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.
Scott DeLuzio: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive, On Podcast. Today my guest is Dan Lombard. Dan is. Army Combat Veteran, who is a co-founder of Project Refit, which is working to change the negative connotation around getting mental health support. Today we’re gonna be discussing Project Refit and all they’re doing to help support the military veteran and first responder community.
Scott DeLuzio: So welcome to the show, Dan. Glad to have you here. Thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Just to kind of fill in the listeners who may not be familiar with you and what you’re doing to kinda let us know who it is that [00:01:00] we’re talking to.
Daniel Lombard: Absolutely. Yeah. So, so I’m, like you said, I’m Dan Lombarda, co-founder of Project Refit. I’m 32. I I’m a, I’m an infantryman, was an infantryman. I was in the army. I enlisted 2013 and I got out my retirement. Medical retirement date is November 12th, 2017. I deployed to Afghanistan 2013 to 14 for nine months.
Daniel Lombard: And then I waived my dwell time stayed home, stayed back at Bliss for four months, and then went to Jibouti Africa for seven and a half months. Yeah, seven and a half. So AF Afghanistan was the start of all of this. So I was fresh out of basic training like two months out of basic.
Daniel Lombard: And they we went to Afghanistan, so I didn’t do N T C. None of, I didn’t do any of those fun schools. We were a heavy weapons company. So when we went to, we were in RC West. So we were in Shinan province. So where we were, they hadn’t patrolled the units that we had replaced and up like five years prior to that, they hadn’t patrolled that area [00:02:00] really outside of the wire.
Daniel Lombard: So the Taliban had really overrun the majority of where we were at. So when we got there My leadership I guess started pushing for more direct missions and not just FOB security, at least go into patrol do some screen lines, go and patrol some villages at night, see what’s going on.
Daniel Lombard: So we inevitably got that. We got the with the go to do that. So we got there, I wanna say this, it’s early December. Yeah, I think early December in 2013. We had our first firefight January 28th. There’s five dudes there. So that was like the first time, like that was my first. Combat experience period.
Daniel Lombard: And they were there five Caliban dudes. They were in a they were just running through a field. They, we had like our IR lights on and everything, so they didn’t, they could hear us coming, but they didn’t see us. They fired R P G at the front. I was in the. The lead vehicle, I was a passenger in the lead vehicle.
Daniel Lombard: They fired an R PPG at that missed us missed the front of us by 10 feet. We had p tis watching us the whole time. We were like two clicks off a, off, off a base, I think, something like that. So they had a dragon off. They had a R p k sorry, [00:03:00] pkm K and the. The the launcher obviously. So, I mean, I was in a couple firefights here and there.
Daniel Lombard: Like I would like, that was a, a direct firefight. I was a gunner for a lot of a lot of the deployment. Most of the deployment, I’d say I was actually a dismount, but I was a driver for a very short period of time. And that’s really kind of where this all comes together. We were, I, so we were in Matt v’s.
Daniel Lombard: And we were, like I said, we were heavy weapons company. So 2 2 2 40 s, two 50 cows, and a mark 19, mark nine, mark 19 was the, Second vehicle in formation, which I was driving that vehicle we were driving down a wadi. And for anybody who’s listening that doesn’t know what that is, it’s just a river without the water.
Daniel Lombard: It’s just the river bed. The locals in Afghanistan use that as a highway essentially. And so we do too. So it was nighttime. We were just coming back from a K L E talking to one of the local Afghan army guys and. It had just rained. So there was a bunch of puddles and like you’re trained, if you follow the vehicle in front of you, chances are then they don’t hit a bomb.
Daniel Lombard: Chances are you’re not gonna hit an I E D like [00:04:00] your chances, like nine times outta 10, you’re good. And then you’re also taught like, hey, if there’s a puddle, like that’s a really good indicator that might be an I E D. There was like 15 puddles. So are they all, IEDs are two of them.
Daniel Lombard: It’s all these thoughts are going through your head the whole time. So I was talking to my lieutenant and I have a habit of looking at somebody when I’m speaking to them. And like I said, I was driving and I turned and we were, we just so happened to be talking about how we were the only platoon who hadn’t gotten blown up by an I E D yet.
Daniel Lombard: Yeah, right. Speaking that into existence. And as I turned back, my lead vehicle had made its turn onto the hardball road and I just, I, there was too many track marks. I had to guess which one. And I guessed wrong, . It was a very bad guess. So the drove over the pressure pressure plate, it was a 200 pound I E D.
Daniel Lombard: So it blew the back left tire off. So those vehicles have combat locks on the all four doors have that big metal lever lock. It, nothing’s coming in from the outside. Well, I, for whatever reason, I did not lock mine and the interpreter did not lock his that was the [00:05:00] only thing that saved our lives.
Daniel Lombard: So the, when the I E D went off it doesn’t implosion then an explosion. So the explosion went out, the two doors that weren’t combat locked, it blew those doors open. They stayed open. Mike Gunner, he he got, so the gunner’s harness snapped and he got launched on the hood of the, on the mat and just blacked out.
