There are many ways a man can become a hero. This is the story of one.
Teddy joined the Army on April 13th, 1989 as a 19 Delta Cavalry Scout and set his life in a fast-forward motion into heroism, the realities of combat, grief, despair and finally redemption. A decorated Special Forces combat veteran, he considers becoming a Green Beret the most important achievement of his career, following in his father’s footsteps. His most valued personal blessings are his 25 year marriage to his wife Suzie, and his 3 children, Jason, Sara and Gunner. He will tell you that his greatest sorrow is the pain and neglect they suffered from his choices. He will finally admit, now that he’s whole again, that his biggest injuries and disrespect were to himself by his own self-destructive choices.
I don’t know many people strong enough to take this kind of ownership of their lives.
No matter how well trained the individual, surviving combat requires the temporary silence of much of what all children are taught by their parents and communities. Upbringing has to take a back seat to training. Training allows the protection of self and brothers long enough to create the mindset, the combat persona that protects the self from the actions necessary to remain alive and sane.
There are no words, no movie, no songs that adequately paint the reality of combat.
Teddy retired May 1, 2011 but the combat continued within him as he spiraled further into self-destruction, lies and manipulative behavior. He was unfaithful to his wife, his family and to himself. He built upon this foundation of pain with drug and alcohol addiction, feeding the monsters of hopelessness, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts. It didn’t cross his mind to ask for help at first. He didn’t see or want the hands held out to him from those who sincerely loved him. He could not bear to face the consequences of his behavior, so he increased the numbing of his awareness while he suffocated his soul.
When you are the last line of defense, who is there to stand for you?
This is the kind of thinking that costs us the lives of 22 veterans daily. They sign up to serve, they train, they are separated from family for extended lengths of time, they face circumstances too ugly for words, they become who they have to for a chance to make it home. Unfortunately, home and family are now something unfamiliar to them, they don’t know how to shut it all down, how to find their way back. They don’t feel like they belong anymore, not in their families, their towns or their own skin. They are damaged by the very heroism that won them the awards and medals placed carefully into drawers. They cease to thrive.
It takes courage for a strong man to ask for and accept help in the face of hopelessness.
Courage is what brought Teddy to the gates of Warrior’s Heart. Generous sponsors, unconditional love from family and friends and the staff and counsellors of Warrior’s Heart allowed him to put himself through the painful inner work to accept, to heal, to forgive and be forgiven. He rebuilt his faith, his life and himself from the best pieces and lessons learned. He didn’t become his old self, he became more. When you meet Teddy, and if you’re lucky you will, you will know what joy sounds like, what gratitude feels like, what genuine strength looks like. You won’t see perfection, you’ll see progress. You’ll be blown away by his honesty about who he was and who he is becoming because of that experience. You’ll be inspired by his compassion and commitment to helping others who are as lost and hurting as he was. He may even excuse himself, as he has done with me, and take off to go sit with someone who has called him to their dark night of the soul. He’ll apologize for having to leave or reschedule and you’ll shake your head in wonder at the size of his heart. He believes that without allowing the help offered to him, he would now be no more than a name etched on a tombstone and a fading memory. I’m not the only one grateful that is not the case. He still has a lot of work to do here, for himself, his family and as an ambassador for All Secure Foundation. Warrior’s Heart gave him a new ability he needs to share with others…
How to face the sun and let your shadows fall behind you.