Aaron Quinonez, affectionately known as SGT Q talks about how serving others has helped him and others recover from difficult times.
Aaron's organization, QMissions provides veterans with an opportunity to serve others all while healing from their own often invisible wounds. The service missions are structured very much like a military unit with squad leaders in charge of various aspects of the mission, and individuals who carry out the mission.
This is all done through a religious lense using the teachings from the Bible to aid veterans to a better life through service.
Links & Resources
Scott DeLuzio: 00:03 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. Before we get started, I'd like to ask a favor if you haven't done so already, please rate and review the show on Apple podcasts. If you've already done that. Thank you. These ratings help the show get discovered so it can reach a wider audience. And while you're there, click the subscribe button so that you get notified of new episodes as soon as they come out. If you don't use Apple podcasts, you can visit DriveOnPodcasts.com/subscribe to find other ways of subscribing, including our email list. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:44 Hi everyone. Today, my guest is Aaron Quinonez. Aaron is with Q Missions, which is an organization that exists to create a platform for veterans to live out the calling that God has put in their lives, and they help create infrastructure so that they can focus on the mission at hand by providing support and funding and other mentoring programs for veterans. So, Aaron, welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your time in the service and what your organization, Q Missions is all about. I'm sure you could do a much better job explaining it than I could.
Aaron Quinonez 01:21 I just want to say thank you for having me on your podcast. It's a real blessing to be able to come on and share with people what we do to help veterans out here in the community. So, thanks for allowing me this time and I hope that I can inspire some of your listeners here to get out there and start serving other people. So, I grew up in the mountains in Northern California, in this small little hippie commune, redneck town called Mad River. It's right on the Humboldt county line. So, if you guys know Humboldt County, tons of pot farming goes on there. I grew up, my parents were farmers and I grew up in a really strange lifestyle. I've seen that whole industry go from the Wild West to main street.
Aaron Quinonez 02:05 I have a unique perspective on that whole industry. But I knew that wasn't the kind of lifestyle I wanted to live. So, when I grew up watching that society and how they interacted with everyone else, I knew I wanted something different for my life. And I started reading a lot of books in the library because we didn't have TV or anything like that. We were pretty poor. And so I read a lot of books in the library and I love national geographic magazines and I loved reading about all these places, the Mayan ruins and the Aztec temples, the pyramids in Egypt and Cambodia, all these great places. I want to go see these places. So, when I got into high school, I thought my best opportunity coming from a society in an environment like that would be to join the military because then I could travel the world and see the world and experience all these places.
Aaron Quinonez 03:01 But anybody who's been in the military realizes that that's what they show you on the poster. But that's not reality. You're usually sitting in a hot desert under a small canopy with a radio looking at the desert. So, I didn't get to see any of those places when I was in the Marines. I did really enjoy a lot of time in the military. I was a Marine, I was part of first ANGLICO. And so, if you guys don't know what that is, it's the air Naval gunfire liaison company. And so, what we do, we're a small group of board observers, and we're all master parachutes. So we'll parachute in and we'll call for fire. So we call an air artillery and mortars. We do Casa vac, all that stuff.
Aaron Quinonez 03:51 So we control all the air on station. You can also do combined arms with artillery or Naval gunfire, which they've really phased out now. But that was my specialty. So, it was a really great job. I got to do a lot of good stuff. I think they took the jump billot away currently for the ANGLICO Marines, but I know they're trying to get it back. When I was there, I had a jump billet, became a master parachutist, but it was great. I got to do a lot of cool stuff. Became a close combat instructor, Naval weapons security manager, got to do a lot of high-speed stuff. So, I liked my time in the military. In 2003, I did a deployment to Iraq when the war first kicked off. And when I came back I was struggling with mental health and I just really didn't understand it.
Aaron Quinonez 04:35 I didn't know what was going on and I thought I had really limited combat experience, so why am I having these issues? What's going on with this? I'm going to the VA and getting help and it wasn't working out for me. So, I just started reading a lot about mental health, how the brain operates and what's going on and how to fix myself. And so, through that I ended up in a church and I was really struggling. I ended up being homeless for a little bit and living on the street. And when I came out of homelessness, I couldn't find a job anywhere. So I started my own janitorial company. And so it was just me and one other guy.
Aaron Quinonez 05:20 We're just scrubbing floors because we knew how to do that, right? Everybody in the military knows how to clean stuff. I figured that's a transferable skill, right? I could do that. And I did it well because in the military you get to do it by the numbers. So, me and my buddy, we got a good reputation of doing good work and we picked up more work and more work and more work. I've been in business 11 years now and I employ over a hundred people here in the Puget Sound. So, in 10 years I went from homeless to a business owner employing over a hundred people here in the Seattle area. So, it's been quite a journey.
Scott DeLuzio: That's amazing. Wow. So, one of the topics that your organization, Q Missions deals with that I haven't really brought up on the show yet is the topic of religion, is that correct?
Scott DeLuzio: 06:14 It's not that I was avoiding this topic on the show at all. I'm a proud Christian. I wouldn't mind having other guests on the show to talk about it because I think it can be really important, especially for those who are going through difficult times. So, trauma or PTSD, that type of thing. When we first started chatting online about having you on the show, you said that the spiritual side of PTSD is rarely addressed. Maybe it's because religion is one of those taboo topics mixed in with money and politics that no one really wants to touch, but that doesn't appear to be the case with you in your organization. So, how is your organization different? How do you address religion and spirituality and what is it that you do with that?