Daniel Lombard: So, like I said, I was driving when the concussive blast went out, my helmet went with it, and then I got launched up and hit my head on the the irs, the d v screen that we would use the thick as metal box for people who don’t know what that is. So I slammed my head against steel and blacked out for under a minute.
Daniel Lombard: I, I obviously don’t know the exact timeframe. So when I came to it was exactly like the, I don’t, and I don’t know if it’s the influence of seeing the movies or if this is just a. Factual thing that happens, but how the dust falls, like slow motion and you can pick each spec out of the scope, like that happened to a t.
Daniel Lombard: Everybody knows the ringing in the ears happens, but So I was on fire for my waist down. Let me back up a little bit. So the I E D had ignited a fire [00:06:00] immediately. There was never, like, from the second the pressure plate went off the back, left tire flew off and it it ruptured the fuel and oil lines.
Daniel Lombard: So that just immediately ignited a fire. It was pouring into the vehicle. I blacked out. That’s what I woke up to, was me on fire from like, about there. . My a I was like, my, like my ass and legs were like facing out of the driver’s side and I was like pulling, like, just trying to alleviate one. Like one was hot, one wasn’t.
Daniel Lombard: They both were hot, but one was less hot. And like off shit on some of the stuff about the army, but the, that uniform, I don’t have permanent burn marks. Not like I had a first degree burn and it was actually just the exposed skin because of the light from the I E D, not even the. So our vehicle had one of the, one of the dismounted two 40 s had left a hundred.
Daniel Lombard: Belt of 7.62. So that was actually cooking off in the truck while I was trapped in there. So I couldn’t jump out because there was a lake of fire. I also, I didn’t know if it was an initiator for an ambush, so I’m not jumping out and just getting gutted. That’s not in my wheelhouse. And then I couldn’t climb, right, because [00:07:00] the radio mount was just, there was like less than a foot of space and I was in fight or.
Daniel Lombard: I had like the double mag pouches on my, on the front of me. So I just like, if I would’ve taken my kid off easy through it. But I was in a state of sheer panic. So that didn’t register just yet. I guess after like. Picture a feral animal. Like if you threw like a cat in a ca, like in a cage and put fire around it.
Daniel Lombard: That’s basically how I was. I couldn’t find a way out. So, and then my life flashed before while the, when I woke, when I came to, and the specs were falling and the ringing in the ears and stuff. I don’t remember the memories, but I remember the, like, the feeling and the emotions. And I attribute that to either, my brain was like, Hey we’re ending.
Daniel Lombard: Now this is. Look at all the fun stuff we did. It’s time to go. Or yo, this is the shit we’ve done. Let’s get it together and get back in it. So for whatever reason, it’s that, that, that triggered it, let’s snapped it. So yeah, the hundred round beta beta seven two was 7.62 was cooking off.
Daniel Lombard: I remember. So I actually got really close with the gunner. Him and I ended up [00:08:00] having the same therapist and psychiatrist after the deployment. So that’s the only reason I actually know this piece of information. I remember like an adult just screaming loud, you know what I mean?
Daniel Lombard: Like, yo, I’m on fire. I can’t get out. Fucking help me. Picture somebody burning a line like that blood curdling scream. That’s what was happening. Like, you know what I mean? But my brain will never allow me to remember. So I only he said that to the so that’s what woke him up. He came to, because he heard that screaming.
Daniel Lombard: And then just in that, I took my kid off, jumped out, he came to, jumped on top of me. He only had his M nine and he was scanning the the wadi to See if we were getting ambushed or not. I think it was about like 20, 30 feet up. So, I mean, they had the, if it was, they had the hugs. So two of my dudes Daz and McIntyre, they they both ran up like without clearing the area, like they were with no regard to their own lives coming to pull us out of that matte if we were not already out.
Daniel Lombard: So they cleared above the wa for the medevac to come. And I had ran to the lead vehicle. We all had ran to the lead vehicle. I got in [00:09:00] the the back of it and threw up and shit. And then my staff sergeant saw my squad, just saw I had holes in my uh, my combat shirt. So he thought shrapnel.
Daniel Lombard: And he like, like punched me in the fucking chest and like ripped it open and nothing. It was just from climbing over the radio mount, just shit, just got tugged and stuff. So that, that was the, somebody got medevac back, you know? And I didn’t, that’s when I learned that you, at least when I was there, you have to call home when you get hurt.
Daniel Lombard: There is no option. You can’t not call. So my mom, she works at a public school. So like we would Skype, we would Facebook video. We would never phone call. So I had to have a phone guy called, and I have a brother and a sister. And I’m immersed with that town that I grew up in. They’re, they support project griefs so much from the very beginning.
Daniel Lombard: So they all know me, and the, she’s like, oh my God, hi. And I was like, Hey, can I, like, I’m, I still have morphine in me, like I’m still smoking. This is like an hour after I got back from the burning vehicle. And I was like, Hey, can I talk to my mom, please? Yeah. So she said, Hey, your son’s on the phone.
Daniel Lombard: And my mom said, which one? She said, Danny. And she was like, [00:10:00] oh, sh like, she knew like something, something happened. So I explained, I say mom, Got blown up. I drove over a bomb. I’m good. All my limbs are here. I’m not, there’s no gashes. Like, there’s no, like, I’m okay. But she knew what was really gonna, like, she knew what was really fucked up.
