Fetch: Travels With Gander

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”

Marcel Proust

I have wandered, not always lost, for most of my life. I have long said that I live in a dialectical solitude: I have purposely explored the far corners of life looking for truth and wisdom and believing it can be found in the most unlikely places. I look at everyone as a possible teacher and every place as a possible classroom. I often envy my friends who a resolute in their politics and have a fixed world view. I am sometimes jealous of my friends who have lived in one place the majority of their lives. Geographically searching for answers to endless questions can be lonely:  The distance between answers requires the patience and resolve of a seaman who knows he may never see land again and suffers less at the hand of rough waters than the introspection and doubt that is a great part of any quest.

I have to do this trip. It is as much for my own health as it is a chance to expose people to the realities of suicide, trauma and the tools required to survive invisible wounds. It is a chance to open doors and ready a welcome for the thousands soon to be heading home from conflict and trauma. It is the chance to maybe save a life or two.

I hope you will come along. I will be writing here on the blog and in newsletters more and using Facebook less. Their misguided moves toward stockholder governance and increased revenues with diminished regard for the communities they serve threatens the “social” in social media and has prompted me to return to more conventional methods of communication.

Thank you for being part of this journey so far. Especially to those of you who have suffered along with me as I learned how to execute the business parts of this adventure. You’ve been kind beyond measure and I ask with great humility for you to travel with me once more on the most important trip to date.

Again, my philosophy is “Something for something.” I have put together some great perks for helping with this next book. I have made them easier to provide and distribute since the last adventure. Here is the link to participate: FETCH: TRAVELS WITH GANDER

Operation Fetch

Operation FetchThe Service Dog Education and Assistance Foundation endorsed art and education journey

  • “Fetch: Travels With Gander” will feature 22  interviews with the families of veterans lost to home-front battles with PTSD and trauma recovery and contain takes of people we meet along the way who now know Post Traumatic Success as survivors of Trauma: war, accidents, sexual abuse…
  • Since the publication of In Dogs We Trust (a successful Indiegogo funded campaign) Gander, Service Dog and Veteran Traveler Lon Hodge have traveled 17 states  in service to veterans and trauma survivors. They have visited dozens of hospitals, community groups, and businesses advocating for veterans, trauma survivors, service dogs, and alternatives to suicide. Since the book Gander, through his Facebook page, has helped place dozens of survivors with service dogs, donated thousands of dollars worth of books to veterans and senior citizens hospitalized, and volunteered hundreds of hours of crisis help, and dozens of internet media and community seminars and workshops
  • This next book will personalize 22 of the stories of the 8,000 veterans lost to suicide annually in America. During the journey they will chronicle the Post Traumatic Successes of those who have won their battles with pain and isolation.
  • We will develop a PACK of  community members and carry out their charitable wishes: Planned Acts of Community Kindness will permit Gander and Veteran Traveler to identify survivors in short term (and legitimate) need that the PACK can easily help directly and with confidence.
  • We will publicly perform a Taps Ceremony nightly in every city we visit during which we read the names of 22 veterans lost to suicide. That is the number of veterans who are lost daily to self inflicted wounds.

What We Need & What You Get

It is simpler this year:

  • Our needs are meager. We need the money to travel to interviews and to take care of gas, room and board during the travel. And we need a few items prior to departing: Suicide prevention and awareness brochures, PTSD and service dog literature, a simple movie capable camera, and Portable Bluetooth speakers and microphones.
  • The perks are simpler this year 😉 We learned last year that we needed to simplify our giveaways and make them immediately accessible to supporters. This year’s perks are already in stock and will be mailed immediately after the campaign ends. We have also added in postage costs.
  • All Tees, In Dogs We Trust Books, Coins and Coffee will be sent immediately.

The Impact

We hope to spread hope, educate the general public and lower the suicide rate among veterans and others through education and greater awareness. One of the biggest challenges facing PTSD and trauma sufferers is the stigmas still attached to them. Only by being more openly public can we overcome that….

