Episode 343 David Nathanson A Journey to Healing Through Posttraumatic Growth Transcript

This transcript is from episode 343 with guest David Nathanson.

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

Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today my guest is David Nathanson. Uh, David’s the executive director of the Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation, and he’s here to discuss the foundation, how it helps military veterans through post traumatic growth. I’m really excited to talk about this topic.

Uh, I want to, uh, get into it, but first, uh, before we do that, I want to welcome David to the show. Uh, so welcome David. I’m really glad to have you here.

David Nathanson: Thank you. I appreciate it very much. Uh, super, super excited to be here. Uh, look forward to the conversation.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, me too. Um, I’ve, I’ve actually been looking forward to this, uh, for, for a little bit now since we, [00:01:00] uh, you know, first got linked up and, and we, uh, you know, set a time.

I was kind of looking forward to some of the stuff that you have to talk about. So, um, before we get into, um, you know, the Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation, everything that, uh, it does for, uh, for folks, um, for the folks that maybe aren’t familiar with you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and things like that?

David Nathanson: Absolutely. Appreciate the opportunity to do so. So, uh, typical, you know, middle class upbringing and called to service very early in life. And I enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school, 17 years old, knew it was something that I wanted to do from a very early age. And, uh, and I went after it and luckily I had a loving and supporting family that.

that nurtured that interest. Uh, so enlisted, uh, spent four years enlisted, uh, made it to the rank of corporal. Pretty proud of that fact. And instead of re enlisting, I was offered an opportunity to become an officer. So of course I took that opportunity and I ended up serving the next 30 years, uh, as an officer.

Pretty [00:02:00] typical, uh, path for most officers. Started out at platoon command, uh, made it all the way up to regimental command as a colonel over those, those 30 years, uh, myriad of both operational and staff assignments, uh, multiple combat tours. you know, nothing different than, you know, my peers at the time.

Uh, but you know, again, you can’t serve a day in the military without being changed a little bit. And you certainly can’t expect to go down range quite a few times and not come home, you know, a different, a different man or woman. And so, uh, you know, for me, Uh, just wanted to continue to serve and, uh, we’ll talk a little bit about, you know, how I ended up in the role that I’m in now, but the thing that’s most exciting about it is in retirement, I can continue to serve not only veterans, but first responders through delivering this amazing program called Warrior Path at Eagle Oak.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, and I definitely want to get more into a warrior path and all of that, uh, that, that, that entails, um, but just to touch on your, your points that you were talking about, like, uh, [00:03:00] you’re absolutely right. You can’t spend a day in service or, you know, go down range, uh, be deployed, whatever. Uh, And not have been changed or affected in some way.

Um, not all bad, you know, there’s, there’s good changes, positive changes. So you, you learn, you know, discipline and, and other, those types of things are, are certainly positive changes. Um, but, but everyone is affected and I think that’s, that’s kind of an important thing to point out. Uh, and I’m glad you mentioned that.

Um, because some people maybe take that for granted, uh, and, uh, just think, Oh, well, I, I just. I was just doing a job and, you know, I was, you know, that type of thing, but it, it’s something that’s, it’s significant. It’s more than just a job. You’re, you’re, you’re serving, um, and, and you’re giving, uh, something of yourself to something bigger than yourself.

Uh, and, and that’s, I think an important thing, uh, for people to understand and recognize, right?

David Nathanson: Absolutely, and I spoke about it the other day at a Veterans Day [00:04:00] speech, you know, what is the definition of a veteran, right? It’s a man or a woman who at some point in their life signed a blank check up to including surrendering that life for the good of the country. Just that action alone is gonna make you a different person.

If you stop and think about the gravity of what you are signing up for when you raise your right hand and swear to defend the Constitution of the United States. So absolutely, you can’t Expect to not be a different man or woman. And the thing that we try to tell folks, uh, during Warrior Path is, you know, you’re not broken.

There’s nothing wrong with you. The way you’re reacting is a product of two things, your experience and your training. Your training has conditioned you to act a certain way, whether it’s suppression, a fight or flight, which makes you more prone. To potentially pushing back or aggressive reactions to things or whether it is the suppression of feelings and emotions and sadness because you have to accomplish the mission and you need folks who are looking at you to see that you’re, you’re not affected by the moment.

Any of those two things. can lead somebody to be injured in a way, uh, as a result of their trauma [00:05:00] that they’re not quite sure how it happened or why it happened, but they definitely know that they’re feeling it. And again, um, as you pointed out, anybody listening to this, I would tell you, and I get asked this a lot, you know, after so many years in, you know, uniform, after so many pre deployment training periods, after so much education about the sights, the sounds, the smells of combat, how is it that you end up a victim of post traumatic stress?

And actually, I mean, back myself up there and take away the word victim. We’re not a victim, right? Um, we’re just injured. And so I would tell you for me, the realization is repeated exposure to the stressors of, uh, of trauma, I think eventually is going to trigger a reaction. I just think as human beings, we’re pretty, pretty hardwired to be able to absorb so much trauma.

And then you just hit a break point where your body just says enough of this and you start to react.

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and, you know, it’s, it’s very similar to, um, probably any other, um, wear and tear type of injury that you might have, you know, your knees, your, your, your hips, your back, your shoulders, those types of things where, um, you know, if you. Carry a heavy load once for, you know, you’re walking a mile or so, you know, probably not going to cause any wear and tear issues on you when you spend a, a full career, you know, 20 plus year career doing that day in and day out.

And you’re, you’re, you’re doing all this stuff. Yeah. You’re, you’re. Bones, your your your joints, everything like that. They’re going to take a beating. Um, and it’s just that, that slow wear, wear down, wear down, wear down. And uh, you know, over time, it’s going to going to start to affect you. And so, you know, similar to, you know, kind of what you were just saying there, [00:08:00] um, you know, it, these things affect you over time and it…

It kind of accumulates in you and you have to kind of deal with that. And it’s a injury that you have to deal with very similar to any physical injury. Um, so it’s not that you’re, not that you’re anything wrong with you, you know, it’s a normal reaction, just like, you know, someone carrying a heavy weight for, you know, 20 years, day in and day out, it’s a normal reaction that their body’s going to start feeling that wear and tear, um, it’s a normal reaction.

