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 Steven Nisbet. Steven is an Air Force veteran and the President of Shields and Stripes, a nonprofit which takes a holistic mind body approach to helping veterans and first responders heal. And in this episode, we’re going to chat with Steven.
His experiences in the military and what shields and stripes is all about and how it can help the people who are looking to get into a more of a holistic mind body kind of, approach to their healing journey. So welcome to the show, Steve. I’m glad to have you here.
Steven Nisbet: [00:01:00] Oh, thank you for having me on the show.
It’s my pleasure. Hopefully we don’t keep it too boring and we keep it interesting and for your listeners. And then yeah, we can say some things that hopefully spark some opportunity for.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t think we’re gonna have a problem with that. I think we’re gonna talk about some pretty great stuff that you guys have going on and how you’re out there helping out the veterans and the first responders who are struggling in one way or another and how you’ve taken this approach to really help heal their overall, their mind, their body, that everything that they have going on.
So, I think, I don’t think we’ll have any issue with it being a boring conversation here. So, first off let’s take things back a little bit and you know, would you be able to tell us a little bit about your yourself and your background?
Steven Nisbet: Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m 36 years old.
I grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Growing up my dad was in the air. He spent several years in the Air Force Security forces, and then he got out and became a police [00:02:00] officer. So he’s spent pretty much the next 30 years in law enforcement my entire childhood and beyond as a police officer and specifically in the gang task force unit.
So as I grew up it was, you know, a pretty strict house. If you will. And it’s not that I had a, there was no like terrible upbringing or anything like that. It was just making sure that we didn’t do anything, me and my brothers where my brothers and I didn’t do anything to tarnish his name or his reputation.
You know, there’s a lot of individuals or kids at the school that I hung out with that he arrested and he knew a lot of things about a lot of the people that I hung out with. And and so it made it a challenge in school being the son of a police officer. Spent my childhood playing soccer and beyond doing, you know, that was my sport that I really wanted to get into.
I wanted to go to college playing soccer. That was a goal and an aspiration. And as [00:03:00] I finished high school, that never came. I didn’t get a scholarship to go to. To place soccer somewhere and you know, specifically the university of Arizona there, or even Pima Community College. And it was at a point of, well, what do I do now?
What do I do next? And so I went to school, I went to Pima Community College after high school, and I went and studied astronomy because I was a space nerd and still am. But that’s what I like to do. I like to look at space and as I went into the classes, I looked around at the people around me and it’s no dig on them.
It just wasn’t the demographic that I put, you know, want to hang out with. There were a lot of older folks that just weren’t my speed and I was like, Man, there’s a lot more stuff I could be doing and sort of looking at different options. All of my friends actually were going to the University of Arizona, so I felt super in.
And they were all going in as engineers under scholarships. And I was like, Man, I don’t have the money to pay for that. Still wanna hang out [00:04:00] with my friends. Not really into engineering, but I’ll there, I know they’re gonna make a lot of money doing that. And in my mind the goal was I gotta find a way to make money and go move out of my house and do something different.
So I was like, you know what? Like here’s another, a, another avenue where maybe I can get to where they are just by a different means. And I’m gonna go, just join the air. Because my, I talked to about it with my dad. He said, You know, the Air Force is gonna be where you want to go. It’s, you know, they take care of you better, as they say.
And I didn’t disagree. And I was like, Okay, cool. I’ll just go do that. I’m gonna go do that for four years and I’m gonna get the GI bill. And then I’m gonna go to, then I’ll have my scholarship and go to the U of A and catch up and then go work with them at Raytheon or IBM or whatever, and we’ll be best pals again.
. And so I went into the office, the recruiter’s office there in Tucson, and I taken the asba and I scored really well. And you know, they’re like, You can do anything you want. What do you wanna do? And I was like, Well, what’s a [00:05:00] difficult job? That you need to have a high ASBA score and they’re like a nuclear weapons apprentice.
And I was like, That’s perfect that’ll line me right up to working with Raytheon or IBM and stuff. But I’ll build some missile systems with them and you know that I’ll be back in dues Tucson hanging out with my buds. And so that was it. I pretty much signed paperwork, this is what I want to do.
Walked out of the office and there was an army recruiter next door and he was like, Hey son, lemme talk to you. And I was like, Shoot, I better listen to what he has to say. And so I listened to him. And he said, You wanna be in special forces? And I was like, Man, I’ve never even thought of that. No one’s ever asked me that questions.
I’ve never even considered that for myself. And I listened to everything he had to say and I was like, I can’t believe somebody’s asking me if I want to be in special forces. Like I wanna be special in some way. I was like, Man, that sounds really appealing. And I didn’t consider myself special in any way.
