anything to give back at this point as much as I wanted to earlier on. And so I said, Okay, well, I have nothing but excuses right now. And my brother showed me the way that he paved the path to joining the military. And so I said, Okay, let's flip the script here and reverse roles with with ourselves and, you know, make it so that I'm following in his footsteps. And and so shortly after that, I My mind was made up and I decided, yeah, I'm, I'm going to join the National Guard as well. We lived in Connecticut at the time, so I joined the Connecticut National Guard, and he was in the Vermont National Guard. But little part of me said, you know, if I my younger brother can do it, but there's no way I'm gonna let him do it without me. So. So I decided I was I was gonna do join the military as well.

KP:

I have a very high level of respect for you. Because like you mentioned before, you had a good job, you had your college degree, you're set, you didn't have to join the military. I know a lot of folks who do join the military, sometimes they have their back against the wall. Maybe they flunked out of college, they struck out on everything else. And that's the last thing they're gonna do. Your case was actually opposite. It's similar to mine to where I was enlisted in the National Guard. And I could have just done my four years and gotten out. And I decided to take that commission might, my dad was actually in military to 20 years, drafted in 71, during Vietnam at the tail end of it. And I just decided that it would be a great honor for me to get commissioned, and for him to actually salute me. So I decided to take that next step. So highly respect you for that. And it's just so funny how, when you talk about how you join the National Guard, how your brother joined the National Guard, the reason I went to the guard was because my old football coach, that was it. I didn't look into the Air Force or anything else. When it came to figuring out where am I going to go in the military? And what I find most interesting, from my understanding before your actual 2010 deployment, your younger brother had previously served in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. Correct. And I was deployed in I was deployed in buzzoole, Iraq in 2004 2000. I left in 2005. And I know, things in Iraq in 2006. Were still very hot. So your brother Steven was already very familiar with deployment and combat. Before you guys left on that 2010 deployment. Did he provide any perspective before you both deployed to Afghanistan?

Unknown:

Yeah, he did. And you're right in 2006, things were still very, very hot. They they lost several people over their injuries and some casualties as well. And, and it was, it was a tough time for for him over there. I know when he came back home. You could tell he was changed. It definitely affected him. And you fast forward a few years to our deployment. You know, we started our pre deployment training and things like that in 2009 And I remember him telling me that I was an NCO at that time. And he obviously I didn't have any combat experience like he did at that point. We both just recently made made sergeant. And he told me to listen to the guys who had deployed before me, regardless of their rank, if they're specialists or privates or whatever it was, didn't matter. You know, listen to them, because they have the experience. And a lot of the guys that I served with, had previously deployed to Afghanistan, as well. And so they they had some familiar knowledge with what was going on in Afghanistan, as opposed to, you know, maybe a deployment to Iraq, which, like you said, is kind of a different landscape in Afghanistan and Iraq. So, you know, the, he said, Just pay attention to what what they're telling you learn from them, because they've been there and they've done the things and don't think don't get a big head about your your rank and think, Oh, well, I outrank you. So I must no more because that's not always true. And I thought that was great advice. And so I did, you know, I would, I would talk to the people who had deployed before, and who had experienced combat and ask them, you know, for their input and their advice on what, what they experienced.

KP:

Yeah, that's actually really, really excellent advice that he gave you. And I can tell you that when I deployed as a second lieutenant, I didn't know my butt from a hole in the ground when it came to anything combat related. And the only thing that really got me through the days, and the actual missions was my NCOs, and the lower enlisted folks. And you can see right here behind me, there's a Bronze Star hanging right here. That's truly not my Bronze Star. That's the bronze star of my entire platoon that got me through some of the tough times. And like you said, there were some fours that really had my back and really took care of me. To this day, I am in debt to them, as far as you know, helping me out and get me through a lot of the tasks that I had to do as a platoon leader. And you know, you mentioned the landscaping. From talking to Afghanistan veterans, you know, the landscape was entirely different than Iraq. So when you and your brother both deployed, what area of Afghanistan Did you deploy to where you both stationed very far from each other? And what was your overall job or mission there?

