Episode 267: John Henry Parker USMC Veteran On Mentoring Veterans And His Son’s Tragic Death Transcript
This transcript is from episode 267 with guest John Henry Parker.
[00:00:00] Scott DeLuzio: 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.
[00:00:21] Scott DeLuzio: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is John Henry Parker. John is a Marine Corps veteran and author whose son served in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, and unfortunately, his son was tragically killed after leaving the army in a high-speed motorcycle accident, which we are going to talk about a little bit more in just a.
[00:00:44] Scott DeLuzio: First, I wanna welcome you to the show. Glad to have you here, John.
[00:00:47] John Henry Parker: Good to be here. Thanks.
[00:00:49] Scott DeLuzio: So why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself in the background for the people who might be listening who may not be familiar with
[00:00:55] John Henry Parker: you.
[00:00:56] John Henry Parker: Well, I served just a single term in the Marine [00:01:00] Corps 1980 to 83, and. I was with a really cool unit called Anglico Air Nevo Gunfire Liaison Company, and it’s a fast moving unit. We get to embed with, you know, NATO assault forces and, you know, go to different countries. And it was a real, real exciting time in my life.
[00:01:18] John Henry Parker: And like a lot of military vet veterans, when we get outta the service I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn. I had a really rough transition going from the mindset of being a Marine into the civilian world. And, you know, it was took about six years, I think, before I stopped really kind of wearing cammies and, you know, walking around.
[00:01:40] John Henry Parker: You know, it was really funny, you know, people. This guy told me, he said, Hey, the world doesn’t need another hard ass marine who can parachute outta helicopters at night and carry big, heavy packs. And I’m like, people started getting my attention that I was just like too much of that persona. And so it it took a while to kind of like you’re once a marine, always a [00:02:00] marine for sure.
[00:02:01] John Henry Parker: But transition was tough and and it was tough for my son as well, you know, so, I’m a behavioral assessment analyst. I got into the field of personal development cuz I didn’t want to co I didn’t wanna go to counseling, right? I had a rage problem. It had got me a lot of problems in the military.
[00:02:18] John Henry Parker: That and substance abuse, like I drank a lot alcohol and got in trouble. And just trying to numb out and. So I had a lot to unpack in my life after I got out. And so I really looked at personal development, listening to audio books, going to programs and certification courses as a means for helping me understand, you know, who I was becoming, which is a big part of the theme of my writing is, you know, some interesting messengers that I’ve met along the.
[00:02:49] John Henry Parker: seemingly by chance, but they were the ones who were here to influence me and teach me the most.
[00:02:55] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and it’s interesting how we transform into [00:03:00] a different version of ourselves. We’re always ourselves, but we’re we change when it comes to leaving the military. You take those experiences that you had in the military, good, bad, indifferent, whatever it was.
[00:03:11] Scott DeLuzio: And that transforms you. You’re most people coming outta the military are not the same as the 18 year old kid going into the military as they were back then. They deploy, they see combat that’s gonna change them just going through basic training is going to change ’em. They’re gonna be out paying a lot more attention to detail than they did when they were, you know, in a senior in high school,
[00:03:31] Scott DeLuzio: Right, right. It, It’s just a completely different world. And so, you know, it, everything that we experience changes us and I think the goal is to have it change us for the better as opposed to going down dark paths and, Numbing things with substances, whether it be drugs or alcohol, whatever it is that’s not the direction that we want to be going in.
[00:03:51] Scott DeLuzio: We want to be changing for the better and using those experiences to help us grow as opposed to holding us back.
[00:03:57] John Henry Parker: Right. Well, there’s a saying that, you know, we’re [00:04:00] some total of all the experiences that we’ve had. Yeah. And consequently all the experiences we are avoiding. And that sums it up for me because all the experiences I had had in my life were pretty, a lot of ’em were too traumatic, and I just wanted to numb out and escape, you know?
[00:04:17] John Henry Parker: So I was avoiding a lot of things, and so I didn’t understand it at that time. I do understand it now, and I’ve been able to transcend. Like 95% of everything. But there’s still, you know, there’s still times when I’m triggered. There’s still times when I feel depression sneaking in. Mm-hmm. . There’s still times when I want to numb out, but I recognize it more quickly now, almost instantaneously to where I don’t spend much time in those kinds of dark episodes at all.
[00:04:46] John Henry Parker: Right. And that comes with practice, it comes with awareness. It comes with. Comes from mentoring other people that I’ve asked for help to, you know, there’s lot, there’s more to it than that. But that’s the kind of work that I’ve been focused on [00:05:00] focusing on is, you know, working with veterans for the last 25 years who are at risk has really helped me understand a lot of the different faces of reality, you know, that that we face.
[00:05:13] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and there’s, I gotta imagine over that 25 years, Had a lot of people to work with just given the situation that we were in over the last 20 plus years with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and everything going on over there. There’s a lot coming at people really quickly.
[00:05:29] Scott DeLuzio: And. Learning how to deal with that. But also recognizing that we are humans. We do have emotions, good and bad emotions. And they do serve purpose, but if you spend too much time in those negative dark places, it’s gonna be really hard to get out of those places. Right.
[00:05:45] John Henry Parker: Yeah. I remember what launched me into this Veteran’s Odyssey.
[00:05:50] John Henry Parker: My son. He in the army and let’s see, it was August of [00:06:00] 2001, and he called to say, should I reenlist? You know, they want to gimme a bonus and a stripe. And I’m like, well, you know, it’s, that’s a choice you’ve gotta make, son, you know? And. after the long conversation. Sure enough, he enlisted, then it was nine 11, and then by October 15th he was in Uzbekistan.