Aaron Quinonez 07:03 Well, that's a great question. I'll give you a brief description and then I'll tell you how I got there. So when I look at all the different treatments that are out there, especially the stuff that is offered from the government or that's government funded or backed, they treat the mental, the physical and the emotional side of trauma. And that's great, but that's only three legs on the table. So, if you imagine you have a kitchen table, it's got four legs, but if you take one of those legs out, the table looks fine, but it's unstable. As soon as you start putting weight on it is going to tip over. And I feel that's the same way with mental health treatment. And if you're only treating the mental side, the physical side and the emotional side, everything will be okay for a while until that individual gets some extra stress put on them.
Aaron Quinonez 07:51 And then the table folds with extra weight, just like the individual with extra stress in their life because they don't have that fourth leg for stability, the spiritual side. And so, I saw this was severely lacking in all the different treatments that I tried. They didn't address this spiritual aspect at all. It just wasn't talked about. And if you brought it up, it was kind of like just to pat you on the head, that's nice that that works for you, but we're not talking about that here. And so I think that they do a huge disservice to all the veterans out there because they don't even address it. And so for some people, that's fine. They don't want anything to do with religion. That's great. That's on them.
Aaron Quinonez 08:31 That's their idea. That's great. But there's a lot of people that are in the middle. They don't know what they want. If you never produced that opportunity for them, if you never give them that as a possibility or a resource, they're never going to know about it. And so that's where we fill that gap. For me, I was very anti-religion my whole life, I had some undesirable experiences with the church when I was a kid. I only went to church a couple of years to some youth group. I didn't really get along there and didn't fit in, had some bad experiences. And so, I was anti-religion my whole military career. I remember I was really struggling with mental health. It was 2009. I was really struggling with mental health and I was going to commit suicide.
Aaron Quinonez 09:25 It was a warm July day and I found this empty parking lot. And so, I drove into it and then I backed my truck to this building and I was going to commit suicide there, in that parking lot, in that side parking lot. But I heard some kids playing and so I thought, “all right, there's got to be a playground nearby so I'm not going to commit suicide here and have these poor kids find me, so I'm just going to wait until they leave and then I'll do it.” I ended up falling asleep. When I woke up, those suicidal ideations were gone? So, I just drove off, didn't think much about it. A couple of weeks later, a friend invited me to church and I said, “all right, I'll go check it out” because he'd been bugging me for a while.
Aaron Quinonez 10:09 And so he gives me the address and I'm driving to church and I pull into that very same parking lot that I almost committed suicide in just a few days before. And it was a super eerie feeling to be driving back into that parking lot thinking, “wow, I almost ended my life here. This is crazy.” What is going on? And I started attending that church, not really understanding the religion, not really understanding what they were talking about. So, I just started reading the Bible cover to cover. I'd read it every day. I joined a small group there because I figured if I'm going to do this, I need to learn as much as I can. I gave my life to the Lord and walked up to the alter call and I thought, “well this is it. I'll do the altar call and all these problems are going away.”
Aaron Quinonez 10:54 I'll be fine. And so I do that. And the clouds don't open, the birds don't start singing, nothing happens. What was it that didn't work? I'm still having all these problems. But I didn't give up. I just kept reading the Bible and the guys that were in my Bible study were great. They're so gracious with me. So, they were so gracious because I had so many questions all the time. And so we would be studying something and then one time a month, the entire Bible study would just revolve around me and my questions, they call it Aaron's questions because I'd be reading the Bible and have all these questions and I wouldn't want to interrupt the group, but I'd still want to know. And so, one time a month they would say, all right, what questions do you have?
Aaron Quinonez 11:43 And I would just go through all these questions that I had and they would explain it to me and help me understand what was going on. And so that was really great. It really helped me a lot, but I still wasn't really seeing any benefits of being a Christian, as far as my mental health goes. I felt better. There's a group of guys who understood me, but they weren't veterans. They couldn't understand exactly what I was going through, but at least they were cool to me. They could empathize and they would be there for me but not in the capacity that I needed. And it was just because they didn't have that shared experience. They didn't understand what I was going through, so no fault of their own. These guys were great. I'm still good friends with these guys today, but it just wasn't enough to help me get over that hump.
Aaron Quinonez 12:26 And so, I remember I got invited to go to Mexico by one of the pastors to build a home for a homeless family and it was on Memorial Day and I was not really interested in doing that. I've done all my time overseas. I'm good man. I'm just going to stay right here in the U.S., there's plenty of stuff I can do here. He kept pushing it. He kept pushing me, kept pushing, kept pushing. And so, through a series of circumstances, I ended up going to this Mexico mission trip. It was on Memorial Day. And so that was another reason for me to be like, “no, sorry, not going to do it I have plans for Memorial Day.” I was going to sit in a bar and get drunk and remember the guys that didn't come home with me, that was what I'd been doing, my tradition.
Aaron Quinonez 13:12 That's what I was going to do. But I decided to do something different. I felt that calling on my heart. So, I went to Mexico and built that home for a homeless family. And when I was there, I didn't know what was happening to me. But it felt like these layers were just getting stripped off me. Wait, what is this feeling? Never experienced this before. I'm having emotions because at that point I was totally numb to everything. I wasn't happy, I wasn't sad. I was just completely neutral, numbed out. If you can look at pictures of me back then I just have this like blank stare on my face. I'm checked out and I'm wondering what is happening? I'm having emotions for the first time.