Unknown:

Yeah, we were both stationed in eastern Afghanistan. He was in Paktia province, and I was in Nangarhar province, along the Pakistan border in a area called Torkham. So there's, if you're familiar with that area, that Torkham gate, in the Khyber Pass area, is where I was stationed. And my job while I was there was to secure the border area. Obviously, not just my job, but our our units job was to secure the border area, because that was a major border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And for people who aren't familiar with Afghanistan, it's a landlocked country. So no, no oceans or anything like that going into Afghanistan. But a good percentage of the supplies that the NATO troops were were using were getting shipped to Afghanistan by cargo ships, and the nearest port was in Pakistan. So you know, all the ships would get offered in Pakistan, and then, you know, on trucks would drive the shipping containers into Afghanistan. So we had to provide security for that border area, the Pakistani military was not always the friendliest to deal with. There was there was one occasion where one of our guys accidentally stepped over the border, into Pakistan, and basically got shoved back into Afghanistan by by the Pakistani soldiers over there. And so they weren't the friendliest to the American military. And when we we found that when we weren't there at the border, they oftentimes would close the border down so that none of the supplies could get across the border. So we were there. Not not like we're gonna go to war with Pakistan, but almost as a show of force, like, okay, don't go pulling any of this crap because we need our supplies and, you know, but that stuff through so, but we're also there to make sure that no terrorist activity was going on. We would stop random travelers, foot traffic and vehicle traffic and make sure that they weren't carrying explosives or weapons that they weren't supposed to have. We had biometric screenings that we would pull random people aside and check them to see if they had any ties to previous Terrorists activity and things like that. So, so we would, we would go through quite a bit on the border there with, with all the people coming through and all the vehicle traffic and everything. We also would go on on missions to other places in that area, we'd fly out to remote villages on helicopters and, and go search through villages for Taliban activity. We did some training with the Afghan army and Afghan border police, as well to kind of teach them some some tactics to help them do their jobs and, and secure their country because ultimately, the goal was that we weren't going to be there forever. And that, hopefully that they would be able to take over security of their own country and maintain whatever gains we had had accomplished while we were there. You know, so, so that was, that was kind of our job in a nutshell. You know, I'm not entirely sure my brother's job. I know, they they did do much more patrols through the villages in their area, again, searching for, you know, Taliban activity and things like that.

KP:

You guys, were not close enough to where you could actually talk on a weekly or a monthly basis just to check in on each other though.

Unknown:

No, we we actually didn't talk at all, from the time that I got into Afghanistan. The last time we spoke was i i actually the last time we saw each other in person was in pre deployment training in Camp Atterbury, Indiana, which is actually a sort of funny story that I talked about in the book, where where I came into chow hall, he happened to be there as well. And he he started making fun of me for all of the the crap that I had hanging off my assault pack, because we were moving to a different different base. And so I if I wanted to take it with me, I had to figure out a way to either stuffed it in or strap it on and, and he was calling me a hobo and told me how it looked like I was homeless, everything. So, you know, he, he, he always like to poke fun at people but but he it was all good natured, you know, humor and stuff like that. But yeah, but it was it was good time. So, so yeah, that was the last time I think I actually spoke with him. The only other communication I had with him, was really third party through my parents, like if I called home and talk to them, they would relay messages from him, when he called home and kind of talk to them and said what he was up to. We tried. If anyone who's ever been to Afghanistan knows the cell phones that they have over there, you can buy in any of the local markets or on Bagram Airbase, I think is where I got mine. You can buy a cheap cell phone with a SIM card. And he had one too. We tried calling and connecting a couple times, but never never got through.

KP:

Yeah, it's amazing. I felt like every year, as the war progressed through, there was always something new coming in. So like, when I left in 2005, the guys with the AC us and the new generation striker were coming in. And if I felt like as the years go on, there was more things that became available. Like you mentioned cell phones. You mentioned Camp Atterbury. And I smiled. And I kind of chuckled because when I was in the National Guard, Camp Atterbury was where we normally did our our, our 80. Okay, annual training. So I'm very familiar with atterberry. I'm very familiar with what they call those px warriors where like, you go to the PX you buy a bunch of crap that you put on so I can in my head, I can imagine your brother. Yeah, giving you some harassment over that. Yep. And him being you know, a weather war veteran already. You know, him giving you some some, at least a little bit of crap about it. And take me back to Afghanistan, to the day that you actually found out about your brother's death, where where exactly, were you? Where was he at? And and how did you find out?

Unknown:

Yeah, so I guess I'll start with where he was at in what he was doing that day. So His unit was on patrol in a village near their base. And they had been to this village before they they knew that there was Taliban activity going on in this village. They they were familiar with the capabilities and the layout of this village. And so they were they had intelligence that there was stuff going on and they were they're going to try to poke it out and figure out where it was and capture kill whatever they needed to do for for that particular mission. So as they're walking in, they they're spread out, you know, like any good infantry squads going to be your platoon in this case would be there, they're pretty well spread out. And they're coming around this, the way the train was there's, there's sort of this hill on the side of the village. And so some of them in order to be spread out and also stay on line with each other, you don't want people too far back either. Because if you have to start shooting, you don't want to be behind your, your people who you're with. So add some people up on this hill and some people down lower. And so as they're coming around this hill, they walk basically into an ambush. And they started taking fire from from that area. So everyone, you know, don't recover, returned fire like they're supposed to do. And as my my brother, he was, he found some cover, it wasn't the best cover, obviously. But he went to go turn around to yell something to some of the people who are kind of behind him a little bit off on the side. And as, as he was about to start talking, he has had kind of jerked back and he fell back on his assault pack. And he was killed pretty much instantly. After that he was he was shot and killed. And you know, so at that point, the the mission went from, you know, let's go into the village and try to figure out where, where the Taliban is to now we have to recover his body. And you know, like any good soldier would would say, you know, never leave a fallen soldier. And that's exactly what they did. So they went and recovered him. But it made that firefight that much more difficult for them. Because not only was my brother no longer able to return fire in this firefight. But the four guys who are carrying him out, also, were no longer able to return fire. So now they had five people out of the fight out of a, you know, maybe I'd say probably about 40 or so people so so that's a fairly significant number of people who are no longer able to return fire. And then they also unfortunately, had in that recovery effort, they had another soldier who was killed, as well. And so now they're down 10 people, there's four people carrying each each person and they're just down that many, that many guns, and it was a significant reduction in their their firepower and their ability to fight back. So, so that was that was their their day and and trying to trying to get out of that area was just a nightmare. The terrain over and Afghanistan, for anyone who's ever been there, they know, the train is very loose rock jagged rocks, a lot of times, and so on, as they're trying to move down this hill to get to a kind of safe location, they were slipping and sliding the whole way down, they ended up sliding themselves in the bodies of the fallen down down the hill. And at the base of the hill was a house that was kind of built into the base of the hill. And so they slid onto the roof of this house and found their way inside, they cleared the building, and use that as their casualty collection point. And, and then try to regroup and kind of, I guess, figure out what to do from there. That firefight that they were in lasted for hours. And anyone who's ever been in a firefight knows that five minutes could seem like an eternity in a firefight. And so I can only imagine just how it drained and exhausted not only mentally exhausted from you know, the loss of their, their friends, and from getting shot at and everything but, but also physically exhausted, because of just how difficult the train was and how long they had to sustain that that firefight. So it was just a terribly difficult time for them. That same day, I was on another mission in also in eastern Afghanistan, but in a different area. And we flew in the night before. And we were conducting a joint operation with the Afghan army. So we have to wait for the sun to rise in order for us to start because the Afghan army does not have or did not have at that time, night vision capability. So it wasn't like we can go operate through a village just using night vision because they'd be tripping over everything and just wouldn't be worth it. So so we waited for the sun to come up. And, you know, we went through and what we're doing I like to kind of equate to, like Driver's Ed, where we were sort of the driver's ed instructors and the Afghan army were the students and so they were behind The wheel, they were conducting the operations. But we were there to pump the brakes if things got a little out of control, so. So we were there, just kind of as an advisory role, and we were helping them go through the village and everything. And as we're going through the village, I got a call on the radio from the commanding officer looking specifically for me, and at the time, I was an E five sergeant. And usually there's a chain of command that these sorts of things go through. And when he was looking specifically for me, red flags, were going off my head, saying, Okay, I either did something really good, or I screwed something up royally. And I couldn't think of anything extraordinary that I'd done that day. I mean, I did my job, but nothing, nothing so phenomenal that it warranted, you know, being being called out by the commanding commanding officer. So I was like, Okay, what, what went on here. So, after rattling my brain trying to figure it out, I eventually linked up with him, and, and he tells me that, that my brother unit got got into, or got ambushed, and that my brother had gotten hit. Now, up until this point in the deployment, it never crossed my mind that anything bad like this could happen to my brother, I, to me, it was like, we're both gonna be fine, we're both going to come home, or we were going to go back to our jobs and our families and go back to living life, like we always did after this deployment. And death was not even something that ever crossed my mind. I think that was kind of a defense mechanism that I had for myself, where, if, if I thought that anything bad could happen to him, I wouldn't be able to do my own job, I wouldn't be able to lead my my troops or anything like that. So I, I had to just make myself believe that he was gonna be fine. I mean, this wasn't his first deployment. He knew what to expect. And he he'd be fine. Right? And, and so at that point, when I found out that he had been been hit, I was still in that denial state where, where I was like, Okay, well, he got hit, alright, cool, let's, let's figure out how I can get to him and go, go be with him to support him. And, you know, if he needs a blood donation, or if he needs an organ, or whatever he needs, if I have it, he can, he can have it. And, but let's figure out that the logistics, let's get me out of here and get me to him. But what I didn't understand was that he was killed. And so when I, the commanding officer told me, yeah, he's been, he's been killed. I just, I was in complete disbelief, and I broke down, I was crying I, I couldn't, I couldn't compose myself, it was just such a hard thing to deal with. But just a few minutes after finding out that he was killed about maybe 20 minutes or so our own unit started taking fire from the village that we had just come out of, obviously, the the Afghan army who was going through the village clearing it for weapons and, and things like that did not do a great job, because they missed the RPGs that they were shooting at us and the AK 47 and other you know, guns like that. So we, we had to get back into the fight. And I had to put the the grieving side of me aside, I had to put my personal issues aside, as much as I wanted to hang on to that and, and continue to grieve, I knew that if I if I did, I wouldn't be able to leave my my soldiers and that something bad could happen to them. And I didn't want that to happen. I didn't want to end up having to look their families in the eye and say, Yeah, your your loved ones no longer here because I couldn't keep my, my head, right, you know, I couldn't get myself together. And so you know, I put the grief aside, but that very quickly turned to anger. And I had these like fleeting moments of like, okay, I'm just gonna go down, I'm gonna just kill every Afghan I see in this village. Like, I just had these extreme bursts of anger coming through me but, but I also knew that if I was to do something stupid like that, that I, I wouldn't make it out alive. And I couldn't do that to my my parents, to my wife to my newborn son who was at home. I couldn't do that to any of them and have them lose two people on the same day because I couldn't keep my stuff together. So I said, You know what, I got to just put this aside, put my personal issues aside and just go and do my job. That's the safest way for me to make it home for my family, the safest way for my my guys to make it home to their families. And that's what Want, if I, if I flipped out and lost control, then the Taliban won that day. And they would end up with with a higher body comp and they they ended up with. And I didn't want that to happen. So so I had to get my head right. And, and I did, I went in just did my job, I made sure my guys were positioned where they needed to be made sure that they had the supplies that they needed ammo and everything like that. But we, we did what we needed to do. And then I realized I I'd be able to grieve, afterwards, I have a whole lifetime to grieve after this, I just need to make it through this day.

