Episode 316 Frank Larkin Saving Lives Through Connection Transcript

This transcript is from episode 316 with guest Frank Larkin.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio.

And now let’s get on with the show. Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today my guest is Frank Larkin. Frank is the chair of Warrior Call, a grassroots campaign aimed at boosting connection among the military and veterans through increased peer to peer connection. Uh, he was also the 40th Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate and a Navy SEAL.

So with that, welcome to the show, Frank. I’m really glad to have you here.

Frank Larkin: Scott, uh, really appreciate the opportunity to be on with you and your listeners and, uh, certainly what Drive On is doing to, to pass out, you know, the message on, you know, to our veteran population, uh, and, and I’m [00:01:00] sure first responders are, are, you know, listen to this too, uh, to, uh, become better informed as to, you know, what we’re all dealing with and what we’re trying to, you know, solve.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And we’re really, uh, kind of a big family, the first responders, military veterans, like it’s a big. community of similarly minded people, people dealing with similar issues. Um, you know, whether it’s, uh, PTSD from a firefight in Fallujah, or it’s, you know, PTSD maybe from, uh, you know, a bad traffic accident and you’re a firefighter or EMT or something like that, that you’re, you’re dealing with, with those types of things.

It’s a lot of. Similar issues, different circumstances, obviously. But yeah, we, we all kind of deal with similar circumstances and, um, you know, so the, the types of work that your organization and a lot of other organizations do, there’s a lot of crossover there. And, um, uh, before we get into more about Warrior Call and, and its mission and everything that you guys do, um, For the listeners, I know I gave you a little bit, uh, the listeners, a little bit [00:02:00] of background on you, but can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and who you are and, uh, you know, how you got to what you’re doing now?

Frank Larkin: Sure, Scott. Uh, I was a veteran. I started out, uh, in the Navy as an enlisted man. Uh, eventually found myself, uh, in the SEAL teams, uh, after, you know, uh, quite a bit of intensive training. Uh, from there, I, I, I got out in the, uh, early, uh, early nineties. 80s, uh, where I got into law enforcement and I did everything from walk the beat to, uh, moved into homicide.

State Trooper, Flight Paramedic, and then eventually into the Secret Service for a 22 year career. Uh, with the Secret Service, uh, retiring out of that and, uh, found myself, uh, getting pulled into the Department of Defense to work the counter IED problem set. So I ran two organizations that were very focused on trying to [00:03:00] defeat the enemy’s ability to put IEDs on the battlefield.

My specialty was organized crime and going after enemy networks, and that’s where I played most of the time. Once I left DOD, I, uh, wound up answering my phone one day and not looking at, you know, who was calling and next thing you know, I’m up on Capitol Hill as the Senate Sergeant at Arms, uh, for about four years.

Uh, this is before January 6th. Uh, so, uh, and, uh, I did a touch and go in the private sector, uh, support the intelligence community and, and the defense, uh, sector with, uh, sensitive information requirements. And, uh, I retired out of that a couple of years ago where I became the Chief Operating Officer for the Troops First Foundation which then led me into Warrior Call.

But, uh, that wasn’t enough. Uh, I have, uh, recently, you know, trained up and leaned on my past paramedic experience to become a firefighter paramedic, [00:04:00] you know, in my community. So I kind of touched a lot of the basis there between, you know, military law enforcement and, uh, our fire EMS communities. Well,

Scott DeLuzio: and I think that gives you in particular, in particular, but a lot of veterans, uh, do that kind of crossover from the military into law enforcement or some first responder role.

And it gives you a good indication, uh, as to. What the, this population really needs as far as that connection, the camaraderie and, and things like that. And I want to get a little bit more into that in just a minute, uh, talk more about Warrior Call and its mission and everything along those lines. But, uh, we’re going to cut to a quick commercial break.

So stay tuned, everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. Um, Frank, you have, uh, quite an interesting history, lots of different experiences from everything from military, uh, to. Uh, law enforcement and, uh, lots of different areas in the government. Um, [00:05:00] but you ended up now, uh, with Warrior Call, um, tell us about it.

Uh, tell us about the organization, what its mission is and, and how it came to be.

Frank Larkin: So Warrior Call and, and you, you know, before the commercial break, you alluded to it. It really is, you know, it’s in our DNA. We’ve got to be part of a tribe. And when we fall away from. Uh, that tribe that’s, you know, where we see some challenges that start to, uh, you know, illuminate start to surface.

Uh, you know, troops First Foundation started out, uh, around 2005. 2006, really was a, an effort to, uh, to provide support to those, uh, wounded warriors who came into Walter Reed and, and other military, uh, facilities after being seriously wounded. And a program was started where, you know, Troops First would take basketball coaches and, and, and golf personalities, uh, overseas, uh, into [00:06:00] the combat theaters, uh, to kind of mix it up with the troops, you know, to kind of give them a kind of a diversion, you know, a little competitive, uh, you know, uh, opportunity to, to, uh, you know, you know, bounce the ball on a court or, uh, or play some, uh, improvised golf out there.