When you experience a traumatic event that. Your, your mind is going to start. being affected. And, and so, uh, now it’s like, okay, what do I do to, to fix that? And I think that’s kind of going to lead into the next question that I had for you here is, um, just kind of talking about some of the services and programs and things offered by Eagle Oak Retreat, uh, to, uh, veterans and first responders and the people that you serve.

David Nathanson: Absolutely. And [00:09:00] if you’ll allow me just a little bit of latitude before we go there, you know, you touch on something extremely important, you know, the musculoskeletal injuries that, you know, you accumulate over your time in service. I would tell you, Leaders in particular, they don’t want to confront or deal with them and they’re reluctant to seek treatment because it’s a sign of a couple of things, right?

You can’t execute the mission or maybe it’s weakness or, or whatever. Um, that’s doubly concerning for mental health injuries because leaders of, you know, the military are notorious for hiding the signs and symptoms and they go into a state of denial. that actually creates, you know, this, this vicious cycle of re injury over and over again.

And the more you ignore it, and the more you pretend it’s not a thing, when it finally comes home and it finally manifests itself, the, you know, the reactions are pretty devastating. And so that’s one of the things that, you know, jumping right into your question is so remarkable about the program that we offer at Eagle Oak Retreat.

And again, it is called Warrior Path. Uh, Path is progressive alternative [00:10:00] training for helping heroes. I want to double down on the term training. We are not giving tools because nobody’s broken. We’re not giving therapy in the clinical sense. This is peer led training by combat veterans and first responders delivered to combat veterans and first responders who, who have experienced trauma through their service.

And it really is about Training them to respond instead of reacting to, uh, stimuli and triggers and environmental factors that could create an adverse response. You know, we spend our entire career training, you know, mission rehearsals and, you know, training for the next mission set and perfecting it and developing those muscle memory.

Habits of action and thought to be successful in combat, but we don’t train ourselves to be civilians again, and we don’t train ourselves to be civilians with these injuries. And, and how to, you know, reintegrate back into society. So, warrior Path was created, uh, there’s about, uh, 10 years worth of, uh, experience [00:11:00] across the Warrior Path Network.

It’s offered at a couple different locations. We’re the newest location offered it here in Texas, and it’s based on the science of, uh, of two psychologists outta University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Who started to study folks who had experienced trauma. They looked at folks who had, uh, accidents in life where they lost the limb or maybe they were paralyzed.

Uh, they looked at parents who lost children, and then they turned their attention to veterans who had experienced trauma in their service. And their case study were the, the Hanoi Hilton residents from the Vietnam conflict. And what they found was. Even though they were exposed to tremendous trauma, they had a capacity and a resiliency to rebound from that trauma and go on to do great things.

If you just think about some of the men who were in the Hanoi Hilton for a period of time, some of them went on to be heads of businesses, some of them went on to be senators and presidential candidates, some of them went on to wear four stars as admirals in the Navy. Um, and what these two doctors, Dr.

Calhoun and Dr. Tedeschi, you know, [00:12:00] summarized was that there is a capacity for, for growth after trauma that is based on a couple of different domains that we emphasize during our training. Um, and what we’ve theorized and what we’ve been able to demonstrate through our program is that you don’t have to live a life, a diminished version of yourself.

You can go on to do great things and thrive after trauma. We deliver that training to help these heroes process what it is they’re thinking and feeling and make a choice because we teach them from day one. You have two choices. You can control your attitude and your effort on how you respond to your trauma.

And so it’s just a, an amazing opportunity. And I’m just so excited. I have an opportunity to deliver that gift to, to men and women who are definitely in need.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And When you think about, um, the way the, the program is structured, uh, you’re, you’re talking about how there’s, there’s other combat veterans who are there and it’s, it’s really them working together and, and talking together. [00:13:00] We were talking about those, those shared experiences, like we, we all have, um.

You know, experience certain things that maybe they weren’t exactly the same, right? We weren’t in the same firefight together, you know, we weren’t, we weren’t next to each other when, uh, the same mortars were dropping or, you know, whatever the case may be, uh, we, we didn’t. experience the same exact thing, but we experience very similar types of things.

Um, and I think about going back to like, you know, World War Two, World War One, uh, folks coming back from, um, you know, maybe Europe or, or, uh, the Pacific theater, uh, a lot of them came back, uh, on. Um, it took several days or, or even maybe even a couple of weeks for them to come across, uh, the, the ocean to get back home.

Uh, and then once when they got home, they weren’t home home, they had, you know, they were moved either trains or buses or however it was that they, they moved, but they were moving together as a group [00:14:00] of other, uh, soldiers, sailors, uh, you know, air, uh, you know, whoever it was, uh, they, they were moving together and.

They were able to talk to each other, uh, during that time period. And I, I know mental health was a different beast back then. It wasn’t something that anyone was really, uh, concerned with, uh, that much. Uh, they weren’t talking about it that much, but in a way they sort of had. Almost like a mini, uh, unstructured, uh, program, like what you’re talking about, because they all were there and they are all talking together and they all have that same shared experience together.

And as far as I’m concerned, that, that probably helped a lot of people as they were coming back over, um, by just, just having that time to kind of decompress and, um, you know, quite frankly, shoot the shit with, with people who enjoyed those same kind of experiences. Right.

David Nathanson: And we look to that for inspiration at the height [00:15:00] of, you know, the Iraq campaign when we were trying to create these, you know, training programs for decompression as we called it and reintegration as you come back to, you know, to the states and you go back to your family and your friends and, you know, you.

Pick up a normal life in, you know, in, in time before your next deployment. Um, and, and I’ll just touch on something that I believe is culturally changed about our military, which has set the conditions for folks to suffer in silence. And, you know, so I joined the military in the mid eighties and we all lived in barracks, there were no private rooms.

You all lived in a squad bay environment. You know, you had a bunkmate, uh, who slept on the rack above you. Um, and you live, you live communally. Um, and that was based on inspiration from all the way back to, if you think to the great, uh, you know, armies of the Greeks, you know, they lived in two environments, they lived in, you know, their family environment.

