Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host Scott DeLuzio and now let’s get on with the show.
Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast today. My guest is John Davis, and John is an army veteran who has helped student veterans while working for the VA. He’s also the author of the book Combat to College, where he applies the military mentality as a student veteran to help guide veterans through.
We’re gonna discuss his transition to civilian life and some of the lessons he learned along the way to help other veterans who were in a similar situation to what he found himself in. So welcome to the show, John. I’m glad to have you here.
John Davis: Thanks for having me on. I’m excited to talk.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely.
So why don’t [00:01:00] you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background.
John Davis: I grew up in Iowa. I feel like every veteran kind of has three lives. You have your before military life, you have your military life and your post military life. And honestly, whoever I was before the military, you know, that person’s kind of a stranger to me now.
But I grew up in Iowa and I grew up playing sports and when I was 18, I went to community college because, That’s what you’re supposed to do. And my mother told my mother didn’t want me to go in the military at the time, you know, especially, it was the height of Iraq and Afghanistan. And then eventually after I failed out at community college, I was like, Okay, well the military’s the next stop.
So I signed up for the military and served the entire time in the infantry. And I did my last two years recruiting before I got out a few years ago. And then I started pursuing education and that led. To kind of narrowing in on student veterans because the first stop for so many veterans, especially enlisted veterans, and you know, especially combat arms, people’s college and how we [00:02:00] do there kind of determines our futures.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And I think going to college is one of those scary things for a lot of veterans as they’re getting out of the military because they’re going. Oftentimes way older than any of their peers in their classes that they’re taking. And I know when I was in college I sort of did things a little bit backwards.
I went to college first and then I joined the military. And we had a guy who was a marine veteran who was in some of our classes, and he was with like this old grumpy guy. And he seemed like he just hated every, everyone around him and everything about being there. But I mean, he. Aced all the courses.
Like he, he did a great job as far as all that goes. But he was the stereotypical veteran going through college, just, you know, hitting the fact that the 18 year old kids are out partying and drinking while he’s trying to figure out how to keep a roof over his head and go to school and [00:03:00] all this other stuff that he had going on.
So, yeah, it’s a very difficult time for a lot of veterans as they’re transitioning out and trying to figure out what it is that they want to do. In the third stage of their life, you know, you broke it out into three different stages. Right. So tell us a little bit about your transition out of the military.
You said you’re an infantryman. Who wound up going to Harvard, right? , if I understand that correct. So it has to be a good story there. I’m pretty sure. By the way, I was an infantryman and I went to Harvard too. It was just for one night though, for a friend’s wedding , so I’m sure your stay was a whole lot longer than mine.
But but yeah, I’d love to hear about your transition and how all that took place.
John Davis: Yeah. I, well, I was a lot like your your marine friend. When I started college, I was 29. And I remember my first day, you know, I showed up 15 minutes early for my class like you’re supposed to do, because in the military, if you’re not early, then you’re late.
And I remember sitting there and you know, waiting and waiting. And finally I felt like panicking. So I was like, I gotta be in the wrong room here. And then finally, you know, the rest of the class comes in with probably half the students coming in late on [00:04:00] the very first day, which. An absolutely unforgivable sin in military culture.
You know, coming in late with a coffee cup in your hand on the first day. Yep. And I realized then I was in kind of a different world, and at the time, you know, I was instrument, you know, I couldn’t get through a sentence without cursing. I couldn’t, you know, I called, I remember calling my backpack and a salt pack and the students were a little nervous, like, Oh, what’s this guy gonna do?
And I couldn’t really disconnect who I was. From my military identity, you know, I was in the military you know, about nine years, and it was pretty much all I knew. And w by the time veterans start school, like you mentioned, you know, with the marine guy, you tend to be older, tend to have families, you tend to need to work.
And well over 50% of student veterans have some type of service connected disability and all these things. Plus, like you mentioned, you’re currently transition. Usually when veterans start school, it’s right after they get outta the military. So you’re currently transitioning out of the [00:05:00] military, which is difficult in and of itself.