[00:06:19] John Henry Parker: So like first in kinda like locking down the air bases, you know? Yeah. And and then he went back again in in 2003 to Man, a ferocious place on the Pakistan border called Skin Firebase, you know, and saw a lot of bad stuff, you know, and a lot of bad things happened. And he changed. And then one day I’m sitting on the couch on a Sunday morning and he calls me from a satellite phone.
[00:06:45] John Henry Parker: I hadn’t heard from him in five months. And he is just straight up, he said, Hey dad, I’m too fucked up to come home. You know, I’ve seen too much, I lost some guys and I don’t remember what it’s like to be a husband. I don’t want to come home. And it just spun me [00:07:00] out like a parent hearing, like, like, what’s going on?
[00:07:02] John Henry Parker: So I’m like, just get home alive. Focus on that. I’ll line up some resources. And, you know, pretty much she just said, you know, gotta go dad and click, you know, so that’s. It changed the trajectory of my entire life in that one like 10 minute call. Right. You know, and you’re like, what do I do? You know, and so I the one thing that I know how to do for sure is learn.
[00:07:29] John Henry Parker: So I started like, like your kids go to Boo Boo, learn everything about it, right? And so , you know, I’ve become an expert, right? And but what I really saw that flipped me out, Is I had flashbacks and my dad was a Korean War combat, Marine combat vet. Had terrible, terrible experiences. And then he, when the Air Force and was a reconnaissance photographer when they were flying over Vietnam, he got shot down with his pilot.
[00:07:55] John Henry Parker: Okay. He had to evade capture that really messed up. So [00:08:00] all I knew growing up was this raging, alcoholic, violent father who. They mandatorily made him go see a mental health professional. And when the first thing the person said after he talked is, I understand he stood up and said, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
[00:08:15] John Henry Parker: And walked out and never went back. So what’s slashing in my mind is not, again, we can’t Right. He, he would not again. So, I can go in a lot of different directions, but what really compounded it was when I went to a Vet Center, you know, which is a great sub element. It’s not attached directly, they don’t share information with the VA, but it’s a perfect place to go if you need individual counseling or family counseling.
[00:08:40] John Henry Parker: And I met the site director in Sacramento. His name was Mike. And after hearing my situation, he’s like, you know, I gotta tell you something you’re not gonna like, and I’m so sorry. This is 2001. He said, we haven’t even, excuse me, this is 2003. He said, we haven’t even seen the rotations back, you know, [00:09:00] really from Afghanistan.
[00:09:01] John Henry Parker: And we’re still overwhelmed from First Gulf War and Vietnam vets, so we don’t have enough staff. So even if your son’s suicidal, we can probably only see him once a month. So, like that, that, that is, it was such a a mixed emotion like betrayal, like we’ve been doing. Battle for couple of hundred years and we haven’t figured out how to get homecoming right yet.
[00:09:24] John Henry Parker: Right. You know, so I just went on this odyssey for 18 years, man. Like I dropped outta my consulting business and, you know, just kind of, kind of went into this and, you know, in a long story short, when he got killed it, you know, things got worse and different, you know, but we could talk about all that stuff.
[00:09:44] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, so a lot to unpack there in, in a lot of different, like you said, a lot of different directions that we can go into here. But I, I think first off, I mean your son making that phone call to you and saying, yeah I’m messed up. I don’t know how I’m gonna deal with coming back home. First off, I [00:10:00] think that was a smart move on his.
[00:10:03] Scott DeLuzio: To reach out and say, Hey I need help. You know, put his hand up. I need help there. There’s a red flag going on here. I, something is not right. And then you, on your end, taking the time to go and learn about all of this stuff to try to help him. That just, to me, that just screams like, this is a good father.
[00:10:20] Scott DeLuzio: This is somebody who actually cares and wants to wants to have the best for his child. No matter what the cost, right? You’re gonna go and try to figure this out. And it’s not easy. It’s not necessarily the the thing that you’re gonna want to be doing. Like, that’s not the Hollywood homecoming moment that you typically are going to experience where you have everyone come home and saw the fanfare, everyone’s happy and, you know, life goes on and, you know, happily ever after.
[00:10:49] Scott DeLuzio: But That’s life. I mean, this is reality. And you took it and you said, okay, something needs to happen here, let’s go figure this out. And, you know, and [00:11:00] that’s what your goal was really, is just to, to help him. And then, you know, you talked about the vet center and the just the lack of resource.
[00:11:08] Scott DeLuzio: And it, it drives me crazy when I hear stuff like that. Even today not so much on the mental health side. I think the VA and the Vet Center has gotten better. I don’t know specifically how much better but just general resource. Like we have people who have, they’ve lost limbs.
[00:11:25] Scott DeLuzio: They’ve got their backs messed up from, you know, serving and all this. These things happen. The wait times are just
[00:11:34] John Henry Parker: horrendous sometimes, you know? Oh yeah. Well, I mean, I can tell you the vet centers, I got really good friends around the country that are amazing. And they were pro vet senator.
[00:11:42] John Henry Parker: Matter of fact, the Vet Center in Syracuse, a lady named Pat Chase, I tell you, she was amazing. Like, The the guy in Sacramento said, you know, if your son’s coming home to Fort Drum, then you gotta reach out to Pat. She’s right there. I called her, she’s like, super supportive. We’re ready, we’re [00:12:00] prepared.
[00:12:00] John Henry Parker: But when he got home, he all of a sudden turtled up. He didn’t wanna see me. Yeah, right. That’s familiar. And so, took about six months, but he credited. The vet center staff there, this really cool polytrauma specialist named Danny. You know, they credit her for like saving their marriage and like pulling them together.
[00:12:22] John Henry Parker: So the system really, really works. Yeah. You know, the, and that, that was just fortunate that we were able to meet these folks. And so they played a critical role in his transition. And he, like, like my dad he just all of a sudden turtled up and he wasn’t gonna get help, you know, and he had a game he’d play with therapists, you know, he’d tell him the worst stories and watch ’em well up.