I was like, Hang on a second. I might be back. He also dangled some money in front of my face for an enlistment notice and I was like, I might, That sounds pretty appealing as recruiters do . Yeah. And so I went into [00:06:00] the Air Force office and I was like, Hey, you guys got any special operations jobs? Right.
You already chose what? Nuclear weapons apprentice. Just stick with that. Stick with what you got. And I was like, Yeah, I know, but I just listened to this dude and he says they got special forces. Do you guys have special operations jobs? And he is like, Yeah, we got PJs and combat controllers. But here’s the thing, you’re not gonna make it like it’s so hard to become one of these.
It’s a 90% attrition rate. If just stick with what you have and you don’t like, have to worry about then changing your career field cuz you, you probably won’t make it. You know the odds. And I was like, This guy has no clue who I am. Like how is he gonna tell me without knowing anything about me? I was like, Just gimme the information.
So I, he gave me some information, walked outta there, canceled any paperwork that I had signed that day, did my research, and I was like, I want to be a com, a combat controller. After reading both of the curriculums, and I was like, I don’t really know what it does per se, based on the information they gave.
But combat control. I like the sound of [00:07:00] combat and controlling combat. So, that sounds appealing. I’m gonna go do that. And so I started training for it, signed some paperwork, and took a pass test or the physical ability and stamina test. And that’s just a regular PT test just to see, hey, you made the standards to be able to join this type of career field.
And when I went to take it, they said, All right, which one do you wanna do first? Or which one do you wanna do? And I was like, What are you talking? They’re like, You either have a do the swim in the beginning or the swim at the end. And I was like I’ll just swim at the beginning. Does that matter?
They’re like, No, not really. And I was like, Okay, well, I’ve been training with the swim at the beginning, so that’s what I, that’s what I’ll do. Swam did the whole thing and then they’re like, All right, you’re gonna be a pj. And I was like I thought I wanted to be combat controller. Like, it’s the same thing when you get there.
When you get to basic training, you just tell ’em you want to be this, and then you move on and you go to the same end course. And you’ll figure it out from there. And I believe this guy, and I was like, Okay, sounds good. That’s not what happened. I show, I showed up there and the [00:08:00] two, they used to be a pipeline that was together and now it’s separated and this is in 2005, gets separated to PJ’s and controllers to different pipelines and they kind of intermixed it throughout that pipeline, but it was always a different path.
And so I started doing research and I was like, You know what, maybe I will. PJ stuff, but I was more interested in like, all right, if I’m gonna do this, I’ll, this, the plan will remain the same. I’m still gonna get out in four years and go hang out with my buds and do schooling, but I’m gonna do a cool job first, and I’m gonna go do, I’m gonna rescue.
I was more interested in rescuing civilians, like, you know, out in the, like lost in the Grand Canyon or something like that, or injured civilians somewhere. I was like, that sounds more interesting to me. I wasn’t into the combat thing and so I did the pipeline. 120 people started in my class and only 12 of us finished, You know, and in the beginning when I, every single step I took, I was 120 pounds soaking wet, 130 pounds, and one of the smallest guys in the group.
And, you [00:09:00] know, out of my basic training class, there was 30 of us going through. And I would go to sleep at night, I would lay in the, and these other guys are doing extra pushups, pull up sit-ups. They’re just really training hard at night. And I was like, I’m you tired for any of that? I’m going to sleep.
And so my basic training instructor was like, You’re not gonna make it. You’re gonna be the one to quit first. And I was like, I don’t know about, like these guys are pretty big and they look strong and fast and stuff, but like, I just like to sleep and recover. And so maybe this guy’s right.
I don’t know. But we did the course, you know, went into Indoc and of those 30 people that were in that group of 120, I was the only one of those 30 to finish. And all of the other ones quit. And so it was very gratifying, you know, to just to watch each one of ’em as terrible as it was for them to make a choice to quit.
It was motivating for me to see each, like the pool gets, like the people [00:10:00] inside the pool gets smaller and smaller. And so like I have more space in the pool. You know, there’s less people that have to carry and . So it’s just watching. I don’t know. It be, it was like a motivating factor of like, there’s another one and like, I’m still hard charging.
And you look to see who’s performing the worst. And like, at least my day’s not as bad as that guy’s day. It was bad when I looked around and nobody else was suffering more than I was. And I was like, ohoh. That’s a problem. But nonetheless it, that trans that, I guess, subject of being told that, that it’s too hard or you’re gonna like, you’re gonna quit or you’re gonna fail.
That became the mantra of the rest of my career. And even to now. And I still look back on those days of who are these people to tell me I’m not good enough or I’m not gonna make it, or it’s too hard. So, ended. Joining be making it Becoming a pj, a para rescue man. And did that for 16 years.