But they spent most of their time in garrison with their, with their brothers in arms. And, you know, as a military, we’ve changed, right? We created [00:16:00] dormitory style livings where you can shut the door and do your own thing. Um, and then we created airplanes that allowed us to close the distance between the combat area to the rear area very quickly.

So you lost what you just spoke about. And that’s that reconciliation of what it was that you just experienced with your, with your brothers and sisters in arm. And we remind people of that warrior path. And then we have a module. Um, called the Labyrinth Ceremony. Um, anybody listening could just do a quick Google search of labyrinth and they can get kind of the basic premise of why ancient civilizations relied upon a labyrinth to support their, their citizen soldiers who went off to war.

And basically. Very quickly, the premise is before you marched off to combat, you met at the Labyrinth, um, as whatever it was you did in your civilian life, whether you were a blacksmith, or if you were a farmer or a potter, or maybe you were a politician or whatever, you showed up at the Labyrinth, um, you were greeted by your military commander, you were issued your weapons, so you think you got your greaves, you got your spear, your shield, and your sword, [00:17:00] and you went into the Labyrinth, uh, as an individual, Already thinking about what you were doing, right?

And the village leaders and the priests would speak to you about why we were going to war. And you went into that labyrinth as, you know, a citizen soldier, and you came out as a soldier and you marched off to war. Uh, when you came back, you went back into that labyrinth and you did a couple of things. Uh, you shed the tools of, of war.

So metaphorically and symbolically, you were like decompressing. I’m going from being, you know, a member of a phalanx back to a member of society. You spent time in the center of that labyrinth. retelling and reliving some of those experiences and memorializing those that you lost in battle. And you probably spent some time talking about those that you actually killed in battle, all part of this healing and reconciliation process.

And as you came out of that labyrinth, you were welcomed back into society as a member of that society, the community. no longer saw you as the defender and the protector, but saw you [00:18:00] back as the farmer, the blacksmith, the politician, whatever. Um, we do that as part of, uh, Warrior Path. And it’s a very powerful module that helps folks realize.

to the point I made earlier. When we leave the service, there is no training to welcome us back into society. And because there’s so few of us who have actually served in the armed forces nowadays, right? Less than 1 percent of the population has taken up, you know, the call to defend. Communities don’t really know how to welcome us back.

And then they see us manifesting these behaviors that they can only assume there’s something wrong with us. Because they’ve not been through the same training experience that we have. And so what we give them at this program, these heroes, is the ability to communicate and disclose what it is they’re thinking, they’re feeling at that particular moment.

Why, when they go into a room, do they immediately identify where are all the entry and egress points? Do they put their back against the wall? Do they quickly summarize? who’s a threat and who’s a potential ally in a crisis situation. And they spend about five, 10 minutes, [00:19:00] not able to relax in a social setting because they’re doing that quick mission analysis.

Um, when you can explain to somebody why you do that, it’s not that there’s, you’re worried about being attacked in the diner. It’s just that you’ve been trained to go into a room and do that quick assessment. And then you kind of relax. And so, uh, we give that training so that when we’re in, situations and we’re back in society, we can, we can reintegrate successfully, but more importantly, we can communicate to people what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling, what are our needs?

You know, what are our fears? What are our hopes? What are our dreams and aspirations? The premise and the goal is, is, is healthy citizen soldiers returned back to society to create more harmonious and healthy families, to create more harmonious and healthy neighborhoods, to create. You know, a better United States, if you will.

And so that’s just one of the things that’s just so exciting to be able to see month after month, you know, folks who show up and then they leave just a better citizen, uh, for having gone through this experience.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:20:00] Absolutely. And I think this kind of leads to the, the concept of like, uh, post traumatic growth as opposed to, you know, you, you, you took back the word earlier, like, like the, the victim word. Um, right. Like we’re, we’re not victims of the, these circumstances. These are things that happened. Um, and the, the victim mentality I think would, makes us, yeah.

Feel like there’s no hope, like we’re, we’re a victim and we’re being beaten down and, uh, every, everything is wrong and, and blah, blah, blah, whatever the case may be. Right. But, um, the, the concept of post traumatic growth to me seems like, okay, well maybe I can use this as fuel to get to a better place.

Something bigger and better than whatever it is I’m going through right now. That’s kind of the concept, right?

David Nathanson: Yeah, absolutely. And we start. With probably one of the, uh, you know, the, the fathers, if you [00:21:00] will, of this, this notion of, uh, your ability to, to transcend your circumstances. And we introduced the students very quickly to Viktor Frankl, um, for the viewers who might not know who Viktor Frankl was, he was, you know, a psychologist in, uh, in Europe and he ended up in a concentration camp and his manuscript was taken from him as he was, you know, put into the concentration camp.

And over the course of his, time in internment, he recreated his manuscript, which eventually became the seminal work, you know, Man’s Search for Meaning. Um, in that book, he describes that you can control your attitude and your effort. And so we introduced the students very quickly to this concept that you have a choice.

You can sit and see yourself as a victim, or you can sit and view yourself as somebody who has an opportunity, who survived. something so traumatic and so devastating. Uh, the worst is now behind you. You have an opportunity to transcend that and go on to do great things and live a life of purpose and passion.

And so we don’t shy away from it. You know, we definitely promote the thinking [00:22:00] that you are not a victim and that you have an opportunity and, and I dare say an obligation, you know, so you’re going to hear me probably go back to the griefs a couple of times, but I just think it’s, it’s important that we.

We recognize that nothing is new in life. History has given us an example proceeding to that. So Thucydides, the great historian that documented the Peloponnesian War, you know, he’s quoted as saying, you know, all men are, are equal. Uh, but those that kind of, you know, uh, rise to the top are those that have been schooled in the severest of schools.

Right. And that’s a heavy paraphrase there, but what he’s. reminding us of is, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re changed. We’re different. We have an experience that most folks will not experience in their life. We have an obligation to one, share that experience so that the sacrifices and the loss are not forgotten to, to inform and educate society so that they are aware and potentially don’t make the same mistakes that led us to that conflict in the first place.

And, uh, and at, you know, the final thing, they have an obligation to, to [00:23:00] educate everybody about. You know, who, what happened, right, to preserve their way of life. And so, uh, you’re absolutely right. So post traumatic growth is this concept that you can transcend your trauma to do great things. And, you know, we look at five domains in post traumatic growth that we emphasize over and over again.