No matter if you do, you know, three years or 30 years you’re moving across the country or even the world. You know, if you’re getting out from Germany or somewhere like that, you’re kind of reentering your civilian life, your community. Figuring out who you are and starting college. And I think that’s why a lot of veterans you know, don’t bother going or a lot to start, don’t finish because it is a lot to deal with.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, for sure. It is. And for all those reasons that you mentioned, right? You’re dealing with people who luckily our families, they need to worry about keeping a roof over their head, food on the table. All that kind of stuff that your typical college kid who is 18, 19, whatever years old, they don’t need to worry about all of that stuff.
In most kids. I, you know, I’m generalizing here that I’m sure there are some, someone’s gonna probably reach out and be like, Oh, I had to worry about all that shit too. But like, not everyone had to do that. Right. You’re more worried about, you know, where. [00:06:00] Good parties there are on the weekend and that kind of stuff, like that’s your typical college life.
But when you got a veteran going into college right after the service, They have other things that they have to worry about and so, I almost wonder if that helps them focus a little bit more and do better while they’re in school. They don’t have time for going out and partying and slacking off and doing all this other stuff.
They need to focus and get the job done. Right.
John Davis: Yeah, I think it’s so easy for veterans to focus on the negative aspects of our military service. It’s so easy to kind of point at that and be like, Okay, this is, you know, this is why I’m screwed up, or whatnot. And what I wanted to do is to help veterans view their military experiences as an advantage in college instead of a disadvantage.
Right? Because, like you mentioned, I mean, you, you are isolated. Chances are you the only veteran in the classroom and it’s difficult transitioning back, but you do have things over the other students, so you know how to be on time. Like I mentioned, you have grit, you have real world experience, and you can take those and be successful like.[00:07:00]
Like you mentioned I dropped outta, or I failed outta community college before joining the military, and then I ended up with a master’s degree from Harvard. Not because I’m that smart, just because I understood, you know, you have to put in your time in school, same way you put in your time in the military.
And if you tell me to do something, I’ll do it. I’m good at following orders. Like a lot of military people are. You tell me to study for the test. I’ll study for the test, not a problem. And education isn’t really that complicated. It’s like in the military right time, right place, right. Keep showing up day after day and you’re gonna, you’re gonna be good.
A lot of veterans, sometimes you don’t know what you’re gonna do with your life when you got in the military, so they don’t go to college. But college, like younger people is kind of a place for self-discovery and for veterans that can kind of be a place of rediscovery because you do have to kind of build your civilian identity when you go outta the.
Scott DeLuzio: Right. And when you’re in the military, a lot of times your career path is almost laid out for you, you know? Like an infantryman, right? You have [00:08:00] options somewhere along the line to probably go to Airborne or Ranger school or, you know, different things like that to help advance your career and move you along along the way.
And, you know, I’m just picking on infantry cuz we’re both infantry and that’s, you know, easy. But you know, other moss have. Specialty schools and things like that, that they could go to and advance their career that way. And it’s pretty clear cut, but when you get out of the military and you’re not entirely sure what you wanna be when you grow up if you will it’s kind of hard because, you know, you don’t really want to go wasting the next four years studying for a degree. You may not end up ever using, cuz you may graduate and be like, this suck. I don’t wanna do this job. Like this isn’t what I want to do. So, you know, it’s really, like you said, a lot of self-discovery and trying to learn who you are and what you wanna do with your life.
John Davis: Yeah. A lot of military people just view college as not being for them, and a lot of that’s because, you know, after high. You have three main options. You have the workforce, you [00:09:00] have education, or you have the military. And a lot of people chose the military, so you know, they feel like going to college is kind of going backwards in life.
And I think you hit it on the head when you know, cuz military life is actually pretty simple. People think of it as being complicated, but it’s really not that hard. You have someone in charge of you, you’re in charge of someone else. You kind of have a straight career path. Whereas civilian life is more chaotic.
There’s way more options. There’s way. You know, places to screw up. The military takes care of you so you can focus on your job. They give you a place to stay. They give you, you know, you have a chow hall, you have, they take care of all little things so you can focus on your job. Whereas civilian life, you have to really balance all of those.
There’s not those support structures that they’re in place in the military. So one of the chapters of my book you know, which I have here, is called Build Your Armor. And it’s all about, In the military, you have a support system built around you. It’s already in place, but in civilian life, you have to put it in yourself, [00:10:00] and then you also have to maintain it and all those things.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. So I mean, the. The people who are getting into college right after the military they’re not entirely sure what they wanna do when they grow up, but you know it’s just a matter of just. Kind of digging deep and looking into themselves and trying to just figure these things out.
