[00:00:00] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran active duty guard reserve or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio.
[00:00:18] Scott DeLuzio: And now let’s get on with the show.
[00:00:21] Scott DeLuzio: Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Martha LaGuardia-Kotite. Martha was introduced to me by a mutual friend, Ashlee Leppert, who has been a guest on this podcast a couple of times now. And Martha served as one of the first female officers to serve a board to Coast Guard cutters. With all male crews and she led teams during numerous disasters for 29 years at sea and ashore.
[00:00:51] Scott DeLuzio: Martha is also the award-winning author of several books, which we’ll talk about a little bit later and she’s here today to discuss her [00:01:00] career and how she was able to overcome various obstacles in her path throughout her career. So welcome to the show, mark. I’m really excited that.
[00:01:09] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Thank you so much, Scott.
[00:01:10] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: I’m glad to be here.
[00:01:11] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. So for the listeners who maybe aren’t familiar with you and your story and your background, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
[00:01:20] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Thanks, Scott. I I grew up in a fishing village called Destin, Florida, and it’s actually the same place where I received my appointment to go to the Coast Guard academy.
[00:01:30] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And so from there, I did go to the Coast Guard academy and served over 29 years in the Coast Guard. And then. Subsequently retiring there, which was so cool. And the mass chief and his crew did a phenomenal job. Sending me off on my way. And during those 29 years, I was blessed and honored to have served in such a great service, the United States Coast Guard.
[00:01:53] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And. Paved the way in some new areas for not only for myself, but for the Coast Guard. [00:02:00] And like to think that I made a difference.
[00:02:02] Scott DeLuzio: Well, absolutely. And I’ve had several Coast Guard veterans on the podcast before Ashlee included and a couple others. But one of the things that sort of surprises me is when I start talking to these people who were in the Coast Guard and hearing about all these.
[00:02:20] Scott DeLuzio: But you guys have done around the country. And a lot of times it goes without a lot of fanfare, when there’s troops getting deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, it’s headline news. It’s, that’s what everyone’s talking about for weeks and weeks or months and years on end. It’s talking about the war.
[00:02:38] Scott DeLuzio: It’s talking about all the combat troops and all this stuff, but. You have people in the Coast Guard who are rescuing boaters, who are stranded out at sea or in a lake or whatever it may be, or rescuing during a natural disaster, hurricanes and floods and all that kind of stuff. Those people [00:03:00] are out there, yourself included, Ashlee other people I’ve talked to out there and you’re making a difference in these people’s lives.
[00:03:09] Scott DeLuzio: Literally. Life and death decisions. If you guys weren’t there, if you weren’t doing the things that you’re doing, you’ve literally, these people wouldn’t make it through the disasters that they’re living through. You’re living through some of their worst times. And so I wanted to say that just in an acknowledgement, I know a lot of times amongst the various branches of the military, we.
[00:03:32] Scott DeLuzio: Rag on each other and things like that start, I think kind of gets to the worst of it sometimes. But I do want to say how much I appreciate everything that the Coast Guard does. And and so, I’m excited to have you here to talk about your career and everything that.
[00:03:46] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Well, thanks. And to your point, that’s exactly what happened.
[00:03:50] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: When I came to realize I wanted to write my first book, which was a book that started out to show two sides of the Coast Guard, our small [00:04:00] boat missions and what we do at sea and close to shore and also in the aviation community. And then as publication publishers would have it, they wanted more of a certain.
[00:04:12] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Storyline. And so that’s when I had to focus strictly on aviation and the Coast Guard rescue summer program, and the team of people that are flying in the helicopter, descending down at the moment when someone can nearly die and putting themselves on the line. And then off the hoist as you know, to risk their lives, to save strangers and many times without so much as a thank you.
[00:04:37] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So the recognition was not there when, at the time that I was writing this book and also the acknowledgement of this amazing community of people. Was not necessarily known by many of us in the Coast Guard because I had served on two ships by that time. And then ended up in what I call my passion was to tell the Coast Guard story as a public [00:05:00] affairs officer for the Pacific Northwest.
[00:05:03] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And I walked into the office one day and heard of them. Retelling this story about a cave rescue or a helicopter flew into the cave. The rescue swimmer nearly lost his life. One of the two brothers was recovered. The other had not made it by the time the rest of the summer got back into the cave to see what was going on and then how he got himself out of there with the survivor was a near-death experience and just incredible.