You know, first one is new possibilities. So you went through this traumatic experience, you know, you had the worst day you could ever have in your life. Now you have an obligation and an opportunity to go on to do greater things. And you should seize that opportunity. You should take advantage of it. You shouldn’t squander it.

Um, you created these bonds, these, these brotherhood and sisterhood that, uh, most folks cannot truly comprehend until you’re sitting in the dirt next to somebody listening to the mortars come in or watching, you know, your, your buddy. be medevaced away, um, and maybe they make it, maybe they don’t, but you create a relationship and a capacity for love for your fellow man and woman who are to your left and your right.

Um, you can come back to society and you can use that [00:24:00] knowledge, uh, to create deeper relationships with everybody that you come in contact with. And we, we encourage folks to, to let down your guard and to, to be authentic and open to folks. Don’t have that experience, right? Because you can, you can miss an opportunity to help them deal with traumas that they might’ve experienced because trauma is trauma.

I mean, you don’t want to get into a game of comparing trauma saying, Oh, my wartime or my first responder trauma is worse than, you know, the trauma of a little child whose balloon flies away, right? That might be the most traumatic thing that happened to that child in that moment in time. It’s trauma nonetheless.

And if you don’t share and discuss your trauma by creating this deeper relationship, you miss an opportunity to heal and help somebody else. You know, we remind them of the personal strength that they demonstrated to make it through that trauma. And we say, look, you are stronger than you were before that trauma.

You can take that strength and you can go on and do just absolutely amazing things, which ties them directly into the notion [00:25:00] of appreciate the life that you have. Uh, nobody knows better than a first responder and a veteran what it’s like to have your brothers and sisters not come home, to have that life, you know, be cut short.

You survived, right? Your worst days are behind you. Appreciate the life that you have and take advantage to make the most of every moment that you have, um, you know, on the planet. And the last one is, you know, we talked about at the beginning of our conversation, you’re a changed man or woman, whether you know it or not, there’s a spiritual and existential change.

That has occurred through that experience, um, seize that, and then use it to your advantage to, again, go on and do amazing things, to inspire folks to do great things through your actions, through your, um, your words, your deeds, more importantly, your deeds than your words. So, those are the domains that we speak of when we talk about post traumatic growth, and we see.

Over the course of the, you know, the seven days at the retreat and the 90 days in the extended training program, we see folks [00:26:00] begin to start to show their understanding and their application of those five domains. So, and again, that is a, that is an extremely cursory discussion about post traumatic growth.

Again, Dr. Tedeschi, Dr. Calhoun, um, there’s lots that they have published on this idea, and I encourage folks to, you know, to do some more deep dive analysis on it because. The one thing I want to stress for everybody listening to this is this is not just for veterans or first responders. This is for anybody who suffers any kind of mental health issues as a result of trauma.

And there’s again, there’s tons of trauma out there in society. Um, if folks just change their perspective a little bit, take ownership of that trauma and then use it to do great things. Um, I just. Can’t help but believe that society would be better for it.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And I, I want to just touch on the point that you made about how, you know, one person’s trauma, uh, you can’t compare that to somebody else’s and say, Oh, my, my trauma is worse than yours. And, and, and things like [00:27:00] that. And I said this before on the show, but I think it’s a good time to mention this again.

But, uh, the way I think of it is, uh, if you take two drowning victims, two, two people who. who actually drowned in, you know, however much water, if one person drowned in 100 feet of water and somebody else drowned in 10 feet of water, it’s not that any one of them drowned worse than the other. They both drowned.

It’s both terrible. It’s awful. And it, it’s a thing that happened, right? Um, We can’t say, Oh, well, you know, he was at a hundred feet of water. So, you know, that, that’s worse than this other guy who’s only in 10. That doesn’t make any sense. Right. Um, there, there, there are things that happened and they’re, they’re traumatic.

Um, you know, the, these, whatever events that you might’ve gone through, whether it’s combat, whether it’s a sexual assault, whether it’s, it could be a car accident for, you know, it could be anything, like you said, um, you know, even, even all the way down to the little kid who lost his balloon. It went flying up in the air.

All of those things are forms of [00:28:00] trauma and, um, you know, you may look at it as this little tiny thing, like a balloon flying away in the air. Like, who cares? It’s just a balloon. But to that kid, that balloon was a whole, meant a whole lot more to him than it may be to you or me. You know, so, um, there’s just different, different, uh, perspectives, I guess the way, the way I think of it is there’s different perspectives on all of this, um, where you may experience something and it may not affect you at all.

Um, I may experience the same exact situation and it may really mess me up. And I think we just have to keep in mind that those perspectives are what kind of dictates our response to that. Um, and, and if we can work together, uh, the way you guys are doing to, um, figure out ways to grow from that, those experiences, then I think, like you said, the world would just be a better place if we can do that.

David Nathanson: Absolutely. And I [00:29:00] think anybody who’s ever raised their hand to volunteer to serve others at the end of the day, we did it for that, that goal at, uh, at mind, right. A better society, a better country, a better future for those that come after us. And so, you know, again, we’re teaching and it’s interesting too, that you, you know, you refer to the World War II generation because, you know, one of the things You know, that was the generation that inspired me to serve.

My elementary school teachers were all World War II veterans, and the one thing that I would tell you that they manifested was this stoicism, and, and a lot of times didn’t speak about it, uh, in, in open, frank terms, right? that they experienced things and we were in awe of what they accomplished, but there wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about it.

And that’s another power of our program is through, you know, peer led discussions where we start by disclosing. And the first to disclose our experiences and our trauma are the instructors. And we create a safe environment where it’s okay to talk about those things. It’s [00:30:00] okay to talk about What you saw, what you experienced, what you smelt, what you, you know, felt it, it, it’s safe to talk about those things.

And again, um, I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to say generalization about first responders and military folks we’re, we’re typically reserved and, and we’re quiet. We don’t wanna be boastful about what it is we, we’ve accomplished. But sometimes by holding back and not discussing some of these things, we’re, we’re missing an opportunity to help others deal with their trauma.