And it was a big hit, you know, kind of, Brought a taste of home, you know, into the combat theater. As the war evolved and we started, you know, changing our focus, um, we recognized that a lot of those wounded warriors, uh, and it kind of goes to what we were just talking about, the separation from the tribe, had tremendous separation anxiety despite their injuries.

You know, horrific injuries in some cases, uh, but, you know, top of their list, they all wanted to get back to their units. No matter how badly they were hurt, you know, they were ripped off the battlefield, you know, uh, as a result of, uh, you know, whether it’s an IED or shooting incident, whatever, and, you know, thrown [00:07:00] on a medevac bird, you know, into a role one, you know, uh, treatment facility and then suddenly, you know, touch and go with lawn stool, you know, to be prepared for a trip back to the States.

In some cases they were back in the States. From the battlefield within 24 to 48 hours, you know, literally all the clothes have been cut off them You know, they have completely been ripped away from their units You know and who you know and and obviously in a strange place with you know In many cases a lot of tubes hanging out of them And there was a recognition that we we need to try to get these folks reconnected So we started a program called proper exit where we took wounded warriors back to the battlefield And to connect up with their units, in many cases their caregivers.

And what a tremendous kind of therapy that was for a lot of these men and women that had gone through that experience. And again, as the war continued to, you know, evolve and our combat [00:08:00] operations started to, you know, on the downward turn. And, uh, You know, warrior troops first, uh, moved into this warrior call, uh, position where we recognize that our veterans that were coming home and our active duty were experiencing some of these isolation challenges.

You know, and especially, you know, we sold within the National Guard, you know, as opposed to regular active duty units where active duty units would come back and they’d come back, you know, as a whole unit. And at some point, you know, they would probably, you know, uh, you know, get dispersed to other, uh, you know, assignments, but that was kind of the routine.

But your National Guard would just come back and, you know, they were let go. And, and so, and I think you experienced that, you know, firsthand and that, that created some unique challenges. So we recognize the fact that, uh, you know, a lot of these men and women, uh, were wrestling with isolation. We’re wrestling with transition.

You [00:09:00] know, it’s not a trivial subject to go from being in uniform and into an environment back into a society that does not understand what you have just been through. and cannot relate. So, uh, Warrior Call was really a grassroots effort to reach out to those warriors, connect to them, you know, try to bring them back into a tribe.

Um, you know, by simply, you know, making a call, taking a call and having an honest conversation to, to kind of sense where they were at that given time. And if they needed some help to be able to get there, a lot of them had lost trust in the system, felt that they were abandoned. And so it’s really about getting them reconnected and, and, and really listening, developing those listening skills that, you know, institutionally, you know, sometimes we forget.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, for sure. And, uh, you know, a couple of things really resonated with me that you were talking about there. Um, having served in the National Guard myself, deployed with the National Guard, [00:10:00] came back, um, and my, my homecoming was probably more unusual than most other National Guard or even active duty, uh, soldiers who Get deployed to come back.

Um, I was, I was deployed. My younger brother was also deployed at the same time. He was killed in action. And so I was one of those people who was brought home within 48 hours of being on the battlefield. Um, I think within 24 hours I was on a plane and then it was just a matter of, you know, logistics, the flights and, and times like that to, to get me home.

But, um, yeah, within 20, uh, 48 hours I was, I was home in the United States. Um, yeah. After having literally just been in combat after finding out about my, my brother being killed. So, um. I’m home with a bunch of people who have never been in combat, who never experienced anything like what I experienced.

And I had zero, uh, I don’t want to say I had zero support. I had 100% support from family and friends like that, but zero people who understood from actually being there. Um, [00:11:00] and so that, that was difficult for me. Um, and, and so I, I can. Totally understand where you’re coming from with that. Um, another thing that kind of resonated with me was, uh, this is a little lighthearted, um, you know, comparison here, but we, um, we, we were, we had like a mini USO on our, uh, our base where we were, we were stationed and, uh, someone had sent over some golf clubs and golf crap, loaded golf balls to us and.

The ground over in Afghanistan, at least where we were, was nothing but like just loose rock. And so you’re not getting a tee in the ground. And if you hit a club off of the ground, the clubhead is going to go flying because it’s going to just completely disintegrate. So we’re trying to figure out what do we do?

Well, where we were hitting these balls, it was right next to our Our shooting range on the base. And so I went over, grabbed a few, uh, spent casings, brought them over and set them up and put the ball on top of that. And that became our teas. And so it was a little innovative, uh, solution here, but it worked and it actually worked pretty well.

So it was kind of fun. [00:12:00] Um, but, but those types of things like you were talking about, actually they do make a difference because like all these years later, that’s something that sticks out in my mind as, you know, despite the fact that I was in a combat zone and there was all this. Terrible stuff going on, like that’s something that sticks out.

