Veteran Talk – Morning Quarters

(Niceville, Florida; 16 September 2021) – Twenty-four years ago today I was a trembling, quaking, skinny (yes, I was skinny!) 25-year-old kid swearing into the Navy at the MEPS in Jacksonville, Florida.

It’s always fun to look back a bit and see how far you’ve come.  It doesn’t take a scanning electron microscope to see the words and plot twists, the characters, drama, trauma, and years of the story etched into the lines of our faces.  We are our stories.

Last Saturday was a unique day, one so unique I felt it was the best day to formally launch the newest column on Sparks1524: Veteran Talk.  However, due to the enormity of the day and its meaning, coupled with the horror we unleashed on ourselves in Afghanistan this past summer, the first Veteran Talk was not my usual introductory briefing.

Myself at the Jacksonville Military Entrancing Processing Station (MEPS) immediate after swearing into the United States Navy…and about half an hour before getting on the plane to boot camp! Jacksonville, Florida. Sept. 16, 1997.

So, on this 24th anniversary of my having enlisted in the Navy, let me welcome you to morning Quarters, as it were, and introduce you to this newest series featured on the globe-spanning Sparks1524  media empire I’ve built through sweat, tears, hard work, inspiration, sheer genius, and, if I say so myself, not just a little light and leisurely linguistic legerdemain!

I mean, the accolades I get from the 8.27 people around the world who follow me are stunning!  Those 8.27 people (well, it might be 7.13 people; but I think that one profile isn’t a bot…) are obviously people of discerning, sophisticated taste!

Each regular column on my blog, and each regular episode series on my YouTube channel, focus on specific topics as indicated by their series names.  Travel Log is pretty obvious, as is The Writer’s Craft and my semi-regular Photo Finish columns (and video episodes to premiere in the near future).  Even so, I wanted to take a moment with all 8.27 of you to introduce this latest series for several reasons.

First off, it’s just polite to make introductions.  Veteran Talk, this is everyone.  Everyone, this is Veteran Talk.

Ok.  That’s done.

More importantly, I wanted to let y’all know what Veteran Talk is, and what it isn’t.  I already publish a series that covers my military sea stories—On the Waterfront.  I also run a series that deals specifically with mental health issues called, appropriately enough, Mental Health.  Straight up, there will clearly be some crossover of subject matter between these three.  However, each of these three have unique properties that require each to be placed as a separate operation on Sparks1524’s Plan of the Day.

On the Waterfront is defined by sea stories.  They can be lighthearted, such as a future one that will tell you about the three-hole punch injury I received (seriously; I got laid out by a three-hole punch).  They can be serious but inspiring, such as a previous entry that discussed the single greatest piece of seamanship I ever witnessed, a ballsy maneuver by the late, and truly great, captain of USS Ponce (LPD 15), then-Commander Cole Hayes (https://sparks1524.com/2020/09/17/on-the-waterfront-master-seamanship/), or how a shipmate’s attempted sabotage of my career backfired on him spectacularly (https://sparks1524.com/2021/01/14/on-the-waterfront-talk-about-attempted-sabotage/).  These will impart humor, hopefully wisdom, and perhaps a smidgen of leadership guidance flavored by a soupcon of inspiration.  However, On the Waterfront’s primary mission is entertainment.

Mental Health is the series that will most closely align with Veteran Talk for obvious reasons.  In fact, I can foresee crossover episodes in with a topic might end up being addressed from various angles in both at the same time.  However, Mental Health is not ‘veteran-focused.’  It’s intended for anyone who has any mental health struggles.  I’m not a counselor (nor did I ever play one on TV), I’m just a dude with mental health struggles who finds both therapy in discussing them and purpose in at least trying to provide a bit of hope to those who might be hopeless.

This brings me to the mission parameters of Veteran Talk.  We all know the dangers of mission creep (hell, there isn’t a veteran alive who hasn’t suffered from mission creep at least once!), which is why I wanted to lay out the scope and limitations of this newest media operation.

Twenty-four years later, I’m back in Florida and sporting a groovy, steel-gray beard! (Sept. 16, 2021)

Veteran Talk is aimed at my fellow military service veterans, and those who are still in uniform.  Mental health issues will be a part of this, but this is also a space in which we can discuss the gamut of veteran’s issues, from housing, to adapting to a civilian work environment, to navigating the VA, to whatever.  Mental health topics addressed here will be addressed specifically from a veteran’s point of view.  Hopefully, even active duty folks will find something of value here since everyone in uniform will leave the uniform behind someday.

While I will always maintain control of this column and associated video episodes, Veteran Talk offers an open invitation for ideas and suggestions.  If there’s an issue you’d like to address, or have an experience you think might benefit our fellow veterans, hit me up.  I will not pull any punches and dither around; if it’s a topic I don’t want to address, I’ll let you know.  I’ll be respectful; don’t worry about that.  But there are topics out there I don’t feel qualified to address, and others I just don’t want to get near for reasons that are mine.  But, I do want to hear ideas if you have.  Also, as you know (if you’re one of the 8.27 people following Sparks1524), this platform covers all kinds of different topics, so it might be a bit before I get to a topic even if I do agree to address it.

So, welcome to Veteran Talk, the newest in the long line of scintillatingly shining series sending forth solace, serenity, and inane segues into seriously sarcastic humor!  I do hope you find these of benefit as we go forward, and I’m always open to your comments.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Fall out, and carry out the plan of the day!

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– Check out my video on this topic at:  https://youtu.be/q4h68Be6LlM

– The Real Warriors Campaign: The campaign links service members, veterans and their families with care and provides free, confidential resources including online articles, print materials, videos and podcasts. If you or someone you know is coping with any concerns, know that reaching out is a sign of strength.  Find them at: https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Centers-of-Excellence/Psychological-Health-Center-of-Excellence/Real-Warriors-Campaign

– The Psychological Health Resource Center: A trusted source of psychological health information and resources related to combat stress, depression, reintegration, how to get into treatment, types of treatment for mental health conditions, and many other topics for active duty and veterans.  Reach them by phone at: 866-966-1020; email at: resources@phcoe.org, or on the web at: https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Centers-of-Excellence/Psychological-Health-Center-of-Excellence/Psychological-Health-Resource-Center

– Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, and press 1; or, go to: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/hotline

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