John Davis: Yeah. I think college, what it does, provides like an excellent bridge between the military and civilian worlds because when I first got out of the military, you know, I had a few months before I was starting college and that was really a difficult time for me because I didn’t really have anything to do.
I was so used to. Someone telling me what to do and when nobody kind of appeared to tell me what to do, I kind of just did nothing or just got drunk every day or, you know, chased negative things. And so college just provide that kind of healthy amount of structure where, you know you have these classes you signed up for.
And one of the things I advise veterans to do is treat your. Your education like a military contract. So you know, this [00:11:00] is your new contract type thing to where, okay, you’re signing up now you, you’re obligated to go to class and do your time and all those things because nobody’s gonna pound on your door if you don’t go to school.
Nobody’s gonna care. Your professors are probably not gonna be that bothered if you don’t show up. Whereas in the military, I mean, if you’re five minutes late, you’re probably gonna get, you’re gonna get a phone call from somebody, especially, you know, in the infantry or something. But it’s, that’s how it’s.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, it is. And you’re right. I mean, you really do have to learn how to look out for yourself. People in the military, like you said, you’re gonna have your team leader, your squad leader, your whoever, your platoon sergeant, whoever going knocking down your door. If you’re not at formation on time or if you’re not wearing the right uniform, they’re gonna be chewing you out.
Or if you’re not, Whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing they’re gonna be on top of you to make sure. But like you said, a college professor could really care less if no or couldn’t care less if you showed up to class or not. Like they’re gonna be there getting paid one way or the other, whether you show up or not.
And to [00:12:00] them it doesn’t matter, you know?
John Davis: Yeah. And so many veterans. Just don’t view college for them. They, you know, they don’t view it as a place for them. And what I want to do is to encourage veterans, like no, education and learning is for everyone. And one of the things that got me really interested in in education, kind of like in helping veterans get through it, is, you know, there’s two classes of people in the military across all the branches.
It’s the exact same. You have officers and you have enlisted people. And officers transition way better out of the military. They get divorced less, they struggle less with addiction. With homelessness, they kill themselves less. And I kind of, you know, started wondering why that was, because we have essentially the same military experiences to some extent.
We, we work on the same basis, same ships, eat the same food, have access to the same benefits. Officers traditionally have a college degree, and that leads to them doing far better economically because by the time [00:13:00] enlisted people get to college, they already face significant obstacles like we talked about with being older, having families needing to work, or potentially having disabilities.
So it makes your education a little more challenging. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good place to start your civilian journey, especially because you have. You know, tremendous benefit of being able to go to school essentially for free with the GI Bill with, you know, we knew that the greatest generation kind of thought and got that after World War II for us and leaving that kind of to the side when like 60% of veterans don’t even touch their GI bill is sort of a tragedy, especially given the fact that, you know, you see civilian people that go hundreds of thousands of dollars in a debt just to get a college degree and a lot of veterans who can go for free.
Scott DeLuzio: And that just blows my mind sometimes when you see these people going in, like you said, going into hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt, they’re paying off debt well [00:14:00] into their thirties their entire life. Almost sometimes. Yeah. Sometimes even longer. You know, even longer going into their forties, even further trying to pay off this education. And then you see these veterans who are coming out of the. Who, like you said, could essentially get it all paid for. They don’t have to pay for hardly end of it. Yeah. You can get paid to go a little bit. Right. Exactly. And they just blow it away and they don’t take advantage of it.
It’s kind of a little bit crazy if you think about it, right? Yeah.
John Davis: Now the GI Bill is getting more flexible because, you know, traditional education might not necessarily be for everybody, but I mean, plumbers and electricians make a hell of a lot more money than like teachers do. So the GI Bill has these programs, well, they’ll pay for these, you know, tremendous vocational programs for certifications.
You know, everything from police academy to scuba school to flight school. So I think we’re quick to look at. The GI Bill’s just being for like college to go sit in the classroom. But there are other [00:15:00] uses to the GI Bill. I wanna encourage veterans to do, even if traditional education isn’t for you.