[00:05:30] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: How come, I didn’t hear about this. I serve in the United States Coast Guard. I was a Lieutenant at the time and I thought, gosh, I would have known that this had happened, but I didn’t. And so. This was at a time when I felt that we needed to recognize what these unsung heroes in our service are doing. And so that’s what I set out to write this collection of amazing stories that are really legendary and.
[00:05:55] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Aviation community for the Coast Guard, basically put their stamp of approval on [00:06:00] it too, because nothing in there, isn’t what they are proud of. They are so proud of this book and they’re so proud to have this history preserved. And that was my mission was to preserve their history, acknowledge their heroism and help more people around the earth.
[00:06:17] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Understanding. How phenomenal they are. And I am not a rescue swimmer. I’ve got to say that everybody thinks, because I wrote the book, I can swim like one and I certainly cannot.
[00:06:27] Scott DeLuzio: Right. Absolutely. Right with that. The. The level of dedication to the job to like you said, flying a helicopter into a cave is like, that’s something I would never even think of doing.
[00:06:44] Scott DeLuzio: If I was the person in charge to say, okay, there’s someone who needs to get rescued. It’s like, oh, well we’re not sending a helicopter in. Cause that just would not be top of my mind. But yeah. But here they are figuring things out and getting the job done even with potentially risking their own lives, to make [00:07:00] sure that this mission got accomplished.
[00:07:01] Scott DeLuzio: So again, Coast Guard, I feel like gets a bad rap sometimes with the military community. But what the work that the entire service does is truly incredible and hearing some of the stories, like the one that you just mentioned. And other people that I’ve talked to, it’s just really inspiring and really incredible.
[00:07:20] Scott DeLuzio: So I’d love to get into your story a little bit here. And in the intro, I mentioned that you were one of the first female officers to serve on a couple of different cutters with all male crews. And when I served in the army, I was an infantry man. And that was before women were able to serve in combat arms roles.
[00:07:39] Scott DeLuzio: And when that transition took place, there some grumbling going on about having women in a traditionally all male role. And that was in the news. That was not, anything covered up or anything like that. Right. But was there any sort of resistance to you being one of the first women to step into that role on the cutters that.
[00:07:59] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: There, there are [00:08:00] certainly was. And I think it’s not unusual back then at that time to face this resistance, especially when you were the first women to come on board a ship, they’ve not served with women before it was a crew of 65 men. Does it officers, and I think they just didn’t understand.
[00:08:17] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: You know who we were as people and that we were there to be professionals and get a job done. Cause we had earned our right to be there. And we had gone through the training and all the trials to get our commission. And so we had earned our place. We just needed to prove ourselves that we were capable.
[00:08:33] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And so that took some time and that took some Tugging back and forth, if you will to show that, yes, I can get my qualifications as a deck watch officer. Yes, I can do the boardings and I can learn and complete the requirements and yes, I can help you, but this and that. And I think it goes back to me when.
[00:08:51] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: It’s wonderful that we can go back and reflect on those times of challenge. And one of the things I’ve learned, I’ve turned it into what I call my rules of [00:09:00] engagement. And so my rules of engagement, which I love to speak about as a keynote speaker or be bold, be first and be. So these three rules apply to everyone, no matter what your circumstance and helps you achieve your bigger dream or accomplish that goal that you have in front of you.
[00:09:19] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And so my first two assignments being the only woman on board a ship, actually, my first ship was with my roommate, the second ship. I was the only one where in both cases there was resistance. Mostly because people just didn’t understand who we are. And I got to get a lot of credit to some enlightened individuals, like my first chief quartermaster, chief, Stephen Mackey on my first ship who was bold.
[00:09:47] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Just like we were bold coming on board and accepting this assignment. He was bold to reciprocate and say, I believe in you. I see that you can do this. You can [00:10:00] perform what you need to do on your watch, just like anyone else and that your gender doesn’t matter. And I believe in you.
[00:10:07] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So he was an influential person to help show that. You can have mentors, mint, or people that don’t look, think, or act like them. And you can create this cohesive team and help change the culture by being bold. So I think it was a two way street, not only myself being bold and taking a step into an unknown, but also my chief being bold and saying, I believe in you, I’m going to give you a chance and then others followed.
[00:10:36] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So in the end it was very successful. And obviously I got a second tour. As executive officer on a 110 foot patrol boat, which was pretty much a, an amazing opportunity. And I love that assignment as well.
[00:10:50] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And so it seems like it’s really just getting out there doing the job and showing to the people who were maybe [00:11:00] doubting you, doubting your abilities, whatever, just because of.