And I remember that fairly

Frank Larkin: well. And that’s what distinguishes us from other militaries, uh, is that our ability to innovate in an environment like that, by taking those shell casings and turning them into tees and figuring it out, uh, and, you know, you know, and again, it’s, it’s really about, you know, that DNA that we have, um, and despite the fact that, and I don’t think.

You know, folks at home, uh, you know, even though they may not understand what’s, what’s going on, I think, unfortunately, society can be very judgmental. And when you come back from these experiences, it’s hard to talk about them because the reaction you get from people who don’t understand. And as, as [00:13:00] we’ve experienced here in recent years, you know, everyone walks on eggshells.

and especially our veterans. Uh, so then they clam up, you know, um, you know, this, this whole issue of invisible wounds, uh, is, is, you know, first and foremost in, in what we’re trying to deal with every day. Uh, you know, you know, we’ve had veterans that have come home or soldiers, uh, warriors that have come home and they have obvious disfigurement, they’ve lost an arm, leg or two, uh, burns, and, and you can readily see that they have been injured.

Uh, and, and then we have a whole, you know, uh, you know, cadre of folks that, uh, they, they, they look like you and I. You know, there’s no visible injuries and we’ve got our arms and legs, but, um, may very well be, you know, uh, ripped up inside, uh, to, to, to a very bad degree. And, uh, so, you know, you, you, you know, you know, [00:14:00] PTSD obviously is talked about a lot, you know, moral injury, which is not talked about a lot.

You know, you see things, do things, experience things that go completely against your moral baseline on how you were raised and, and, and, you know, how do you deal with those, you know, those, you know, Pac Man inside you that are trying to chew their way out. And then, you know, a lot of people try to, they’re all in pain, whether it’s physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, and they try to deal with it, try to numb it out.

And that comes, there comes the alcohol and the opioids and you name it, to try to deal with that. But what we’re seeing more and more is the emergence of undiagnosed TBI, you know, as a result of blast pressures and other conditions, you know, both, uh, you know, sustained in the training environment where we, we have recognized that over 80% of this exposure happens in the training environment as opposed to the combat environment, which is uncontrolled, but yet there are insults, you know, impacts to the brain that are cumulative.

And are [00:15:00] potentially at the root of a lot of, uh, the dysfunction that we’re, or should I say the challenges that we’re seeing with a lot of our veterans and that’s being, you know, uh, that’s being qualified more and more by, uh, scientific research, you know, really, uh, unassailable evidence that’s saying, Hey, something’s going on here below this whole psychiatric mental health line that where we see, you know, all these drugs and so forth dispensed.

Um, and, and, and, you know, many veterans talk about, Hey, I’m on 10 drugs, I’m on 15 drugs, I’m on 20 drugs. And it’s not to say that some of these are not appropriate, but I think that they’re, what we can’t be afraid of is looking deeper into what may be going on. And, and, and… You know, appropriately advancing with that information as to, you know, how can we better diagnose?

How can we better treat? How can we better, you know, uh, rehabilitate somebody that may be dealing with this [00:16:00] complex rubric of, uh, invisible wounds?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And using innovative solutions to not being afraid to step outside the box and try something that, um, that, that, that could work. Um, and, and figuring out that maybe the, the standard, you know, let’s just prescribe this medication for X, Y, or Z.

Um, that might not be the best approach. Maybe there’s something better and let’s try new things. It’s innovate and figure it out. Um, I do want to talk more about this, this topic, this invisible wounds and, um, the, the PTSD and other things that, that are affecting veterans a little bit more, but, uh, we’re going to cut to a quick break.

So stay tuned. Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. Um, Frank, uh, I, I think we all are aware of the, the suicide rate in the military amongst military personnel, veterans, um, it’s a major issue. The 22 a day or whatever the number is, you hear different numbers, right? Um, it’s, it’s why I started this podcast [00:17:00] back, uh, a little over four years ago.

Um, the unit that I served with in Afghanistan, we didn’t lose anybody. Um, you know, the company that I was with, we didn’t lose anybody while we were there, but we started losing them. When we came back home and, you know, one is too many, obviously. But, uh, when that number kept ticking up, I said to myself, I can’t just sit around doing nothing, um, and, and just letting the phone ring and tell me that somebody else, uh, has taken their life.

And I know that it was, it was a widespread problem. It wasn’t just a problem with, um, with me and the people that I served with. Um, it was a problem throughout the military community. Um. And so how did you get started with, with Warrior Call and everything that you’re doing now? How did you get into this work?

What was kind of the catalyst for you?

Frank Larkin: Well, Scott, honestly, it was, uh, I lost my Navy SEAL son to suicide about six years ago. You know, I, I, in my own personal life, I’ve been through a lot. Um, you know, I was on the ground, uh, [00:18:00] 9 11. Probably should have been dead about five times that day, getting involved in different rescues and so forth.

And, uh, and, and my son, Ryan witnessed that as, as, uh, um, you know, middle school or high school or, uh, from a community just, uh, outside the city. And, uh, you know, like many, uh, of us, uh, you included, and, and probably a lot of 9 11 was a catalyst to, uh, Hey, uh, I’m going to be part of the solution. And that’s exactly what happened.