Daniel Lombard: You know what I mean? Like, she knew right there that PTs it’s, it is guaranteed to happen. So I think the first firefight chipped away a little bit of my innocence that I didn’t really necessarily know was there and had the capability of being taken . And then that I E D, when I truly believe.
Daniel Lombard: That I was going to die. That just, that I think that took the majority, there’s still some level semblance of innocence, but it’s more of a memory and not like an actual tangible thing that you can see in people. You know what I mean? . So that kinda, that kind of sparked the started the P T S D.
Daniel Lombard: I didn’t know it then, obviously, and then I was in probably a little over a dozen other firefights. I was only in one other I E D that was only like 85, 90 pounds, maybe a hundred max. No fire. But that one, so there’s a lot of, with my p t d, there’s a lot of [00:11:00] survi, not even necessarily survivor’s guilt because we all survived, but shame and responsibility and guilt.
Daniel Lombard: Bravo. That was so Bravo was the gunner. He was the gunner. Dejected and blacked out. So he he ended up having three concussions. So he got sent to Germany and they did scans on his brain, and he had brain lesions, so he had to get sent home. So he took that as, him leaving us and abandoned us.
Daniel Lombard: So he turned to not healthy coping mechanisms and that inevitably got him. Removed from the military. Partially. It was a weird process. But that’s something I take responsibility for because the very first concussion he had was the I E D I was driving. When I stopped paying attention to the road, like I used to have 100% responsibility.
Daniel Lombard: That is my fault. There is no getting around it. Where through I’ve been in therapy. 2016? I think so through, I mean, I still hold a decent amount of responsibility because to me it’s factual. I stopped paying attention and did not adhere to my training and injuries happened because of it.
Daniel Lombard: It’s cut and dry. So with that, I went on my on my second [00:12:00] deployment after that, still didn’t really, there was no ptsd, like none of that. I was fucking good. I was in for 25 years like we were doing. But my command sergeant major actually in a firefight. He was wounded. And a couple days later, he passed away from the wounds.
Daniel Lombard: He made it all the way back to San Antonio. And he was, his name was Gunny. He was just a larger than life individual, like the epitome of a leader. He would be on missions with us. If he wasn’t with us, he was with the next platoon, he would go with us. We’d come back from Mission Next people going out.
Daniel Lombard: He was on with us. He wasn’t staying back on base bullshitting and doing, staying. He was digging up IEDs with us and shit like he did stuff. He was a Marine for six years and then he was in the Army for 22. He was in the 75th Rangers, like he was a. It’s a born warrior. I firmly believe that.
Daniel Lombard: And just like I said, the epitome of a leader. I had the best leadership ever in the beginning, and I had the worst at the end of my last unit. But so it was kind of after he, after we lost him, I kind of lost the the will and the urge to be a lifer. It was let’s see what happens at this point.
Daniel Lombard: And then I went on my second deployment, and that was to Africa. It was right after Benghazi. So we [00:13:00] were Q R F for 13 different countries in Africa that if their embassy resembled anything like Benghazi, we were gonna be, we were, we would be there within 24 hours and we would un Benghazi. We got called up like a, like three, four times for Sudan.
Daniel Lombard: It never happened. We always got rejected, like it got recalled. But that’s where my parents started. A divorce. They started their divorce. That was always on the rocks, but it was final. And I think military life and family life clashing was just the catalyst that I needed . So when I came back, I I started therapy and then got diagnosed with PTs D and I’m pretty rational and.
Daniel Lombard: I’m pretty rational, logical. Obviously, we tend to not be sometimes when we’re, when I, in our unhealthy mindsets. But even then, if you can pretty much prove to me that the way I’m thinking is irrational and illogical, and you show me at least a way to circumvent that thought I’m probably gonna go with the new route because it’s the real way to think.
Daniel Lombard: So like I did c P T cognitive processing therapy and that’s, that saved me. But I was looking for something, so I got my 90%, I got my VA rating and I was looking for something outside of the military back in New [00:14:00] Jersey where I would be able to adjust back to society, but with my people, with my people, you know what I mean?
Daniel Lombard: And there’s nothing , there was nothing I found. I found one nonprofit, and I’m not gonna name them, just because at that time it was like, dude, fuck you. It was, it’s typing. You get paired with a random vet. And you just typed, I need this. I need to see that you give a shit about what I’m talking about.
Daniel Lombard: It hurts to talk about this. I don’t wanna waste these emotions when I don’t even know how to process ’em yet. So I got paired . I got paired with a guy who was in the Navy in the eighties. Now, God bless that man. I would love to talk to him now. You know what I mean? Genuinely. But back then, I was in a place where I needed a combat veteran to speak with me, or at least I thought.
Daniel Lombard: So I started doing therapy and she was a civilian. SIE had obviously dealt with veterans a lot, so she knew the jargon and everything. But she helped. And then James, the other co-founder of Project Refit he’s civilian. He’s like the business, the entrepreneur side, that kind of stuff.