[00:12:43] John Henry Parker: And then he’d say, see, you don’t understand what the hell I went through, you know? And he just he was just it took him a while to let them in.
[00:12:54] Scott DeLuzio: You know, and I understand that too. When I first came back from Afghanistan the back of my head, I of course, [00:13:00] You know, in the military, we’re the helpers, we’re the people who are out there supposed to help other people and I don’t need help.
[00:13:05] Scott DeLuzio: Right. I’m big, I’m strong. I, you know, I was young and dumb and like, I, I knew everything. I could handle this and yeah, sure. It’s tough right now, but I’ll get over it. I always do. Right, right. And so why do I need to go away? Help. There’s probably guys who are way worse than me. They need the help more than I do.
[00:13:21] Scott DeLuzio: and it, for me, it was about six months too after coming back home that I first reached out and got help. But that was after like the rock bottom moment where it’s like, who am I looking at in the mirror now? I don’t even know this person anymore. And that was the time that I said to myself like, okay, something’s gotta change.
[00:13:41] Scott DeLuzio: Like, I may never be that same guy that I was a year plus ago. I can’t be this guy anymore. And that’s what ultimately drove me there to get some help. But it was hard opening up at first. Like, I don’t talk about feelings and emotions and I don’t talk about that stuff. Like, I barely even talk about that stuff with [00:14:00] my wife.
[00:14:00] Scott DeLuzio: It’s like, I’m gonna go talk to a stranger about this stuff. Come on . Yeah,
[00:14:04] John Henry Parker: exactly. Well, and you know, I’ve discovered a lot of things over the years that have helped me personally and. You know, what might be helpful is you know, when my son finally opened up and we started talking about like, wh where are you going with your life?
[00:14:20] John Henry Parker: Like, you’re no longer in the military, you know? I knew the answers to the questions already, but I couldn’t just give them to him. Yeah. I said, so what’s, so what do you wanna do? You wanna get a job, you wanna go to school? Well, I can’t get a really good job cuz I don’t have a degree. Okay. So what you wanna do?
[00:14:36] John Henry Parker: I guess I wanna use my military benefits and go to school. Okay, great. So, you know, so what’s missing, you know, in your life right now? Yeah. And He said you know, my identity. We, after we talked for a while, finally we started getting into, he was, you know, sergeant. He was this, he was that. He knew who he was.
[00:14:55] John Henry Parker: So we said, okay. Okay. So your identity. So, what else are you [00:15:00] missing? A mission every day. I knew what I was getting into, you know, I had an assignment. Right. So what was going on that caused you to be so motivated when you were Well, I had a purpose. Right, and we talked about meaning and purpose and about being a squad leader and taking care of his guys, you know, nothing more important in his life, you know?
[00:15:21] John Henry Parker: And so long story short, we figured out, well, so your identity now is what? Well, to be a student. Okay, great. So your mission is to do what right now? Well, ultimately, he decided, well, I gotta go get all my information, my GI benefits. I gotta go to the. Local community college, cuz we started, you said go start small, go to the community college, get your aa, and then you can figure out where we’re wanna go from there.
[00:15:45] John Henry Parker: You can graduate from anywhere, but you can also start anywhere. So go get acclimated in a smaller pond. Okay? So that’s your mission. Go get all the information, get everything ready to go. Find out when you start, find out what you wanna take. Let’s look at some outcome based education. [00:16:00] So what will give you meaning and purpose?
[00:16:03] John Henry Parker: And we got into a conversation about how he thought he could do a better job than some of the counselors that he sat in front of. And he said, I want to be a counselor. Okay, great. So you want to get your, you know, clinical social worker, you know? So we decided on those kinds of things and So that gave him meaning and purpose to imagine himself helping vets.
[00:16:23] John Henry Parker: Great. So now we had a conversation that galvanized him into action. That’s all these veterans, all of us veterans, all we need is an action plan. If you don’t have a goal, make your first goal finding a goal. And that was my objective with him, is not to give him the answers, but to have him be inspired with his own answers.
[00:16:42] John Henry Parker: So, sure enough, he got into this little community college and Syracuse went, got his AA and then helped him write his acceptance. His, I read his his pitch letter to Syracuse University. He got accepted, you know, into their social work program and Really neat lady <inaudible>. [00:17:00] She was one of the counselors there.
[00:17:01] John Henry Parker: He was the most challenging that maybe she’d come across. He didn’t he was just all over the place, you know, but just a couple years later, you know, as a matter of fact, the day he passed away, they Syracuse University offered him the job as veteran, as liaison for all the new vets coming in.
[00:17:19] John Henry Parker: So he really, really made a difference. , you know, just a lot of teachers, a lot of students, a lot of veterans. And now they have a Denny Facto award for excellence every year that they give to the top veteran who’s making the most progress. So like he really, really made, he stood out and made a difference, but he started small and then went into the larger university.
[00:17:41] John Henry Parker: And so our goal was he’s gonna be the licensed mental health professional and on the personal development side of it, because, What we were I was authoring peer mentoring programs and writing content about transition with all these things that we were learning, you know, and I was doing most of the writing, but he was providing a lot of the reality [00:18:00] based, you know, struggles.
[00:18:02] John Henry Parker: Sure. So, so that’s a little bit about what I, one of the biggest things that I learned is identity, mission, meaning, and purpose is what? We need more than anything in the TAPS programs before you get out, isn’t really preparing you for to reinvent yourself. Right. And they should. They,
[00:18:19] Scott DeLuzio: they absolutely should.
[00:18:20] Scott DeLuzio: Because you’re not the first person who’s brought this up on this podcast or in just other conversations that I’ve had. It’s very much a loss of identity, a sense of purpose, meaning direct. All of that stuff all boiled into one, even camaraderie if you want to throw that in. It is all boils down to one of those things, or a combination of those things, or maybe a Venn diagram where there’s overlaps, right?