You know, the case was with Ryan. He came home one day and said, I listened in the Navy and oh, by the way, I volunteer, volunteer for SEAL training. And, uh, you know, you know, I’m looking at my wife as she’s reaching into the knife drawer. Like, you know, you’re responsible for this. How, you know. And, uh, but you know, he, uh, he, he surprised me.

[00:19:00] He, uh, surprised a lot of us. Uh, he, he endured that training and, uh, wound up, uh, with a Trident on his chest and immediately went to war, uh, deployed, uh, you know, four times, uh, into the combat zone, uh, two times to Iraq, two to Afghanistan. And, uh, and then a number of other, uh, deployments to other hotspots around the world, but came home and we started to see the signs that, uh, something wasn’t right.

He was, he had changed, uh, he wasn’t sleeping anymore. He was starting to have bouts of anxiety. Uh, you know, she became short tempered. This is a kid who was, um, you know, smiled a lot, a little bit of a jokester, extremely intelligent. Uh, and, but yet, you know, we started seeing these changes, um, you know, and as he went to get help, uh, the system, you know, um, didn’t know what it didn’t know and, uh, kind of turned his, his cries for help, uh, [00:20:00] against him and, and weaponized a lot of his, you know, um, his, uh, issues and, you know, and, and I mentioned earlier, uh, you know, that, You know, so critical to be able to listen and what, when the system doesn’t listen to you, uh, then you, you start to distrust the system, you lose confidence in the system and you start to fall away and, and, uh, become disenfranchised.

And this is kind of what happened, you know, how do you take a highly decorated Navy SEAL? You know, who’s performing at the top of this game who suddenly goes over the edge and, and, and nobody’s standing back to say, Hey, what just happened here? Instead. It was, Hey, let’s get rid of the problem, which we’ve seen in a lot of our veteran, uh, you know, um, you know, uh, stories, uh, where, you know, they were in the service, they started developing issues and, uh, you know, they were cut away.

Um, and we’re starting to find out now, especially as we talk about these invisible wounds. Uh, [00:21:00] that, you know, there’s something more to this that there, there, there very well may be an explanation and, and with a growing body of evidence, you know, linking TBI, traumatic brain injury, to suicide, you know, we need to peel into this and not be afraid.

My son took his life, he knew exactly what he was doing. I didn’t like what he did. I didn’t support what he did, but I’ve grown to understand why he did it. This is all about his teammates. He was so frustrated that nobody was listening to him. He said, I’m going to show them that something’s wrong the whole time.

Um, you know, he, we had been trying to rescue him and this is a burden that I carry with me, you know, for 40 some odd years I’ve been rescuing other people, but in the end I couldn’t rescue my own son. But he said, you know, Something’s wrong with my head, but nobody’s listening to me. And when he took his life, his wish was that his body be donated for traumatic brain injury, breacher syndrome research.

And a number of months later, [00:22:00] we found out that he had an undiagnosed severe level microscopic brain injury directly related to blast exposure. He was a SEAL sniper, he was a SEAL breacher and a medic, and had been exposed to IEDs. You know, tremendous amount of, you know, exposure and training environment.

And then when he came back from war, he was the lead petty officer for urban combat. So he, even though he wasn’t, you know, in the battle theater anymore, he was continued to be exposed to these, these, uh, physical forces, which were just, you know, every time he took a hit was, was taking another chop on his brain and destroying the brain circuitry.

So I, you know. I got involved in this to make a difference. He passed the baton to me. He knew what I do with this. And so, um, you know, much of what I’ve said today, he’s speaking through me. Uh, he’s still with me every day. Uh, you know, I got his name on my wrist. Uh, he’s pulled me out of some tough jams.

You know, I talk to him all the time. He’s also put [00:23:00] me into some jams because he likes to mess with me. So, um, but that’s, that’s why I’m here now. And, uh, I’m eternally grateful for him and his courage, but I, I miss him every day.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, I, first off, uh, uh, ter terribly sorry for the, the situation that your, your family was in.

I’m, um, you know, and sorry for your loss. Um, and, and for the system that kinda let him and, and everybody down, um, you know, I, I, I think the world was a better place with him in it. Um, you know, it just like, Any other, uh, person who, uh, you know, has gone down that, that path, um, you know, the, the world’s a better place, uh, with, with, with these people there in, in this world, um, and I, I got to imagine, um, you know, I know the type of person that I am and I know a lot of other people, um, that, that have, um, you know, experienced tragic situations in [00:24:00] their lives.