Daniel Lombard: He reached out to me. I [00:15:00] had made a I had made a a post on Facebook. The people from home that I’m different. I’m not Dan that you knew before Afghanistan, before the Army. It’s a different, Dan now there’s still a little bit of old Dan, but I’m irritable. I’m Jade. Like you’re going to think I’m a dickhead.
Daniel Lombard: Like that stuff happens. It’s not you like, as cliche as it sounds, it’s not a you thing. It truly is a neat thing. So James saw that and he, we were mutual friends. We had met one time before it was actually on my leave from Afghanistan. And so he saw that post and he took that as a sign of leadership and reached out and basically asked what the Army does to prevent PTSD from happening and suicidal attempts from happening.
Daniel Lombard: And if they occur, or if you are diagnosed, how do they help combat it? And I was being ushered out of the military. So I mean, call it A little chip on your shoulder or what, but I mean, I was pretty honest. Like, they don’t do shit for you. Like I’m being kicked out. Like it’s that’s the way I saw it.
Daniel Lombard: So him and I talked for four hours, just this for four hours. I love therapy. I still do. I will be in therapy for the rest of my life. It just works for me. I like individual [00:16:00] therapy. I like group. I like having an unbiased opinion to just throw shit at. But. It wasn’t enough. There was too much in my brain.
Daniel Lombard: There was too much pain and thoughts and emotions and beliefs that some were fake, some, you know what I mean? There was just , a cloud. And James and I talked for four hours and a lot. I got a lot of it out and I just, it, I immediately felt the relief and I was like, fuck, dude, this is like, this is kind of like what we need because all it resembles.
Daniel Lombard: Whether you were in the cough, whether you were next to the smoke pit, whatever you were n chilling with your boys or girl, asexual, whatever it is, the dude. And just talking about life, whether it’s military related or not. Just sitting there and having you give a fuck about me. I can tell you things like there’s no, I don’t have to worry about you.
Daniel Lombard: You know you’re really fucked up. The guy. I know. That’s why I’m fucking talking to you, dude. Like you’re supposed to help me with that. What are you doing? . So we started seeing that and it kind of just flourished from there. We got a massive following and just from the beginning, cuz all my dudes that I served with just immediately started [00:17:00] supporting all the people.
Daniel Lombard: Like I said the people from Home Magnolia, shout out Magnolia. The the school, the fire company the town themselves, the mayor, they’re all anything we need. They’re like, yo, come, you need the rec center, come use it. You wanna come in our parade please? The firehouse. We, every fifth Wednesday we go there and have one of our radio check, which I’ll explain and hold it for them, just specifically for them so they can have a controlled, semi-structured environment to talk about their experiences and how it makes them feel.
Scott DeLuzio: You know, I love this whole story, this whole, the backstory, I love hearing about whenever I talk to people, I love hearing their stories. The combat experiences, everything that they’ve gone through, because it really helps to shape what you’re doing. Now, if you didn’t have those experiences, if you didn’t drive over that notice, you may not be here doing the same thing.
Scott DeLuzio: You’d be here, but you wouldn’t be doing this necessarily.
Daniel Lombard: There’s a really good chan not even a real, it’s factual. If what happened in Afghanistan didn’t happen, project Reef wouldn’t, [00:18:00] Right. And I truly don’t, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to try and help people in that situation because I didn’t, I wouldn’t have had that mindset of how painful this actually is.
Scott DeLuzio: Sure. And it’s an important thing to have for. Other people who are out there not only is it important for them, but it’s also important for you giving you a sense of purpose. You know, you’re continuing to serve other people in this way. And it and it’s not just you. I’m not making this out.
Scott DeLuzio: Like it’s, I know what you mean. Yep. Yeah. It’s, everyone involved is now, has this mission and it’s a great thing. So tell us more. I know you started to mention a little bit about. Some of the programs and stuff that you guys Yeah. Are taking part in. Tell us about Project Refit, what you guys are doing to change the way that we think about mental health support in the various programs that you have available.
Daniel Lombard: Absolutely. So the very first thing is we have a we call it our radio check buddy check-in. So it’s every night, or it’s every Monday and Friday night, I apologize. From 9:00 PM Eastern till roughly midnight. And the Monday Zoom is live [00:19:00] stream to Facebook. So I’ll go on there.
Daniel Lombard: I left this out, so in 2015 or 16, I don’t remember which one attempted suicide. I, it was the anniversary of the day that Gunny got shot and I was just really r obviously I drank a whole bottle of crown apple. I was in my fields and attempted. So I will openly talk about that and just so people can see that you can talk about it.
Daniel Lombard: The world caving in around you. Like society isn’t just gonna come punch you in the face because you’re being open about something you experienced, which, right, it’s a whole other thing. We’ll get to that later. And then the Friday ones are closed. I mean, anybody can come in the Zoom, but it’s not broadcast on Facebook.
Daniel Lombard: If you go on our, if you do want to come into the Zoom you can go on our fa our website project refit us. And like the first thing you see is join Zoom. You click that between 9:00 PM and. Monday or Friday, and you will come right into the Zoom. It’s like I said, it’s, that’s semi-structured.
Daniel Lombard: We have topics that we adhere to. If the conversation is getting dull if it’s not doing anything too, aha. But if somebody comes in [00:20:00] and they have something to talk about and they’re in a place or just, they need to talk about what hap they need to talk about anything.