Because even though I wrote a book about how veterans can be successful in education, I realize traditional college path just isn’t gonna be for everyone and isn’t gonna be for a lot of veterans, especially. As veterans, we tend to be more experiential learners. We tend to want to do instead of sit in the classroom and a lot of veterans kind of get bored with the, you know, passive learning that occurs in a lot of colleges.
But you can make your dry bill work for you in something you’re passionate about.
Scott DeLuzio: That’s absolutely true and I had a guy on the show a couple of years ago, his usage of the GI Bill fell in line with what you’re talking about there. He ended up going to become a yoga instructor and he used the GI bill to help him go through That whole process of getting certified and everything else that goes into it.
I mean, that’s something that people don’t even think about when you talk GI Bill stuff, right? You don’t think about yoga instructor, plumber, [00:16:00] electrician. Hvac you know, repair type thing. No one’s thinking about these types of things, but that’s all available to you as well. So, you know, really it doesn’t make any sense to go out there and just struggle through life not having the training or the certifications or whatever it is that you need to do the job that you want When you have this available to you.
John Davis: And now. Yeah. And now college. I love to hear people when they use a GI bill like creatively or get the most of it, or even when people that give it to their kids, you know, Or cause you can give it to your spouse, you can give it to your kids or your step kids to go to college for free. And I meet so many, you know, I do so much educational stuff.
I meet so many veterans who they’re paying for their kids’ college. Just like you need to, you know, And it. It’s just the bureaucracy of everything that veterans don’t like to make the phone calls to do, the emails to kind of bother people because, you know, these benefits that we have are pretty good, but it does take taking advantage of them.
And for me, I, I kind of luck out because I got into a school where I worked in a work [00:17:00] study program for the VA to help student veterans. So I got to see the student veteran experience up close, not only from my own perspective. But these other student veterans I was helping and guiding through education.
So I made a list and you know, I called it John’s College Tips, and I printed it and I gave it to incoming student veterans, and I put it on the wall in our student veteran room. And eventually those tips morphed into the chapters of my book because it’s just kind of common sense, you know, lessons and relatable stories from, you know, from a veteran to veterans.
Like I wanted the book. To be kind of words from a friend. Like obviously it’s not something that’s gonna, you know, get me rich or sell a ton of copies cuz it’s for student veterans, which is kind of a small category of people, but such an important time in your life that first year when you get outta the military is I think just crucial.
That no matter what you do it well because momentum really matters whether you’re in life or on the battlefield or in college. And if you start off on a good. It’s more likely to keep it going, but if you start off, Sure. A [00:18:00] lot of veterans, you go to college and hey say that doesn’t work out and you drop out.
That’s easy to spiral down and. With your economic health, playing so much into your mental health and all those things, you know, make more money and you’ll be happier. More money more problems is not necessarily true. I promise you. You’ll be happier with more money, .
Scott DeLuzio: Right? Exactly. Yeah. So, let’s talk about your book.
And I don’t want to give everything away in the book. I obviously, I want people to go buy the book. I know you’re saying it’s not gonna make you rich, but you know, so you want people to buy the book. Yeah. Let’s talk about some of the topics and the categories that you kind of broke out for tho those people that you kind of printed out and started out the outline of the book.
With this in mind, what are some of the keys to success for student veterans?
John Davis: So for student veterans, one of the things that you. Have to kind of tap into is your discipline. So there’s a lot of things that, that you should maybe leave in the military. Some of the cursing, some of the dark humor some of the stuff like that is not great.
But one of the things that you know, in my college a lot of veterans struggled [00:19:00] with is dealing with professors, especially. Professors who were like extremely political in the classroom or placing their own beliefs over the education. And that is a big problem for veterans. I know when I was in school you had, you know, sort of a, I don’t wanna say a anti-military, but it to some extent it kind of felt like that.
And that can that kind of anti-military stuff or can. Can kind of feel anti vean at times, and so , it’s pretty common to feel uncomfortable in some of these classrooms as student veterans. So a lot of the, a lot of the concepts are pretty straightforward, but it’s relatable, it’s useful and it’s entertaining.
I wanted to, you know, make it all of those things to to really connect with people who I understand. Sure.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And I, I think. Connecting with those people will help in those environments where maybe you’re not feeling the warm and fuzzy feeling that you might be used to, you know, with everyone thanking you for your service when you have an [00:20:00] anti-military attitude going around campus or something like that.