[00:18:44] Scott DeLuzio: But it’s all that stuff that causes so many problems with these veterans getting out and trying. Re-identify themselves in a world that looks nothing like the world that they just came out of. And dealing with [00:19:00] people who have limited to no structure the way the military had. And it’s like, I don’t wanna talk to these people.
[00:19:08] Scott DeLuzio: I don’t wanna interact with these people. These people don’t know anything about what I went through. So why am I gonna go and pour my guts out to this person sitting across the desk who doesn’t know anything about what I’ve gone through? Right? Now, I think there’s maybe a good transition here to talk about one of your books titled transitioning Veterans, how We Get In Our Own Way and What to Do about It.
[00:19:31] Scott DeLuzio: And you told me that prior to recording here, you told me that this book was a leg Legacy project for your son, Danny. You know, could you tell us a little bit about the book and what people can expect from it?
[00:19:41] John Henry Parker: Yeah. All these years of working with countless veterans and their parents and grandparents and spouses and just all the struggles, you know, just had so much insight into.
[00:19:55] John Henry Parker: What’s going on that I, I , but [00:20:00] try to get, you know, it’s hard enough to get a guy to ask for directions, let alone a veteran to ask for help. Right. And so we’re just in this self-imposed, you know, we’re in our cave and it’s wet, it’s damp. And we like it. It’s cold, you know, it’s fine. I’m gonna come.
[00:20:15] John Henry Parker: It’s familiar. It’s familiar, right? I can suffer just fine on my own, leave me alone. So I wanted to find a way to reach at risk veterans in the privacy of their own mind. So I conceptualized an audiobook and I did it as a dual narration, like a dual induction. So it’s myself, I wrote it to be myself playing the role of the reasonable, rational mind, like the guy that’s talking to you right now.
[00:20:42] John Henry Parker: but then the other person is another veteran who plays the voice of the critical mind. It’s always hijacking those moments of our life and just destroying things, right? Time and relationships, you know, causing us to, you know, space out and have [00:21:00] bad episodes. And, Drink and do be violent. I want all those, all those things that when we get triggered.
[00:21:06] John Henry Parker: And so it’s funny, I I called around Las Vegas to some acting schools and I’m like leaving a message, Hey, I’m looking for a post 9/11 vet. I’m doing some casting for an audio book, you know, gave a little more description, you know, and About a half an hour. I get this call from this tough guy from Brooklyn and he was like, Hey, this is Yoel Dores.
[00:21:27] John Henry Parker: I’m calling about the audio book, and I’m like, That’s the voice , right? This guy Yoel Dores, he’s a combat rescue helicopter pilot in four of the five branches with six branches now. And just been there, done that kind of guy. And like when I was in the Marines, I purposely, he hung out with really tough guys.
[00:21:45] John Henry Parker: The tougher the better from Long Island, from Boston. I mean, just like they were just toughest guys in, in the company, right? And. This guy’s the voice in my head, right? Yeah. So, so [00:22:00] I, so we get together and turns out he’s really hurting, he’s really isolated, and this thing transformed him. Big time, but but it’s really, it’s a banter, like for an, it’s only an hour and 20 minutes long.
[00:22:13] John Henry Parker: It’s designed for veterans to listen to it in the privacy of their own mind. Nobody knows you’re getting help. Nobody knows you’re learning about what’s going on, but it’s just. Critical mind that keeps hijacking moments. You’re out. Like, I literally went with a buddy of mine to write the chapter about going into restaurants and so crowded restaurants.
[00:22:32] John Henry Parker: Like, you know what I’m talking about? I know exactly what you’re
[00:22:34] Scott DeLuzio: talking about.
[00:22:34] John Henry Parker: Yes. So we went to a PF Chang’s and we went to the very back, like, that’s where I need to seat, face, sit facing everybody. And then I start, he starts writing and I’m talking, we’re recording this, right? And I’m like, I’m looking around.
[00:22:49] John Henry Parker: There’s a room over here with a back exit. The exit straight over there. There’s a couple of guys sitting at the bar and they got, you know, vascular, you can see the veins in their neck. I’m like, that guy works out [00:23:00] right? I’m just like, I’m just like looking at like, how do I get outta here? You know, if some shit happens, you know?
[00:23:06] John Henry Parker: And and then some guy walks right along. And sits down about 20 feet away. Same thing in the back. He looks like a military guy. I’m like, ah, shit. You know? So I’m just kind of going out there, you know, on, on in my mind about how ridiculous this is. Yeah. But necessary. Of course. It’s ridiculous, but it’s necessary, you know?
[00:23:27] John Henry Parker: And then we start talking about what’s goes on with our significant others, and we’re staring right through them while we’re talking to ’em. Hey honey, we gotta get some dog food on the way home. But really we’re just blazing a hole right through them, kind of threat. Right. And so it’s all about this guy un my critical mind talking about like what goes on when you go to restaurants.
[00:23:46] John Henry Parker: So I’m bantering back and forth and it’s a whole it’s really, it’s a reality based conversation that actually goes on and I’ve met a lot of vets, enough vets to know, The writing, the book was extremely relevant and the feedback I get from it is [00:24:00] very, it’s very, very rewarding.
[00:24:02] John Henry Parker: And you can go to Tran, you can go to transitioning veterans book.com and. There’s two little explainer videos that explain the audio book. Like I don’t wanna talk about my son with everybody. So I just, I created a little five minute explainer video about what this audio book’s about.
[00:24:19] John Henry Parker: And then there’s a study guide that you can download with it. And there’s a transition map and action plan that you can download for free. And the whole audio audiobook is right there under audiobook preview. So I don’t want a veteran telling me that they can, they can’t afford it when they’re standing in Starbucks to pay six bucks for
[00:24:38] John Henry Parker: You know? So I want to eliminate the barrier. Just go download the book. I don’t need to make money off of this. And it’s just one step in the right direction for me to make, to be, to know that I’m contributing something, you know? Absolutely.