[00:11:04] Scott DeLuzio: Who you are as a woman, right? It’s getting out there and doing the job and showing, Hey, look, I can do this. There’s not nothing really standing in my way, other than maybe you and your own preconceived notions of what you’re able to do. Right. But get out of my way. So I can go and do the job that I’m here to do.
[00:11:24] Scott DeLuzio: And it seems like. Obviously having the support from the leadership on that ship was also beneficial to you as well. But by, by having that attitude of like, I’m here to get this job done and I’m going to be bold, I’m going to be myself. I’m just going to go out and do this stuff. It allowed you to prove yourself and move on to another position again, as one of the only female on the ship.
[00:11:57] Scott DeLuzio: Right. And it allowed you to prove yourself [00:12:00] in bigger and better ways. And it seems like you’ve built on that throughout your career, as you’ve stepped up into increasingly more responsibilities and higher level positions, you were able to build on that. Right. So, Yeah. How were you able to.
[00:12:17] Scott DeLuzio: I don’t know if you want to start as far back as when you joined the Coast Guard, but were you able to see your path when you first started and were you able to kind of pave your own path and work your way to get to a certain destination in your career? How did that work?
[00:12:32] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Yeah, I think it’s always easier to look back right.
[00:12:34] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And say, oh, this is why that made sense or why that didn’t work quite right. But no jumping into this, it was literally jumping in being totally blind. And not really understanding that even today women are officers, especially are such a small percentage of all the service. What does it maybe 12%, if that across officers and enlisted and maybe six or 7% for officers, I don’t quote me on those numbers.
[00:12:59] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Cause I didn’t look them up [00:13:00] recently, but so yeah, I think I was pretty unaware of what I was getting involved with and I’ve my goal was to get a great college education and also to make a difference in the missions of the Coast Guard. Met that make a difference desire and say lives and the environment as well as getting the great education and travel that I saw it personally.
[00:13:24] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So as far as paving my path and finding my way, it was a matter of, okay, the Coast Guard is going to require me after the Coast Guard academy and my commission to go to see, okay, I’ll go to. And as much as all of us complained and, the majority of us are like, oh, I don’t think we want to do this.
[00:13:43] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: It was some of the most phenomenal, most wonderful. And adventurous experiences of my life. And yeah, sure. There were those challenges along the way, those moments that wish that I didn’t have to experience certain difficulties like everyone does in life, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a [00:14:00] man or a woman.
[00:14:01] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Your gender doesn’t matter as we go through life. But I was able to pick out the things that I really enjoy doing and sort of drive towards that, starting to understand myself, which was. The third part of my rules of engagement, be bold, be first and be you. So when you’re yourself, your authentic self, you start to recognize what you’re passionate about.
[00:14:25] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And then you can say, okay, in my case for my first assignment, one of the first patrols was to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. So here this huge oil spill was happening in this pristine area called prince William sound, Alaska. And of course, the public, the people that live and work there are all ups.
[00:14:48] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And the news media wants interviews. Well, this was at a time when the military was so not into giving interviews and they couldn’t find people to do interviews. So I was like, well, I’ll [00:15:00] talk to the people of Whittier, Alaska. I’ll talk to the press. I’ll help write the press release because I knew I liked writing.
[00:15:06] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: I knew I like telling stories and stories, and this was. Being a young kid, I enjoyed writing and telling stories. So I thought, well, I’ll try it. So I learned on my feet how to do these public relations things and found, I really enjoyed it. Meanwhile, no one else was raising their hand because they didn’t want to be in front of a camera or go out and talk to people outside the safety, if you will, of being in the military and on our side.
[00:15:33] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So once I discovered part of myself, part of being me was to tell stories in a very fundamental way, and to meet people and to tell what we’re doing to make a difference, how we’re helping save your environment or help save lives, or that rescue we did. I thought, gosh, I really liked this and how do I get more of that?
[00:15:57] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So while I had two. [00:16:00] Listen to what the Coast Guard wanted. Sometimes I refused to get the masters, so to speak. I was asked, why don’t you get a master’s in public administration? You’re on the fast track for going back to see again, we want to see a commanding a ship and I’m like public administration. I just couldn’t get it.
[00:16:18] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And it wasn’t something I had a passion for. Now, if they said journalism or media relations. And I did apply for those opportunities, but it was always a second alternate because my male colleagues got it and good for them. But ultimately I did become a spokesperson for the Coast Guard.