Aaron Quinonez 13:55 This is strange. So, I didn't know what was happening, but I knew I needed more of that, whatever that was, I wanted more of it. And so, I came back to church and I talked to the pastor and said, what other trips do you guys do? Several trips a year. He got me connected with the mission director at the church and he started taking me on all these trips so I would go three or four times a year to various countries: Haiti, Honduras, Malawi, Kenya, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Honduras, Mexico. I go all over the world and I build churches and schools and orphanages. We give out food. The whole time, God was healing and I didn't realize it at the time, I was just doing it because I was being obedient to what the Lord called me to do.
Aaron Quinonez 14:54 But I learned if there was healing, serving other people and healing, serving God. And it was remarkable because the whole time I'm still going through mental health treatment at the VA and these different things. I'm trying all kinds of stuff, hypnotherapy, all this stuff and none of it is helping. The only thing that was helping me was being able to go on missions and help other people. When I was helping other people, I was on point, I was on mission and I was getting 10 times more then I was actually giving to the people I was serving and it was really self-serving because I know that if I go and I help these people, I am going to feel good about it. I'm going to receive healing as well. And so, through this process, I created this whole concept of healing through service for myself.
Aaron Quinonez 15:44 So by reading different mental health magazines and different research studies that were out, there's a good research study out, it's called The Mother Teresa effect. This college, what they did is they took these group of students and they did saliva swabs because they were looking for a specific protein that made them feel happy. And so, they were looking for this protein and so, they did these swabs before and then they had them watch 90 minutes of Mother Teresa out doing good works in the world, like a little mini documentary of all the different things that she did to help people and what she did and what she was about.
Aaron Quinonez 16:40 And then they took saliva swabs at the end and guess what? They found that protein in high concentrations. And so it was really remarkable and it backs up a lot of what the Bible says about helping one another. And so, I had the Bible and these research studies and I just built this program for myself to better understand mental health and how to overcome PTSD and trauma. And it worked out great for me. I was having great results. My business was doing well. My marriage was doing well. When I was on a mission, I felt more alive than ever. I'm helping people. And so that's how it all started. It was just me trying to figure out mental health for myself and create that fourth leg of the table, which is the spiritual side, which is what a lot of different organizations are missing. And so, I try and bring that to the forefront. We still need the mental health counseling. We still need the physical rehabilitation and maybe you need some medication. It's going to help you get through some of this counseling part. You need to understand the emotional side of it. But we must bring in the spiritual aspect as well. Otherwise, you're going to be unstable when you're out there in society.
Scott DeLuzio: 18:00 It's really interesting to hear that story where you go in and you're serving other people and to someone outside looking in who maybe doesn't have any experience with service and things like that, they may think, well, how is that possibly going to help? That seems like it's adding more stress to you that can't possibly be a benefit. But in your case, it works. I suspect that in a lot of cases, for a lot of people, it will work as well. It'll be a benefit to them to go out and help other people.
Aaron Quinonez 18:46 yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: 18:46 I'm not an expert on this subject, but I would suspect that you find a purpose or meaning in that work that you're doing to help those people and that's something that I think is especially important these days where a lot of us are doing the isolation thing with the Corona virus that's going on. And I imagine that a lot of people are probably struggling right now with their mental health now that we're a week and a half, two weeks into it, whatever it is. People who normally are getting out and actively serving other people, whether it's in their job, maybe law enforcement, that's a way of serving people, military or other things that they're doing.
Scott DeLuzio: 19:39 People are probably starting to struggle a little bit in that service aspect because they're stuck at home or they're not out volunteering the way they normally would be perhaps. So, what do you think it is about the aspect of that service that Mother Theresa effect, if you will? What is it about that that changes people, that helps people find that sense of meaning and purpose and help them with their own mental health?
Aaron Quinonez 20:13 I go back to looking at the life of Jesus. He came not as a ruler, to command over people, but as a servant. And you see that throughout his ministry, He’s serving other people. I mean, he's washing the disciple’s feet. He's helping the woman at the well get water. He's helping people by releasing their demons and healing people. His whole ministry is serving other people. That's what he came here to teach all of us. You know, and it's funny because the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were the religious leaders at the time, they would come and they would mock Jesus and they would try and trick him into speaking blasphemy and things like that. And so, he was at the temple and he was teaching and the Pharisees came up and they said, okay, teacher
Aaron Quinonez 21:00 and they said that in a mocking way. They said, which is the greatest commandment? And He knows that they're trying to trick him and that if He says that one is greater than the other, that it would be considered blasphemy. So, He says, well, there are two. The first is to love your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul. And the other is to love others as you love yourself, you've done this, then you fulfill the laws of God. And so it just totally turned them on their head. So we're to love God and to love other people. And if we're going to love other people, we have to serve them. We have to help them. We have to invest in them. And so, serving other people, it doesn't have to be some brand-new thing of going to Africa and digging a well for a village.