[00:24:51] Scott DeLuzio: And I love how you have those two voices, the voice of reason, and then the.
[00:24:57] Scott DeLuzio: Hard ass Brooklyn veteran. Right. The going [00:25:00] back and forth, because a lot of times that’s the way the conversation goes in our own heads was like, you do have that voice of reason. You know, it’s ridiculous. Like, yeah the restaurant’s crowded, but. It’s not crowded with a bunch of terrorists. You know, it’s crowded with a bunch of regular everyday Americans that are just going out to enjoy a dinner.
[00:25:15] Scott DeLuzio: Right. And, but you have that other voice in your head. Well, yeah, but what if, you know, and that kind of plays that, that trick. And so when you have that narration going on and in an audiobook format, it kind of, to me, I think it would mimic the way that conversation would go in your head, but then you.
[00:25:32] Scott DeLuzio: See how the voice of reason makes a little bit more sense.
[00:25:36] John Henry Parker: Right. Well, the most feedback I get is the ridiculousness of it, and everybody chuckles. Like, that’s exactly what happens, you know? And then guess the biggest learning objective is there’s a process that I developed for myself that I shared with my son, worked really well, I started sharing with other veterans, but it’s really, and and ex explains us on a little video, but it goes into more detail on the audiobook.
[00:25:58] John Henry Parker: But our life [00:26:00] happens between our triggers. Yeah. But if we’re walking around getting triggered all the time, like my triggers used to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me, you better pay attention. There’s something bad’s gonna happen. Right? So I would get triggered and next thing you know, like hours later, I’m still amped up like some idiot on the freeway.
[00:26:17] John Henry Parker: And I’m still thinking three hours later about how I could have drugged that person through their window. That’s not healthy, right? No. All the different ways that that person could have I could have done this or that. . It just sucks a lot of time. And for some people, if their triggers are really bad and they start self-medicating, okay, it can be hours or days before they realize, wow, that really triggered me.
[00:26:38] John Henry Parker: Yeah. So I talk about a process where you recognize your triggers sooner and instead of hours later you get it down to minutes later, and then nanoseconds, like I get triggered every day, but. I instantly noticed the sensations in my chest, the constriction in my throat, and I say to myself, wow, I’m triggered.
[00:26:56] John Henry Parker: Or I’ll say to my wife I’m triggered. I don’t do that much at all [00:27:00] anymore. But it took that kind of practice to pop out of being triggered into observing the trigger,
[00:27:06] Scott DeLuzio: right? It’s almost stepping out of that situation and looking at it from an objective third party view is almost a kind of mindset I would think that you might
[00:27:14] John Henry Parker: need.
[00:27:15] John Henry Parker: The instant you say I’m triggered inside. Yeah. You step out like you’re sitting in, instead of being in the movie, you’re now sitting in the movie theater watching it up on the screen. You disassociate for just enough to where you get some perspective Uhhuh. Cause they’re saying that that which I am observing, I am no longer when I’m observing my triggers and my trauma, I’m not inside of it and the intensity goes down.
[00:27:39] John Henry Parker: So the point. Through practice and noticing that you’re triggered the length and the depth of the episodes get shorter and smaller and shallower, and they start becoming like little blips. Yep. And what happens? You start getting triggered less and less. And again, this is where your life happens in between your triggers.
[00:27:55] John Henry Parker: So the first thing is to recognize you’re triggered. The second thing is to notice. Notice that [00:28:00] your sp, your breathing is suspenseful. You’re not breathing. Oxygen is the antidote for anxiety. So number one, recognize. Number two, oxygenate. Breathe, right? And there’s a square breathing process where you slowly breathe in for five.
[00:28:16] John Henry Parker: You hold for five, you let out for five, you hold for five, you go in for five. So you do this several times and you can feel. Yourself self-regulating. And then the third step is focus on something more interesting. And in the audiobook, in this case, Yoel, I haven’t, I’d say, Hey, do you remember when your child, when your daughter was born?
[00:28:38] John Henry Parker: Oh yeah. You know, and I’m like, so what was it like when you first noticed that she was looking at you and you were looking at her? He’s like, oh, that was a moment man. And he instantly goes from telling about this, these, this, his triggers to this warm and fuzzy version of himself. Yeah. Like you notice that that just happened in just.[00:29:00]
[00:29:00] John Henry Parker: A couple of seconds, like you’ve got that much control where you can just ch change your whole physiology. I could see it, I could feel it. He could feel it, and he is like, wow. You know, so, so it’s a process of recognizing, breathing and then shifting the focus of your attention. It’s just that simple. And the more you practice this, Easier it gets and people start saying, what’s going on with you?
[00:29:24] John Henry Parker: You seem like you’re easier going. Like they’re worried about triggering you. Like my triggers are so bad that people would just stop calling me. They’d stop reaching out to me cuz I was just too much. I was just too intense. And then I’d call ’em up like, why aren’t you calling me back? And one person had the guts to say, cuz you’re doing it right now.
[00:29:42] John Henry Parker: Like, you’re
[00:29:43] Scott DeLuzio: doing intense.
[00:29:44] John Henry Parker: I don’t wanna take you on anymore. But when I started really practicing, I started finding relief and and then the more I shared it with other people, the more I knew I was onto something. And there’s certainly lots of techniques out there. I’m saying, this is one [00:30:00] the way I did, it worked personally well for me, and that’s what I demonstrated in the audio book.
[00:30:06] John Henry Parker: Yeah, and
[00:30:06] Scott DeLuzio: that’s great. And I love this approach to it too because I think it can help people by listening to this story. To apply some of these lessons to their own life and be able to do things like, think about those warm and fuzzy moments, whether it’s, you know, when their child was born or some other thing that is more interesting than the crowded restaurant or the, you know, that type of thing.
