Dan Nevins, Iraq vet, and his message to Veterans about Yoga.

Thank you for your Service.

“Yoga? First I am a dude, second I am a soldier.”

Invited to NYC to talk to 9/11 families and firefighters for PTSD.

Dan Nevins is a professional speaker who has been inspiring audiences around the world with his message of perseverance, resiliency and hope for more than a decade. A highly decorated soldier, Dan was severely injured during combat in Iraq in 2004 after an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated beneath his vehicle. He lost both legs below the knee, and lives with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the emotional wounds of war. Dan credits Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) with his successful rehabilitation, which instilled a “can-do” attitude, positive outlook and passion for helping his fellow wounded warriors in him. He quickly became an advocate for the organization, inspiring both his peers and the public to create positive change for themselves and those around them, simply by sharing his powerful story. Dan’s charismatic personality and relatable, lively approach resonated with audiences of all shapes and sizes, and he soon found himself sharing his story with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. In 2008, Dan received WWP’s highest honor, the George C. Lang Award for Courage, for his efforts on behalf of the organization. He went on to become the director of WWP’s Warriors Speak program, where he taught other wounded warriors and their caregivers how to share their stories with the public and serve as spokespeople for the organization, much like he had.

“We all have traumas in life.”

More recently, Dan discovered the life-changing power of yoga, which has enabled him to heal from the invisible wounds of war in a way that nothing else could. He quickly realized that other wounded warriors could benefit from yoga in the same way and knew he had to become an instructor. Dan became a Baptiste Yoga teacher in 2015, and now incorporates the notion of “yoga for every-body” into his speeches and classes, encouraging people from all walks of life – and veterans in particular – to take up the practice. Word of Dan’s efforts spread quickly, and he has been invited to teach yoga throughout the world, from the White House in Washington, DC to the Africa Yoga Project in Nairobi, Kenya. Nowadays, when he’s not leading classes for hundreds of participants, Dan can usually be found sharing his passion for life, WWP, yoga and his fellow wounded warriors with the attendees of major events ranging from the Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway to the Wisdom 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. However, Dan refuses to rest on his laurels, and is continuously searching for new ways to help other veterans. In late 2015, he decided to take his advocacy work one step further and established the Yodha Foundation. Through the foundation, he is developing the Warrior Spirit Retreat, a non-profit that will empower warriors and their families to greater possibilities by providing them with new tools for healing from the invisible wounds of war. Set on a serene organic family farm in St. Augustine, Florida, the holistic retreat will offer a curriculum centered on yoga, mindfulness and meditation, and will be free of charge to veterans and their families.

Portraits of Soldiers Before and After War. We are the not dead.

This article was “where it all began”. Not only you can see how trauma transformed their faces, but also, their rite passage from Young men to men; from hell and back.

Photographer Lalage Snow, who is currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan, embarked on an 8-month-long project titled We Are The Not Dead featuring portraits of British soldiers before, during, and after their deployment in Afghanistan. Similar to Claire Felicie’s series of monochromatic triptychs, Snow captures the innocent expressions of these men transformed into gaunt, sullen faces in less than a year. The three-panel juxtaposition allows the viewer to observe the physical changes a stationed soldier in a war zone goes through. Time is sped up for these men under the beating sun, amidst combat. Regardless of age, the boys that went in came back as men with experiences beyond their years. As weathered and worn as their skin or sunken in faces may appear, it’s their dilated eyes that are the most telling.

Additionally, Snow’s series accompanies each triptych with quotes from each of the servicemen that gives a great deal of insight into their mental and emotional state at each given time. Sergeant Alexander McBroom’s first portrait, before deployment, features him bravely saying, “I am not worried about going out – it is my job after all.” Three months later, he is quoted as saying, “It has been an eye opener.” And, finally, another four months after, he says, “It is always that fear, that apprehension, what is going to happen if I get blown up?” Having gone through life-altering trials and warfare, it is no surprise that fear is no longer a foreign feeling to these courageous men.