Daniel Lombard: There is no topic. That’s the, you’re the topic. Now let’s get you situated, see how we can help you. . We, we don’t we encourage people to go to therapy. Let me say that. We have people who they’ll experience us and then they’ll be like, oh, this is my fix. We’re, we are a piece of the puzzle.
Daniel Lombard: We’re a cog in the machine. You we’re. We’re part of it. Some people should also be in you shouldn’t stop therapy for if you find something. You know what I mean? There should, you should have multiple options, multiple resources, multiple tools in your toolbox to use. Even if you have a really shiny brand new one that’s working better than all the other ones, you’re gonna need some of them other ones later down the line.
Daniel Lombard: And yeah. So the Friday ones are more Personal people who don’t want their information, their business out there in, in the public, which I get. There’s people who are in careers that they can’t talk about their mental health because security clearances or their job will just simply leave, make them leave.
Daniel Lombard: So the Friday [00:21:00] ones are good for that. We have and we have rules for that. Also. Just so, so if anybody’s gonna join the Zoom, like whoever’s the moderator, so it’s you’ll know when you go in. Me, Mo James respect the moderator’s decision to guide the conversation cuz we’re all military, we’re all, we’re first responders.
Daniel Lombard: We all have strong personalities and we wanna kind of dominate conversations. So the moderate, just respect that aspect of it. Look, we’re vulgar. You know, like that’s just what we’ve grown up in. It’s, that’s part of Project Refit, but there’s a line and you don’t cross the line. There’s no derogatory shit.
Daniel Lombard: There’s no racism, there’s no none of that stuff. We love all of our brothers and sisters, regardless. Curse all you want, stay on the right side of the line. There’s a one strike rule, like you do that and you are gone. We have evidence of that . So, so, and then a lot of us have TBIs, so if.
Daniel Lombard: If I’m talking, I mean, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll you will not interrupt. I could be talking the whole time in blank slate outta nowhere. So a lot of us have that and we try and minimize interruptions. I mean, obviously if somebody has something really [00:22:00] potent and helpful to say, you’re gonna probably forget it.
Daniel Lombard: So go ahead and jump in. But we keep your opinions too, you know what I mean? Like the Sure. It’s still on that person. And then for anybody who is a. None of us are certified, none of us are clinicians. This is not the place for clinicians. This is a peer-to-peer support group. So if you are certified in anything, you will not diagnose in these Zooms or in project refi in general at an event talk.
Daniel Lombard: Not there’s no diagnosis. That’s not, that is not our role, period. . So that’s our zooms. We have, like I said, we have our website project refit us. If you wanna volunteer, we have a volunteer tab you can fill out. We love volunteers. We want more if you’re, especially if you’re a student. I’m in college now, so I’m learning about like graduate degrees and internships and all that stuff that’s needed for a degree.
Daniel Lombard: You need volunteer hours. Come to us. We need volunteers. It’s a win-win. Right now the biggest thing for us is our our mobile base. So it’s a it’s a 24 foot long trailer and we’ve, cus we have customized it. On the one side it’s got a stage dropdown like [00:23:00] stage door dropdown, and it’s got three legs that, so it’s a nice little walkout patio essentially. The other end, the whole end drops down.
Daniel Lombard: We have air heating in there, lights, wifi, tv, benches, tables. And that is so we can do our radio check, buddy check-ins, wherever we need to be. We are, we pride ourself that we’re hybrid. James and I, the other co-founder, he we flew to Florida. We got in contact with a police officer through another nonprofit. He had been held hostage like shotgun to his head. So he took a little time off of work for that. And then when he went back to work, he had a guy handcuffed and just the way he had the guy handcuffed, the guy cinched and just broke his fingers in his hand, in his dominant hand.
Daniel Lombard: More importantly. So he has two daughters and a wife. And the the, they had just had a storm and the two daughters’ rooms, the on the same. Their the insulation and drywall was gone, so he can’t physically put up the insulation, drywall in the floating floor. He had all the supplies, so we didn’t have to buy any of ’em.
Daniel Lombard: So James and I just flew out there for a weekend and just did that for him. You know what I mean? [00:24:00] Just threw up the insulation, threw up the dry. We didn’t spackle on all that. like, dude, I can do that at some, that’s not the hard part. It’s putting it up. So it’s ev like small things like that.
Daniel Lombard: So we take our, like I said, we take our mobile base anywhere and everywhere we can. Sporting events anywhere where our people will be or would like to go. So one of the, one of the ventures we’re trying to do with the mobile bases get involved, especially with the Philadelphia Eagles, but any of the Philadelphia teams or sports in general.
Daniel Lombard: But with stadiums there’s, there are countless veterans first responders current military that don’t go to these events because of the environ. Where if we were set up with our mobile base right outside of the event, they can come out. Yo, it’s too much anxiety and shit. Let me go into this mobile base, talk to the dudes for a little bit, and then go right back into the event.
Daniel Lombard: 20 minutes later, I’m feeling a little hour, however long. We really wanna do that. Another thing is the senior citizen homes assisted livings and things like, there’s Vietnam, there’s Korean War, world War II veterans with these stories that one, many of us have [00:25:00] never even got a chance to hear, and they’re disappearing by the day.