And over that 16 years, deployed 10 times. Those, that the original goal of going [00:11:00] back and hanging out with my buds in Tucson, that became a thing of the past. And this became my new passion after my first deployment in 2010 out to Afghanistan. And it was a. Busy deployment. And even though I was doing csaw for a task force, that particular csar rotation in 2010, we saw a lot of casualties.
We had a lot of base attacks and you know, that was the first time getting shot at, you know, third day in country of us knowing what a bullet sounds like going by you and having that feeling of like, okay, somebody’s on the other end of that looking at me and wanting to end my life. And so that.
Like a realization of like, okay this is combat. Then it became more of like, I want more of that. Where my old mindset was, I want to do rescue for civilians who are out, you know, getting lost or hurt somewhere. Now it was, there’s evil out there and there’s bad people that know don’t need to be around anymore.
And so that became the next, [00:12:00] I guess, addiction of deploying and scratching that itch, going and helping good people. Removing evil from the earth and continuing to do that over and over again.
Scott DeLuzio: I love hearing the stories of resilience, like what you’re talking about there, where someone tells you now that you’re either not not strong enough, you’re not fast enough, you’re not smart enough, whatever the case may be.
And you look at ’em like, Who the hell are you? Right? And let’s get this done. Like, yes, I’m going to do this and I’m going to do. Only because you told me that I can’t do it and I’m gonna just do it a thousand times harder now because you told me that I can’t do it. I’m absolutely going to accomplish this goal.
And I love hearing those kind of stories cuz it’s kind of just like a big middle finger up to the people who are telling you that you can’t do it. It’s like, Yeah, screw you. I’m gonna do this anyways. Right. Right. Especially
Steven Nisbet: coming from people that never tried from people that, There you go.
Never tried. Yeah. And they’re the ones to tell me, What I’m gonna do. I was like, Well, okay, I’m gonna take what you say with a grain of salt because [00:13:00] you never even put your chips on the table. You never put your, you know, bowl in the fire you like. You never do any of that stuff, so, Right. What, who are you to tell me that, that negative attitude?
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And the statistics may be correct and actually it seems like it was correct in your case cuz you said there’s 120 people in your class and only 12 made it all the way through. So that 90 10 split seems like it. That was an accurate number there. But who is he to tell you that you wouldn’t be one of those 12 people who made it all the way through?
So like, that’s a bunch of crap. Like, no. If someone wants to do. They’re gonna be a whole lot more motivated to do it than someone who’s just like, Ah, yeah sure, let’s just pick a thing and let’s go with it. And then they realize how hard it is both physically and mentally, and then they quit because they didn’t really know anything about it.
Right. But you at least took some time to figure out what it was that you wanted to do, and you’re like, No, absolutely this is what I want to do. So, so that to me gives you a leg up on, on some of these other people who. [00:14:00] Maybe weren’t even really sure what they were getting themselves into, you know?
Steven Nisbet: I did some research, We watched some videos and some movies documentaries and whatnot. And so I, I was prepared for what was about to come, and I practiced and I trained before getting there. I devoted a lot. Its time and discipline and effort into getting there. And one of my favorite quotes was from one of my indoc instructors who absolutely heinous massive mountain of a man, but his quote, It’s not the size of the dog and the fight, but the size of the fight.
The dog. Yeah. And so that, you know, really stuck with me because I wasn’t the, I was one of the smallest guys on the team. But of everybody, you know, was, it didn’t matter about size. I was still carrying a 220 pound people that were almost double my weight. And, you know, it’s just how much grit will do you have to succeed.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. That can do. Just about anything you set your mind to as far as physical strength type things like you, you, you can accomplish these types of [00:15:00] things. Carrying a mountain of a man on your back. You can do it. You know, you just gotta put your mind to it, right? Yeah. So let’s fast forward a little bit.
I’m sure we can. You probably have some stories about deployments and things like that, but let’s fast forward a little bit and talk about your transition out of the military and what were some of the events that led up to your decision to get out. I know you said I think it was 16 years that you spent in there, so, you know, I’m sure at some point you were, you’re probably eyeing that 20 years and you’re probably thinking that was gonna be in your future.
But what. Up to your decision to get out and what was life for like for you after getting out of the military?
Steven Nisbet: Yeah, so I was prepared. Yeah, that was the goal was to make it to 20. And then do your typical regular retirement, get out and move forward. And I had a goal and a plan of where I wanted to be.
And after, you know, nine deployments, or nine deployments now and having lost lots of friends to. situations, whether it be accidents whether it be combat or suicide lost a [00:16:00] lot. And I was very used to losing friends and I started normalizing the loss. I started normalizing where the transition of who I was to who I am now.