Snow’s intention with the series is to not only honor their bravery by featuring them, but to also draw attention to every soldiers’ psychological transformation. She says, “It was a very personal project and stemmed from having embedded with the military on and off for 4 years in Iraq and Afghanistan and bearing witness to how many young men return as shadows of their former selves and, in many cases, with deep, psychological scars. As the body count of British servicemen killed or wounded rose and the political ramifications of the British army’s presence in Afghanistan became increasingly convoluted, more and more soldiers felt like they didn’t have a voice, or at least, weren’t being listened to. We Are The Not Dead is an attempt at giving the brave young men and women the chance to explain how it really is.”

Beware to trigger.

With courtey of https://mymodernmet.com/lalage-snow-we-are-the-not-dead/

Poppies for Hope and Peace.

On 11th November, both French and Brits remember the end of First World War.

When I first arrived in Paris, in the end of 2007, I didn’t even imagine that they were celebrating this official date on the European Agenda. Cos in Italy, my home Country, the war ends on 4th of november, but I don’t have any memory of this event’s celebration.

Did we win? Yes, after connecting with the Net, I can validate that we won and allied were the US. Most famous camerade Ernest Hemingway did participate to the special event in Northern Italy, and wrote “Fiesta” once passing by in Paris.

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Ernest Hemingway with Agnes in Milan 1918.

The UK ceremony fot this 11th november was stunning. Here you get what’s about.

A poppy is an acknowledgement of those who came before us and fought for our freedom and lost their lives doing it. #Neverforget is more than just words for us.

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Poppies were found growing fast around graves around the time the First World War ended. They mark not just the end of war but the hope for a better future and a better way.

Queen Elizabeth has been seen wearing five poppies since 2016. Some say that she has chosen to do so to represent the five services active in the World Wars.

They help vets
During 1922, disabled former soldiers were put to work making poppies in factories. Several organisations have since continued making them to raise money to support former soldiers.

Other countries wear them too
Apart from the UK, poppies are used in Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The Royal British Legion sends around three million poppies to 120 different countries, including France, Germany, Sri Lanka, Cyprus and Spain.

With courtesy of Forces Penpals the official website for military support dating and social networking.

 

Next Mission: PTSD at home. Veterans breaking the Silence.

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Actually, I am living this situation at work. Yes, I am the weak link.  And yes, I was the first and only one to break the silence. So, what?

Do you know the story of someone who is sitting on the edge of the river waiting for his dead enemy’s body passing by?

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Seriously, it took me 1 month and a half to take an appointment with a psychologist after my burn out. Sometimes it’s life or death.

***

“ah, post traumatic stress disorders, what a wimp, the weak link and then, you are not promoted anymore, you are not going on the next tour ….”

“So, how do you save your self?”

First step, you come forward and admit you have a problem;

second step, finding the right people to listen to your concern and be able to point out the right direction to get the help you need;

step three, finding the right therapy; either a pills prescription or whatever.

“Delay, deny and die.”

Hey, it’s safe to take off your armor: “Veterans struggling with civilian life are urged to join a new Peer Support Service.”

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Former servicemen and women who are struggling to cope with life outside of the military are being urged to sign up to a Peer Support Service, delivered by veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress.

Led by veterans for veterans, it’s the first UK-wide service of its kind for those with mental health problems. The Peer Support Service, funded by The Royal British Legion, helps those veterans whose mental health has been affected by their time in the Armed Forces, and who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation after leaving the military.

For many former servicemen and women, the adjustment to civilian life can be confusing and distressing, leaving them struggling with changes to their identity and feeling that few people around them truly understand what they’re experiencing. This can be even more isolating if the veteran develops symptoms of mental health conditions.

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The Peer Support Service offers former servicemen and women a chance to share their experiences, receive support and socialise with others who have had similar experiences.

So far 28 groups have been established by Combat Stress in towns and cities around the UK, with more planned.

Veterans who have been supported by or worked for Combat Stress are co-ordinating the regional groups. They include James Saunders who served for six years in the Royal Artillery and overcame injuries associated with his experiences in the Gulf War.