Aaron Quinonez 21:43 That's great and that's what I do. But service really starts at home and so people see me out there and they think, “Oh, it must be nice. He gets to go all over these places and do all these things.” Well it costs me a lot of money. Okay. Because I spend a lot of my own money. For the first seven years, it was just me going on my own with my family and spending about 2,500 to $3,000 per person per trip. And I've got a family of four. So, you figure that out quick. I do three or four of those a trip. All my money is going to do these trips. So, I've invested in myself and in the kingdom by doing that. But to get back to what I was saying, when we serve other people, it doesn't have to be overseas or some big grand thing.
Aaron Quinonez 22:33 It can be something small. Service starts at home. So, those first seven years, I wasn't just going overseas. I was also serving in my church every Sunday. I was there from the time the doors open until the time the doors closed because I helped arrange the different chairs for the different services. I would clean up the bathrooms in between services. I would cook. Me and two of my buddies would cook a meal for the youth because they would have their service at night. So I was constantly serving. There were different service projects that we would go and do anytime there was a big event. I was there to help. I helped the church that I was with New Life Church, they grew fast. 3000 people right now. And so they needed a security team. So, I helped write the SOPs for the security team, offered the training because they wanted people to have some combative training and they have a couple of guys that are armed there.
Aaron Quinonez 23:30 Just because the threats of the church get crazy as we've seen. And so, we were way ahead of that curve years ago and I was training these guys and I still train members of their team that come to me who are new and I put them through the paces. So, I'm serving the church, I'm serving my family, I'm serving my friends. And so, service doesn't have to be this great big thing where you fly overseas and build a house or something like that. It can be at home, it can be checking on your neighbor, it can be the elderly couple that's next door going in and cutting their lawn. You're serving others and there's healing through that. And if you don't believe me, just go try it, do it for 30 days and then come back and tell me it didn't work.
Scott DeLuzio: 24:11 The worst thing that could happen is you made someone's day and you find out that it didn't work. That's the absolute worst thing that can happen out of that whole scenario there. So, so, yeah, absolutely try it.
Aaron Quinonez 24:21 I think a lot of people think that they don't know what God wants me to do. They ask, What should I be doing? And I say, just serve your church. It doesn't matter. Just be working. And then when God calls you, you'll be ready. And so, I tell people a lot, I don't know what ministry God wants me to serve in, serve in children's ministry? They need plenty of people. But I tell people that “look where your pain is and usually your ministry will be there also.” So, for me, my pain was dealing with mental health and PTSD and trauma. That's where my pain was. And so, helping other people go through that process has become my ministry. And to get a little bit deeper, I've been homeless twice in my life.
Aaron Quinonez 25:06 I was homeless as a kid when I was 12 and then again coming out of the military. So I've been homeless twice. So, that first mission trip to go and build homes for a homeless family, I did not want to do that because it touched on too many sore spots for me personally. But since I've been doing that, I've been able to overcome that. And now I find joy in that work. I find joy in building homes for the homeless. And so, I love the book of James chapter 1 verse 2. It says, “count it all joy” and he's talking about the next verse is “count it all joy brothers when you fall into various trials because the trials, produced persistence of your faith.” And so that's me to a T, I must find joy in the trials that I've been through because now I can lead other people to that healing as well. But if I just shy away from it, if I just turn away and not work on those things, then I'm missing an opportunity to lead others out of that darkness as well.
Scott DeLuzio: 26:13 That's a great explanation. I think that that can help clear things up too, for people who are struggling with how is helping somebody else going to help me? How do I justify that? How do I rationalize it? Make sense of all that stuff. So, that was a good explanation of how that service can help. One other thing, switching gears a little bit here. So, my brother was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 and I was in country at the same time, we were just in different locations. But that night, after I found out he was killed, I was in the shower by myself and I remember just saying out loud his name. I was like, why?
Scott DeLuzio: 27:01 You know, why Steve? Why? I obviously wasn't talking to him because you know, he was dead. But I was talking to God. I know that after my tour in Afghanistan, I had a lot of questions for God. I had a few good long talks about some of the stuff that had happened and things like, why do good people like my brother die? Or, why were we forced into situations where we had to make these morally difficult decisions. Things like that. And I discovered that God doesn't promise us a perfect life that's free from hardships. There's going to be heartbreak, there's going to be grief, there's going to be pain.
Scott DeLuzio: 27:43 God doesn't shield us from all of that stuff, but if you believe in his plan and what he has planned out for us, through that faith, you'll see that he uses those things to steer the ship in a way, if you want to use that kind of analogy, to get you to move in the direction that he wants you to go. And to me it was an extremely powerful thing to realize; that was my own revelation moment where I realized that God isn't going to make life all rainbows and unicorns and make everything perfect. And the way we see perfect, I think that's an important distinction too. We have our view of a perfect life where everyone is healthy and happy and things just run like a well-oiled machine.
Scott DeLuzio: 28:35 But that's not necessarily God's view of perfection. And sometimes that well-oiled machine is heading in the wrong direction. And so sometimes that machine needs to be course corrected. And sometimes that requires a traumatic event or something to happen to move you in the right direction now. Leading up to the next question that I had for you, what are some of the “success stories” that you can share with us? So, if people who maybe have had their own light bulb moments where they realize, wow, this is something that I needed that I was missing in my life. Maybe it was that they were in a bad place who came to your organization and came out the other side, a stronger person or maybe a better version of themselves, something like that. What are some of those success stories, if you could share any of that?