Uh, and you do a lot of, you know, Thinking and a lot of reflection and looking back on, you know, what ifs and that type of thing. And, uh, you know, that may or may not be the healthiest thing for, uh, for your own sanity. But, um, I got to imagine at some point you probably came across some

warning signs and things along those lines that, uh, might be good to. Talk about with other people, right? So like what kind of advice might you want to give to, uh, family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, whoever of, of veterans who want to support those people with mental health and maybe TBI related issues, um, but just may not know how to start the conversation, really know how to, how to get the ball moving.

with that. Yeah,

Frank Larkin: Scott. And, uh, you know, one thing I didn’t allude to, you know, during my law enforcement background, I worked homicide. And so, you know, when, [00:25:00] when the VA and others report, you know, 22 a day, 20 a day, whatever, you know, um, you know, I don’t buy it. There’s, I believe there’s more and, uh, we’re losing veterans or, or even active duty that, you know, fall into that gray zone.

where we don’t have enough evidence, um, to, to call it a homicide or enough evidence to call it a suicide. Um, so it sits there as an unattended death, um, unknown cause, especially now as we deal with this opioid crisis and alcoholism and, and so forth. Um, you know, in my community here, uh, this past week, we, we lost a veteran who, you know, um, What, you know, looked like he was doing okay, you know, cause a lot of them, you know, and you know, they put that mask on and, uh, you know, they struggle to keep their lips above the water and, you [00:26:00] know, they, they, they, you know, they’re very much, they spend a lot of energy trying to look normal, uh, because they’re, they’re concerned about how they appear to others.

And they don’t want to let anybody down. That goes back to that team dynamic. You know, you, you know, you, you say to yourself, Hey, why did you do that? You know, you know, and, and you hear this from a lot of your mental, uh, honor recipients. It was, it was for my brothers. It’s for my sisters. I, I, you know, I wasn’t thinking about myself, you know, I, I wanted to keep them from getting hurt.

And, and so, you know, that kind of thinking plays into this very strongly. And, uh, And so when you see that someone’s becoming isolated, that they’re withdrawing, that’s a big red flag. Uh, this is, you know, the whole, you know, uh, you know, emphasis, uh, you know, behind the National Warrior Call Day is to kind of, you know, deputize, not only in our veterans and our active duty and our first responders, but the family members, friends, [00:27:00] hey, make a call to somebody that’s, that’s serving us, whether it’s overseas in a military capacity or domestically here, or as a domestic warrior with our first responder community, you know, you know, they’ve been through.

I mean, hell and back, you know, the past two or three years with the COVID let alone everything else that they deal with on a daily basis. Sure. So, you know, it’s really being able to, to reach out, make that connection and just sense how they’re doing. And if you feel that, you know, they’re, they’re not in a good place, then get them, you know, referred.

You know, we’ve got vets for warriors, which is a wonderful platform. Uh, you know, beyond the, uh, National Suicide Hotline. And I hate to say suicide hotline, you know, it, it, it’s, it’s, I, I rather refer to as a helpline, you know, because what we want to do is get our people connected to, uh, to resources that will help them, you know, and prevent them from approaching that line of departure, that horrible line of [00:28:00] departure that, you know, suicide has, has represented.

And, uh. And so Vets4Warriors is one organization where, you know, you make that call. Hey, it’s being answered by veterans, people who know, people who, you know, you don’t have to explain. I mean, they know, they’ve been there. They may not have been in your exact same situation, but they definitely have a sensitivity to.

to some of the struggles they may have. We’ve got other organizations, um, and it’s interesting, this National Warrior Call effort, even though Troops First is, is, is, you know, pushing this, we have over 50 other nonprofits and VSOs that have linked arms with us on this. It just makes too much sense. All the living VA secretaries, former VA secretaries have endorsed this.

And over 27 Medal of Honor recipients have said, Hey, we need to make these calls. So we have been putting pressure on Congress, both the Senate and the House to, to really, you know, codify this National Warrior Call Day. [00:29:00] Not that it’s just one day, it’s really to kind of change our thinking. And like I said, you know, deputize, marshal our, our, our, uh, citizen population, our veterans to reach out and make, simply just make that call.

You know, we’ve got enough reflections back from these folks that have said that call stopped me from going over the edge.

Scott DeLuzio: And if it can help even just one person, um, which I know it can help way more, but even if it can help just one person, it’s worth the effort, um, to, to help them find the help that they need, um, and, and get to them before they get to that point where, where they’re at that.

That point of no return, uh,

Frank Larkin: if you will. And you know, Scott, you’re exactly right. It, you know, we approach this as, you know, one size doesn’t fit all, one size fits one. This is about a precision solution for that individual. The only way we’re going to get there is to listen to them and build back that trust.

Get them connected to the tribe.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:30:00] Absolutely. Well, uh, with that, I want to talk more about National Warrior Call Day and, uh, some more, uh, about Warrior Call, uh, in a little bit, but, uh, we’re going to cut to a quick commercial break, so stay tuned. Everybody, welcome back to Drive On. Um, Frank, on your, your website, Um, you mentioned that, uh, according to the VA, uh, researchers, uh, researchers have identified that socialized isolation, uh, which we talked about a little bit earlier, um, is probably one of the strongest and most reliable predictor of suicidal ideation.