[00:30:33] Scott DeLuzio: So, now you have another book too. Be The Dawn in the Darkness. The Relentless Pursuit of Becoming who we are meant to be. We talked a little bit, I think earlier about that personal transformation and how we are meant to be bigger than you know, just whatever our past was and stuff like that.
[00:30:52] Scott DeLuzio: And I feel like this might be the antidote to that mindset. So tell us a little bit about this book as
[00:30:57] John Henry Parker: well. So this is it’s [00:31:00] really a work, it’s a transformational body of work that’s kind of disguised as a narrative memoir. Okay. Okay. It’s about real things that actually happened. And about 50% of the first part of the book is about, you know, catastrophic trauma, you know, about re relentless repeated, like compound trauma, you know, from infancy and childhood being raised with, you know, violence in the household.
[00:31:24] John Henry Parker: If your listeners or viewers are at all curious to learn more about that. The Ace, the ACEs Scale Adverse Childhood Experiences. Ace. You can get online and find lots of places where you can take the ace scale, you know, and it helps measure the severity of your. Your childhood trauma and what you may be predisposed to or what you’re more, more likely predisposed to for different types of illnesses.
[00:31:50] John Henry Parker: The higher the ace scale, it could the life expectancy is 20 years less. Like there’s just diseases, there’s just, there’s alcoholism. So, so this gets [00:32:00] into severe childhood abuse. But it also was really has a sweetness to it. I was provisioned from early childhood by a great aunt who was a Canadian war correspondent during World War ii, during the Nazi invasion of Paris and wrote a book about it.
[00:32:18] John Henry Parker: She’s really a, well, just, really a well thought out person in, in Canada, in France. And so she would come stay with us for two months a year kind of to get in between our family and my father, cuz he would never, never take her on. And so she provisioned me early on. She had such an influence. I was spellbound around her.
[00:32:38] John Henry Parker: She told me I would do extraordinary things with my life and I believed her because she said it. And then she, she just provisioned me for the hero’s journey that I was already on. And really kind of, she told me some things that puzzled me. She said, you know, God is love. Do you believe that?
[00:32:56] John Henry Parker: And, Long story, short is, I didn’t believe that, you [00:33:00] know? And I finally said, after we got away from my father, and I was talking to her, I said, if God is love, then why is this happening to me? You know, it’s not maybe true for you. Glad, but it’s not true for me. And and she talked to him about finding my purpose.
[00:33:12] John Henry Parker: She said, you know, do you have a purpose? And I said, I think I’m too young to have a purpose. She said, great. So you’ll discover for yourself. God is love, and you’ll find your purpose And sure. Through all the suffering that I went through in my life, I found out a big part of my purpose was I discovered empathy.
[00:33:30] John Henry Parker: Like through my pain, I was able to relate to the pain of others like I had. If I hadn’t gone through all that I had gone through it wouldn’t allow me to do this work and to write this work. Right? So a big part of it’s about the relentless pursuit, like never giving up, going in the army and then getting kicked out on a medical.
[00:33:50] John Henry Parker: And the thought of coming home, being shame among my father and then going through a year of waivers and just by the skin in my teeth, passing the physicals to go back in the military. [00:34:00] But I wanted to show him I’m in the Marine Corps, you know? And if you have a rage problem and you have a problem with authority don’t go in the Marine Corps, you know, because just the amount of, I was totally misunderstood by myself.
[00:34:14] John Henry Parker: I just didn’t understand myself. And so I just I was able to get into a really great, you know, really fantastic unit. But I got to go to jump school. But, so this story’s all about the arduous journey. And then when I got out of the military here’s I think one of the most important parts of the book is she told me, pay attention to the people you’re gonna meet by chance, cuz they’re often the most important messengers that are here to teach you the most.
[00:34:38] John Henry Parker: And I met one of those messengers at the USO in Okinawa and Japan two weeks before I got out of the Marine Corps. And. Long story short, he picked me outta the crowd of guys that we were laughing and scratching and drinking beers and yelling, talking about what we’re gonna do when we get the hell outta here.
[00:34:54] John Henry Parker: And he took me aside and he said, you know, can I give you some advice? And you take advice from a warrant [00:35:00] officer. He said, you’re gonna get out. And within a couple of days, probably not more than a week, you’re gonna realize the world doesn’t need this big, heavy, hard ass marine who can parachute outta helicopters at night and carry big, heavy packs.
[00:35:12] John Henry Parker: You know, you’re gonna figure out, you’re gonna need to reinvent yourself, and you’re gonna realize that the world is exactly the same, but you’ve changed because of your experiences. So instead of sitting here and drinking beer, I’d go to the closest bookstore and I would find anything that jumps off the shelf at me, and I start reading about who I’m becoming.
[00:35:32] John Henry Parker: you know, and so that was the best advice I’d ever gotten. I only talked to him for five minutes, never saw him again, but I grabbed a buddy of mine and of course they didn’t have bookstores on marine bases, so we went to the Air Force base over at Kadina and I had to ask the lady to take me to the self-help help section.
[00:35:49] John Henry Parker: I didn’t know what it was. He said Not the psychology section code, the self-help section. And so I picked up, I went through all the spines in the whole shelf line. I picked up a stack of ’em. The ones that I picked [00:36:00] was the Magic of Thinking Big by Schwartz. That had to be a good book. It just looked great.
[00:36:04] John Henry Parker: Like that’s what I needed. And the second one was Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. And as I look through and thumb through the front part of it, I related to it cuz he was a plastic surgeon that would make people beautiful. But they still didn’t believe it when they looked in the mirror. And here I was impeccable in this Marine Corps uniform, but inside and I had no internal cohesion cuz what I projected to the world did not match what was going on inside of me.