And my reaction to things and our job, especially as a PJ and you’re doing rescue deployments in combat, we were going from the highs to lows very quickly. You know, we had eight minutes to get our stuff from call the line, reading the NY line, getting your stuff on, getting on the helicopter and taking off.
We had eight to 10 minutes to take from receiving the mission to taking off, going to wherever it was coming back and, Offloading whatever, re refitting, rekit, and then getting ready for the next one. It was just ups and downs over and over for multiple deployments. And so it became easy for me to do that in my regular day to day life.
You know, when my kids would get up upset and this, I was more stressed out at home with my kids than I was getting shot at in combat because, [00:17:00] I know how to respond and combat. I don’t know how to respond appropriately to kids screaming and crying. And so it was very easy for me to just snap and raise my voice to get what I wanted because now I can scare them into stopping.
And so after doing that over and over again and leaving and coming back and not remembering very, you know, specific things in my, you know, personal life and. Professional life. People that I’ve known for 10 years, I can’t remember their names. Distance from everybody. This is just zoning out, pushing my kids on the swing, not really paying attention to them.
I I started to really like, question what or why was it happen? Why were these things happening to me? And I started a try to attribute it to TBIs. Like, I’m like, I got, you know, too many explosions. Name me, too many firefights, you know, too many. Knocks on the head or whatever. I need to go get my brain checked out, went and got an mri, checked it out, everything came back [00:18:00] normal.
And I was like, Something ain’t normal upstairs. Cause I can’t remember a single thing about people I’ve known for 10 years. I can’t re, I recognize people and they come up and talk to me. I don’t know their names or how I even know them, so what’s, what is going on? And kind of talked about it with the psych a little.
And she recommended that I do some therapy and I was like, I don’t know if I have ptsd. I don’t have that. I don’t need that type of therapy. And then sitting down one night after putting the kids to bed and having a little bit of irritability that night my wife had sat me down and said, Hey I don’t mean to make you upset, or, you know, I love you and I care about you very much, but.
Your boys are very scared of you and they’re afraid anytime they do something that you’re gonna get upset and, you know, yell at them. And that was, wow, what a kicked to the gut. And man, that, that hurt. And it took a lot of courage for her to say that. And so I was like, Okay, I will go talk to the [00:19:00] therapist and figure out what’s going on and what is ptsd, what do people go to and talk about?
Because I think I’m normal. And just reacting normal to everyday situations. And after talking to her, she was like, Well, you have sleep disorders, you have nightmares, you have anxiety, you have depression, you’ll have all of these in this checklists that you filled out, you have like eight out of 10 symptoms of ptsd.
You have some pretty gnarly stuff going on and a lot of deployments that you know, you probably haven’t processed. And I was like, Okay, well what do we do now? And so we just started entering into our therapy program of a protocol of therapy. And after several months of doing that, or a couple months of doing that, I started to enjoy my job again because I used to hate going into work and doing jumps and dives and, you know, just everyday training of like, Oh, I gotta do this again.
And it was just grinding on me. It was just, Like I didn’t want to do it. And now I was starting to enjoy it again. [00:20:00] And so I was the team leader of a group of guys. We set up a training trip out to Boise, Idaho, feeling great, ready to do some climbing. This is a Morales trip. And while we’re out there, I.
The goal was to train up a couple of nude PJs of the team. Not that they were new as PJs, but they were newer to the team that I was at. And they are very experienced climbers very good at what they do. And we had to inexperienced climbers and the goal was to practice lead climbing, get these inexperienced climbers up and just really build this team up of cohesiveness and team building.
And so it was a great trip, but halfway through the. One of our guys set up an anchor and a repel line, set up a repel line with an anchor in the rock. So he placed a piece of a caming device, which just uses pressure against the rock to keep it in place, and a nut device, which uses friction and be able to wed itself in place very [00:21:00] common equipment and very reliable.
And so he set up the repel line. First guy goes down, the repel, goes down, smooth, no problem, no issues. And I hadn’t made it up to the top yet. Finally made it to the top. Second guy starts his repel and I hadn’t checked the line, but knowing that our first guy went down, I was like, Oh, it’s probably good.
Asked the other guys like, Yeah, it’s really good. It’s good to go. We’re set. So I think kinda starts as repel. It’s about halfway down. And that anchor or the rock that the anchor is in fails the rock shatters. And so one side fails and the other next one gives, and it pops out. And so the, that second guy falls about 30 feet and hits the rocks below.
And one of our other guys was tied into the anchor at the top. So in doing what he was supposed to do, that’s what his, he was trained. The weight of that individual pulled the other one off the very top. So two people fell, one fell 70 feet and the one, the other one fell 30 feet. So I watched him slide by me, fly off land onto [00:22:00] the ground below, bounce over to his face.