KP:

Well, I mean, it's got, again, tell you in how I can't, I can't I can't even imagine having been in combat myself having been under fire having dealt with IEDs. I mean, I can't imagine that's just a lot of emotional intelligence and courage, tough mentality, that that's going through your head within 24 hour, less than a 24 hour period, Scott, and, you know, that defense mechanism that you're talking about, I also discovered that too. And it was so funny that when I was a platoon leader, whenever somebody was hurt or killed, and whether it was a civilian, or it was a, you know, fellow soldier, whatever it was like, especially if it was a contractor, like in my mind, I was just like, oh, well, like they, they signed up for this, they wanted the money, whatever the case was, if it was a soldier was obviously different, or if it was a military was obviously different. But I found that like a lot of the soldiers that were a part of that experience, we would have like five soldiers standing around one dead body. And those five soldiers would process that experience differently. For me, it was like if it was a contractor, I was like, well, they accepted $100,000. And this is what this is what happens. And then I would just move on with myself. And so I would also create those defense mechanisms. But then some people would humanize that person and go, Well, that was somebody, encore, that was somebody's dad. And I would think to myself, why are you thinking like that? You can't do that you're not going to last this entire year? I'm thinking like that. Right? So and I want to ask you, Scott, man, when you came back from your deployment was, how long was it before you could actually open up and talk about these things? Because right now you're, you're very courageous when it comes to talking about your situation, everything that you just described right there. Having been through this myself, I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have lost my brother and also be in a firefight at the same time and try to put all these things aside. Was there a time period where you just kind of closed up and you and you and you put yourself in your shell and didn't talk to anyone about any of this stuff?