[00:16:36] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Ultimately I did fulfill my dream of getting a master’s in journalism and I got it from Harvard of all places all because I wanted to be. And so I carved that niche that didn’t exist in all the services at that time in a field that was thought to be for those who are on their way out, they couldn’t possibly succeed as commanding officers, give them the PR [00:17:00] the spokesperson job ironically, and I took it on.
[00:17:03] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: This is something I can be good at, and I can do a good job for you. United States Coast Guard. And there was a core cadre of us that formed a team that believed that we could do a great job and get our service out there in the best light. And then the honest line until the truth, even if it went bad, sometimes in terms of a story or a rescue, and we help promote our service and I helped promote the people that so deserve the recognition.
[00:17:33] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And getting a master’s from well anywhere, but Hartford, Harvard especially is not the easiest cakewalk type of thing to do. Right. And I could only imagine if you just followed what other people were telling you to do, different career paths. It could have taken that could have, fast tracked you to.
[00:17:54] Scott DeLuzio: A different command position or whatever it was that you might’ve gotten yourself into, [00:18:00] but it wasn’t really where your passion lied. I would imagine that it would probably make it that much harder for you to complete. Degree or the training or whatever it is that you needed to do because your heart wasn’t there, your heart wasn’t in it.
[00:18:16] Scott DeLuzio: And when you decided to follow your passion, follow what, the stuff that you’re interested in, then I’m not saying it was easy for you to do any of the stuff that you did, but when there’s passion behind it, it does make it a little bit easier. If you have that goal. In front of you, it’s like, I want to be this, I want to do this.
[00:18:42] Scott DeLuzio: I want to get there. And you can see that clearly. And it helps you to bring that, that best effort forward. Whereas if it’s something that you’re just sort of doing, because someone else is telling you that you should be doing it or whatever, I [00:19:00] can’t really see the passion being. As much as something that you really are interested.
[00:19:05] Scott DeLuzio: Right.
[00:19:06] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Right. And all of it, there were some jobs that I didn’t want to take, but the assignment officer said, this is where we need you. This is where you’re going. And because of my lack of knowledge or lack of experience, I didn’t necessarily agree, but I had to go along with it. So every now and then you have to say yes to orders and take those orders.
[00:19:25] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: But at the same time, you can still keep listening to yourself, your authentic self. And what is it that you’re excited about? What is it that you always wanted to do? They haven’t had a chance to do yet, whether it’s within your job community. Or on the outside maybe athletically or adventure, whatever it is always listen to that voice that is your authentic self.
[00:19:50] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: It is you. And I guarantee you, you will be able to make a huge impact, make a difference whatever your goal is. And it brings [00:20:00] great reward to not only the. That are around you because you’re authentic, they can trust you. They know you’re real. But also to yourself, it brings fulfillment and fulfillment isn’t necessarily money fulfillment is the satisfaction that you’ve made a difference.
[00:20:17] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: You’ve made an impact in a positive way. And we have so much power as individuals to be able to do that.
[00:20:24] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And it, it feels good to when. Accomplish something that you’re passionate about, that you set out, you know, it’s not going to be the easiest thing, but it’s something that you want to do and you work hard at it and you accomplish whatever this is, whether it’s a certain degree or a project or whatever it is that you’re doing in your life.
[00:20:46] Scott DeLuzio: And you apply yourself, you work hard, you get it done at the end of the day. You can look back at it and say, holy crap, I did this, but. Maybe a few months or a couple of years earlier, it may [00:21:00] not have seen possible, but then you look back and it’s like, I did this, this is something to be proud of. And it just makes you overall, it makes you feel good about yourself and your abilities and everything like that.
[00:21:09] Scott DeLuzio: And I think that’s pretty incredible. I mean, I know to your point about having to do certain jobs that maybe you weren’t totally passionate about. I know when I first graduated college, I worked a few jobs that. I did them. They weren’t totally my passion, but I worked on my passion in my own time and stuff that I was interested in.
[00:21:29] Scott DeLuzio: And now I have a business that is doing the stuff that I’m passionate about. And so I was able to work my way to get to that point. And for me, it’s. Just fulfilling, knowing that I was able to put in the time and the effort it takes to get there. So I know exactly where you’re coming from and I encourage people to follow your advice and follow in your footsteps as far as following that passion.
[00:21:53] Scott DeLuzio: And in doing those things that. That really like that fire inside of you and make you [00:22:00] feel good about what it is that you’re doing, right?
[00:22:02] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Yes. And one of the things I’d like to add is so in my rules of engagement that applies to anyone’s life and whether you’re in business, military, what have you just starting out or in a place where you’re looking to transition, whatever that is.