And so I have lost a lot of friends and combat and accidents and other things. This one was very different. Watching your friend fall that, that far down. Being a team leader, feeling the responsibility of everything and knowing, okay, now I have to do my job of saving his life. And so we all got down there to him.
We started doing our best to treat him, all of us as a team together, doing cpr, placing a surgical airway, doing a field chest tube or feeding or thoracotomy. So just a chest tube without the. Training out the blood. And so we worked on him for about 25 minutes and after working on him, ultimately the fire department got there and pronounced him dead at the scene.
And so that was one of the hardest phone calls I ever had to make when I had to call on my boss and tell him what happened and that our teammate just fell and passed away. And knowing that the entire squadron’s about to learn that one of [00:23:00] our teammates just fell and passed away. And it was a training trip that I was the team leader.
So that sent me right into a depression of, you know, I don’t have confidence in myself as a leader. I don’t have confidence in myself as a medic. I couldn’t save them. I couldn’t do anything, felt helpless in all of those incidents of losing friends and teammates all piled on, like, it was, this was it, This was a straw that broke everything and I was broken.
And so I pulled myself off a team. I even tried to quit at one point. Pulled myself off a team and. Started working with a therapist again and other modalities of treatment that we had available to us. Physical therapy, strength conditioning, nutrition, just really trying to work on a new foundation of who I was After about two and a half months of therapy and working on those things, I came back as a team leader.
We deployed and we, I was the team leader of a group, the [00:24:00] same group of. And it was a very successful deployment. Nobody lost, no casualties, regained my confidence, and I felt good as a team leader again still working through the trauma, but I felt confident in what I was doing. And a couple months after coming back from that deployment, we were getting ready to deploy again.
And so there was only a two and a half month turnaround, but at the. End of, or right before we deployed our, the accident investigation and safety investigation that took place for the accident finished and closed out. And they said, ultimately there’s nothing that we could have done to prevent what happened, and there’s nothing we could have done to change the outcome.
So essentially, pretty much a leaving the false, the blame, the guilt that we felt, however, the military had to hold somebody accountable and they held me accountable as the team leader and. I was removed from my position as team leader and I was also removed from the unit that I worked really hard to get at because this [00:25:00] unit you had to do another selection and another year of training just to get operational.
So this is the only place I wanted to be and I’m getting kicked out. Not only am I getting kicked out, I have 30 days to PCs for leave, and I’m being isolated from everybody in a squad, and I’m being told I have to remove my gear from my cage and my locker. All of our stuff, 16 years. Of my life. I’m being told I had to remove all that by myself on a weekend so that nobody else can see.
So this was pretty devastating. This was a dark time for me. I was depressed and I only have 30 days to pack things up and figure things out. And I thought, man, if I go through with this and I PCs I’m gonna lose the therapy modalities and the resources I. I’m gonna go back to a regular unit that doesn’t have the same quality of care, and they’re not gonna know why I’m even showing up or what’s happening.
And the new unit that I, the gaining unit, was gonna be in Vegas, Las Vegas. And that already caused [00:26:00] problems in my past, you know, with my relationship and my family. And I thought, this is not gonna, this ain’t gonna work out. This is not good for my, for me as a person and for my family. I can’t do this.
I’m gonna have to pursue a medical retirement just so I don’t go down a pathway that’s gonna ultimately end my family, you know, who I am and who’s really there for me. So, without a plan, with having no clue what I’m gonna do next, I chose to medically retire with a diagnosis of PTSD and TBIs.
And got out, you know, as I sort approach my tenure out of the military. I started to realize, again, I’m gonna lose those resources, but now I’m a little bit more prepared to lose those. What’s gonna be next? How do I keep myself functioning at the way I, that I’ve been functioning and started looking at all the different things, resources available when you get out, and I’m gonna be treated, you know, just as any other veteran.
I’m gonna be stuck to the VA system on be having to reach out to different non-profit organizations to figure it out and [00:27:00] tie things together. But no, nothing was ever a one stop shop like it was at my unit. So that’s what led to the idea of creating and replicating what I had at the unit and reaching out to different individuals to ask if they’ll join me in the effort to creating something like this.
And there, the inception of Shields and Strips was.
Scott DeLuzio: Well, that was actually gonna be my next question as you’re talking about that where did the idea for shield and strep come from? But you know, it sounds like you’re trying to basically just recreate the the. Support system that you had in place while you were in that unit and you had you know, the physical, the mental side, all covered all, all through the types of services that were available to you there.
And so let’s talk about the program that you have set up with Shields and Stripes and what that program entails and what someone can expect when they take part in the.