Aaron Quinonez 29:42 There are a lot of those that have come out of a Q Missions in the work that we've been doing. We've been doing this now going into our fifth year or serving veterans. I just want to take a moment and say thank you for sharing that with us, with the audience. I don't know if you shared it with them before but thank you for sharing it with me. It's tough to do that, so, I appreciate your vulnerability there.
Scott DeLuzio: 30:07 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that's one of the things I like to do is to stay vulnerable in that sense and like share some of the deeper, darker kind of things that have gone on and let people know that it's okay to talk about these things publicly on a podcast, I'm not saying everyone needs to go out and buy a microphone and put it out there for the world to hear. But it's okay to share these things in confidence in a place where you can talk to a counselor maybe or to somebody who can listen, so that's one of the reasons why I feel like I need to share some of these things is so that other people know that it’s okay to do it.
Aaron Quinonez 30:47 I agree with you 100%. And I was held back for many years because I was choosing not to do that. I wanted to keep my testimony private and not be the guy out front in the organization. I wanted to be the guy in the back lifting other people up. But what God showed me is that I must lead from the front. I've got to be out front and tell people about these things and my struggles. And my testimony will be the roadmap that will help other people find their way out of darkness. And so, what I tell people is that whatever's in the dark, whatever's in the darkness that you're trying to hide or keep hidden, if you bring it to the light, the darkness has to flee because dark and light, they literally cannot occupy the same space.
Aaron Quinonez 31:29 I mean, you turn on a light switch and the darkness is gone, it's gone. But when you bring out those things in your painful and bring them to the light, the darkness must flee like it's gone. And it relieves that burden. So, you must do it in a safe way with people who are going to support you. But bringing those things out is so important. So, before I get into the success stories, and I have one for you that I'll tell you, I wanted to go back to James. And so, I wrote about this in a book and so I wrote about this. It says, count it all joy. James 1:2 count to check over one by one to determine it. The direct representation of the trial. All, the whole collective, every experience and joy and emotion of great delight and happiness.
Aaron Quinonez 32:16 Why does James tell us to count it all joy fall into various trials? He explains it in the next two verses. Well, you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness and let steadfastness habits will affect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 3,4, James is telling us that when we change mindset to find joy during our trials, we are purifying our faith to perfection. Verse 12, he continues this when he says, unless it is the man who remains steadfast under trial where he has stood the test and will receive the crown of life, which God promises to those who love them. And so, when we go through those trials and we go through those painful moments in our life, that's the testing of our faith. If we remain steadfast in our faith, they will receive the crown of life, right?
Aaron Quinonez 33:17 We can use that as a tool to help other people struggling with a similar thing. And I wrote a whole chapter on that in my book, which people can read, but that's just a short little synopsis of what happens when we find joy in the trial that we experienced. So, I just wanted to touch base on that quick before you moved on. So success stories. Yes. I have lots of success stories. One of my favorite ones to talk about is Patrick Wright. And so, Patrick, is my best friend and we joined the Marine Corps together through the buddy system. So we graduated in 1997 and we had another buddy graduate with us at the same time, Brian Bertram, but he didn't go to bootcamp with us. He went to college. And it was a year later, I think I was home on leave or something like that.
Aaron Quinonez 34:10 He was really struggling in college, he was asking me what are you doing? How are things going for you? Doing great man, the Marine Corps is fantastic. And so, I talked to him and recruited him into the Marine Corps. And then, he became a Marine. He became a navigator on a C130. And then I asked him, he ended up serving under me for about four months. We worked together and then he went off and did another few stations. And in 2002, he was killed when his aircraft went down on the border of Afghanistan. And man, I had some serious guilt over that because I'm the guy who talked him into going into the Marine Corps; it just broke me up for a long time. So, on Memorial day I was sitting at a bar and drinking beer, and think about Brian.
Aaron Quinonez 35:04 You know what I mean? That's what I would do. And, when I built that first house in Mexico, God showed me that there's a better way to honor the men and women who didn't come back, and that's to serve others in life as they served us in death. And so, it totally changed my concept of Memorial day is that I know that the guys that I have served with who didn't come back, they wouldn't want me bellied up to a bar sitting there crying in a beer. They would want me out there helping people because that's what they were doing when they died. They weren't sitting there bellied up to a bar. They were out there working and helping people making the world a better place. And so that's what I want to truly honor the memory. That's what I need.
Aaron Quinonez 35:45 And so that was the catalyst that started my mission work. And so every year I would go back and I would build with my church a home for a homeless family. And it was my quiet way of honoring Brian. And so, when God called me to start Q Missions and start leading other veterans on the mission field to find the same healing I did, at first, I was like, no way. I'm not interested in that. That's a lot of work. I've already done a startup company and so I'm not interested, but again, through a series of events, I ended up leading my first trip down to Mexico and I start the guys exactly where I started, which is in Mexico, building a home for a homeless man. And after that first trip I was like, wow, this actually works.
Aaron Quinonez 36:33 I'm seeing these guys come alive. All right. So, I started to formalize the programs. I can't just take these guys. I must start teaching them something. So, six months later, I took my next trip, but I had written a little field manual for them and I started training them and I grabbed Pat, because he's one of my buddies, “Hey, you got to come with me man.” He's like, “I'm not into that.” I'm like, “I don't care. We're buddies. Like you're coming just because we're friends.” This is something that I don't promote it online or anything like that but I'll tell you guys here for everybody who's listening is that every home that we build in Mexico, we build in honor of one of our fallen brothers.