[00:22:15] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: The rules are be bold, be first and be you. So part of being. It’s not necessarily the kind of career path that I’ve had where you say, oh, Martha, you were first here in first there for us to do that. There are plenty of opportunities to be first and you don’t have to be a four-star Admiral. You don’t have to be the first to do whatever assignment where you get all the recognition being first can be as simple as.
[00:22:42] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Recognizing that something needs to be done and raising your hand and or volunteering to do it. That’s being first, you’re helping become a catalyst for change and it doesn’t have to have all sorts of other accolades go with it, [00:23:00] but you can drive change by being first and being mindful and thoughtful of what things.
[00:23:06] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: It should be changed or should be different and help others come together to see that. So I think that’s important too, is that there are plenty of first left to be conquered and to be done so that we all have better lives.
[00:23:21] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And there’s tons of examples of that, where. In the military and the first sergeant’s coming around and looking for someone to help out with a certain thing and you see a room full of people just sitting around like, no, I’m not volunteering for that, but it’s like, you know what, volunteer and help out do the thing the right way, your way and be able to feel good that you’re able to make a change, make a difference in whatever it is that you’re doing.
[00:23:52] Scott DeLuzio: Being first being that person who steps up and volunteers for those types of things yeah. It would be great to be the [00:24:00] first person to walk on the moon or, whatever, obviously those things have been done before, but the first person to walk on Mars, all those things would be great to do.
[00:24:11] Scott DeLuzio: There’s only going to be one person to be the first to do that type of thing. But if you can find that thing for you, that makes you be the first, on top of. The game that’s gonna, that’s gonna set you up pretty well. I think too. So, so you’re right. There’s a lot of firsts out there.
[00:24:27] Scott DeLuzio: It’s just being open to figuring out what those first are for each individual.
[00:24:33] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Right? Right. And it may be a new technique. Like, one of the rescue swimmers I write about in my first book called, so others may live coastguard rescue swimmers, saving lives, defying death. I don’t know if you have video when you post, but here’s the cover.
[00:24:47] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: But so chapter three is the story of senior chief Jeff tonks. And not only was he the first to have a rescue outside the training scenario, because when this program started. We were [00:25:00] still wrapping our swimmers and blankets, so to speak and saying, no, you’re not leaving the safety of this cabin or going outside of a training scenario because it’s too high risk and we don’t want that risk.
[00:25:12] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So the pilots would say, sit in the back of the aircraft and we’re up in Alaska in Jeff’s case. And we don’t get many fires up here, but if we get a firearm, we’ll let you know. But until then just hang out. So the rescue that. Forever change. The path of the program took place in Alaska, which is chapter three in my book, and it was just phenomenal and he had to face his fears and it came down to, we’re not able to save this father and son from the sinking fishing vessel.
[00:25:43] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Would you like to try and descend into chaos and this incredible storm that we are now in trying to save them with heavy seas and the darkness of night in Alaska. And he says, I’ll go in. [00:26:00] And he was the first rescue swimmer to leave the safety of the cabin and affect a rescue and come back alive. And the crew almost lost the aircraft then.
[00:26:10] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: They almost didn’t get Jeff chunks tonks back into the aircraft, but they did save the father and son. And it was really kind of a miracle rescue. Like the worst that could happen happened, they were able to recover everyone. And the helicopter was grounded from the stresses that were that it had to bear just to fly back home.
[00:26:29] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And so nonbelievers became believers because he was the first and then fast forward. Decades, hurricane Katrina. And who’s in mobile, Alabama at the training center when Katrina hits in new Orleans. And we’re finding for the first time that we now have people stuck inside homes on the second and third floor.
[00:26:58] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And when the only way to get. [00:27:00] Is through the roof, whoever trained for that. No one. And the acts that exists in the helicopter is a small acts for getting them out of the aircraft. Should it ditch in water or in a situation where they need to crack the door to get out the window. And so Jeff was innovative.
[00:27:23] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: From his assignment at mobile in helping a devise new techniques to help rescue people during Katrina. And of course I had to run to home Depot, get a bigger ax. But that innovation hasn’t stopped for the rescue swimmer program for people like Jeff tonks. And I think once you get into that mode of being courageous, Facing your fear going out to where no one has gone before.
[00:27:50] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And of course you’re trained and you’re. You’re the best you can be at that moment, but you use everything that you have gained in your training and your wisdom and your experience, [00:28:00] or lack of experience. And you take that step and you go out and then you can save lives. And in the case of these rescue swimmers and aviation crew members and pilots, it’s a spinoff.