Daniel Lombard: And that just, it kills me seeing that So that’s another area. So the, with the mobile base though, we have a a monthly donor program. So it could be $5. Like we have somebody who’s doing 250, which blew my mind. Thank you so much, . But anything any amount and there’s, you get a dog tag and you get to put it up, put up in the mobile base.
Daniel Lombard: So as soon as you walk in our mobile base, A dozen or two dozen of them already just sitting up there. So we bring that to, we actually in June, one of the, we do a yearly retreat, one really big retreat, and then we’ll do two like smaller, like five, six people retreat, where the yearly one is usually around a dozen.
Daniel Lombard: And we pay for it. So in June we flew out 12 veterans, a first responder, and her son we camped on a ranch Stillwater Ranch in Colorado. Love you. We camped on that ranch for six days. They, it was aside from my time in Afghanistan, it was the greatest week I’ve had in recent memory. It was just a very, excuse [00:26:00] me, beautiful thing.
Daniel Lombard: Every day at 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM we had like scheduled events, so it would be fly fishing horseback riding, archery. We went and We went to the range and the guys who took us, our actual weapon manufacturers there, and they took us back to their manufacturing plant. And like, it was just like, it was, we belonged.
Daniel Lombard: They never met us, but like it, it clicked immediately and it was, it just felt so good. We went fly fishing and I had never been fly fishing in my entire life. Water was cold, but we had the waist high waiters and I fell in love, just the pressure of that water on my legs. Like I have bad legs just from the military.
Daniel Lombard: It like instantly I was like, dude, I could stand for like four hours in this shit where normally like you got me for about 45 minutes and I have to sit down. So we did that kind of stuff. And so say you came and you weren’t interested in that. You didn’t want to stay at the ranch. They had a dozen horses, ducks, goats it was huge. It was beautiful. But the only thing we actually, like, if you wanted to go and explore Colorado, like in the local area, obviously we don’t want you driving 45 or four hours or some shit. But if you wanna [00:27:00] explore Colorado, go do that. You’re an adult, like you’re, this isn’t prison.
Daniel Lombard: The only thing we actually required was at eight, eight o’clock at night every night we had a giant bonfire and everybody sat in a circle on the bonfire and we were present. And people who wanted to share. And we had people who needed to talk, who came specifically for that. They didn’t give a shit about horseback riding or fishing or shooting.
Daniel Lombard: They wanted to talk. And that was it. There was a couple guys who came where alcohol is a very important aspect in their life to the point where withdrawal is a symptom right now. And with my own eyes, I witnessed the second day we were there.
Daniel Lombard: They controlled their intake of alcohol. They weren’t escaping. They were managing the symptoms of withdrawal Instead of chugging from a, a liquor bottle, they had half a beer. Just, you know what I mean? Just to get right. And they were sharing and they were opening up and they were talking I’m still in con like every two weeks, I’d say Max, well, I’ll talk to one of them.
Daniel Lombard: Look, people know we give a shit. I think that’s really what it’s, people know like, like I have no horse in this. I do have a horse in this race. I [00:28:00] go through exactly what most of these people are going through. So that is my horse, but there’s no financial gain for me for this. You, there’s no subscriptions.
Daniel Lombard: There’s a, like we sell shirts and hats and that kind of, you don’t have, like, if you don’t buy that, whatever this is we genuinely see an issue. With our people. There’s a, there’s this suicide thing happening. Just blows my mind. I, so something we talk, that’s something we’ll openly talk about.
Daniel Lombard: I specifically will like hone in on, I believe that there is a difference between suicidal and wanting your pain to act. And I think the vast majority. Of veterans and first responders who are taking their lives, aren’t doing it because they want to die, they’re doing it because they don’t have anywhere to put their pain.
Daniel Lombard: They have nobody to take their pain for them, from them or help them navigate through it for that matter. We’re we have, we, we have just that’s exactly what we do. We have people who are in different stages of [00:29:00] therapy. We have people who have never been in it. We have a guy who experienced it, didn’t like, And just started researching his own stuff and genuinely found some healthy coping mechanisms.
Daniel Lombard: And now like branches with a little bit of therapy and his own ev, everybody’s walked their own path and they’re willing to share how they got there. And I think there’s a lot of fear of the unknown. I have all of this shit in my mind and I have no idea. If, am I in control? If I start opening up about it, am I gonna lose control?
Daniel Lombard: And I’m gonna feel, is it gonna flood out? There’s a very potent
Daniel Lombard: aura, if you will, of camaraderie. It’s it that, it just has not subsided. We. Look, I’m not a big reader. I don’t really like reading too much. I get bored fast. My mind’s in a billion places at once. But I read this one book. It’s it’s called it’s by Dr. Edward Tick returning the Soul from War, I believe.
Daniel Lombard: And in the very very first page, he says the King God, Odin, he gave his eye, sacrificed his eye for infinite wisdom. And I was like, all right, cool. And he said, what? PTs D [00:30:00] is our sacrifice for wisdom because the growth that we get from managing and adapting to the PTs D symptoms is growth that people who don’t experience trauma will never be able to have.