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James said: “Mental health problems can make even the simplest things seem hard to do but this service is a way for veterans to easily access support and advice. Veterans have the chance to come along to small group meetings or to meet the regional co-ordinators individually.”

Carol Smith, Director Client Services at Combat Stress, said: “I’d like to thank The Royal British Legion for funding the Peer Support Service.

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“Research has suggested that social support has a positive impact on mental health and the effects of trauma. Peer support aims to help by increasing social interaction amongst individuals who may otherwise feel isolated or stigmatised.”

Veterans with mental health problems can call the Combat Stress 24-hour mental health helpline on 0800 138 1619 to be referred to the service.

 

With Courtesy of www.forcespenpals.co.uk

 

 

Anna Coleman Ladd, dignity and face masks.

 

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One century ago WWI changed our way to make war forever. Powerful arms, and body-to-body combat left horrible wounds on men when they could survive.

Social anxiety was at the top, of course, so when they came back to their home, most of them were not accepted and rejected for their damaged body image. War vets with evident mutilations were compared to betrayal and cowards.

There we need the touch of a kind-at-heart and so talented woman, whose skills you can see in the rare pictures I will add above this article. She gave finally back heros the dignity they deserved on a battlefield.

God bless Red Cross ladies and artists like Anna Coleman Ladd.

xx

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to work as a sculptor

"Triton Babies" in the Boston Public Garden “Triton Babies” in the Boston Public Garden

Anna Coleman Watts Ladd (1878 – 1939) was an American sculptor in the Boston area who devoted her time throughout World War I to soldiers who were disfigured.

Anna Coleman Watts was born in Philadelphia and educated in Europe, where she studied sculpture in Paris and Rome. She moved to Boston in 1905 when she married Dr. Maynard Ladd, and there studied with Bela Pratt for three years at the Boston Museum School. “Triton Babies” (shown here, now a fountain in Boston’s Public Garden) was shown at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. In 1916 she was a founder of the Guild of Boston Artists, where she held a one-woman show.

In late 1917, in Paris, Ladd founded the American Red Cross “Studio for Portrait-Masks” to provide cosmetic masks to be worn by men who had been badly disfigured in World War…

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The Pursuit of Happiness vs Search of Meaning.

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When I started to look for my purpose, I was recovering from occupational burn out, and PTSD ( except I didn’t understand it ). My doctor played a mentor’s role in the story and he pushed me to my life questioning. Before that, I was completely unaware and in so-called hamster wheel.

In february 2016, I lost a camerade, at work, for a stroke, at 7 am. He was, apparently, quarelling with his manager when he fell down on the ground.  They brought him to the hospital by a first aid helicopter, but it was too late. A stroke requires fast help, and perhaps, unhappily, it was not the case. When I arrived in the morning, I passed by the direction office, and heard the executive director preparing his speech for the team talk.

He was calling, on the phone, for all the team staff and occupational doctor, in order to announce that R. my brit camerade, aged 43, was lying in a hospital bed, waiting to cut his hoxygene off. They were just waiting for his parents to come from the UK. He left 4 children and a wife. Sure, you first wonder how it would be like if you were at his place. The fact is that in the early morning, at wake up, 6h45 am, I did my routine mindfulness meditation, and I remember addressing my Self to “above” to submit my service into something bigger than my ego, and my own will. If you see what I mean. We often ask and beg for what we want for us and we never put our selves in a humbling position.

Don’t ask what your Life can do for you, but what you can do for your Life“.

As soon as I stepped into the corridor of the management office, I had the gut feeling that I got my answer or, at least, for just that day. No more excuses, I needed to talk.

So, for the very first time, fearless, I crossed over the door of my executive director, in order to speak out loud and we finally had a powerful, understanding, conversation.  He was in dispair, it was his third loss in a few months, and right after the november attacks, which had such an impact on our workplace, and our spirit. To minimize, my manager tried to tell me that all of us have personal situations which put our health in danger. Work issues wasn’t concerned. Invisible wounds and stress disorders cannot be taken seriously – at a work environement – as a proof of stroke, heart attack or any other health disease, because if you survive, there is a clause of confidentiality. They keep it as a secret. You’d better not talk about. That’s how people get depressive and suicidal, what the hell.