[00:28:11] Scott DeLuzio: It is absolutely. And the amount of innovation that comes out of the military all brains that, that you hear stories of things like this all the time. And that’s a perfect example of how that outside the box, thinking, not just using the equipment that’s issued to you, but running out to home Depot and getting a giant ax to be able to chat through a roof.
[00:28:35] Scott DeLuzio: Right. That’s I mean, That’s outside the box. That’s not just sitting back and saying, oh, well I don’t have the equipment for it. I can’t do it. Kind of thing. That’s someone who. Again was the first to say, Hey, we don’t have this equipment. Let’s go get it. And let’s get the job done no matter what it takes, we’re going to get it done with those people out there who need to be rescued, they need to be saved.
[00:28:55] Scott DeLuzio: And we’re going to figure this out. Even if it means chopping up the roof with a giant ax, [00:29:00] we’ll figure it out and we’ll get it done. And I know when I was training to go to Afghanistan we had a situation where we got a lot of our Humvees. In the mud on it was the dirt road that we were driving on.
[00:29:12] Scott DeLuzio: It gotten washed out and. We thought we could make it through. We ended up not being able to make it through and w we were in the woods. And so we fortunately had some axes with us. We chopped up a whole bunch of trees and we use those to get traction out from underneath, but we could’ve just sat there and said, well, send us a wrecker to come pull us out.
[00:29:32] Scott DeLuzio: But, we figured it out. It was hard. It was frustrating. It was potentially dangerous. Cause none of us. Nope professionals at chopping down trees or anything like that. But we did it anyways and we figured it out and we got the job done. And it’s just, innovation, like the stuff that you’re talking about outside the box thinking just really helps to.
[00:29:56] Scott DeLuzio: Just show how, just how far people are willing to go. Especially [00:30:00] in cases like this, where it’s literal life and death situations. For some of these people on the ground with our houses being flooded and everything like that it’s like, no, we’re not going to just be okay with saying, oh, well, too bad.
[00:30:12] Scott DeLuzio: We don’t have the equipment we’re going to get this job done. And that to me is. Very motivating and knowing that there’s people out there that are willing to push the envelope and think outside the box like that. Right.
[00:30:25] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Can I share with you my other book? Sure, absolutely. So it’s called having a hard time, seeing it changing the rules of engaging.
[00:30:33] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Yes, inspiring stories of courage and leadership from women in the military. And so while it’s a profiling 17 amazing fearless women who were trailblazers and help change the culture of the military. I mean, that’s a huge statement right there. But they were bold. They were first and they were themselves and they wouldn’t have been able to accomplish becoming the [00:31:00] first.
[00:31:01] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Female to command. One of the space shuttles, right? Command a station or the first female Thunderbird pilot or the Marine drill instructors changing lives, helping people come from society. Where they didn’t believe in themselves and their shoulders are slouched becoming these graduates that now serve in the United States Marine Corps.
[00:31:26] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And they’re proud of who they are and they’re proud of their country and they’re proud of their service. So, the reason I bring this up is because this book changed my life. I was so influenced by these women. And I felt like I hadn’t done nothing and here they have done all these amazing things.
[00:31:46] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: What on earth am I going to accomplish now? And it came down to being in a group one day and we asked each other. And we each had to answer and I never anticipated asking the question. I was like leading the group. [00:32:00] Okay. Now you all go up to someone you haven’t met before and ask them, what is the one thing that you’ve always wanted to do that you haven’t done yet?
[00:32:08] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So they would answer the question. And then the girl that I had asked, turned around and asked me, and I’m like, wow, I have to answer this question too. And what occurred to me? And if you do this exercise, it might be quite interesting and eyeopening. The one thing that I hadn’t done up to that point, I was mid career, was gotten my degree in journalism because I had become this pro media relations spokes woman for the United States Coast Guard.
[00:32:39] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: But I had five days of training. I didn’t have the schooling, the everything was grassroots, and I did a really good job. But I felt like I hadn’t validated myself. And if you compare me to the next person who got the degree plus this and that, I felt like, gosh, I really [00:33:00] want to get that degree. And then plus it helped for promotion.
[00:33:03] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: I found out later that I had to have it anyway, but I got it in journalism and I discovered I could get it at Harvard. And I thought, oh my God, can I do this? And. Yeah, it was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know if I could do it. And I just took that stuff by being bold, being first myself and being myself and I fulfilled it and I give credit to all the ladies that I interviewed in this book for influencing me.