And so we, we encourage them to be authentic, to share, to be open, to be curious, to understand, you know, well, what did it feel like for that four year old who lost their balloon to, to be, you know, in the moment, dealing with that trauma, to, to kind of talk about it. And then use your experience to help them get through it, and I think that’s just one of the powerful things about this program that, again, is just super exciting.

Scott DeLuzio: And, and that’s, uh, a couple, uh, great things that you have there is, uh, you’re kind of leading by example when you have the [00:31:00] instructors be the first ones to share their experiences. And I think, uh, any, uh, leader, uh, whether it’s in the, the, the military or first responder community or, or anywhere really, um, any leader.

should be able to show that it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to go and get help, to go to a program like Warrior Path, or, um, even, you know, traditional talk therapy or, you know, whatever the case may be. Let them know, Hey, it’s okay to do that, you know, and, and be the first one to do it. Um, I know there I’ve heard stories of, of leaders in the military who, um, make it very public, make it very known that they go in and get treatment for mental health, uh, related issues.

And they encourage their, their soldiers or Marines or whoever to go and get. That kind of help as well. Um, and, and by doing that, it lets everybody know that it’s like, it’s okay to let your guard down and talk about these things. You don’t have to keep it [00:32:00] all bottled up inside. And that’s, that’s a terrible place to be when, when you feel like you got to put a cap on it, especially when you’re about to overflow that that’s going to burst at some point and that you don’t want that.

Right. So, um, so it’s, it’s a good. Good, uh, thing that you guys are doing with that. So I appreciate you, you sharing that as well. So, um,

David Nathanson: Yeah, and I think that’s one of our, uh, advantages. Again, being a peer based training program, vice a clinical, um, therapy session, you’ve got the ability to talk with somebody, again, who has a shared experience, a shared understanding, and who is demonstrating through, you know, we call it the expert guide.

Uh, the expert guide is somebody who is, Manifesting and demonstrating those five domains of post traumatic growth. But more importantly, what I talked about through their actions, they’re exhibiting positive attributes for folks to emulate. And, and we, you know, I would tell you it’s. It’s important as a society that we, we [00:33:00] destigmatize that, you know, uh, trauma affects everybody and, and we, we open ourselves to have honest and frank communications about it.

Because I will tell you that, you know, for the preponderance of my career, you know, 34 years. I didn’t let people know when I was hurt. I didn’t let people know when I was, uh, I was traumatized by something. Um, I just stuffed it down, right? Because I wanted my, my subordinates to have confidence and faith that I was still making good rational decisions because those decisions were often life or death decisions.

I wanted my, you know, seniors to have confidence in me that I could be counted on when the times are the hardest. To make the right call, to make the hard call and to accomplish the mission. Um, and as a society, uh, in the military, we rewarded those things. I would tell you my ability to compartmentalize the things that, uh, that traumatized me and to shove it down, put it in my pack, if you will, and ignore it till a later date.

Led to promotions, led to awards, led to opportunities. Um, and so [00:34:00] what we were doing was we were, we were reinforcing negative behavior traits. And so when I got, you know, um, when I got told to retire or got sent back into the civilian world, there was, I was giving nothing to, to process these things and then eventually.

Things started to happen in my life that re triggered some of these feelings and these emotions. And, and they just, they just came out and they came out in, in destructive ways, you know, self medication with alcohol, withdrawal, uh, anger, uh, aggression, uh, depression, these things that, you know, for years I knew I was vulnerable to, but you were never going to see it because if you saw it, then it might be, Ooh, what’s going on with David there.

We might want to set him aside and not give him the next, you know, mission. Um, and to me that would be just a devastating thing to be, you know, not included. So absolutely we have to be open to talking about it. And I would tell for anybody listening here who knows that they need some help, but they’re, they’re unsure or unwilling or [00:35:00] unable, I would tell you that real courage is acknowledging that you have.

a need for something and then going after it and then going after it in a way that, you know, shows other folks that it’s okay to get help. To me, that’s true courage. And the other thing is, I will tell you that no man or woman who ever raised their hand to defend this country or to serve their community as a fireman or police officer has to do anything to prove their courage because they already demonstrated it by volunteering.

I mean, again, think about that for the listeners. All the men and women who enlisted or joined the military or the fire department of police since 9 11, they did so knowing that they were probably going into harm’s way. Whether they did or they didn’t, it doesn’t matter to me. That takes tremendous courage.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s right.

David Nathanson: again, it’s a sign of strength. And we remind people of that. We remind folks at Warrior Path that you are a warrior and you are a hero. Our hero, our definition of a hero is somebody, normal person who went off and did amazing things and came back to share those [00:36:00] amazing experiences. It’s, it’s just that simple.

And so we remind them that you are a warrior and while you might have been traumatized, that doesn’t change the inner strength that you possess. To transcend and move beyond it. So, um, so absolutely. I love the fact that, uh, you said that we have to talk more about these things.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And keep keeping it, uh, like you said, keeping things bottled down, uh, that that’s not going to help anything. I mean, there, there’s a time and a place for. Compartmentalizing things, you know, in the middle of a firefight, you’re not going to sit down and, and have a, have a chat with people and try to try to flesh out your emotions and things like that.

You’re like, you need to get through that firefight. So, okay, yeah, compartmentalize it in that, that moment. Um, but take time and. and figure out what’s going on and talk about it. You know, you probably need to go talk to somebody after a traumatic experience like that. So, so talk to somebody, um, and, and get it out there.

Like it doesn’t make any sense [00:37:00] to keep it all bottled down. And I was the same thing. Like you shared your story and I was the same way. I kept it all bottled up. Of course I can, I can handle it. I was, I handled so many other difficult things. Uh, why couldn’t I handle These emotions, I’ll figure it out.

I’ll be fine. Uh, you know, I always am. Things will bounce back. I’ll be fine. Um, but then, like you said, the. you know, drinking and anger and withdraw and, uh, just all these things. I found myself like basically looking in the mirror, like, who the hell is this guy? I don’t know who this person is anymore. Um, and I didn’t like what I saw.

So, you know, yeah, gotta go get some, some help and figure those things out. Um, but I, I like the peer support, the, the. the peer network that you have there and, and how, um, everybody works together. And in a way that gives you that sense of purpose, that sense of that, that meaning, um, like, okay, I’m here and I’m, I’m going to help this [00:38:00] other person because they’re, they’re struggling.