“They say that your purpose is what you struggle with.”

So, the promise I have made to my Self, in that dark upsetting morning, was precisely to take responsability for Me and My own Life. To be honest, from 2015 to 2017, I’ve been writing a memoir in my mother language, that I have tried to get published, but no one showed up unless ahaha! some editing publisher from Rome who complimented me and, as offer, asked me 1500 euros to get my work published. Never mind. What’s the main purpose of all this writing, I wondered, if not healing and sharing? 

***

 

In her book “The Power of Meaning,” Emily Esfahani Smith rounds up the latest research — and the stories of fascinating people she interviewed — to argue that the search for meaning is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness.

 

Our culture is obsessed with happiness. Even though we devote vast amounts of time and resources trying to be happier, many of us feel aimless and alienated nonetheless. With depression and loneliness trending upward for decades and the suicide rate rising around the world — recently reaching a 30-year high in the United States — it’s clear that something is wrong. In recent years, social scientists have been trying to understand what exactly the problem is. What they’ve found is striking. What predicts the rising tide of despair sweeping across society is not a lack of happiness. It’s a lack of something else — a lack of having meaning in life. In fact, chasing and valuing happiness, the way our culture encourages us to do, can actually make people unhappy.

This set Smith on a journey to understand what constitutes a meaningful life. After extensive research and reporting, she came to see that there are four pillars of a meaningful life — and she lays them out in her TED Talk. Ultimately, she discovered that the search for meaning is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness — and we all have the power to build more meaning in our lives.

With courtesy of Ted Talk’s Ideas worth spreading

Message to Veterans from Dan Nevins.

Yesterday, it was my birthday, and while in southern France we lost another Iraq vet, Arnaud Beltrame, in a sort of pointless attack to a supermarket, who swapped with a lady, in order to do his job, and then lost his life after injuries, I sent a message to Dan Nevins. And I mentioned that it’s my honour to promote his mission as warrior to help other human beings to heal.

Here is his reply: “Hi Anto! You’re welcome to include my story 🙂 Thank you! 🙂

He called me like friends usually do. Shall I tell you more about how I feel? It is a honour for me to spread out his message. Not only to vets, but whoever is suffering from PTSD.

My unique experience with a french Afghanistan vet wasn’t lucky. He was 29, a nice guy with spanish origins, who was very much likely to feel shell shock. We met just once, and then chatting almost during two years, and never met again.  He lived in Paris, and I felt like we were living overseas from each other. His early pictures were quite different from his last pics, after he spent 4 years in the army, as helicopter sniper.

We crossed our path during 2015 attacks, and I thought he would be my hero, but he definetely couldn’t. Nobody’s fault. Self-growth is not suitable to anybody.

Never mind, this post is really meant to focus on who still give a damn to humbly seek for help and want to rehabilitate back from any war missions. And that’s all I want to say about it.

Silver Star winner poses for Norman Rockwell.