[00:33:31] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Because they’re so relatable to each of us, men, women, no matter how are, how old we are, how young we are, but if you want to achieve your bigger. It’s about surrounding yourself with a team of supporters who believe in you. It’s about being bold. It’s about being first and it’s about being yourself and just figure out where you want to go.
[00:33:56] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Maybe ask yourself that question. What does the one thing you’ve always wanted to do that you [00:34:00] haven’t done yet and carve out the steps and talk to people who know, who can help guide you and believe in you and you’ll get. You will
[00:34:10] Scott DeLuzio: get there. Yeah. And I think that’s a great point that you just made is talk to the people who have been there already, who have maybe struggled through the process to get to where you want to be, and they can maybe help you get to that point.
[00:34:29] Scott DeLuzio: I don’t want to say easier because sometimes struggle is a good thing too, to help you learn the process and everything, but they can show you the path. And so that way it’s a lot easier to get to your destination. If you have the roadmap in front of you, right. As opposed to just stumbling your way across in managing to make it to that destination, something.
[00:34:48] Scott DeLuzio: By some grace of God or something, if you have that roadmap laid out in front of you, it just makes that whole process that much easier. And and I think it’s necessary [00:35:00] to have some sort of a mentor to help guide you along that path.
[00:35:05] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And it’s a guide and life, as you might agree with this, Scott, tell me what you think life is a Zig and Zag.
[00:35:11] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: It’s not a. Boom day one of 29 years in my career. I know exactly where I’m going to end up. Not at all, not even close I zigged and I zagged. I did this, did that. I failed at that, but did well at that. And it’s. It’s not
[00:35:29] Scott DeLuzio: easy. No, it’s not, but and you’re absolutely right there. There’s a lot of zigging and zagging that goes on and in life in general you might start a career that you’re like I’m all in.
[00:35:39] Scott DeLuzio: I’m passionate about this and you find out it sucks and you hate it. And after a few years, it’s like, I don’t want to do this anymore. So you figure out what else do you can do maybe with your skillset and you move on and you pivot into something else and you grow. It’s not. Failure that you tried something, it didn’t work out.
[00:35:58] Scott DeLuzio: It’s a learning opportunity. You [00:36:00] now know that. Okay. That thing that you did before is not the thing that you wanted to do, and now you move on. Cool. You can check that box. You’ve done it. And now you can move on and try something else. But it’s all about. Learning from the past. You said a couple of times already, you can look back in hindsight and see all of the steps that you took to get to a certain place.
[00:36:23] Scott DeLuzio: Right. In that place may be good or bad, but you’ll be able to see what took place over that time period. And the best thing I think is. That you learn a lesson from all of it. Just take the time to learn.
[00:36:38] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Right. And then one thing I would like to share too I think I read where June is a PTSD awareness month, and I know we also have a month where it’s suicide awareness and there is a connection I believe between PTSD and suicide prevention.
[00:36:55] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And I’m a huge advocate for helping those. Who need [00:37:00] help to prevent suicides. And I believe having witnessed losing my own brother, my older brother to suicide when I was a young person, a teenager in high school I’ve made it part of my life to make a difference in save lives. And I never thought I would end up in the Coast Guard.
[00:37:17] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: But that met all those mission needs for me personally. And. What I want to say in the gist of what I’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot from that experience, but I’ve also learned from others. And I was blessed with the opportunity when I was a Lieutenant in that Pacific Northwest office telling the Coast Guard story as a public affairs officer, one day a chaplain walked in.
[00:37:43] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Didn’t know me, didn’t know anything about my background. And he said, Martha, I need help telling this story. It’s a suicide prevention story. We have a young man who’s accomplished very successful. He’s. [00:38:00] Attempted suicide and shot the side of his face off with a shotgun. He has lived. And he’s willing to tell his story about why that was not a good idea.
[00:38:10] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So I was instrumental in working with the chaplain Corps, which is also part of the Navy, as you know, in developing a suicide prevention, video and training. I interviewed people who had lost someone to suicide. And I interviewed this survivor of his own attempt on his life and all the, while this was happening, I had not healed unknowingly, had not healed from the loss of my own brother.
[00:38:39] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: So while I was going through this process of interviewing, asking questions, learning documenting, filming these people who had lost someone that they liked. I was healing in my own way, too. And of course I had like nightmares at night and was going through my own PTSD, which of course early on and years ago we never knew it was called [00:39:00] PTSD.
[00:39:00] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And I’m sure mine is a mild version. I’m not saying anything close to what I know people. Who have severe PTSD have, I’m not comparing myself to that, but I’m saying I had my own struggled mentally too, with regard to healing from the loss of someone. And I got help by going through this process and learning and meeting others who had served, had lost someone.