Uh, I don’t want that person to struggle. I want, I want this person to do well. And so I’m going to help them. And so now you have that, that, that sense of purpose back. Um, you know, and you, you feel like you, you belong with this group of people and you want these people to, to be okay and, and better than okay.

You want them to, to excel and exceed, uh, their, their expectations and, and come out happy, healthy, um, you know, not self medicating and all those things. And, and that gives you that sense of purpose. And I think it’s just an incredible thing that you guys have going on there.

David Nathanson: Yeah. And that’s the thing that I probably realized I missed the most in, in retirement. Um, I lost, I mean, I lost a lot of things in retirement. I lost my sense of purpose. I lost my mission. I lost friends and family. Um, you know, I lost a sense of accomplishment. I lost the pride of just wearing the uniform every day.

I mean, there was nothing more that I wanted in life than to be a United States Marine. And when I found out that I could no longer do that, you know, things [00:39:00] weren’t the same. And then through my, you know, uh, participation first as a student at Warrior Path and now as the Executive Director, um, I have a renewed sense of, Purpose and passion, and I’m living a life that feels good to me.

My cup is full again, because I’m giving back to the community. And, and we, we talk through those things and, and that’s the goal of Warrior Path. You know, the, I would say that’s the secondary goal. You know, the first primary goal is to help these, these heroes, you know, transcend their trauma. The second is.

to send folks back, uh, into society to help those who are in need of help. And our belief is that, you know, every hero that we train can impact no less than 500 additional folks. And so by sending these folks back into society armed with this training, living a life of, uh, of example for others to, to look at and say, Hey, you know what?

David’s doing better. Wonder why he’s doing better. Let me ask him why he’s doing better [00:40:00] and then give them the why. More folks hopefully can, can benefit from this. And again, this is not limited to just veterans and first responders. I mean, our program is limited to veterans and first responders, but I like to believe that now that I’m running around as a quote unquote expert guide, I can deliver these ideas, this way of thinking to everyone I meet, right?

Because now. Instead of going into a room and being suspect and looking for my, you know, entry and egress points and, and thinking that everybody is potentially an adversary. Now I go into a room and I think there is, there is a room full of people who can benefit from this knowledge. And if they want to have a conversation with me about it, I’m going to share.

I’m going to be vulnerable. I’m going to be curious. I’m going to be authentic. I’m going to be genuine. I am going to listen to what they are communicating to me and I will offer them You know, a perspective on, on how to, to be better. And I think that’s just, that’s powerful. [00:41:00] And so for me, for the first time, since I retired, uh, I have a renewed sense of, of mission and purpose and passion that just.

Again, it’s, it’s hard for me to say it’s a job because it doesn’t feel like work at all.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s great. That’s great. It’s always great when you, when you get a paycheck doing things that don’t feel like work, you know? Um, but. You know, for the folks who are listening, um, I think an important point here that you just made is, you know, you go into the restaurant or the, you know, wherever it is, and you’re looking for the entrances, the exits, you’re looking at potential threats, potential allies, you’re looking at, you’re looking around the room and you’re, you’re, you’re doing this calculation in your head or whatever you want to call it, right?

Um, you know, that, that’s something that, I think of it like a light switch. Like you could turn that off. You don’t have to go into every single place and, you know, have your back to the wall and, and look around and all that kind of stuff. You could turn that [00:42:00] back on though, when, when you need it. You know, if something happened to happen in there and something, Bad was going to happen.

Uh, you know, someone comes in to shoot up the place. You’ll turn that back on real quick and you’ll, you’ll figure out where all the entrances and the exits and, you know, all the, the things that you need to assess, you’ll be able to assess that in. in a second, right? You can turn it off though. You don’t need to live life that way where every single moment, every single building you enter, every single situation you’re, you’re in, every single group of people that you walk by, uh, you’re, you’re.

Assessing threats constantly and, and your, your mind needs to kind of relax. There’s a lot of safe places around here. I mean, yeah, things, bad things happen from time to time. And that’s what I’m saying. You can turn that back on pretty quickly. Um, you, but you don’t need to live that way in that constant heightened sense of alert, [00:43:00] uh, you know, a hundred percent of the time.

Yeah. You’re going to go, maybe you’re going into a sketchy neighborhood or something like that, a bad part of town. Okay. Yeah. Turn it back on. Um, but you’re, you’re going into. you know, Applebee’s. I think you probably could turn it off.

David Nathanson: No, and you just touched on probably one of my favorite learning objectives from all the modules that we deliver to the heroes and that is the notion of the dimmer switch. And go back to what I said earlier, you know, we are products of our training and our experience and last known point, right? We would always teach young leaders that if you’re ever unsure of where you’re at on, you know, on the planet, right?

Go back to your last known point. A lot of young listeners from the military don’t even know what I’m talking about because nobody uses maps anymore, but you go back to your last known point, right? And, and so what’s, that’s what we do when we leave the militaries. We go back to our last known point. And our last known point was sitting, sitting in a deployed environment.

Where anybody who didn’t look like you was a potential adversary. Sitting in an [00:44:00] environment where there were people that were, were trying to do you and your, your brothers and sisters harm. That’s your last known point. At Warrior Path, we retrain them, right? To help them realize that. Yes, you can go very quickly from zero to 100 if the situation requires it and you should be confident that if you are in a situation where there is a threat and somebody needs to respond, you have the confidence and the ability to suppress that fight or flight.

and, and respond appropriately. But now we introduced this notion of the dimmer switch. And so if the environment doesn’t require you to be at a heightened sense of awareness, you just take that dimmer switch and you just dim it down to where you feel it’s appropriate, but no. That if the situation requires, the light can go on full and you’re ready to, ready to respond quickly.

That’s a training that needs to be delivered to, to veterans because you don’t get it. You just don’t get it on the way out the door, right? You get, I’m trying to be very [00:45:00] careful about how I characterize it, but what you get is, is life skills that don’t matter. When you’re leaving armed services, you, you get how to navigate the VA and good luck.