Steven Nisbet: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, like you said wanted to replicate what was already available. I didn’t wanna reinvent the wheel [00:28:00] and this wasn’t a one off like idea of like, Oh, maybe this is gonna work.
I know this works, this model works. I’ve used it, my friends have used it. We’ve all used this and it’s saved a lot of lives. And how do we get it to people? And this is the, you know, the model is the pot, the preservation of the. Force and family in socom in special operations. And it’s available to most special operations units and it’s not very well used or utilized the right way.
So ideally what we have done or what we wanted to replicate is having a strength conditioning coach available, having a dietician available to create a nutrition plan, meals available. Having physical therapists, having occupational therapists, and having psychologists all working under one roof. So you don’t have to go from one place to the next.
You know the drive one, you know it’s one place. And go to the hospital here, go to a clinic here, and go to a gym here. It’s all inside of a performance center. So how do we do that? [00:29:00] What’s the timeline? We post it inside. Right now a performance center in Phoenix, Arizona and Pensacola, Florida. And that company we use in the contract out is called exo.
So formally known as API, Athletes Performance Institute. And they typically work with NFL athletes, NFL combine, prep Pro athletes, you know, whether it be baseball, nhl, mls that’s what their typical demographic is. We in SOCOM had a program through the Eagle Fund to be able to use their facilities for physical rehab.
Having developed that relationship, I asked, Can we use your facility for this particular program with shields and stripes? And they agreed. And so we have an agreement with them to host our demographic inside of their facility for three weeks. So they get topnotch, world class strength conditioning coaches.
They have world class physical therapist. They have a dietician or nutritionist there. We bring in our own dietician. They have meals made on site for them. [00:30:00] And we also fly in and bring our psychologist and occupational therapists where they get stress management classes, education, sleep hygiene, education, and work on individual and group therapy.
And then you have different modalities of TR of recovery inside that facility. So all of that’s happening over a three week period. And they’re also staying inside of a resort, a five star resort hotel. So when they go back home or back into their where they’re staying it’s also a world class facility where they’re just treated the way that they’re supposed to be treated.
They’re treated like a professional athlete. And there’s healing in that. There’s healing in being able to, like, I don’t have to think about anything. And essentially this is a reset. Like, you, okay, here’s what Right. Looks like we’re resetting you and developing a new found. And then when you leave there, it’s not over.
It’s you still have another nine weeks of telehealth therapy, then you go home to where you came from to your family, and now we include the family and you have the same services available. We [00:31:00] still have a telehealth strength. Interesting coach. Only this time we’re using the gym that’s available to you, whether it’s in your house or a gym that’s, that you pay for or the gym at work.
What’s available? How do you accomplish the same objectives that you had in the. We have, the dietician is still working with you and only now we’re looking at what’s inside your pantry or your in your kitchen, and how do we develop the meals that’s sustainable for you to reach the goals that you need to reach or that you’ve set aside for yourself.
And then we have a physical therapist that still works on telehealth and be able to work through different exercises to work through the injuries that you. And now you’re just doing it at home, you know, with her, him or her on the on the other line, on the virtual call, just like this. And then we have our therapists that are still do the virtual telehealth.
And now we include the family to here’s what they’re going through, here’s what happened. And also documenting all of it and making sure that we do our due diligence to make sure that everything’s taken care of. So [00:32:00] if they do pursue something near here or way out of the military, or if they. Are out, here’s some documentation or they can take to their local provider, and that’s a full three month program.
And so we do that we bring them in. There’s eight, We bring in eight per cohort. And right now with our funding, we’re only able to hold two cohorts a And there’s a reason why we do eight because we want it very individual. We want it to be very personal personable making sure that each individual has a very direct contact and it’s built specifically for them.
If we bring in too many, then it you know, quality of care goes down. However, we do want to expand the ability to use other sites. So the goal is to be able to host four programs a year. So hosting 32 a. In the next two years, and then double that in the next five years, and then hopefully over time be able to host thousands inside of different [00:33:00] facilities all over the United States.
And we bring in veterans, active duty members, first responders law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, that the only qualifications that they need to have is that they received some sort of trauma service through service, and that’s affected their day-to-day. We don’t require a diagnosis or anything like that, you just have to have serves, you know, whether it’s public service or through the do o d and had some sort of traumatic incident that’s affected your day to day life.
Scott DeLuzio: So it seems pretty comprehensive and I love that it’s not just limited to veterans or service members, It’s you’re opening up to the first responders, the police, fire, EMTs, and those types of people as well, because let’s face it, I mean, some of those people on a daily basis, they are being exposed to traumatic incidents.