And like I said, we, we talked a little bit about that, um, when we were talking about kind of tips and signs for families and things like that. Um, and that. Uh, also up to, uh, two thirds of veterans who take their own lives have had no contact with the VA, uh, whatsoever. Um, that’s, those statistics stood out to me, like, like these big red flags, like, why are these people not going and getting the help?

What’s holding them back from [00:31:00] getting the help that they need?

Frank Larkin: Well, I think a lot of it goes back to, you know, the trust factor. You know, if people aren’t listening to them, uh, if they’re quick to judge, uh, You know, they don’t want to fail in front of their friends, their teammates, especially, and, you know, sometimes it’s, you know, to recognize that, you know, you may need some help is, is a pretty strong pill to swallow, you know, especially, you know, when you look at our military training, our law enforcement or, or, you know, first responder training, you know, we’re, we’re the ones that are supposed to run into, you know, The heat of the fire, you know, run towards the guns, you know, when somebody pushes the big red button and, you know, that comes at a consequence, you know, you come home burdened, uh, you know, with some of these experiences and, uh, and again, you know, if, if you don’t feel like you can talk about this and if you have no outlet to talk about it, then, uh, it can be, uh, [00:32:00] and, uh, and you feel like, you know, like you’re alone.

That nobody’s listening, that nobody understands, that nobody cares and that there’s no hope. And that no matter what you try to do to get better, it’s not working. And, you know, one of the things that I’ve come to recognize, and certainly, you know, I’ve seen a lot of trauma in my life, um, and to include, you know, you know, being in the middle of 9 11 and, and, and some other, you know, pretty horrific, uh, experiences.

But it wasn’t until I lost my son that it really kind of cracked my arm. And I had to, you know, realize that I had to get help and, you know, and I held security clearances at the nation, this nation’s highest level and, you know, and many of our veterans and so forth are concerned about the security clearances and their status.

And I can tell you, you know, firsthand, you know, uh, that, that never became an issue, you know, as I went to go, you know, seek help. Matter of fact that, you know, the comment was, Hey. We would think that there [00:33:00] was something wrong with you if you didn’t come to get help after what you’ve been through. So, so it really is, uh, really kind of dropping those stigmas, those labels, you know, uh, opening up those points of entry where we can get folks together.

But some of the greatest, uh, for instance, uh, an organization Boulder Crest has post traumatic growth. You know, it’s how do you turn your trauma into a positive, you know, kind of a strength builder to build that level of resiliency. And this is what we’re promoting with the services now. And a lot of our warrior call outreach is, you know, is creating that resiliency to deal with these situations, to understand you’ve been through some pretty, you know, crappy situations.

And, and that, you know, you, you were the, you know, the pro from Dover, you, you were the, you know, the, you know, the QRF that came in, you know, that, you know, it was going to save the day. And, um, that, that, Hey, you need to deal with that. And, and many times what we’re finding out is that some of the best medicine comes within our own [00:34:00] circles is being able to lash together with these other veterans or first responders and talk about these experiences to, to kind of, you know, realize that, Hey, I’m not alone.

you know, other people are feeling the way I do. And, and, uh, and it’s interesting when you dissect some of these cases, um, that, you know, as everybody goes around, it tells their story. So let’s say you go out on this op and, you know, you hit the subjective or you get involved in this incident and you’re the only looking at it through, you know, your angle of approach, you know, the field of view that you have of what was going on.

But it’s amazing how when you sit folks down that have been through that incident. How you get different perspectives that you had no idea and, and, and many times, you know, operators and, and, you know, folks like us are, are haunted by, Hey, did I screw something up? Did I cause this, this problem to happen?

And then you come to find out, you know, this, this guilt, this burden that I’ve been carrying for 10 to 15 years, you know, that’s not the way my [00:35:00] teammates saw it. You know, my teammates were saying, Hey man, if it wasn’t for you doing this, I wouldn’t be here. Or, or, Hey, did you know that this was going on over here?

And it’s unbelievable the amount of cleansing that goes on. Uh, when you can get folks together like that and then get them with a good therapist, you know, so they all got to talk to folks to unravel this Gordian knot that many folks are wrestling with. But you got to get with the right therapist. You know, if you’re with somebody who is just not, you’re not connecting with them, then stop wasting your time.

Go find somebody else, but get to something. The other thing I have found it very, very, uh, I think powerful is when you can get a veteran or first responder. To do something that’s a little different than they’ve done that really kind of peels into volunteering their time to help somebody else. You know, the, the, the, the, the amount of healing you get from helping other people, whether it’s helping them [00:36:00] through their tough traumatic experience, whether it’s, and I know that sometimes that’s taken on an additional burden on top of your burden, but it’s amazing how many people.

really, you know, point to that as, uh, Hey, that was great medicine for me to get involved in that program because, um, I just, you know, it took the attention off of me. It put, you know, yeah, I use my experience. You know, my compassion, my empathy to help somebody else, and there’s nothing better than, than, than that, which goes back to your question about, you know, how, you know, how do you deal with some of this and, you know, number isolation being number one, you know, is a trigger to, I think is that, you know, you’ve got to listen to people to understand where they are, you know, where their heads at, You know, you kind of look for those signs.