Aaron Quinonez 37:13 Every home is built in honor of a fallen hero. And, we bring members of the family with us to be part of the build. And so, I did that first trip, but the first real trip where I was teaching PTSD, I had a formalized program going. I got to build this house for Brian, like officially. And so, the hardest thing I did was to go to his family and ask them to come with me, it was hard, man. I remember I was so nervous. So, I wrote his parents a letter, Patty in Bruce, and wrote them a letter just saying, “Hey, I don't know if you guys remember me, but could I talk to you guys?” And they called me because I left my phone number, they called and so I talked to them for a little bit and then I drove down to COOs Bay, Oregon.
Aaron Quinonez 38:05 And, I was so nervous, shaking like a leaf going, I hadn't seen them since the funeral, I walk in and they were so gracious and so happy to see me. I told them what I wanted to do and I wanted to build in honor of Brian and can you guys come with me? They said, “we'll think about it. We're pretty old, you know, we'll think about it.” And they prayed on it. And not only did they come, but I want to say it was like six members of their family came with us as well. They got to work side by side with all these veterans. And so, the only people who knew Brian were me and Pat, the rest of these guys were just veterans from all over the country. But they came to go through that program and build in honor of Brian.
Aaron Quinonez 38:48 And so when I run the trip, I run it just like a military operation. So, I have squad leaders that oversee a group of guys and we break everybody into squads. There's a painting squad, framing squad, roofing squad. And so the squad leaders know what they need to do. And so they just command their squads and it just runs like that. We have formations in the morning, do a head count, check on everybody. We do debrief at the end. So, I check a quasi-military operation the way that I run it because I'm showing guys that the stuff they learned in the military, those battle tactics, we can use that to overcome PTSD. It's part of the program. And so, Pat went through that first mission with me and he was hooked. Like he's like, this is amazing.
Aaron Quinonez 39:31 I had no idea how this would work. And so, he went back home and started helping other people do repairs on their house, like roofing, repairs, to help older veterans. And so we helped him. He worked under my organization for a while until we could get him to the point where he could start his own 501c3 and now he's a registered 501c3 called Operation Rebuild Hope out of COOs Bay, Oregon. And he started out just helping people do repairs on their house, doing repairs in their bathrooms, fixing electrical, building ramps, doing roofing. And so, he didn't have all the expertise, but we showed him how to go find those experts out in the community who were veterans. So, there's a veteran electric company called Reese electric and they partner with Pat and they go help him help veterans.
Aaron Quinonez 40:22 And so other construction guys that were in the military that now have a skill set that can help Pat do things. And so, he started doing all that stuff and then he started getting into not just doing repairs on people's houses, but housing homeless veterans. And so that's what he's been doing for the last two years is housing homeless veterans. And he is doing such an amazing job at it. It's awesome to watch him. He's doing such a good job that Orca, which is Oregon's department of human services, they partnered with him and they helped them with a couple of apartment complexes that they own but they asked him to run it because now he's doing a better job at housing homeless veterans than they are. So they just empowered him to go into the community and do what he does best.
Aaron Quinonez 41:10 And the guy comes every single year with me to Mexico and he's also been to Cambodia with me working on projects there. He's been there a couple times and so, that guy is doing an amazing job helping other veterans get out of homelessness. And it's cool because I have a buddy that I was friends with in ANGLICO who was homeless and I don't work in that space. I helped with mental health, but I don't really do much with homeless veterans, but Pat does. So, I got those two connected and Pat was able to help him get into transitional housing. Get his VA benefits and now helping them find work. So it's really cool to watch Pat take that healing through service model and go and live it out in his community.
Aaron Quinonez 42:03 And so we help with it all the time. If he has an event, I'll come down and I'll speak for him or we'll write letters of support or we let him use us as validation for the program that he's running. We're partnered with Q missions up in Seattle. And so, people recognize that and so it just adds credibility to what he's doing. Veterans are so amazing. You just light him on fire and set him loose and they will burn down.
Scott DeLuzio: You give them a mission and they will figure out a way to get it done. It’s amazing to see, once again, it’s an action.
Scott DeLuzio: 42:39 That's a great story of someone who was a little bit hesitant maybe of going in and trying out the service and seeing what came out of it on the other end. And, like I said, the worst possible outcome is you try it and it doesn't really work for you and it doesn't move the needle or anything like that. But in this case, that's totally not what happened at all. So, that's really awesome to hear that side of the story and see how that's worked for somebody who is a little hesitant and not totally bought into the whole concept of it right off the bat, but then turned around throughout the whole process, so, that's awesome.
Aaron Quinonez 43:32 Oh, yeah. It's been amazing. And there's a lot of other stories like that. I have a female veteran, Jessica Bergen's who was helping people with mobility issues be able to raise funds to get the prosthetics or the mobility equipment that they needed. She had this one guy who was a quadriplegic from birth and so he had a wheelchair but he needed a better motorized one that could do off road. And we're in the Northwest, right? You need an off-road style wheelchair here to just be able to get around and do normal stuff. And so, it is like $50,000, I think for this machine. And so she helped raise money and her idea was, Hey, Aaron, you're your airborne, right? I was like, yeah. She's like, so what do you think about this?