You know, connecting with maybe a student veteran organization or something along those lines could be useful to at least find other people with similar. Backgrounds and experiences, right?
John Davis: Yeah. One of the things that, Cause you can go to college and sit in the back of your classroom and get the degree and you might not really get anywhere.
So it’s about maximizing your time in college because, I mean, networking is kind of the way the future in the military, what, you know, really matters on the civilian side, who you know matters, you know, a hell of a lot more. And college is an excellent place to make connections. Not just your fellow students, but it’s an excellent place of learning.
Guest speakers, career services. You have internships, you have study abroad programs, you have all these clubs and organizations that veterans can join. A lot of times we tend to. Kind of stick in our isolated veteran bubbles. You know, we might be with the student vet group, but we’re less likely to join, you know, the STEM club [00:21:00] or those things.
But that’s how we get forward. So one of the things that my book does is you have to learn how to be kind of a person. Again, after the military, I had to kind of learn how to be, you know, a normal person. I remember. Like my first group project that I did, I was in a group of four people trying to, you know, do this presentation in front of the class, and one of the kids, the student in the group just was not doing his part and we had to go and then, so, I yelled at him, and before you know it, I’m in, in the security office for threatening other students.
And I was like, This guy’s messing with my grade. I’m, you know, I’m here. And he’s refusing to do it. And so it’s, you know, veterans do, there’s a communication gap sometimes between us and civilians. You know, I was still on military time, tic alphabet, things like that. That, that can be tough to break.
So college is a good time to kind of figure out how to be a person.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And I absolutely hated group projects cuz of the exact thing that you just talked about. I mean, it was awful because your grade is [00:22:00] tied into the effort of other people and sometimes other people just suck. And this is my attitude about it before I joined the military, people just suck sometimes and they just are willing to sit there and.
Let everyone else do the work and whatever. But, you know, that’s, that is also a good reflection on life too. you’re gonna get into the workforce and there’s gonna be those people who just, they slack off and they want to write on everyone else’s coattails and just not really do the work or put in the effort.
Is necessary, and you’re gonna have to deal with those people. So, yeah, maybe Jack and the guy up against the wall and you know, scream screaming with knife hands pointed at his face. Tell him best. Yeah, tell him to do pushups and you know, go low, crawl across the quad or whatever.
Probably not the best way to handle the situation, but. Yeah, I mean, you gotta learn how to deal with that too. I mean, in the military there was a way that you dealt with it and it was fine. And yeah, sometimes it was not the [00:23:00] most polite you know, way of doing things, but, It got the job done and yeah, when that was your background, that’s your training.
You’re kind of used to that. So yeah, you have to figure out how to be a person all over again.
John Davis: And yeah, it’s all people kinda hierarchically in the military. The relationships are kind of, you know, they make sense and civilian world is a little crazy when it comes to those things. And veterans kind of figure have to figure out their place because nobody knows where they belong.
In the civilian world, everybody’s special, everybody’s unique and the. You know exactly where you belong. I mean, it’s not a confusing thing.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. No, nobody’s special.
John Davis: No, nobody’s special. Nobody at all. Yeah. The Full Metal Jacket we’re all equally worthless.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. And that’s, I don’t know, it’s hard to, Break that mindset when you get out into the civilian world.
But you do have to learn how to be a person and integrate with those people who may not be pulling their weight. And you’re gonna have to figure out how to deal [00:24:00] with those people. Easies thing. But
John Davis: there’s people in the military that obviously aren’t your first choice. I mean, you have to learn how to serve with.
Difficult people. I mean, there’s not anyone that didn’t, you know, serve for a toxic leader or have those people around them. But one of the things in the outside world, especially in something like education, is you can kind of build your own team. You don’t get to choose who you serve with in the military, but a civilian side.
You can kind of build your own success team, your own challenge network and your environment really matters. You know, in the military and the military environment, but a civilian world, you get to create your own environment. You get to choose who you’re around. You know, if kinda like, you know, plant can only grow in the correct circumstances.
So one of the chapters in my book is learn how to say no because when you’re doing your in the military, You cannot say no. I mean, it’s just, it’s Roger that it’s, Yes sir, It’s yes sergeant, but in the civilian side, you get the power of no to say no. Even hell no. And sometimes a lot of the people around us are the [00:25:00] ones holding us back.