Are they having financial difficulties? They having relationship problems? They have things that, you know, just continue to pile on. But then from the medical side, are they getting the right, you know, [00:37:00] assessment, you know, as somebody, you know, based on your experience as an infantry officer or as an artilleryman, or as a special operator, you know, where you’ve got a history of exposures.

You know, getting conked in the head or blown up or shooting heavy weapons. Hey, that should be glaring out at, at the system saying, Hey, we should be looking at whether this person may have an underlying biological injury, something that sits below, you know, these, these behavioral manifestations. And that’s where we got to get to.

And that’s why the science is so important and doing the, the only reason the information is going to help us kind of find our way out of this. And, and to, to a better place, but, you know, to get good science, you have to do good science and there’s been some bad science out there, but I think we’re starting to correct that.

And this is where I appeal to the VA, the Department of Defense, uh, you know, Defense Health to HHS is, Hey, you [00:38:00] know, folks, you know, how long are we going to be playing around with this before you make this a priority of effort?

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And, and this is, I think part of what you’re just talking about is kind of what Warrior Call is doing to reduce the isolation and, um, you know, help people come together and work together.

And, um, I know like serving other people, um, In a way, like if you are isolating yourself and you’re, you’re just completely away from other people, um, you start to feel like, well, nobody needs me. Right. And, but then when you, when you’re out there and you’re, you’re helping people, you’re, you’re volunteering, it doesn’t have to be with other veterans.

It could be volunteering at a, you know, a animal shelter. It could be volunteering, doing any, any number of things. You start to feel that kind of responsibility for, um, you know, whatever it is that you’re volunteering with. And then you start to tell yourself like, These people need me or these animals need me or these, whoever it is that you’re, you’re volunteering and you’re serving with, [00:39:00] um, these, these people need me and I can’t, I’m not going to quit on these people just like, you know, you, in, in a, you know, a combat operation, you’re not going to just, you know, call it quits and walk away.

You’re, you’re, you’re there, you’re in the fight and you’re, you’re there until the end, until. So this, this thing is over, um, and then you, then you find a new mission and you keep going and, um, you know, so, so that, that’s, I think where the power comes in is, is being able to, to serve with other people and, and have that camaraderie too, where you’re helping each other.


Frank Larkin: Absolutely. You know, and just know that people care. You know, sometimes you can get pretty dark place, but you need to know that people care and, and the impact and on our website, WarriorCall. org, I did a video in conjunction with TAPS that really talks about what happens when we lose somebody and the impact it has on the family and teammates.

And, you know, again, we’re, we’re just trying to keep folks from going over the edge [00:40:00] to let them know that, Hey, there’s love there for them. There’s hope. We’re, we’re, we’re getting better at this. You know, uh, I believe the VA is getting better, uh, you know, uh, and attending to this, uh, we’re trying to drive the science.

Uh, we’re trying to marry the, the mental health, uh, folks up with the medical researchers and the practitioners, you know, for that holistic, you know, approach. I think we’re, we’re getting to a better place. And, uh, Um, but again, uh, in the meantime, uh, we have the real world challenge of dealing with folks that are hurting now and, uh, and may not have an understanding of what’s going on.

And that’s where, again, Warrior Call can be that outreach to keep them informed, to keep them tied together and, and, and to be that ear, uh, you know, to listen to them and, uh, you don’t need any special qualifications. You just need to have compassion, some empathy and love for. Your fellow, uh, veteran and first responder, you know?[00:41:00]

Mm-hmm. , treat them the way you would wanna be treated.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Now, you briefly mentioned earlier, uh, in the, the episode, uh, about National Warrior Call Day. Um, but we didn’t, I don’t know if we got too much, uh, into that. Uh, it is that, it’s, I think you mentioned it’s a day after Veteran’s Day. Um, can you tell us a little bit more about this?

Uh, yeah, and, and what, what it means for, you know, service members, veterans, and, and the general population.

Frank Larkin: So the Sunday after Veterans Day, uh, this year it’ll be, uh, Sunday, the November 12th. Uh, we want to call out, uh, you know, a day to kind of rally everybody, uh, to make these calls. Uh, take a call from a veteran or first responder and have an honest conversation.

Uh, it, it, it’s simple. Uh, anybody that’s got a phone, anybody that’s got a car that can drive and make contact. You never know what that call is going to… Do or mean, uh, to somebody that’s struggling and, and certainly somebody that may be in a very, very bad place. And we’ve got enough anecdotal feedback [00:42:00] about how important those calls were.

And, and, you know, and even in some cases where the person making the call didn’t even sense that the other person was in a bad place until later when that person came back to them and said, you know, that call you gave me, I’ll tell you what, it pulled me out of a, you know, a real dark hole and, and it just kind of made me rethink and.

