Special Ops Vet and Signs of PTSD

Drive On Podcast
Drive On Podcast
Special Ops Vet and Signs of PTSD

In this episode, Cliff Van Rickley, a Special Ops veteran talks about a personal story of PTSD, how he helped friends who were struggling and more.

Links & Resources


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

Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:23    Hey everybody. Today, my guest is Cliff Van Rickley. Cliff works for Veteran Life, which is an online resource for transitioning and post-transition veterans and their families. He recently wrote an article based on a personal story, titled Signs of PTSD, A Special Ops Veteran's Awakening. And we're going to be talking about that article and what Veteran Life is all about in this episode. Also, I want to be sure that listeners are aware that this episode will probably cover various forms of trauma, including suicide and mental health related topics. So if that's not something that you are up for listening to right now, you can stop listening now, no hard feelings and we'll catch you next week. So anyways, welcome to the show Cliff, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:01:09    Thanks, Scott. And thanks for having me on. I did 20 years, one month and nine days in the army and I only know because my DD214 says so. Just like everybody else in the army, I joined up, or just like everybody else to join up  during my era, went off to Iraq a couple of times, five times, I think. I did Afghanistan and a few other trips along the way and had a great career, mostly in special forces and transitioned from the military about two and a half years ago. I’ve been in civilian life ever since, worked for a technology logistics startup out of San Francisco. We were in the Nashville office and one day prior to COVID, they said, Hey, sorry, but you guys can all go home now. I got laid off right before COVID happened. So that was an interesting thing, but it was a great experience. And then just like a lot of people, millions of people around the world had to look for a job during the pandemic and was fortunate enough to get the opportunity that I'm in now. And along the way have really been trying to champion veteran advocacy and veterans’ stories along the way. And that's  where it leads us to where we are now.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:02:41    Yeah. Awesome. And so I'd like to unpack this article that you wrote, The Signs of PTSD, because it has some pretty deep topics that you cover in that article. And if it's okay with you and I think it is, I'm going to read some parts of the article in this episode here and it will be like a little bit of a teaser to get some people to go check out the article and check out what you have going on over at Veteran's Life. And then we can discuss what's going on in the article there. So it starts off with you saying, first of all, it wasn't supposed to happen to any of us. We had all the traits you need to withstand the suck factor of being in the special forces, mental toughness, physical prowess, problem solving abilities and true grit. So when Nick Grizzly, a special forces veteran, took his own life, we took notice. So what was going on there? Like who was Nick, what happened to him? I know you said before we started recording all the names and this has been changed to protect the innocent and all that. So Nick is not really Nick. Nick, as you put it, could be any of us. So, what was going on with Nick and what happened?  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:03:51    Yeah, well I like to start by saying really that by the time I got into special forces, I was a senior NCO, right. I had been in the army for eight years and I've seen, heard, and bear witness to a lot of the different suicide training and had heard plenty of stories about people killing themselves. Matter of fact, prior to me making the switch over to special forces, in my unit, a chaplain's assistant of all people was found to have killed himself. Right. So, nobody that I was connected to personally, nobody who I had a connection with shared beer with, and Nick was somebody who I actually went to the Q course with and to the special forces qualification course. We didn't know each other intimately or anything like that, but we ran around the same circle, graduated at the same time and had the same mindset where, let's get stuff done.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:05:00    Let's have a good time and embrace the suck factor that can be the special forces qualification course. I think it would have to <inaudible> school with Nick. I mean several phases of the qualification course. I suppose it was maybe five years or less after the graduation when I had heard about Nick and you look to see, was there anything that stood out for me having not been working day to day with him for a long time just knowing him. And as a matter of fact, a lot of my close friends were close with him as well. And what I found was there are those little things that sneak up in your head and you're like, wow.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:05:51    Yeah. You know, I knew Nick had some problems with his marriage. I knew he could go down the path of drinking too much from time to time. I knew Nick just had that fiery look and he was kinda like a mix between what you would picture a native American guy with the Irish guy; those types of features? It really got me thinking like, wow this sucks. This is the first one that I've had where I knew that person and you go to their Memorial and their funeral. And you really feel for the family, the family is all there. And at the time when Nick took his life honestly with mixed feelings, we were selected for a tough life for that grit. And as I pointed out in my article for many years, whenever you heard of people taking their lives, especially in the special forces, special operations community, where’d that come from and then even make sick jokes about it at that time.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:07:12    And one of the things that sort of helps you, along with deployment and difficult jobs that you might have, like in the military special forces, is that dark humor, we used to do it all the time when we were in Afghanistan. We'd make jokes all the time about people not coming back from a mission or something like that. And it was a way to  ease the tension of what was going on around us? And so you know, it's something I think we all do in one way or another. And in some cases, I think it's actually sort of healthy to be able to joke about some things. So you're not so uptight about everything, I don't know.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:07:54    Yeah. You know, that's a good point. And I think in the piece I wrote, it highlighted that there is a lot of joking, there is a lot of that sick humor. And I think that, the more times you deploy, it can be the thicker your skin is on the exterior, at least. But then you find out people are really hurting inside and even the people who make the jokes are hurting inside and you really internalized it. A lot of veterans of the community, I'm sure, get out of the army and they have to be explained what physical pain is, because the person giving you an examination, when you get out, say, Hey, does this hurt? Like, tell me what that means, what does that word mean? Or what does pain mean? Because I have to reset my mind because I've hid it for so long. That's just physical stuff.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:08:51    Or they say that how much does this hurt? And you say, oh, just the normal amount. And they're like, well, the normal amount is zero. 