Whe whether. It’s things like car accidents or fires or you name it, any number of things, homicides that they have [00:34:00] to go and take care of. You know, a lot of people we don’t really think about those types of things. There’s somebody else who takes care of those things. Well, those people are those somebody else’s and.
That’s a lot to handle for any one person. So, you know, having those those things available to those people is I think wonderful. That you’ve opened it up to that.
Steven Nisbet: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. If I could say a couple things with that. Yeah. In that regard is, as I mentioned, my dad spent 30 years in law enforcement and growing up that way, and as I started to experience my PTSD symptoms, I started to relate.
So him and how he was when I was growing up and I started to go, Man, him and I are exactly alike. And he had significant PTSD that he didn’t know he had, and it was just normal and it was normalized for him. And what we tend to see more often than not is the first responder community is very quick to say, Well, I don’t like man.
Like, [00:35:00] I have never experienced what you experienced. So I like, I’ve had some things. Man, I couldn’t imagine going through what you went through. And I was like, Man, like I also can’t imagine what you went through because it doesn’t have to be in combat. Your trauma doesn’t have to be a combat related incident.
It, you know, what’s just as traumatic as going and. And to a domestic dispute call and the kids have been killed by the parents or showing up to a car accident where the entire family’s just obliterated in, you know, a high speed car accident or you know, the house fire and the family’s burnt live inside and you have to carry the bodies out.
Those are very traumatic instances that stick with you forever, and that’s not. That’s not a normal thing that we should experience. And not only that, are you getting, like, getting those things on you and in your brain and seeing those things, and then you’re gonna go home, then you’re gonna do the dishes and you’re gonna, you know, pick up the dog poop or whatever.
Like you’re gonna, you’re gonna do laundry and it’s all that’s playing in your head [00:36:00] and you start to distance yourself. And so the comparison should, although it happens more often than not, it should never take place, you know? Sexual assault trauma is just as traumatic and terrifying, if not more than a combat related trauma.
And that trust is taken away. And so all of those types of traumas are qualified to come through our program. And it’s huge that people know that.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a great point that you made and something that I think for the listeners who may be listening, You know, you may be hearing stories like Steven’s story and you maybe hear other people’s stories and it’s like, Well, I don’t have it as bad as that person, so maybe I don’t deserve this type of treatment.
I’ll let somebody else take it. But you know, I’ve made this analogy before on, on this show if somebody drowns. Five feet of water or if they drown in 30 feet of water, at the end of the day, they both drowned. It [00:37:00] doesn’t mean one drown worse than the other. They both drown. Right. So like you might be dealing with something for the listeners, you might be dealing with some something and you may be like, Oh yeah, but that person’s got it worse.
You both have so. Crappy going on in your lives like, and you need to work on that to improve yourself and get yourself better. Yeah. Maybe someone else went through something that was. Super traumatic, but it doesn’t mean that your trauma is any less relevant or less valid than that person. So, you know, don’t do that to yourself and just say, Oh, well someone else take my spot and, you know, I’m not gonna bother getting involved with this type of thing because there’s always somebody else worse out, out there.
You know, quite frankly, you’re probably worse than somebody else. Too. So, you know, somebody else is maybe doing that same thing and leaving that seat open for you to take advantage of this type of service. So, you know, definitely I saying this to encourage people to reach out and get involved with [00:38:00] Shields and Stripes and other organizations that are out there that do similar things because you know, there is real healing to be had there and you know, if you take advantage.
You’re gonna experience that, but if you just let that opportunity slip by, then you’re not gonna see the benefits that you could be seeing. Right?
Steven Nisbet: Yeah, no, a absolutely. And to that point of, I think what’s wild and really cool to see is when these individuals that go through the program, all of them have very different backgrounds.
You have police officers, firefighters, you have men, women, you have different tr traumatic experie. That have gone through very different things. However, their symptoms are all very similar. And when one starts talking about, Yeah, like, I can’t sleep at night because of this thing, like, Oh, I can’t sleep either.
Yeah. Like, I, you know, fly off the handle when this happens. Like, oh, so why? All of these things, all the symptoms are very similar. The dreams might be different, the nightmares might be different, but when they’re sitting in a hot tub and we call it hot tub therapy at the hotel and they’re just talking to each [00:39:00] other.
That’s extremely powerful that this peer network is also developed of commonality. Like it’s no longer viewed as oh, you’re worse than I am. Or you have you’re a police officer, I’m a firefighter, you’re a veteran. You’ve been to combat. I haven’t like this. Everyone’s equals, and they all have, and they’re all trying to build each other.
And some have good days and some have bad days and everybody is ready to carry each other along just to get to the finish line.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And to that point, while your story and my story are completely different stories when you started talking about some of the things that you experienced some of the you know, quick to get angry and basically yelling, you know, at your kids or forgetting people and places or things that have taken place in your life.