So my book does cover how to be like, Listen, you have to be selfish at times in your life. You spent all these years, all this blood, sweat sacrificed for the military, and now your job is to serve yourself to lead. A lot of veterans, they kind of get used to that service mentality. They’re taking care of their families, take care of everyone else.
And that makes it harder to take care of yourself sometimes?
Scott DeLuzio: No, it does. Yeah. When you’re worried or not worried so much, but when your mindset is always on the Selfless service on the mission type of thing, on the mission, on the team, on the whatever. It’s hard to break out of that and be a little selfish and take care of yourself and put yourself first and not worry so much about other people.
And not that you wanna necessarily roll over all those other people and Totally, you know. Ruin their careers, ruin their lives or anything like that but you also want to take care of yourself and make sure that you’re not getting steamrolled either, you know? Yeah.
John Davis: We’re so used to kind of a communal identity in [00:26:00] the military, whereas civilian world, especially now with technology, it’s like, it’s such an individual world we live in, so, you know, hyper individual.
What I want veterans to do is take your communal mentality into civilian world and build your own team around yourself. Kind of build your own team to be successful as opposed to, you know, going through the world isolated because there’s such a big gap and it’s only growing between the military and civilian populations.
And for a lot of, you know, if you’re a veteran in. You’re gonna be the only veteran that a lot of those people know. I was surprised when I, you know, went to school and, you know, those people never met another veteran before, which is, that’s basically all I knew. But now we have, you know, 80% of the military comes from military families and the same 1%, you know, serve and multiple deployments.
And we’ve kind of drifted further away from our civilian population, which I don’t know how it happened, fighting wars for 20 years. But, you know, college is a good place. To figure out who you are [00:27:00] and tell your story as a veteran, because, you know, our stories kind of humanize us. They look at us as, you know, just different, but we’re not.
Scott DeLuzio: Right. I wanna take a slight detour from this conversation right here and talk about something that I found on your website. It was one of the blog posts that you had written, and the, that blog post talks about what you call tattoo therapy. Yeah. . And so, on this podcast we talk. All sorts of different forms of therapies.
You know, there’s a traditional talk therapy that, that everyone’s kind of familiar with. You see it on TV all the time. But you know, we talk about other things, art therapy, music therapy using horses and other animals and other. Alternative forms of therapies that people don’t necessarily think about.
And you start, you started writing about tattoo tattoos as a form of therapy and it intrigued me. I don’t have any tattoos myself, and I’m probably a rarity in the veteran. You are. Yeah. I also hate needles. So Good. You know, that just kind of makes sense, [00:28:00] but, I never really thought of tattoos as being a form of therapy.
So could you talk about that a little bit and kind of what you meant by all of that? Yeah.
John Davis: The military and tattoos obviously are pretty closely connected. If you look at any. Military formation. I promised you there is a wide verret of tattoos underneath the uniforms. The first, you know, tattoos for military reasons were actually in Japanese culture.
Samurai used to tattoo the village they’re from on their bodies. So if they died in combat, they would be sent back to their village for proper burial and all that. And for me, a tattoo is kind of a transformation. So a lot of military veterans, when they get out of the military unit, they get a, you know, that unit tattoo on themselves and it kind of symbolizes a closure or, you know, remembering.
And a lot of us like to get, you know, the kind of r i p tattoos for the people that we served with who are no longer with us. And kind of remember the places you’ve been. The people you’ve met there. I mean, you know, it’s one of the cool things about the military is you [00:29:00] do get to go to a lot of different places, meet a lot of different cultures and I think that, you know, the military transforms you, you know, it doesn’t matter how long you serve.
And the tattoos are also a form of transformation.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, they are. Absolutely. And I think that closure that you talked about kind of maybe the RIP kind of tattoos or the those types of things are certainly things that I can wrap my head around that I can understand why people would want to do that.
My, my brother actually had a tattoo on his arm of a face of a woman. And when he was in Iraq he was an infantryman as well. When he was in Iraq, there was a a woman who came running out and stopped their patrol. And she told them that if they continue going down this one street, they were all going to die.