rockwell_ontimeOh well, I like the art of Norman Rockwell since my twenties.  As an artist, and painter, he moves me to tears. Here is a nice story of a vet’s daughter that I copy from Tracking the 101st Cavalry, with courtesy of. Before I leave you with this, I’d like to add my small personal experience about WWII. Of course, I am too young for having memories from the war times. But my hometown was on the yellow line, in Italy, and my mother lost his brother at 16 because of a bomb left unexplosed. Actually, she came after his death, in 1946, and she was given his brother’s name, Tonino, on the female, Tonina.
They say that your name carries a karma, so I wonder which karma my mum carries from her brother. It’s heavy for a baby to get this debt. Anyway, she comes from a family of 7, and this costume to have at least 4, 5 children was very common in the 40s. Another brother of her, Armando, left during 2 years. This story was never told. He was supposed to be in a concentration camp, maybe in Germany, but I am not sure. Nobody ever talked about his time in the camp. He came back home, once the war was finished, walking along the Adriatic Coast, near Rimini, on his own feet.
But I can’t say more, by now. Tabou. All families got their secrets, right? 
Until 90s, in Italy, Military Service was obligatory, so, my granddad choosed Navy, in 30s, he was on the beautifulAmerigo Vespucci training ship, as seal led, and my father, in 60s, in genius bridge builder. My brother was the one who didn’t give a damn of it, and he was invalided from army. First, because of his flat feet, and second, they didn’t accept shortsighted.
Me, as a child, in 80s, I was serving as a proud boy scout, on the Romagna hills (Sant’Agata Feltria, in a windy night a tent fell down, at 3pm, and I admit, that was my biggest adventure as Ladybug that I recall except hiding in the woods in the dark, and get lost, of course, or dish washing in the river), but still too shy to become a team leader. Such a shame.
My youth education was based on war stories books. Not only at school, but also, at home. Granddad, il nonno Ristin, liked strategy and big leaders biographies (Stalin, Lenin); we had this massive cultural propaganda against Communism, despite my family came from farmers and workers. At Christmas time, I remember dad, uncle and granddad having huge controversial conversations on politics, as well as football topics.
Tourism boom was the service industry which made people rich and individualist.
Personally, I have been captured by Primo Levi biography and books (If this is a man – Survival in Auschwitz), so when I saw Schindler’s List, I finally put images on what I read. And this shocked me (the scene where they run, naked, in circle and the physicians visit them or the achitect lady who was shot building the hut because she warned the Officer that the hut was going to fall down and more). Levi, I felt much empathy for him, especially, after his suicide in Turin. He fell from third apart’s floor, but someone says it was accidental. What I couldn’t understand as child was how could he can commit suicide, in 1987, after 40 years back home.
Sorry, I guess, I’ll stop here.
****

Vincent Kelly, Company F, 116th Squadron, 101st Cavalry, posed for this Normal Rockwell illustration. It is used courtesy of the Army Art Collection, US Army Center of Military History.

I interviewed a few veterans who told me that “some guy in the unit” posed for Normal Rockwell. No one knew his name, no one could provide any details, and no one confessed to being that mystery soldier. It was a real dead end, so I didn’t include anything about it in Tracking the 101st Cavalry.

I had, in fact, almost forgotten about it, when I heard from the daughter of Staff Sgt. Vincent A. Kelly, Company F, 116th Squadron. She (regrettably, she didn’t sign the email, so I don’t have her name and recent emails have been returned) wrote that her father, who was originally from Brooklyn, was asked to pose for Rockwell while the troops were still in the U.S. Kelly was seated behind a machine gun for the painting, which was called “Give ‘um Enough and On Time.”

“Norman Rockwell walked over to him and tore his shirt,” she wrote. “He paid him $5.00 in a check that he wished he had never cashed. He was also given some sketches from Norman Rockwell.”

Her father didn’t talk much about the war, she wrote, just a few random comments like many of the men. “He did say that while they were waiting to land in France, he almost passed out from the fumes building up in the tank. He said another time that he was taking a picture of something, and a sniper shot at him. At first, he thought he had been shot in the face, as the bullet tore through the bellows of the camera, and he fell back into the tank yelling, ‘I’ve been hit! I’ve been hit!’ Then he realized that he had goop from the camera on his face instead of blood. He laughed about that.”

On April 1, 1945, Sgt. Kelly was under heavy enemy sniper fire in the vicinity of Distelhausen. Although he was wounded and facing continuous sniper fire, Kelly rushed into danger to give first aid to seriously wounded personnel and help evacuate them. For that bravery, he earned the Silver Star.

“He didn’t talk about winning the Silver Star very much,” his daughter wrote. “He did tell me that he felt bad because one of the men he was trying to rescue was shot in the head as my Dad picked him up. The bullet went through Dad’s leg as well. Dad wondered if maybe he had left the man on the ground, maybe he would have been saved. I know my Dad was a hero, and our entire family is proud of him. He passed away in 1998, at the age of 85.”