I heard a lot of my, my symptoms or my story coming out in what you were saying there too. So, I mean, that just goes to show, I mean, this was not planned in any way before today. Hadn’t even [00:40:00] spoken to each other. And so like, it’s not like we’ve, we had much you know, time to plan that out to, to get that out there.
But that’s, I mean, I’ve written about it in my book. Anyone wants to grab a copy of my book and read that it’s there. So it’s not like I’m making this up. You know, all of that stuff is out there. So, you know, I. Can see how that can happen. Where you’re gonna get people with different backgrounds you know, like a firefighter and a police officer, typically they’re like Red Sox and Yankees fans are like, going after each other, right?
They’re not like the best of friends. But when you get ’em together in an environment like this they start to see, Okay, well, you know, this guy’s got the same thing that I’m going through and you know, you start to humanize the people a little bit more and you start to understand what it is that they’re going through and maybe even a little bit about what your own journey is going through as well.
Steven Nisbet: Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s all great points. Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: So like any nonprofit out there, I’m sure you’re looking for donations or even people to volunteer their time and stuff that they might be able to help out with. Especially with regards to expanding to other locations. Where can people go [00:41:00] to get involved and see how they can help out Shields and stripes.
Steven Nisbet: It’s too easy. So to help out Yeah, absolutely. We go on. If you go onto www.shieldsandstripes.org you can see some of the videos of the folks that have gone through the program. You can see my story. It’s on a video there.
It’s also got some YouTube links, and then we have a way to donate or to apply and. What helps out, Obviously it costs money to put these people through the program. They don’t have to do anything. There’s no cost to them. We fly them out there. We pay for their travel pay for their lodging, their, all their services provided over the three month period.
And it’s about $15,000 to put an individual through this program. So all the money that comes. All of it goes towards this program, and I’m putting these people through there. None of us are paid, none of, there’s no salaries that we’re taking out of this. I don’t get paid out of this. The goal is to put as many people through the program as possible.
And I would venture to say, well, not much. I know that at least 50% of the people I’ve gone through the program have had a previous attempt have taken their own [00:42:00] life. And that’s huge. And if you look at that, you know, statistics, there’s probably a lot more than that just throughout the entire nation.
So the other. Being able to help out is to share this information with families and friends or people that you know if any of the symptoms that we described here today, you know, if they remind you of any particular person that you know, and they might hear the message inside of this and open their mind as I did, and they go, Oh man, like maybe this is an opportunity for them to change some things in their lives.
I would appreciate you sharing the websites, sharing this story with them, sharing. What we’re doing with those individuals and that message alone, carrying that message to people that we can change their lives is incredibly valuable. Sharing the message to people that have the capacity, the financial capacity to help us get more into the program.
Cuz like I said, we’re only limited by funding to be able to make more of these programs possible. And then volunteer [00:43:00] opportunities. We do host events inside of different states, mostly Arizona and North Carolina. Cause those are our big footprints. In the areas of those is Phoenix, Arizona, and just outside of the Fort Bragg area.
We, we typically host events down there to raise funds. So there are opportunities to come, you know, either pass out flyers, volunteer at booths things like that will help out. But I think the biggest way to. The individuals going through the program is to be able to donate you know, no, no dollars too small.
You know, $10 helps, you know, up to a thousand dollars helps, whatever. It goes a long way. So those are some very ways to be able to do that.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And I will have links to the website in the show notes so that people can go find that, to make those donations and find out about some, maybe some of the events that you have going on and how they might be able to help out with that.
And also for the people who want to get involved in the program that you offer you know, they can visit the website as well. You said there’s like an application there [00:44:00] to, to fill out on there. So, you know, for the listeners. If you’re looking to help out and donate go to the website.
Also, if you’re looking to get involved in and participate in the program that, that uh, Shields and Stripes has to offer go check out the website as well. Everything seems like it’ll be right there, and we’ll have that link in the show notes for you.
Steven Nisbet: Yeah, absolutely. Feel free to, to email the email address provided on the website.
We’ve got that’s, Are able to communicate with a lot of people that do wanna volunteer opportunities or have opportunities or questions. There’s a contact email address that we can reach out to you. So, so feel free to use that.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Steven, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today.
Really enjoyed the conversation. And I also want to thank you for all that you’re doing for the veteran and the first responder communities that You know, des desperately need to be served. I feel like they’re definitely underserved and the more people like you who are out there who are serving them, it’s only gonna make things better for all of these people involved.
So, So thank you again.
Steven Nisbet: No, [00:45:00] thank you for having me. And thank you for your service and hopefully we can continue to save more lives.
Scott DeLuzio: 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.