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when I first came home, after my brother's funeral, I had to go back to Camp Atterbury and to the out processing, whatever the post deployment, demobilization process, and there's all sorts of screenings, there's, there's medical screenings, there's mental health screenings, there's, you know, all sorts of paperwork and all that kind of stuff that you have to go through. But when I got to the, the mental health counselors that were were talking to me, and I know, they're just doing the job, and you know, a lot of times it's check the box and move on that thing. But I didn't want to risk being away from my family for a second longer than I absolutely needed to be. And so I lied through my teeth through the, through the interviews that I had in the sessions that I went to, because I didn't I didn't want to end up being forced to stay at Camp Atterbury. First off, this is a completely different topic, but I don't know why I had to go to Camp Atterbury for demobilization stuff anyways, it's not like we don't have VA facilities or, you know, military facilities in Connecticut, where we were anyways, like, why couldn't I do that stuff there in Connecticut? Where I could be home at night and be with my family. But, but that's a completely different topic. But yeah, I mean, I just I was like, you know, I don't want to have to deal with this. I don't want to be stuck here and being away from my family. So I was like, yeah, no, everything's fine. And when I got home, I tried to pretend like everything was fine to it. It was it was just a way that I was I was kind of lying to myself. You know, we, we tell ourselves, suck it up and deal with it. Just be a man You know, deal with all that kind of stuff? And I was like, Okay, fine, I'll just deal with it. Yeah, it sucks right now. But, you know, in a couple couple weeks go months, this will blow over, it'll be fine. Problem was it wasn't fine. I closed up so much. And I was just dealing with so many things processing so many things on my own, it just was so hard for me to just live life. I had severe memory issues where there's big chunks of time that I just don't remember anything of any significance. My, my wife was, my wife and I got tickets to go see the blue man group a few few months after coming back home from from Afghanistan. And a few years later, my wife and I were in Las Vegas, and we saw a big sign for the Blue Man Group. And I said, Oh, you know, I've always wanted to see them. And it'd be cool if we can go get get tickets and go see them here. And she's like, she looked at me, like, I had three heads, like, what is your problem? We went to go see them a few years ago, in, you know, after you got back from Afghanistan, and I have no to this day, I still have no recollection of that. She even said, you know, Give me specifics about people that we we saw there, like other family members that we saw there and talk to them, I don't recall this at all. And, and so I dealt with, with quite a bit. And, and looking back on it now, I did myself such a huge disservice by not talking to someone at the time. You know, like, my son's first birthday, I can't remember. But but it was, it was more than just a memory issue. So it was it was the way I I was dealing with things. You know, I totally avoided the counseling. But, you know, I, the way I was dealing with stuff was I couldn't sleep. So I would drink so much that I'd pass out and fall asleep, you know, and then the next morning, I'd wake up hungover, and so I was drinking a ton of coffee to get myself through the day. And at first, that was okay, it was working. But then it got later and later in the day, and then I was still drinking coffee, and that affected my sleep even more. And then then it just became this vicious cycle. Throughout the day I was I was either drinking coffee or alcohol just to get myself through whatever it was that I was trying to get through. And my anger issues continued, you know, the anger that I felt on that mountain, you know, when we're getting attacked, I that anger never, I can't say never went away. But it I had a form of anger at one point or another throughout that whole period, and I just was continuing to spiral and get worse and worse and worse. And it it just was just such a bad situation. And looking back on it now how easily it could have been avoided. But I was just I guess too stubborn at the time to see it and be able to deal with it in a healthy way.

KP:

Yeah, I certainly understand where you're coming from on that, Scott, because one of the toughest things I had to deal with after being at war was coming back here. And mentally looking, looking back, I was also checked out for months and months and months and more. So I also failed to deal with so my own demons for a number of years, I avoided the VA avoid counseling, it was like, literally an attempt to hide and put a lot of the awards and memories of my time in Iraq away. And for you everything that you had actually gone through I can't imagine, like I said, the amount of courage that it's taking you to be where you're at today. I highly commend you for that. And, you know, just last July, August, with what happened in Afghanistan with the US troop pullout of Afghanistan. You know, did you feel? Did you feel that triggering again, as far as some of those feelings that you had after you came back? And can you tell us how that over how that overall made you feel?

Unknown:

Yeah, you know, at first when when the news kind of broke that this was probably looking at being kind of botched, you know, the way the way we pulled out it, it hurt. When I first heard about it, it was not the news I wanted to hear. You know, when I was in Afghanistan, I remember talking to one of the one of our interpreters, who was an Afghan guy and saying to him that you know I I don't mind being there, being there in Afghanistan, so long as my my children don't end up having to come here to fight continue fighting and to finish what we started in our generation. I hope that this this is a war that can have an end in sight and that things get better here. So when I saw the withdrawal and the Taliban taking over, I was thinking to myself, it's only a matter of time before things happen again, that another, you know, bin Laden, you know, steps in his place and, and takes over the certain areas and, and God forbid, another 911 takes place. And it really just irked me when I started thinking about that, but, but then I started thinking about my brother and the 1000s of other people who were killed over in Afghanistan. And I was trying to think, you know, it wasn't worth it. What What was the, the silver lining, and, and I don't feel like the lives that were lost, including my brothers were lost for nothing, there's there was a lot of good that was done by by taking the fight over to the enemy, by by fighting over there, we essentially prevented another 911 style attack here in America by having a fight in their backyard and not ours. So I look at that in a positive way that, yeah, there were lives lost my brother, you know, I had had dreams of us, you know, having having families and having our kids grow up together the way I did with my cousins and everything. And, you know, I really was looking forward to that. And obviously, that, that can't happen now. But you know, at least there's the silver lining there is there's some other families who do have the ability to grow old and, and start families and get married and all that stuff that that life has to offer. And, and so I look at that, as you know, there's, there's so many Americans that are probably alive today that may not have been had, we not done anything over there in Afghanistan. And I feel like we also save probably a number of Afghan lives as well by by making it so that they didn't have to live under the Taliban for those 20 years, right. So, you know, if the Taliban ruled over that, that country for for all those years, then you know, that they're very well could have been more people who are, who are gone from from their, you know, oppressive rule and everything. But we also provided things like schools where little girls got a chance to go to school for the first time, like ever, pretty much, you know, and, you know, other infrastructure and things like that to places were in Afghanistan, where they never had this type of stuff. So they got to taste a little bit of freedom, a little bit of the, the benefits of education granted, the education system over there wasn't anything spectacular, but, but it's better than what they had before. And so my hope is that they will, they will take those lessons. And now some of those, those little girls who went to school while we were there, they're older now and potentially have families of their own. And I know, as a parent, I want better for my children than than what I had growing up. And if that's true with them, you know, they had an opportunity to go to school, and now their children don't. And so I'm hoping that they they use that as kind of fuel to, to fight back and push back against the Taliban. And there's a story that I tell in the book about my my grandmother, who in I think it was 1968, she was diagnosed with cancer. And so she went to the doctor, obviously, and got treatment and went into remission. And it was was good for a while. And she ended up living until 1989, where the cancer came back earlier and ended up taking taking her from us. But that was about a 20 year period that she got to live from, from the time that she was first diagnosed with cancer to the time that she ultimately passed away. And I think about that time period and say, you know, was that 20 years? Was it the efforts of the doctors in 1968? Was that? Was that a wasted effort? Obviously not because she got another 20 years of life, she got to meet most of her grandkids and she got to experience life for it for that time period. And yes, ultimately, she she was taken from us but you know, she's still got to experience life for that that time period and I look at the Afghan people as as the patient and the the NATO troops as the doctors and the Taliban as the cancer. And so while we we got rid of the cancer served for a little while, made it so if they weren't completely terrorizing them every single day, you know, we, you know, ultimately they came back and took over and now Afghanistan still there that people are still there. I hope that they have another fight in them, and they can come back and take over again.

KP:

I always find it so fascinating to hear from Afghan veterans about that circumstance, because for me, my my situation was, you know, it was in Mosul, Iraq, and a few years back watching isis just plow through the curds and plow through mozal Airport and take all that stuff over, man, it it did hurt. There was a part of me that was just kind of like, oh, you know, like, we own that, like, we had that area locked down. We owned it. And, you know, I always like to hear the perspectives of folks that were actually in Afghanistan, because I didn't get a chance to go to Afghanistan. I was just in Iraq. So and, you know, I definitely want to talk about your book, Scott. And here on the morning formation podcast, we focus on transition, sometimes that's education, sometimes it's mental transition. specifically want to talk about the title of your book, would you mind telling us how you came up with it?

Unknown:

Yeah. So the title of the book surviving son comes from an Army Regulation, that's called Surviving sons and daughters. And that regulation deals with the separation or discharge of soldiers from the military. And so it, that regulation says, and I'm paraphrasing a little bit here, obviously, I don't, I don't have the whole thing in front of me. But it said that any son or daughter in a family whose, like parent or another son or daughter in the family, so another sibling, served in the military and was was killed in action, amongst other criteria that they have in there. They're approved to be separated from, from the army. And so the reason why I called the book that is because when I got back from Afghanistan, I only had a little little over a year left in my enlistment. And I had injured myself, while I was in Afghanistan, I had hurt my knee pretty bad. So I needed surgery. And the recovery time was going to take me through to about to just about the end of my enlistment, I, I was going to be on crutches that pretty much that entire time going to physical therapy and doing all that kind of stuff. And I would go to training, and just be sitting there not doing anything, feeling completely useless. And I was getting pretty depressed. And every time I would I would leave for training of any sort. I could see it in my, my family's eyes that they were just so worried about me and in everything that I might be involved with it, they didn't want to lose me too. And I couldn't keep doing that to them. And so I said, I'm really not doing anything other than taking up space and collecting a paycheck for the for the next few months here. It honestly didn't make sense for me to continue with, with my time in the army. So I looked up, is there any way you know, I knew there was like medical discharges. But that wouldn't qualify in my case, because I ultimately was gonna get better. And I could be, you know, still serving and everything so so that wouldn't work. But I thought, Is there any other way that I could potentially get out of the military before my enlistment is over? Because this is just kicking my ass? It's just too much for me right now. And, and so I, I looked into it, and I found the surviving sons and daughters regulation. And so I spent the paperwork to get just charged. And and yeah, so that's, that's pretty much how I ended up getting out of the military, just a couple months before my enlistment was was actually going to be over. But it was it was just to the point where it was hard for me to continue doing what I was doing in the military. So I decided it was it was the best time to just kind of pull the plug on it and get out.