  •  Over 300 people have emailed or messaged us this year to say that Gander has helped them in some way. We feel compelled to continue the journey
  •  This is our 3rd Indigogo campaign in 3 years. We learn more each time….
  •  There but for the grace of God and Gander go I… I hope we can, in our small way, make a difference.
  • Here is the best of the many interviews we did this year: Gander, Service Dog
  • Here is a fantastic article by Rick Kambic that made the front page of the Lake County Tribune: Chicago Article

Other Ways You Can Help

Some people just can’t contribute, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help:

  • Get the word out and make some noise about your campaign.
  • Use the Indiegogo share tools!
  • Share our updates on our Facebook wall at http://facebook.com/ganderservicedog
  • Invite us to come to your town ( veterantraveler at veterantraveler.com )
  • Help us identify families to interview. Please use the address above
  • Just be a positive member of our community there…
  • Read our blog at http://veterantraveler.com

And that’s all there is to it!

Climbing back up to grace…

The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.
–Aristotle

I woke today morning and performed a task as routine as morning ablutions: I opened my phone browser to Yahoo! Sports in search of the leaderboard for today’s Deutsche Bank golf tournament. I will explain: I did this every time Tiger played when I lived in China. It was a way, like music and bootleg movies, for me to stay tethered to something wholly American. Tiger was part of America’s sports greatness and he was a symbol of how I felt about my country.

The young LT. as budding golfer

I am one of the world’s worst golfers. No, really. I started the game in hopes of finding a way to “quiet the machine” and relax with the help of a sport that rightfully is known as a good walk spoiled. I had not thought of it as much of a sport until I learned it was easier to navigate a leech infested swamp at night with an M-16 above my head than to putt a tiny white ball into a PVC drain pipe. But, I digress…

Tiger Woods, son of a Special Forces Major, single-handed turned golf into an muscular, precision pursuit of excellence. Sure, John Daly could guzzle a beer, put his garish pants on backwards and hit 7 balls between cigarettes father than any other golfer on the tour, but Tiger was the one to watch. And people did it in such numbers that people who had never watched were devoted to golf where before they might have preferred to watch weeds grow in a vacant lot.

When Tiger’s life landed in the rough I couldn’t wait for the public to begin judging him again for his athletic prowess instead of his celebrity moral failings. He literally limped along for a couple of years as I continued to hope that rumors of his death were digitally exaggerated.

On my recent trip to Detroit I visited Piquette Square for Veterans. It is an apartment complex built on the site of an old auto factory. It gives permanent shelter to veterans who

Honor Guard at the Piquette Center mugging for the camera

At the center, I was introduced to Coniel Norman,a veteran and peer counselor employed by the VA to assist homeless vets there. I instinctively knew there was back story here. Coneil had just told me he attended the University of Arizona in the early seventies and I guessed by his height and powerfully large hands that he had been a basketball player. I just didn’t know how great an athlete he had been: Coneil, whose nickname was “popcorn” due to his rapid-fire accuracy, is still Arizona’s record holder for points scoring average in a season. He was drafted in the NBA’s second round and played three seasons: Two with the 76ers and then one with the San Diego Clippers, after a two year stint in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). After being released by the Clippers in 1979, Norman enlisted in the military and served four years. He left in 1983 and then played professional basketball in Europe for seven seasons. The man who was once lauded by an opposing coach ( he described Coniel Norman as the “finest pure shooter” he had ever seen), saw his basketball career end when he was injured in a serious car accident on the Autobahn.

Time passed and Coneil eventually lost his way via drugs and alcohol. Homeless, he reached out to his family who supported him through rehabilitation. He now lives and works at the Veterans Center.

When you are one of the best at what you do, there is little place to go but down. And the people who cheered your successes are not always there when you descend. Worse yet, they turn their disappointment into anger and add considerable weight to to the already heavy burden that is recovery from injury, personal loss, or misdeeds.

That Tiger has won more events this year than the average professional can hope for in a lifetime of golf, while under such close scrutiny and subject to such blistering critique (just read some of the comments below any Yahoo! article on Woods), is a triumph on its own merits. Even if he fails to live up to fan and sports writer expectations by surpassing Jack Nicklaus for the number of majors won, his achievements are legendary and his records will likely stand long after his detractors have left this life. Hoping one day to see him play.

Coneil’s impact on the world now extends beyond the record board at Arizona. There will be veterans who will remember him as someone who returned hope and sobriety to their lives. I could not be prouder that I was able to shake the hand of an ideal man.

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Today’s call to action is a little selfish for the first time in 9 years of blogging: I could use a little help in getting to Denver to pick up Gander: http://Indiegogo.com/veterantraveler/