And there, there was IEDs and all kinds of stuff like that. It was, there was an ambush set up basically. And they were gonna die if they went down that way. And so they’re like, Okay, cool. So we’re not going down that way today. Like, that’s just not the best way to go. So they went a different way [00:30:00] and they came back like, I don’t know.
A couple days later to thank the woman because they found out that what she was saying was actually true. And they did discover like kind of where all of that was set up, where that ambush was set up. And came to find the woman and her family were all beheaded in their house. Oh, wow.
And so she, he was like, like, shit. Literally put her life on the line trying to help us. And so he had a tattoo of her face, like the best of his ability to remember her face you know, tattooed on his arm as kind of like a tribute or a remembrance kind of thing. And you know, that’s just, I think one way of finding that closure that some people might be looking for.
And the, that’s really what kind of piqued my interest with that story that you were talking about how you use getting tattoos as a form of therapy and it kind of resonated in terms of like how people. Would do that and why they might want to do that. And so, I felt like I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about that, [00:31:00] just cuz we talk about so many different forms of therapy on this podcast. And that was certainly a unique one that I had not come across before. So I wanted to definitely at least bring that up and talk about that a.
John Davis: Yeah I wish I’d had known that story before I wrote the article. I could have included, included that story. Yeah, , that’s a really, that’s one of the best tattoo stories I’ve heard.
I got a lot of like white trash tattoos all over me from people’s garages things, but it’s, you know, it’s still good. I have military units tattoo on me too. But that is a great story. And I think now veterans are more open to the kind of non-traditional forms of therapy because, you know, the reality we’ve seen in the veteran community, Traditional therapy isn’t really as helpful at all, all the time as we want it to be.
One of the things that I, you know, that I work on is introducing veterans to nature for a form of therapy. Cause I really feel like nature’s one of those things that puts you in the present and has such a healing component to it. And I think that, you know, as society, as veterans we live our military careers kind of outside and then we, when we get.
We spend, we [00:32:00] join America, which spends like 90% of US time indoors. And so I think that if we, you know, veterans need to keep getting field time in, keep getting outside, keep being active, keep the sun on your face, and that’s, you know, a good form of therapy as well.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, it is. I mean, it could be as simple as just going out for a walk outside, you know, around, around your neighborhood.
You know, going down, exploring new areas you know, around where you live. I mean, just go and do that. Get outside get, move, keep yourself moving. I think that’s the key part of it. Because movement has its own therapeutic benefits and you know, it doesn’t have to. Super strenuous.
You don’t have to be going out doing PT like you did when you were 20, you know? No. You can go out and do just a walk around the neighborhood and yeah.
John Davis: That the military can kind of ruin out for us because they make us do these uncomfortable exercises at, you know, five in the morning and it’s always raining.
I don’t know why it rains so much more military basis than the rest of the world. But yeah, I was on a. I was on a panel [00:33:00] yesterday with my levana winner, General Fogel, who fought in Vietnam, and all he would talk about to other people is he talked a lot about horse therapy because he worked in some horse units and hearing him talk about how he had seen so many veterans even before it was becoming you know, now the horse therapy and things like that are more in the mainstream, but he talked about it, you know, back doing it after Vietnam, introducing veterans to horses and things like that.
So those things have always kind of been there. and you know, there is some negative aspects about traditional therapy and the big money involved in it, things like that. I think everybody’s veteran end kind of has a complicated relationship with the VA. Sometimes we want to hate it, Sometimes we wanna fundraise for it.
It’s, I’m not so sure how I feel most of the time. .
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, I mean the VA, I, you know, it. A government organization like any other, and they have their problems and they have a lot of great people working for trying to do the right thing, right? They can only do so much because of the nature of the organization and all that.
But you know, honestly, [00:34:00] I think you know, take advantage of what the VA has to offer may not be the best fit for. Try it out. Just like college, you know, it may not be the right fit for you. You might, maybe at a trade school or something like that might be a better fit for you. But give it a try.
If it doesn’t work out, try something else. But I think the key message is just keep trying, like, don’t give up because there’s so many things out there, so many people who want to help you with no matter what. It’s, it could be therapy, it could be educational resources, like stuff that we’re talking about today.
You know, and I think. When you quit on whatever it is, whatever your goal is that’s just like going against everything that you learned in the military.