Daniel Lombard: There’s it’s a, there is a silver lining to it almost. But what I’m fascinated by is in tribal times, Aztecs, Mayan, even the Roman, that kind of stuff. When they would come back from war, the warriors, all of the village, everybody in the village would get together and they would have, I know like the Mayans, they would have a really long wooden plank with spikes on it, and everybody would lean into it together and bleed and feel pain together so that there was no P T S D.
Daniel Lombard: They all felt the same amount of pain from that battle. We’re now in society. It’s not tribal anymore. It’s completely individualistic, completely. And I think for us, I think humans have adapted past the tribal mentality, but I think for people who have served in the first responder professions, a military profession, you’ve [00:31:00] unlocked that or at least brushed on that tribal mentality that we’ve evolved past.
Daniel Lombard: And I don’t think you can close that door. I think once we open that door again, it’s a perm. It could be a permanent open. And we need a group. We need us, we need our brothers and sisters to sustain us.
Scott DeLuzio: Well, and you need in the military, and first, a lot of first responder professions, you need that community.
Scott DeLuzio: You need those other people. You’re relying on the person to your left, to your right to do their job in. For you to do, for the whole unit to be able to complete their mission, whatever size that unit is. But it’s never just a single individual. It’s always it’s a team, a group of people, right?
Scott DeLuzio: A team who’s out there trying to accomplish something. And once a new learn to rely on people like that, it’s hard. Like you said, it’s hard to turn that off. You know, maybe it’s possible to turn it off, but Yeah,
Daniel Lombard: And it has to be possible. But I think that’s a journey not many of us have ventured down.
Daniel Lombard: [00:32:00] You know what I mean? I don’t, it hurts to turn that off. We’ve been introduced to something that’s that powerful and then to just pre, not pretend it doesn’t exist, but admit that it won’t be the same ever.
Scott DeLuzio: Well, it’s like when you find something that works for whatever the thing is that you’re doing and you find a way that works and.
Scott DeLuzio: It’s like, why would you go and screw with that? Like it works. You don’t fix something
Daniel Lombard: that’s not broken.
Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. Right. So, so then you get out of the military in a system that worked. . then you go into another system, which also works, but it’s different from the old system. But
Daniel Lombard: it’s like, I think the military has controlled chaos and the real world is just chaos, , and we’re used to that, at least controlled element of it.
Daniel Lombard: There. This shit’s gonna be wild, but within these spectrums where the world, this shit’s just wild and we, it’s just, yeah I think that the, it’s, and I mean every va, everybody said, but the first year out, The worst year. It’s [00:33:00] you coming to terms that you’re not with your tribe anymore. You have to find a new tribe.
Daniel Lombard: We’re the new tribe. That’s the whole point. Like we, we will we are the new tribe. Another thing we do is reunions. So we just had one in November, September, November. Bad brain, but one of those dates damn. And two different units got together and we had, it’s, it was tj, one of our. One of our advisors actually, he he hosts the reunions.
Daniel Lombard: He’s got two acres, nice little hips. Beautiful. And just seeing what that is, I mean, these are dudes who haven’t seen, like, they’ll go years without seeing each other and then bam. And just seeing that they’ve known each other for 20, 20 years, you know what I mean? Like seeing that level of love, cuz that’s really It’s powerful. It’s, I don’t really think there’s many things that can compare to it,
Scott DeLuzio: and that’s an awesome thing too. Cause I know my own unit, when we talk about getting together and doing some sort of reunion and everything like that, the plans always fall through. We, no, nothing ever works.
Scott DeLuzio: We, [00:34:00] we haven’t done it yet. It’s, it was 2010 is when we were in Afghanistan altogether. You know, shortly after that was the last time that we were. In the same place at the same time. Yeah. You know, people have, inevitably they go off to different units, they get out of the military altogether. Like that, that just happens.
Scott DeLuzio: And then Nice. You know, eventually there’s nobody left. And yeah. And so, you know, we all keep in touch. We have a, you know, Facebook chat that we have going on that we all just keep in touch with each other to make sure everyone’s doing all right. If someone needs something or, you know, is having some issues we just jump on the chat and we.
Scott DeLuzio: Chat with each other, but it’s different than being in person, you know, actually yes. Being able to be there with each other and hang out and just shit the shit for a little while, you know, just catch up and everything like that. But but that’s awesome. I think that’s a huge benefit to what you guys are doing in addition to everything else that you guys are doing, but, That just organizing and facilitating the ability to get people together in that way is huge.
Scott DeLuzio: And that has probably some [00:35:00] therapeutic effects too. Just being,
Daniel Lombard: I think it has like resound a resounding amount of therapeutic value to it. It has
Scott DeLuzio: to Right. Right. I mean, yeah, there’s always gonna be that, that one-off case where you had that one guy who just didn’t get along with anybody else or whatever.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Okay. That’s an edge case, but I think in the, yeah, the vast majority of cases, you’re gonna have a group of people who are really tight and, you know, bringing ’em back together. It’s just gonna, it’s just gonna be a great experience. So that’s awesome. I think in
Daniel Lombard: all reality, we all yearn for that.