KP:

Yeah, no issues with that at all, man, because at the end of the day, I was the same way. And it's funny that you had to do the legwork to look up that regulation. I had a similar situation where when I went to resign my commission, they tried to tell me that I had an additional three or four years of IR service and I was like, well, that's impossible because I was non scholarship commission. And my time in the National Guard, unlisted counts. So I've done almost a total of eight years now. Don't try to tack on because when I got out, I wanted to get out. I didn't want to get out and then get a job move somewhere and they get called back in again. I was done. I wanted to get out. So I understand, you know where you're at with that. Yeah, you know.

Unknown:

Yeah, and that's exactly my thought process too, was that if I, if I just wrote it out until the end of the enlistment, I still had two years of IRR. And I definitely did not at all in any way, shape or form will go back overseas, and which is what would have happened if I got called up, you know, under IRR. And so I knew that, at least, I was still in a in a place where my chain of command was, was willing to, you know, help me out and get me out of here. But if I went to some other, you know, other unit, they may not be so, so willing to accept the discharge through that. So, you know, I said, you know, that it's even our never and, and so I didn't really want to roll the dice on that.

KP:

No shame in that at all. Because at the end of the day, we've done more than most, that's for sure, Scott, and you had been through a tremendous amount of grief and stress and anger and, and, you know, you had to overcome a lot. And I understand that what you shared in the book was some raw details of yourself some darker aspects of your journey and what you had to overcome to get where you are now, for veterans out there who might be suffering in silence? What advice do you have for them to help process and progress towards their own life goals, whether it be personal or career?

Unknown:

Yeah, so I think the biggest thing, if you're out there suffering in silence, there's, there's no reason for it, you, you can talk to somebody, you can go to the VA, a lot of people, if they're not comfortable with going to the VA, for one reason or another, or maybe they're not even able to go to the VA because of you know, the nature of their discharge or whatever, there are other organizations out there that are out there to help they want to help veterans, some organizations are out there, they don't care, if you serve one day, and then got out, they are there to help process, whatever, whatever it is that you're dealing with. And so, go talk to someone, when I when I finally decided to go get help, which, which eventually I did. It was it was such a relief to me, it made me realize that, that I didn't have to carry this, this burden around, you know, my of my past all by myself, and someone was there to help me. Not that they were gonna necessarily carry it for me and take it off me, but they're gonna help me figure out how to how to deal with it and compartmentalize and, and work through some of the issues that I was having. And so, you know, I, I think it is made my life better to be able to talk about it, you know, in a selfish way, you know, talking on podcasts like this, or even on my own podcast, we talk about different things. And it's almost a form of therapy in and of itself by by being able to have these conversations. So, you know, just just being able to talk, even if it's not in an official, therapist, kind of session, whatever, find someone who, who cares about you. If they really truly care about you, they'll they'll listen to what you have to say if you're if you're truly sincere, that there's there's something that that's going on, you need to talk about it, they'll talk to you. And if they don't have the the best advice, they can help you figure out you know, what, what to do what the next steps are so so just talk to someone. You know, I think that's the probably the best advice that I could give to people. Getting your your, your thoughts out there and off off of out of your head really are a great, great way to kind of clear up some of that space.

KP:

I certainly agree, Scott. And you know, I always I always make this comment when I got out in 2007. The biggest thing social media platform wise was MySpace, and today we have Facebook, we've got LinkedIn, we've got Instagram, we got all these different ones out there and connecting with folks. Like I feel it when I when I talk to folks like you who have been combat before and we have I wasn't Afghanistan and Iraq but we have similar experiences like some of the things you talked about today. I wanted to dive deeper in but just due to time I didn't like everything you mentioned earlier about training the Afghans like I had some experience training the Iraqis and we could we could dive down that rabbit hole another time, Scott. But I just really quickly I want to before we wrap things up here I want to talk about your podcast and and your your your podcast itself. What actually brought you to the table to create your podcast Dr. On

Unknown:

Yeah. So when I came back from Afghanistan, several people that I served with, ended up taking their own lives in August. One is too many. But the numbers kept creeping up, there's no one and then two, and then it just, it just kept going. And I just wasn't okay, sitting around waiting for that next phone call, or text message saying that someone else took their own lives so. And I also realized that it wasn't a just a problem with the people who I served with, but also just with people throughout the the military in general, veterans serve active Lee serving, you know, even reserves and stuff like that it was just a problem that was widespread. So I wanted to do something that would reach as many people as possible. And so I thought of doing this podcast, the drive on podcast, where where we talk to other veterans about their experiences, kind of like what we did today, and share their stories and and give hope to the veterans who are out there who might be like you were saying before suffering in silence. But we also talked about other resources that are available different different organizations that are providing resources to veterans that that you may just not even know about, because you haven't heard about them before. But but there's plenty of organizations out there that are doing great things for veterans. And ultimately, the the name of the game is to give hope to those who are suffering.