[00:36:30] John Henry Parker: So that book made sense. And then the third was Thinking Grow Rich, obviously that’s a great title. And and it launched me into personal development as a means of. So this book, the second half of the book, is it’s an ascending book. The trajectory changes and moves poor more towards personal development, transformational development, spiritual development.
[00:36:53] John Henry Parker: And if you’re familiar with The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell, I literally took a graphic, I put it into [00:37:00] PowerPoint and I put little graphics of all the different experiences that I’ve had in my. And I did this in chronical chronological order to match the arc of the heroes journey.
[00:37:09] John Henry Parker: Then I created my table of contents, then I started writing the book and I wrote all the easiest chapters first and saved the really, really bad ones for the last. So, but it ends up, you know, getting into Native American after my son passes Native American First Nations vision quest plant medicine work.
[00:37:27] John Henry Parker: Did a lot of plant medicine work that really helped me transcend. A lot of bad things and I didn’t find joy until I was 53, you know, and so I’m 61 now, so this is really about this, the relentless pursuit of becoming who, where I’m meant to be. And it’s an experiential read where you’re not, there’s not seven steps to be happy.
[00:37:50] John Henry Parker: Anytime I felt like I was teaching or preaching, I copy that content and threw it in another document cuz this is the last thing I wanna do, is I wanna just ex share of experience [00:38:00] and have people learn from in the experience not being taught.
[00:38:07] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that’s I think the best way to teach someone is to have them experience it for themselves and not just dictate, this is how.
[00:38:17] Scott DeLuzio: Things should be you know, when you’re, very often when I was in a classroom and the teacher’s just teaching and just saying, Hey, this is the way things are, this is a matter of fact kind of thing. It didn’t stick as well as when the, they were there as the facilitator to kind of lead me to the conclusion on my own.
[00:38:38] Scott DeLuzio: And once when that conclusion was reached by myself, it’s stuck. It’s never leav. And it’s there, you know, I can sit there and try to memorize facts and dates and experiences and all. I can try to memorize things all I want, but maybe I’ll remember ’em for a week or two. Next year, probably not gonna remember very many of them.
[00:38:56] Scott DeLuzio: Right? So, when you actually are led to [00:39:00] the conclusion or the answers as opposed to just being given them it’s a whole lot more impactful. And it sounds like that’s what you’re trying to accomplish.
[00:39:09] John Henry Parker: Yeah. And this chapter after chapter of first person accounts of going through transformational retreats and programs and meeting thought leaders.
[00:39:18] John Henry Parker: And one of ’em was called the Warrior’s Wisdom, experiential Outward Bounds, kind of week long retreat in Taos, New Mexico, and, what I got from that alone changed the trajectory again in an upward direction cuz I, in the military, you could hide out. And my strategy was to watch other people fail.
[00:39:36] John Henry Parker: So I’d know how to nail it. Like anytime they sat in front of the drill instructors or a black hat in jump school or whatever school. I’d be able to step back and I could watch people totally screw it up. I could listen to their voice, I could see their body language. I could see where they made mistakes and crumbled.
[00:39:54] John Henry Parker: So when I stepped up there, I knew how to present. I knew how to speak [00:40:00] clearly. I knew how to, where to put my feet, how to handle myself. And so I would nail it on the first try usually. And. And I be, I became a military athlete, like all of my peers, and that worked really well, but it, I was so conditioned to hiding out that I wasn’t going first.
[00:40:19] John Henry Parker: And so during this experiential event, I’m like, holy shit, that’s something I gotta correct right now. And through that entire week, I went first every single time, and it was a major breakthrough. And nervous. I didn’t like screwing up, but I lost the fear and the embarrassment factor and just did it anyway.
[00:40:39] John Henry Parker: So that’s an example of like, you don’t have to keep doing what you’ve been doing. You can actually change your strategy and get a much bigger.
[00:40:47] Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. And sometimes the biggest growth comes from areas of discomfort. And so in your case, you were not comfortable with being the first one, but you decided, Hey, you know what?
[00:40:58] Scott DeLuzio: Screw it. I’m going to be the first [00:41:00] one. And yeah, it’s uncomfortable. I don’t really particularly enjoy this, but this is what I need. And so here you are, you’re doing the doing the thing, the first man and here you are now. Coming out better off for it, right? So, so yeah, sometimes you’ve gotta do things that are uncomfortable even as, as far as going to counseling or therapy, whatever.
[00:41:20] Scott DeLuzio: I mean, I, that’s, that was my experience. It was not a comfortable thing to do. So I was like, oh, why am I gonna do this? I don’t wanna do this, this sucks. And I came up with 1,001 excuses to not do it. Until I realized, well, I’m an idiot. I need to do it. Like , don’t just sit there expecting things to get better.
[00:41:36] Scott DeLuzio: Because if you keep doing the same thing that you’ve always done, you’re gonna get the same thing that you’ve always gotten. And it wasn’t good. So I needed to make a change. And you know, in, in your case, you made that change you know, a lot of changes you know, are taking place. And I feel like the story, your story is really a story of transformation and change and.
[00:41:55] Scott DeLuzio: D being comfortable with being uncomfortable [00:42:00] and going through those changes. That’s
[00:42:03] John Henry Parker: really what it seems like to me. Well, there’s you know, I went to enough counselors and I remember this one guy, dr. Milton, he looks just like Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, you know, and I’m like, talk to this guy.
[00:42:14] John Henry Parker: And he goes through this big, huge, long subjective assessment and he’s going through it with me. And he looks and he says, well, John Henry, you’re gonna have to. Simple fact is you’re gonna be on medication for the rest of your life. I’m like, I knew there was something wrong with me. What’d you find out?