Daniel Lombard: Like, I, I would I, so I went to. One of the high schools near me had for Veterans Day, they had me come and speak or for tell my story about Project Reef. It also. And then the grade school did also. And I had like, I mean, obviously it comes up, would you do it again? And like yeah, obviously, like, not obviously they’re asking because they don’t know.
Daniel Lombard: But yeah, I mean, yeah, like it’s the, they were the most. Influential months, cuz I’d love to say years, but months of my life like that nine months was, that’s where I found [00:36:00] who I was. That’s where I truly found me and lost me. In the same like in the same, Hey, you’re here. Oh God, you’re gone. , would do it a billion times over.
Daniel Lombard: I also had a young girl ask, I mean, she was a sixth grader, I think. She asked me, did you win the war? And I was like, oh, fuck, . I was like, look, that’s a that’s a hard question. I said on the outside. No, they, the people we were fighting are now. The government like, no, we lost. I said, but I know for a fact that we liberated every village that surrounded us.
Daniel Lombard: They begged us to, they asked us to, they thanked us when we did. So just knowing that we saved some lives for some time even if it’s not sustainable. I have to accept that . So that, that’s the,
Scott DeLuzio: I even use this example this analogy I should say in describing just the pullout from Afghanistan, the whole debacle that took place you know, a little over a year ago now.
Scott DeLuzio: , is, so back in the sixties, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and she went to the doctor. Fought it took all the medications, the treatments and everything like that. She went into remission [00:37:00] and she ended up living another 20 years before the cancer came back and eventually took her.
Scott DeLuzio: But was the efforts of the doctors back 20 years earlier all for nothing? No. Cuz she was given another 20 years of life and whether it was 20 years or 20 days or. Whatever. It’s like she still had that much more, and I think the people that were living in those villages that you guys went to and liberated and helped them live, even if it’s just a short period of time, live under some relative piece of freedom and whatever words you wanna throw at it.
Scott DeLuzio: I mean, it’s not for nothing.
Daniel Lombard: Right. I like that. I like that a lot. I didn’t, I have never thought of it from that.
Scott DeLuzio: But really at the end of the day, there was some peace and some security to those people’s lives, and I feel like in a way that type of freedom and that type of lifestyle, Could have [00:38:00] potentially been infectious, and maybe those people would have wanted to fight for that and want to provide that for their children and their children’s children and things like that.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And so, you know, honestly, when I saw the withdrawal the debacle that went on with all of that, in the back of my mind, I was thinking to. I just hope that some of these people that we helped will stand up and fight back at some point. It may not be today, may not be tomorrow, may maybe, you know, later on in the year or whatever, but hopefully someone will start standing up and fighting back and you know, I, we don’t get the kind of news coverage that you would get from Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: You know, downtown. You know, Atlanta or something like, you know what I mean? You don’t get that from coming out of Afghanistan anymore. So who knows? Maybe they are maybe it’s a long fight. Maybe they’re having some progress. I really don’t know. I like, even if I can lie to myself and just tell myself that’s what they’re doing, then I’m gonna do that, you know?
Scott DeLuzio: So,
Daniel Lombard: Yeah, think, I think that’s one of the only things we can do with that situation. I mean, it’s kinda [00:39:00] Sure our hands are tied there.
Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. Well, like any nonprofit, I know you mentioned volunteers that you’re looking for, but I’m sure you’re also looking for support in terms of donations and other things like that.
Scott DeLuzio: You mentioned the website for volunteers. I’m assuming that’s also where people can go to to make a donation as well.
Daniel Lombard: Yeah, everything’s on there. If you wanna become a monthly donor, it’s on there. If you wanna do a one-time donation, it’s on there. The, hi, like the history of us, the co-founders, that’s all on there.
Daniel Lombard: Mobile base initiative’s on there. Yeah. Yeah. So Project refit.us.
Scott DeLuzio: Excellent. And so I’ll have a link to that in the show notes for anyone who’s interested in volunteering or donating or supporting in any way. I’m sure there’s other things that I’m not even thinking about that you may have. We’re popping in
Daniel Lombard: the Zoom if you wanna come in the Zoom.
Daniel Lombard: That’s the, that’s also an avenue to to get in. There
Scott DeLuzio: you go. Yeah. So yeah, hop in into the Zoom meeting and I’ve been on the website. It’s right there real easy. It’s on the, I mean, you can’t miss it. Like when you load the page, it’s there, it’s right in front of you. So just click on the thing and hop in on the Zoom.
Scott DeLuzio: Daniel, it’s been an absolute [00:40:00] pleasure speaking with you today, hearing your story learning about Project Refit and everything that you guys are doing. I’m really excited about what you guys are doing and you know, glad to help spread the word about this. I really do appreciate all the hard work that you guys are putting in and everything that you do for the veterans and the first responders up.
Daniel Lombard: Thank you. I appreciate, thanks for having me on here. It’s, I appreciate you being a conduit for all of the, like you said at the beginning, all these nonprofits that may not have a a reach or the veterans or first responders who may not have the ability to find us. You’re doing a great cause by even giving us a little broadcast that’s happening.
Daniel Lombard: I appreciate you very much.
Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Anytime. Thanks again.
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.[00:41:00]