KP:

I'm sorry, it's not it's not easy to come to the table and talk about your own experiences. A lot of this. A lot of stuff that I have in the background here is are things that I had literally put away and stuffed away and totes and whatnot and hadn't looked at and talk much about. So seeking counselling was something that probably saved my life. And it was something that I avoided for years. So I understand what you're saying. And also connecting with folks who are like my didn't have like my like experiences, whether it be serving the military, whatnot, is something that's sort of therapeutic for me as well. And Scott, for folks out there who might be interested in the book, where can they find information on the book? And where can they purchase the book?

Unknown:

Yeah, so the book you can get on Amazon. It's in Kindle paperback hardcover formats. And you can also go through my website, surviving son book.com. And as far as the the podcast, strive on podcast.com is a website. But anywhere that you listen to podcast, wherever you're listening to this one, right now, you can subscribe to drive on podcast, and social media. We're on all the major Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, all at drive on podcast, so you can find it there.

KP:

And for anyone listening as well, you can take a look at the show notes, all the information will be down there, I'll put all of Scott's social platforms as well as the Amazon link where you can purchase the book, I just got the book, and it's something that I'm going to certainly dig into. Because I know that there's a lot of information in here that I'm going to be able to relate to just based off of our our conversation today. And Scott, I want to ask you, do you have any final message to our audience members out there listening?

Unknown:

Yeah, so, you know, one of the things I think I like to just remind people is that you've already survived 100% of your bad day, so far, the future in your world may not seem like it's bright for you right now. But it'll get better. I think about when I was in basic training, when, when we woke up, we go to PT, which was usually cold and sucked. But then we had breakfast, which was warm and, and nice, you know, the food wasn't the best necessarily, but it was something I could look forward to. And then we go do something else that sucked for a few more hours, and then we'd have lunch and then some something else that sucked. And then we'd have dinner, and then a little more suck, and then we'd go to bed. And the point is that even through all that suck all the the things that I didn't enjoy doing, there were so little moments that I could I could look forward to, there were I think I literally got through basic training one meal at a time, even the crappy MRE was something to look forward to, except for the omelets because those were just terrible, but, but even still there, they're still there was still just one meal out of the day. So you find those little things and you can appreciate and look forward to them. And if you have nothing in your life right now, to look forward to create something, you know, make, make it so that you you have a I don't know if there's a snack or something that you enjoy, make it so that you know at the end of the day, you can look forward to that and have that at the end of the day. And that's your little special thing to help you get through the day. And and just find something that you can look forward to a guarantee that something that you can enjoy even no matter how small it is, and and you know hopefully it's something big so that gives you a sense of purpose and meaning but, but start with baby steps. If you need to crawl first then you can walk and then you can run just like we did in the Okay.

KP:

Most certainly. And the one thing I like to think about is, is the idea of this too shall pass. So if you're going through a rough time, this too shall pass. And, you know, hang in there stay strong. And you've mentioned MRE and right back here. I have one MRE sitting there, it's expired. I often wonder what happened, what would happen if I ripped it open? Just ate it. You know what, I get completely sick, or you always hear those things last forever. But you know, they do have an expiration. Yeah,

Unknown:

it's been nice knowing Yeah.

KP:

If I get too desperate, or anything, I guess I'm waiting for the big earthquake here in California, and I'm trapped in this in this office shed here. You know, that that I call podcast studio and I have to eat it, then you know, then. So be it. Right. Scott, I just want to thank you for sitting down with us today. I'm certainly dedicating this episode to your warrior brother, Stephen, who honorably served a great nation. And I'm truly honored to have sat down with you and have this conversation as well. And, and I can't tell you how appreciative I am, because I know that you're an extremely busy individual. So thank you for sitting down with the morning formation today. Yeah, absolutely. I

Unknown:

really appreciate the opportunity to come on and share my story. So so thank you for that.

KP:

Yeah, I really hope that we could do some some other things in the future as well, because I definitely can connect with some of the things that you're talking about. And, you know, and, you know, the, the morning formation, you know, you talked about some of the the crappy times that we have, well, I'm not a morning person I don't like I didn't like the morning formation. But when I look back at it, you know, it was before PT in the morning, and it was real crappy. But at the end of the day, I can look back at it and think about several times where, you know, we went out and we did things and that was a time for us to get together and group up and connect and talk about what we did over the weekend, but then also take accountability of each other. And so that's why I named the show the morning formation because like you said, I morning formation sucked. But at the end of the day, that was kind of what brought us together at that one point every day to take accountability and check on each other. So thank you for being a part of the show today. Scott, thank you asked for Scott and I that'll be a wrap for the morning formation podcast for everyone out there. I want you to stay tuned, stay focused and stay motivated. Warriors Fallout