Aaron Quinonez 44:21 What do you think if we do a fundraiser where people pay money to watch Kevin jump out of an airplane parachute. It sounds awesome. So, she got a bunch of other guys together who are like, yeah, let's do it. They were on King 5 doing a fundraiser, for a guy in a wheelchair, and their fundraising idea was pushing him out of an airplane. That was amazing. They raised the money they needed for the wheelchair. And your idea to raise money is we're going to pay money to watch you push him out of an airplane. I'll pay to see that; something like that. It doesn't have to be some grand thing. Just small things like that. She had such an impact in that guy's quality of life and his family's quality of life. Now they can go to the beach, they can go hiking, they can do these things, go to the Lake and the whole family is impacted by what you did, not just the individual. So there's hundreds of stories. I could spend two hours telling stories like that.
Scott DeLuzio: 45:32 That's great. It's good to know that there are those super success stories too, and that people are really impacted by the service and how it helps them find that purpose and their own special mission in life to help other people. We talked a little bit about this before we started recording and you briefly mentioned it earlier in the episode too, but you do have a book coming out in a little bit called Healing Through Service. I imagine it's probably a little bit about what we talked about already on this episode. Tell us a little bit about the book, what it's about and then when and where people can buy it. I know it's not out yet as of today, which is March 25th, but it's coming out in a few weeks, right?
Aaron Quinonez 46:34 So you can preorder it right now through Redemption Press. If you just Google Healing Through Service, at Redemption Press, it'll pop up and you can preorder it there. I think it's like $14 if you buy it on Amazon or retailers, I'm charging $22 for it, but a portion of the proceeds go directly to Q missions to help other veterans go through the program. So, the book, like I said before, I had written just a self-published, a little manual it is thin, little manual maybe 75 pages, something like that, just to help guys understand what we were going through. So, when we go I teach classes when we're there to give guys some additional skills that they can take home with them. And so, it also helps them process through the experience that they're having.
Aaron Quinonez 47:27 So I was self publishing that book and just gave it out to the guys and they'd come on mission. Last year I had this crusty old Vietnam veteran walk into my office. So, I have an office in downtown Auburn. And my janitorial company is there, but two thirds of the building I use for Q missions. My company pays the rent for the whole thing, but most of it gets used for the organization. So, he comes walking in and he read about some of the stuff that we were doing and saw some news articles, stories that had happened. So, he came in wanting to talk to me and said, have you ever thought about writing a book about what you're doing? I said, I already have a book, a pamphlet.
Aaron Quinonez 48:14 I give it to guys and I know it helps. He's like, no, no, no, like an actual real chapter book. He said, “I'm part of a Point Man Ministries.” And so, point man ministries was a Vietnam veteran who came out and then started helping veterans overcome trauma using scripture. And so he started a whole organization. He was part of that organization. It's small now and it's kind of died out. It didn't have the longevity, but it worked a lot for the time it was there and it helped a lot of guys. And so, here's this guy showing up on my doorstep, telling me that he knows the publisher that published that book for point man ministries and said that I needed to talk to her and write a proper book. And I said, “alright, I'll take that under advisement.”
Aaron Quinonez 49:03 But I have a lot of stuff going on, so when I get around to it, I'll do that. But this dude would not leave me alone. He kept showing up. He would show up once a month and say, “Hey, have you reached out to redemption press? Have you talked to her, not me?” I'm busy. He kept coming back. I'm not kidding you. This dude showed up at my church. He showed up at my church and he's in the lobby and he's looking for me. And so, people are saying, “Hey, there's this old Vietnam vet. He's out there and looking for Sergeant Q.” I'm like, Oh cool, I'll go beat him. Because people show up like that and this is what is happening right now.
Aaron Quinonez 49:46 I was shocked. He's like, Hey, I just talked to Gina and you still haven't started that book and it's important that you get this message out there. You can help a lot more people if you publish this book. And a lot more people will have access to this information and this knowledge and then they can, from there they learn about your program, and then they can go through the program. And I was like, all right man, this dude is serious. He tracked me down. So I started writing the book. I just took that little book that I had and I added more stories to it and a lot of the classes that I was teaching, I just took that information and directly put it into the book. So, I wrote it like five paragraph of orders.
Aaron Quinonez 50:27 So it's very easy. Every chapter's the same. You have the personal recon, which is like a personal story from my life about the point that I'm making. Then you'll have the field Intel, which is what science says about it, where does the research say about the subject? Then I have the scriptural unpack, what does the Bible say about that subject? Then I have a tactical application, how to take what you just learned and apply it right now in your life today. And then the last part is a conclusion, which is usually another story, like a success story of the culmination of that chapter. So, every chapter is the same layout. So, it's some structure there that the military guys are used to. And so, that's the book. It's called Healing Through Service, the Warrior's guidebook to overcoming trauma.
Aaron Quinonez 51:16 I just got one very first copy of it. There it is the very first copy; it came in yesterday and so I've got to proof it and make sure everything's okay. And it should be out first week of April but people can preorder it now. It's cheaper once it's out online then it'll be $22, and then a part of the proceeds will go into taking guys on missions. So, when you read the book, whether you're a civilian or military, it doesn't matter because trauma is trauma, right? Everybody experiences trauma differently, but the result is always going to be the same. The hypervigilant, the anxiety, the depression, the suicidal ideations, all has the same result, whether it was a civilian trauma or a military trauma, we all experience it differently, but the result is going to be the same.