If anybody listening has the guidebook to navigating the VA, please share freely with everybody, right? You get the, how do you write a resume or how do you do a cover letter? How do you get out of your 1980s suit that you bought when you entered service and put on? a nice business coat to get a job, right?

These are things that you get but you don’t get. Well, how do I walk into a room and realize that not everyone in there or maybe no one at all wants to do me harm? They just want to serve me a nice meal, right? They just want to have their apps at Applebee’s and uh, and watch the ball game. We give that training.

And it’s training that’s, that’s long overdue. Um, and that’s why, you know, I’m, I’m so excited to be involved with this network. Again, it’s, it’s given at seven different locations and two mobile teams that can go around the country delivering it. This training is [00:46:00] needed for active duty folks before they leave the service.

Right? So they’re not defaulting back to last known position. And I just can’t emphasize again, because people will ask me, well, what is your problem? Why do fireworks trigger you? Why, why do loud noises? Why do you, you know, to this day, I still can’t drive down a road and not avoid potholes. Where I still can’t drive down the road and be suspicious of trash on the side of the road.

And people are like, what is your problem? My problem is I was trained to look at those places for potential trigger points for, for improvised explosive devices. That’s, that’s last known position. Since I graduated Warrior Path, I drive down the road now, I see trash. I have an opportunity. To make a difference on my society and instead of swerving away from it, I stop and I pick it up and I put it in the bed of my truck and I leave my society better than when I first got there, right?

Or potholes, right? I go into ways and I report it as a pothole so that other people can [00:47:00] avoid it instead of completely swerving out of it because I’m afraid it’s going to explode. I mean, these are, these are things that I developed through this retraining, through this appreciation of understanding my environment.

Having gone through Warrior Path. And it’s just one of those things that is so powerful that it’s, it’s very hard for people to, you know, to understand if they, they haven’t gone through the opportunity. So again, the other thing, anybody listening who needs some retraining, uh, jump on the website, EagleOakRetreat.

org, or they can just Google Boulder Crest Institute. And all the locations around the country where the program is offered, they can apply, they can quickly be deemed as qualified and they can come get this new training and it is, it’s life saving and life changing training.

Scott DeLuzio: It is. And I, I want to, uh, just kind of, uh, uh, just let the, the listeners know here, uh, we’ll have links to everything in the show notes. So, uh, you know, if you want to take advantage of some of these programs, uh, [00:48:00] and I don’t say take advantage in, in a negative way, like you’re, you’re taking something in that you don’t deserve.

Um, you know, this is, this is definitely a positive thing. Um, yeah. You know, you get out there, um, you know, get in touch with them, figure out where the programs are, if they’re near you, if you said there’s some mobile programs that can even come to you in, you know, certain areas, right? Um, so figure out when and where, uh, makes sense.

And, um, you know, those links will be there for you so that you can, you can definitely check that out. Um, You know, and I want to make sure that the, the listeners know that they, they can get involved in these things, that these programs exist for people like them, um, you know, people who have put on the uniform and have, like you mentioned before, you know, they’ve, um, volunteered to sacrifice, uh, you know, up to and including their life.

Um, you know, that’s what these programs exist for, for, for people like them. Um, yeah. [00:49:00] I’m sure like any other, uh, organization similar to yours, there’s, there’s other needs that you guys may have. Are there other ways that people can support, maybe they’re not, uh, in need of the programs that you guys offer, but, uh, any ways that, that people can support the organization, uh, whether it’s through volunteering, donations, things like that.

Is there anything that you guys are in need of or, uh, ways that people can, can help out? Excellent.

David Nathanson: Great question. I appreciate you asking that too. Um, you know, so for Eagle Oak Retreat, you know, we’ve been in operation for about a year now. So not only are we are a new. Uh, non profit, but you know, we’re a, uh, a non profit by its purest definition. So we, you know, operate solely on either grants or, or donations.

So, um, we, we could use all the help and assistance we can get because my vision for the future is that this program becomes, you know, the epicenter of healing for not only Texas, but anybody in the surrounding area that, that has. A need. [00:50:00] And that includes, you know, again, normal citizens as well, not first responders and veterans.

I would love to be able to deliver this program to anybody who’s in need. But to answer your question directly, again, if they go to Eagle Oak retreat.org, there are, uh, there’s a webpage, uh, that talks about all of the things that, that we could use some assistance with. Um, donations are always appreciated in kind donations of material or consumable supplies.

Uh, or, or, you know, Project Help if somebody has a, you know, um, an aptitude to do things that maybe we need a little bit of assistance on. So the best way to find out what you can offer and what we need is just go to EagleOakRetreat. org. Hit on the Get Involved, uh, tab and they can just, you know, put their contact information and we’ll reach out.

Um, we love volunteers. Um, and to me, it’s one of the most powerful experiences anybody can have is to come on the property while a program is in session and volunteer to support those heroes because you see the change, you see the gift that we are delivering, and you [00:51:00] see the impact that we’re making on these men and women.

And the impact is immediate. It is powerful and it is tangible. You can see when they show up that they’ve lost that divine spark in their eyes. They are withdrawn. They look tired. They’re not a lot of, there’s not a lot of smiles. Their demeanor is, is a little bit tentative and, and you know, uh, hunched over.

By the third or fourth day, They’re laughing, they’re smiling, they’re joking, they’re standing more upright. There’s this, this spark in their eye. Again, there’s a sense of, of hope that I just think is, is something that everybody should, should take a look at if they have a chance. So again, they can go to that website and they can volunteer to, uh, to support us and we never say no to volunteers.

Um, it’s just one of those things that. The more folks know, and the more folks give, the more folks we can reach and impact. Uh, so I definitely appreciate you asking that question. You know, we take, obviously, donations. There’s opportunities to purchase [00:52:00] bricks, uh, stone bricks in a reflective garden to memorialize folks that they might know that, uh, were lost in service of others.

Um, just a ton of ways to get involved. Highly encourage folks to just, again, take a look at the website, click the link. We will be in touch with them very quickly. And, uh, like I said, we, we love our volunteers.