[00:42:29] John Henry Parker: Right, ? Yeah. And he goes into like six different psychological like problems that I, that apparently thought I had. And you know, I was on medication for six years based on his diagnosis. And I mean, hypomania, A D H D P T S D , just a whole bunch of different things. And then I got a second diagnosis from another guy who did a lot of these spatial exercises and really objective assessments and how my mind worked and took his [00:43:00] time and he comes back, he says, you know, I don’t see a lot of anything that that person, I don’t see any of it.
[00:43:06] John Henry Parker: I see that you have compounded. You know, complex P T S D, and that’s what we need to unpack. And so he took me off all these meds, gave me some anxiety meds for a while, and I’ve never been on a meds since. But what I came away with, this is like in the Marine Corps, we have a. , it’s a little prof. It’s a derogatory, but you know, never take advice from somebody who’s more fucked up than you are.
[00:43:28] John Henry Parker: Right. And so I just knew at that time that I had just wasted six years of my life because somebody was labeling me with a whole bunch of stuff that they thought I may have had, when in actuality it was something completely different. Right.
[00:43:43] Scott DeLuzio: And that’s, it’s a shame that that does happen from time to time.
[00:43:49] Scott DeLuzio: You know when you do have somebody who is more fucked up than you are, and they aren’t necessarily able to see through what is actually going on. So it [00:44:00] could be a problem there, right? But ultimately seems like you have found joy in life despite the traumas and the hardships and the the grief and the anger and the everything else that may have taken place throughout your.
[00:44:15] Scott DeLuzio: You’ve been able to turn things around and found a better way to live life where you can actually experience and enjoy life as opposed to just dreading and regretting and having all these negative emotions and dealing with things in negative ways, substances, and all this other kind of stuff that you don’t necessarily need, and quite frankly, make things worse.
[00:44:38] Scott DeLuzio: And it, it’s great. And to me it’s actually inspirational seeing someone who has gone through so many things, different trials in their lives, and been able to come out on the other end and say, look, life does get better. Yeah, it sucks when you’re in the middle of it. Th this is a shitty situation.
[00:44:55] Scott DeLuzio: No one’s gonna deny that. But if you do the right [00:45:00] things, you get the right help, you aren’t drinking. Until you black out, you’re not doing drugs, you’re not doing all these things to numb yourself. You can actually find ways of getting help and getting better and experiencing life in a more positive way.
[00:45:16] Scott DeLuzio: And it’s, to me that’s truly inspirational.
[00:45:19] John Henry Parker: Well, I still suffer every day, but that’s not all I do. And. Exactly. There was a time in my life where I was suicidal. I didn’t, you know, after my son passed away, it just like, there was just all kinds of bad times. And if I spend any time dwelling, I can go right back into my cave, but then I pop back out now and I don’t spend much time there cuz I know what’s happening.
[00:45:42] John Henry Parker: Yeah. I’ve seen this movie so many times that I know the ending and I no longer smoke pot to check out, which I did for my whole. Like I hated myself so much and things that I did and things that happened that I just wanted to check out. So one thing I could do to change [00:46:00] my latitude, like instantaneously was to smoke weed.
[00:46:02] John Henry Parker: And now there’s two things. I like myself so much that I don’t want to change. That I li I don’t need to interrupt myself anymore at all. And when I smoke, just even a hint of indica or sativa, I go into this paranoid state. So I used to, when I was a kid, I was in terror, okay, from violence. But when I smoked weed, I became super paranoid.
[00:46:31] John Henry Parker: It was two sides of the same coin. And and that’s really been that way for me my whole life. But I was so, Torn up inside that I just needed to numb out. So my point is, you mature in my experience is I matured through. Substance abuse. To where I can’t smoke any weed whatsoever. I just don’t like it.
[00:46:50] John Henry Parker: And I can’t, I don’t drink hard liquor. Okay. Especially mixing hard liquor with wine. I mean, just, I mean, I just realized how stupid it, [00:47:00] I’ve been. Over and over again. I had to learn that lesson many, many times. So I, I just maturing through life in a way that now I’m happier. I don’t need a lot of, I don’t need substance abuse substances to, to alter my state of mind, you know?
[00:47:15] John Henry Parker: So maybe that’s more relatable for people is that, you know, I still suffer, but it’s it’s shallow and brief. And I don’t dwell on it.
[00:47:23] Scott DeLuzio: That’s a, I think, a great place to be. When you have that ability to pull yourself back out of that dark place and not be just stuck there and dwelling in misery constantly and you get yourself out and you get to a place where where you can go back and experience life and enjoy it, it’s really a great thing.
[00:47:43] Scott DeLuzio: Well, John, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today. This conversation, like I said before, to me it’s been inspiring. I’m sure to many of the listeners it will be as well. For the listeners who are interested in getting a copy of one of the two books that we mentioned where can people [00:48:00] go to find out more about those and get a.
[00:48:03] John Henry Parker: Harvesting wisdom.com Okay. Is the primary website, harvesting wisdom.com. And the end of March, 2023, the audiobook and the hard cover and the soft cover book and the Kindle will be available. You can just order ’em right online. Excellent. Amazon.
[00:48:21] Scott DeLuzio: I will have links to all of those in the show notes. So for the listeners who are looking to get a copy of one of those, because I, to me, I, those books sound.
[00:48:30] Scott DeLuzio: Exactly what someone might be looking for if they’re in that situation where that negative talk, how we get in our own way and how we keep talking to ourselves and bringing ourselves down. Those things just seem to me like a great way of. Understanding it and better understanding it and coping with it and getting through that.
[00:48:46] Scott DeLuzio: So definitely check out those books. And I, again, I’ll have a link to that in the show notes. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to join us. I really do appreciate your story and your willingness to share
[00:48:57] John Henry Parker: it with us. Yeah. Well, I appreciate you, Scott, [00:49:00] and the work that you’ve done and what you’ve been through as well, so thanks for having me.
[00:49:03] 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.
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