Aaron Quinonez 52:08 So when I wrote a book, there was a lot of terminology directed toward veterans and active duty, but I do my best to explain it in a way that civilians will be able to understand the concepts and be able to put them in place as well. And I've been working with several civilians that are dealing with trauma, who God has brought into my life and they say things like, I know this is not the same kind of trauma. And I don't think I have PTSD, but I'm dealing with this and that sounds a lot like how you help veterans. So can this stuff help? So, I have been teaching them out of the book as well and they've had great results. So, in the book, very deep in the pages and you'll have to find it and you should read it.
Aaron Quinonez 52:50 There's a pathway for people to go on mission with us. And so, as they read through the book, there's a section in there which gives them instructions if they want to go on mission, they can do that and how they do it. So that way, whether it's civilian or military, so those trips will be different. We'll have a separate civilian trip than the military. We'll go on a military trip because the veteran’s trips are highly subsidized by all the fundraising that I do. Normally it costs about two grand to take guys down and go through this program. But with the fundraising that I do, it only costs the veteran $500, which is basically just the cost of their plane ticket. And just to be totally clear and transparent, nobody in Q Missions receives a paycheck. Not even me. There's no paid staff. It's 100% volunteer. If people do donate, the money goes directly to these programs to help guys overcome PTSD. So, you can check us out on GuideStar. You can ask people about us. There's no paid staff, it's not like Wounded Warrior Project, big lavish parties, blown all kinds of donor money on stupid stuff. We don't do that.
Scott DeLuzio: 54:08 I'm glad you brought up the donation aspect because as a nonprofit, a lot of your funding is coming from donations and things like that. If people would like to donate, where can they go to find out about how to make a donation to Q missions? Is it just by visiting your website, or where can they go to donate?
Aaron Quinonez 54:34 Yeah, the website's the easiest way. It gives you a couple of different options there. You can donate online. There's a place where you can send a check if you're old school and you want to do it that way. So, either way that's the best way to donate. We do a lot of fundraisers throughout the year. We do a firework stand. We have a benefits dinner. So, if you guys are local in the Pacific Northwest and you want to attend any of those events, hit us up on our email, [email protected] QMissions.org or visit our website. Contact us through there and we can get you connected to some of those other opportunities to volunteer or to donate. I'm really big, since I'm a business owner, I'm really big into getting corporate donations.
Aaron Quinonez 55:19 And so that's my niche to work with the different businesses. I'm a business owner and most of our profits go directly into helping Q missions. And so, not trying to be braggadocious here, but I put my money where my mouth is and still to this day, I'm the largest donor to the organization, so hopefully somebody surpasses me someday. But for right now, me and my company, we're the largest donors to the organization. I'm not asking people to do something that I'm not doing myself. And I love it. I love what my pastor says. He says, “when it comes to missions work, only two options, you can go or you can write a check.” That's what I'm going to challenge all you guys out there who are business owners who are hearing this either come on a mission with me or write a check so other guys can do it. So that's my challenge, I guess to the audience to check it out.
Scott DeLuzio: 56:14 And that's Qmissions.org where you can go and make a tax-deductible donation to Q missions, and help some veterans go in and heal through the service that they'll be doing. So, this was amazing information that you had to share. Thank you very much for joining us today, sharing these stories of the healing process that people have gone through. I really appreciate the time that you've had with us.
Aaron Quinonez 56:52 Hey, thanks for having me on. It's been great. I'd love to be able to come back and talk to you just specifically about operation pop smokes the suicide prevention tool that we created. I don't want to get into too much of it here just because you have given the audience a lot to digest already, but I just want to throw that out there. If you're interested in finding out, it's a first aid tool to help prevent suicide. So, you can look at operationpopsmoke.com. There's some great information there about what the app does. You can download it on the app store and you can also look us up on YouTube and there's some great videos on YouTube that explain what the app does and how it works. It's all based on military battle tactics, coupled with emerging technology to create the very first first aid tool for suicide prevention. So, it works like the Heimlich maneuver, CPR and the AED system where it puts the power to save a life in the hands of the person closest to them.
Scott DeLuzio: 57:56 That's amazing. And I'm glad you brought that up because I had it in my notes that I wanted to mention that but it slipped down in my notes. So, we'll try to get you back on to talk about that and how that works and how that can be beneficial to people in these types of situations. So, again, thank you for not only joining us today, but all the work that you do helping veterans. It's an important mission that you have. If no one's told you this yet, you should feel good about the work that you're doing. And I really appreciate all the work that you're doing. So, thank you. Thank you again.
Aaron Quinonez 58:40 So I have one parting question for you, and it’s a challenge, I guess. I would just invite you to come with us on operations to restore hope to experience this firsthand and then you'll be able to give a firsthand account to your audience on the program
Scott DeLuzio: 58:57 That would be something that would be interesting to do a firsthand report back on what the organization's about and what the whole process is like. I'm sure some people sitting there might have a little bit of a gray area in terms of is this for me, is this for me? But, getting an objective third party view might be something interesting. So, I might take you up on that challenge at some point. So, maybe after all this coronavirus travel stuff passes for us. So, anyways, thanks again. Thanks again for joining us and we'll have you back on and maybe we'll talk again about seeing how we can get this type of trip going. Awesome. All right. Thanks again man. I appreciate it.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, Drive On Podcast.com we're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at DriveOnPodcast.