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Excellent. Yeah. And volunteers are, are super important to, you know, any organization, especially through, uh, you know, the type of work that you do. And when you volunteer, like you said, you’re, you’re given back and you, you’re seeing the immediate impact of the, of the work that you’re doing, you’re seeing the people that it’s benefiting and, and you’re, you’re, um, It’s just a great way to, [00:54:00] uh, you know, help you help yourself while you’re helping other people, you know, giving to other people helps fill that cup like you’re talking about before.

And it’s just a great, great thing to do. Um, before we wrap up this episode, um, Uh, like I said, uh, for everyone, uh, all the links that we talked about will be in the show notes. So, uh, you can take a look at all that there. Uh, no need to jot them down as you’re driving or doing anything else that you may be doing right now.

So, uh, definitely check those, uh, show notes out and you can find those links there. Um, but. Again, before we, we wrap up, I want to do a segment I’ve been doing for a few months now called, Is It Service Connected? Uh, kind of a way to wrap up the episode with a little bit of humor. Um, for the viewers who maybe aren’t familiar with this segment, Is It Service Connected?

is sort of like America’s Funniest Home Videos. Uh, it’s kind of a military edition of it. We take a look at a video of a service member doing something stupid, or Funny, whatever the case may be. We try to [00:55:00] predict whether or not whatever happened to that person in the video or people in the video, uh, would qualify for some sort of VA disability down the line, is it service connected?

Uh, that’s kind of where that comes in. So, uh, and for the audio podcast listeners, uh, who can’t see the video, I’ll do my best to describe the video for you, or, uh, you can check out the video on, uh, Twitter or X, whatever they call it now, YouTube. Uh, in places like that, we’ll try to post the video. So, um, I’m going to pull up this video now.

So our guest here, so David can, uh, take a look at this video as well. Um, and then we’ll, we’ll get this. This video shared here. Um, all right. So right now, uh, for, okay. So I’m, I’m assuming you’re familiar with what we’re about to look at here, but we’re, we’re doing the rollover drill. Um, so, um, so we’re doing, doing the rollover drill.

We got the, the kind of mock Humvee that, um, You know, we got the folks inside. I’m assuming, [00:56:00] uh, taking a look at this video, uh, and it looks like it’s about to start rolling over and we’ll see what happens when, once when the thing starts moving. Okay. Yep. So we’re rolling over. I can see stuff flying around inside through the windows a little bit.

Um, yeah, I could, yeah, I could see they’re, they’re upside down now. Now they’re trying to figure out their, their way out of the vehicle. He’s laying on his back and his head smashed by the door, but that’s okay. You got it. He’s got his helmet on so I think he’ll be all right. Um, I remember doing this. This was, this made me so dizzy.

Flip it over like that. Oh, we got one out. No problem. He’s pulling some sort of security with his head. And then the other guy just takes a header and he’s on his way out the door. But he’s got a smile on his face, so I think he’s gonna be okay.

David Nathanson: Oh man, just brought back some memories for me. Let me tell you.[00:57:00]

Scott DeLuzio: It’s a good time watching these things, um, just seeing other people go, like we were saying before. It’s those shared experiences. We’ve all gone through these rollover drills and, um, you know, it just brings back some memories watching these things. And it’s, it’s kind of funny seeing someone eat some dirt on the way out.

David Nathanson: Yeah, no, it, uh, it, it’s, you know, I couldn’t help the minute I saw it. The first thing I started to think in my mind was rollover, rollover, rollover, which is the immediate action to a rollover so that everybody in the vehicle knows you’re about to go over. Um, and then, you know, your comment about things, things flying around in the cab, which means somebody didn’t do a good pre combat check or pre combat inspection, and there’s collateral damage because there’s trash flying around and, um, You know, the, the thing for me is the, we always made sure that two things were secured in the vehicle at all times and hopefully I don’t upset anybody with this comment on the listenership, but your spit bottle and your [00:58:00] potential piss bottle were always secured because if those got loose in a rollover, somebody was very going to be very unhappy.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh my gosh. Yeah.

David Nathanson: You, uh, showed me that video that, that, that, that’s, that’s definitely service related. The other thing I couldn’t help but notice was a couple of their weapons were, uh, were, were bent over. So,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. I think they had the, the rubber ducks on, on, on that, that drill there. Um, so, so those were, those got, got a little messed up, but, um, yeah. If, if the piss or spit bottle ever went flying in the vehicle, I think the rollover would probably be the least of your concerns dealing with the other guys.

David Nathanson: you had a senior enlisted in the vehicle or, or a hard charging sergeant, somebody was going to be having a bad, uh, moment. Once everybody realized

Scott DeLuzio: walking back to base.

David Nathanson: That’s right. That’s right. And I know that there’s a lot of listeners out there know exactly what I’m talking about.

Scott DeLuzio: that’s right. That’s right. Um, anyways, thank you so much for taking the time to come on, uh, on the show, sharing, uh, Warrior [00:59:00] Path, uh, that, that program and, and everything that Eagle Oak Retreat, uh, does. It’s really been a pleasure speaking with you. Um, and, and again, for the listeners, check out the show notes for all the links to everything that we talked about today, but thank you again, David, for taking the time to join us.

David Nathanson: No, thank you, Scott. And thank you for, for doing this. I mean, this is an important, uh, important topic and you’ve created a platform for folks to, to share ideas and to get some information. So thank you for keeping this conversation going. I mean, there’s, you know, more veterans in the country, uh, than there has been in a long time.

Uh, very, very. important topic that probably still doesn’t get the news coverage and the attention that it deserves. So for folks like you who keep the conversation going, you know, thank you for doing that. It’s extremely important. Don’t think for a second that, that people like me don’t appreciate it.

And, uh, I, I really want to just thank you for, for keeping the conversation going and allowing me an opportunity [01:00:00] to participate in it. Um, really love what you’re doing and for everybody out there listening, uh, if you need help, please. Please take advantage of these programs that are out here. They are here for you.

They make a difference. You’re not taking away resources from other folks who need it. There’s plenty to go around. And I’ll double down on what I said earlier in the in the conversation. True Courage is is admitting you need help and then getting that help. And to me, there’s nothing stronger than than that.

And that to me is what Defines a warrior, right? Somebody who, who takes action, um, when maybe they don’t want to, but they do it anyway. So, so thank you. I really appreciate it.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks again.

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 [01:01:00] you listen to podcasts.

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