[00:39:27] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And I think some of the greatest gifts that came from this and that we were able to share through this video, in this training. Was a doctor at Madigan army hospital in Washington state has shared that people are walking around feeling suicidal every day. You don’t know who they are. There could be 20, 50 people on the sidewalk in front of you.
[00:39:50] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And some of those people are feeling suicidal.
[00:39:56] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: For those of you are feeling suicidal, [00:40:00] recognize that it is a temporary situation. It is temporary and suicide is a permanent choice. And when someone elects to take their own life, you leave behind a disaster of pain of trauma, of loss, all these people that you might not know love you. They love you. And you leave a hole in that space where you believe.
[00:40:32] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And we each have a place and a purpose for being here in this life and you have a role to play, and if you need help or feeling suicidal, it’s time to ask for help. And it’s okay because there are 50 other people within your realm that are probably feeling suicidal. And it’s time to ask for help and [00:41:00] feel good about it and recognize that you can get help.
[00:41:05] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: You can see the light again, and you can live that life and fulfill your purpose and your passion because you have a place here in life is precious and you are precious. And. And I can only tell you from the loss of my brother, that I still think about him. Most days, it took decades for me to not think about him every day and feel so filled with loss because he was my role model, my leader, my path into life, and it was crushing and we had no idea what he would do.
[00:41:44] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And all I can say is it’s a selfish decision and you can get. And you can’t see the light and I hope that helps.
[00:41:54] Scott DeLuzio: I think it does. There are you’re right. There are people out there and you don’t necessarily know who they [00:42:00] are, who are walking around struggling. Could you speak a person you bumped into at the coffee shop or walking down the sidewalk or whatever.
[00:42:09] Scott DeLuzio: And we don’t know everybody’s story. We don’t know the struggles that they’re going through in their life. And in addition to everything that you just said, it shy. I totally agree with the sentiments that you had to offer there. I think it goes a long way. Be a nice person to people, hold the door for someone when it looks like they’re carrying something heavy or a mother with a newborn in the car seat or whatever, as they’re walking in, like hold the door, like she just need to fumble her way through getting into the.
[00:42:45] Scott DeLuzio: Whatever the store, what that you might be going into. Just be nice. It, it takes two seconds to do something nice like that, and it could just help out that person’s day. Right?
[00:42:57] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Exactly. And I love the symbolism of [00:43:00] what you said by opening the door for someone that’s carrying something heavy.
[00:43:04] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Well, you might not see that heaviness that they’re carrying. It could be. Invisible. It could be internal and we never know what a smile or a kind word or a hug or this, a moment of eye contact as human beings and telling someone that they’re important. And that you’re glad that they’re there. It could be all the help that they need just to feel like someone cared about them.
[00:43:30] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Right. And I think as human beings we owe that to each other.
[00:43:34] Scott DeLuzio: I think you, you gave me a lot more credit than I deserved there. I was not trying to be symbolic or anything,
[00:43:42] Scott DeLuzio: but I’ll take it. That’s a win for me. I’ll take that. So, in addition to everything else that we discussed today you’re a keynote speaker. I think we briefly mentioned that. And you’re author of several books. Where can people go to get more information about getting getting to book you to speak [00:44:00] and where can they find your book?
[00:44:02] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Well, thank you. My website is Martha dot com. So it’s Martha M a R T H a co tight, K O T I T e.com. And my books listed there. There’s five and my books are available. Wherever books are sold and you can get them online or in your local bookstore. And I highly encourage it. For the independent bookstores, they are struggling and they do support authors like me.
[00:44:28] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: And I’d love to speak for you for your organization, your college, your group, your business, whatever it is. And and I do customize my presentations to fit the needs.
[00:44:40] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And so I will have links to all of that in the show notes to your website and to where they can find the books on your site and everything.
[00:44:48] Scott DeLuzio: And that way everyone can reach out, get in touch, hopefully book you for some speaking engagements and getting some copies of your book as well. Yeah, absolutely. So, it’s [00:45:00] been a pleasure speaking with you today. I really do appreciate you taking the time to come on and I want to thank you again for joining us and sharing your story and the words of inspiration that you had to offer.
[00:45:11] Scott DeLuzio: So, okay.
[00:45:13] Martha LaGuardia-Kotite: Well, thank you to you. I appreciate your time and thanks for what you’re doing.
[00:45:20] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, driveonpodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at drive on podcast. .