John Davis: Yeah. You’re, And that’s what keep pushing. The cool thing about the military is you always have a mission. You always have a challenge, and then when you get out and the military.
Those challenges and obstacles that the military puts in front of you kind of disappear and you have to find your own. So one of the first missions you have to do is find yourself, you know, a new life mission. A new goal. An education [00:35:00] to me was a good starting point to, to steer veterans towards, but your challenges don’t necessarily have to be educational based.
Obviously you can go do a. Go ask for promotion go do things that make you uncomfortable, cuz that’s the only way you’re gonna grow is through discomfort. And I think that veterans are kind of over being uncomfortable sometimes after the military, but God bend, you know? But to me, one of the things that, you know, bothers me about the veteran community sometimes is we tend to view our best years as behind us.
And that could be kind of a, you know, a defeatist way to live. I’ve met. 22 year olds who think their glory days are all in the past. And you know, you can’t live like that when you have the military. So you have to keep a challenge, you know, ahead of you. And don’t only Live in the past or keep looking in the rear of your mirror.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Especially when you’re that young and you have potentially another what, 70 some odd years ahead of you. Like that’s a shitty way to look at life, you know? I wanna give you a chance to tell people where they can get a copy of your book [00:36:00] and and anything else that you have. Talk about,
John Davis: Yeah, so my website is www.johnhdaviswriter.com.
And there I have my book Combat to College, which is right here. And I also wrote a Student Veterans Semester Journal, which is like a companion to it. So the semester journal is think it’s like eight bucks and it takes you through a 16 week semester. So it’s like, here’s. Weekly schedule. Here’s your to-do list.
Here’s your daily task or weekly task. All kind of geared you know, towards the student veteran experience. I also have a student veteran coaching program on there that a lot of student veteran programs around the country use for student veterans to help student veterans. And then my blog and, you know, I’m constantly out trying to.
Help veterans get through their education. Cause I think if, once we see more veterans, effectively going to school, using a GI bill and graduating, we’ll start to see an improvement in the veteran community. Because, like I mentioned, you know, people with [00:37:00] college degrees kill themselves less than those without them.
So if you can encourage veterans to go to school, I think that’s a good starting point in our civilian lives, but I like, we, like we talked about, I don’t think college is a right fit for everyone. I’m not saying everyone in the world go to school, but as long as you’re doing something to challenge you, as long as you’re moving forward, then you’re gonna be good.
And I think that. We tend to view learning sometimes as behind us after we finish our education or after we get outta the military. The military stops any new schools, you know, go to schools yourself. So, you know, lifelong learning is for everyone. That’s why I think it’s great, like what you’re doing, the podcast.
Cause you talk to different people, you learn different things. Not only yourself, but then your audience gets to hear all these different stories from people who are out in the world doing stuff. So now, you know, self education is really sometimes better than formal education. I mean, I. A lot more in Afghanistan than I did in Harvard.
So I would say for everyone, you know, if you wanna check out some of my writing, some my websites, you wanna contact me you know, you go on there and then I’ll take you to my social media stuff as well. [00:38:00]
Scott DeLuzio: Excellent. Yeah, and I’ll have links to all of that in the show notes. So anyone who wants to check that out and get a copy of those books definitely check out the show notes and that they’ll be nice, easy links there.
But just to echo what you’re saying my, my degree when I went to school was in account. Worked in accounting for a few years after I got outta school. Ended up teaching myself software development and website design and things like that. And I made a whole career out of that stuff. Doing that type of thing.
Had nothing to do with accounting or anything that my degree was in. So that self-taught you know, mindset that you’re just talking about is totally something that people do. Can be successful with. So, you know, find something that you’re interested and passionate about and go after it.
You know, it doesn’t matter if you have a formalized degree necessarily. I mean, some cases you might need that for certain legal reasons or whatever. You’re not gonna be a lawyer without a law degree, right. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good job or start your own career, your own business or anything like that without something like that.
So, Figure out what it is that you wanna do. [00:39:00] I think that’s a first and foremost. And then map out the steps that you need to take in order to get there. That may include college, it may not and figure it out. So, so awesome. So John, thank you so much for taking the time to join me. Really do appreciate it.
Again, links will be in the show notes for anyone who is listening who wants to check out the books and find out more about John and everything that he’s up to. So thanks again, John. Thanks.
Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book. Go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.