And, and acknowledge that, you know, um, you know, we’re, you know, people care and it’s just as simple as that. So hopefully with the help of the Senate, the Congress, a bunch of the legislators there, along with the VSOs, the Medal of Honor recipients that are behind us, the VA secretaries and others, um, we can make this happen, uh, for, uh, Sunday, uh, November 12th, National Warrior Call Day.

Let’s make this a practice, not just a day.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Um, after, uh, after the break, we’re going to, uh, talk a little bit more where people can find out, uh, about Warrior Call and, [00:43:00] um, and, and what they can do to get involved. So stay tuned. Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. Uh, it’s been an incredible episode, uh, so far talking to Frank about, uh, Warrior Call and everything that they are doing to help, um, help out veterans in the first responder, uh, community.

Um, Before we wrap up this episode, uh, for the listeners who maybe have missed the last few episodes of Drive On, you might’ve missed that. We’re going to try to close out each episode with, with some humor. Um, laughter can be the best medicine, uh, especially if you’re going through some, some difficult times and some of these episodes can have some heavy topics and we’re going to try to have some, uh, you know, a bright moment at the end, uh, to share some humor and laughter with you guys.

So, um, So we’re going to do that in just a minute, but before we do that, um, Frank, it’s again, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Um, where can people go to find out more about Warrior Call and support the mission?

Frank Larkin: Hey, thanks again, Scott, for the opportunity to be on, uh, with, with [00:44:00] your listeners. And this is a great effort, you know, with Drive On.

So www. warriorcall. org is a central place where we’ll link you to all our partners. And certainly, uh, with some content that you, you may, uh, find, uh, valuable, as I mentioned before, you know, we’re partnered with, uh, Vets4Warriors, relationships with Bouldercrest, TAPS, uh, other organizations that are, you know, Navy SEAL Foundation, uh, Cohen Veterans Bioscience.

Again, we’re really trying to. Kind of build this unity of effort. That’s the message, uh, departing message here. And hopefully some of the information will help you, your listeners understand that, but, uh, and then I’m sure it has all the social media links on there too. So, uh, again, hopefully this has been, been helpful.

Uh, this is my passion. Uh, you know, uh, as I said, my son. in honor of his memory has passed his baton to me, you know, and you said it, Scott, if we could just help one person, it’s [00:45:00] all worth it. So, uh, you know, that that’s. That’s what it’s about. We can’t fail.

Scott DeLuzio: And you’re doing a great job honoring his memory and keeping, uh, his voice alive and, um, and, and bringing, uh, bringing light to these issues.

Um, I, I think it’s incredible work that you guys are doing, uh, and so, so hats off to you and, and all the work that you and the rest of the team are doing there, um, to, to help out the, these veterans who desperately need some help. Maybe just don’t know where to turn. Um, so, um, so that’s what we like to do on this, the show is, is bring up these resources and, uh, and, and share them with people so that they know, uh, that these things exist.

Um, so, so thank you again for that. Okay. With that, um, time for some humor, uh, time, time for a little, little joke. And I got, I knew I had, it was bringing the Navy guy on the, on the show today. So, uh, being an army guy, I had to poke a little fun at the Navy. So. So with the, uh, [00:46:00] joke that I have here, um, why doesn’t the Navy football team have ice in their water on the sidelines?

Because the guy with the recipe finally graduated.

Frank Larkin: You know, it’s amazing how many times, you know, especially in the community that, you know, I came from and the, the, just the tremendous warriors that, you know, uh, You know, uh, uh, come out of that community very often got asked by the army guys. What are you guys, what’s the Navy doing here in the middle of the desert?

Good question, right?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, it is. It’s a really good question. We had some Navy guys on our base when I was in Afghanistan and I didn’t see a drop of water outside of a water bottle for, for miles.

Frank Larkin: Yeah. But you know, if you go back into millennia history, those deserts were once oceans. So, you know, once they’re

Scott DeLuzio: just a [00:47:00] little late,

Frank Larkin: then once, once we, no, no, we were there a whole, all the time.

We just have evolved, you know, but Hey, the next time, you know, we do this show, uh, let’s do it underwater unless you don’t feel comfortable. Okay.

Scott DeLuzio: We could do that. I, we could, we could do a dive show. I just have to get some waterproof, uh, you know, recording equipment, but we can, we can do something like that.

Frank Larkin: But hey, Scott, thanks. Uh, this has been great and hopefully, uh, uh, you know, any of the guys and gals that may be, uh, listening, hopefully this, uh, had some impact and, uh, just know, hey, we’re out there along with, uh, a lot of other people, um, you know, we care, uh, you know, just become part of the tribe, help us help others.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. And I think what you guys are doing is, is, is really great work. Um, and, and it’s, it’s going to be really impactful for a lot of people. So thank you again for taking the time to come on the show and for everything that you [00:48:00] do.

Frank Larkin: Okay. I thank you. And, uh, my son, Ryan, thanks you. Thanks for listening to

Scott DeLuzio: 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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