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:09:00    Yeah. Well that’s zero. but yeah, the humor is there. Hey man, you look like you're feeling sad. Can I get your stereo if you try and can I get that in writing or have guys say, Hey, how soon is too soon to start dating your girlfriend? Right. It's like that. And  it's sick, but it's also a form of therapeutic acceptance, I believe. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:09:31    And just accepting that you can't necessarily control everything that's going to happen to you. Especially when you're in a dangerous environment, like a combat zone or whatever. 

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:09:40    In the same way you have people who have deep trauma or personal problems or even trauma from childhood that they're dealing with that are keeping it in and believe me, it becomes a liability that they're keeping it inside. So the environment that we were bolstering was, “Hey, we know you probably have some problems, keep it to yourself, let's finish this deployment. Let's restack the deck, see who needs to go get some time off, who doesn't.” In retrospect it's not healthy, it's not helpful. And the numbers don't lie, we weren't doing it right.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:10:30    Yeah. And that's true. I think throughout a lot of the military especially the folks that see combat on a more regular basis, not necessarily the admin side of things, but the infantry, the special forces, the anyone in the combat arms, I think is going to have something similar to that, where you just want to push through and get to where you're able to do what you're supposed to be doing. You want to be there for your team, for your guys whoever, that you're out there, and you don't want to feel like you're letting them down by, oh my knee is bothering me or whatever. So I'm just going to suck it up and I'm going to deal with it. Or I got problems with my wife. And so I'm just going to ignore that. So I can just go on this deployment or whatever, like when you ignore problems like that, they never get better.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:11:22    You know, I don't know why I keep bringing this analogy up or this comparison with the physical, but the physical and the mental really, they have the same symptom and the same result. I hide my injury. I go on a deployment, I go on multiple deployments. I keep jumping out of the airplanes. Guess what, it's hard to get out of bed. You know, and having issues with alcohol or a failed marriage or some family problems, or maybe even something that happened during a deployment before we met, those are issues that just keep compounding themselves. And unfortunately we get to that point where sometimes people break. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:12:24    Yeah. No, that's very true. I want to get back to the article here and  talk a little bit more about some of the stuff that you talked about, but I just want to let everyone know that the stuff that I'm reading from this article, I'm just summarizing, I'm not reading the whole article. There's going to be a link to this article in the show notes. So I definitely encourage everyone to go check the article out and see all of the stuff that is talked about in the article, because it's really good. I don't want to cover everything in this episode. I want to give everyone a reason to go check the article out and give it a good read and understand everything that it is that Cliff's talking about in the article.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:13:06    So now let's jump ahead a little bit to where you're talking about transitioning out of the military. So you say an article, I began to sink into depression, as I realized my life as an action guy was coming to an end while working with a thankless staff job and going to graduate school, I realized I'd already had the best job I'd ever hoped to have before I was a leader in the special forces. Now I'm just another face in the crowd. Now that  depression, I don't think is uncommon, or that maybe not necessarily depression, but that realization that I had the coolest job ever, and it's not going to get any better than that after getting out. When we transition out of the military, we sort of lose a piece of our identity, we have to grieve the loss of who we were before we can move on. So what happened when you realized that you needed to get some help to get over that depression and before it got to be something more serious?  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:14:13    Yeah. Well, just like a lot of guys and girls, there comes that time where you walk away from the thing that you worked so hard to get to and you have to look inside and say, what am I doing now? You know, this isn't what I trained for, and what the article actually discussed. This is when the last couple of years of my time on active duty, right. I had left my ODA, my special forces team where I was the team sergeant, the greatest job I'll ever have. And I know that, and I have accepted that but there's that time period. I always tell people that leaving the team room for the last time, especially when you were the team Sergeant or a team leader, feels like postpartum depression.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:15:10    Yeah. Wow, man. Like those guys are still kicking ass without me. They're getting new leadership and I wonder what that's like. And here I am basically working a nine to five, planning my transition out of the army. I don't know who I am because who I was, was the guy who got to shoot guns and jump out of airplanes. Postpartum depression is the only way I could really describe it. And I've talked to several people afterwards about what that feels like, and it's a pretty common thing. And so I knew that I was feeling a bit of depression and anxiety from transition. I had a lot going on. I was finishing business school. I was retiring. I was selling a house, building a house. I had two kids, I have a wife, all these things. Trying to find a new job. There was a lot going on and from time to time, I would just snap.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:16:23    Yeah. I don't doubt it because any one of those things in and of itself could be stressful, finding a job, going to school, transitioning out, all that stuff could be very stressful in and of itself. 

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:16:37    And so, I don't know, it's one of those things where I was off of a team and I was like maybe I can do something about this. Maybe I can use some help. Maybe I could use some help chemically meaning some medicine or whatever. I actually, during one of the post-deployment surveys or whatever, mentioned to the doctor, “Hey, I'm having these issues. And I think I need some help. I'm like crying out for help. I'm not on the team anymore. And I think that needs some help and the answer was, “Hey, you should make another appointment, because I'm not the guy.” It took two more years before I was actually doing retirement stuff where I finally got the courage to say, “Hey, look things aren't getting any easier.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:17:38    And I need something, right. I need to talk to somebody or I need to get some help. And they gave me something and it really helped it. I didn't feel like it dulled my senses or made me Placid or softened my edge where I needed to be. It just kinda helped me be like a duck. You know, the water just rolled off my back a couple of times. And yeah, and in hindsight, I'm like, man, I'm embarrassed that I didn't go get this help earlier. So that's what that was. And we have to be comfortable asking for help and not feeling like there's this stigma also that if I go to my medic, my doctor, my PA whatever, and say, I need some narcs, you're afraid that they're going to look at you like you're some  junkie. I'm not asking for anything. Cool, man.  I need something because I'm freaking out, man. I got a lot going on. I'm stressed all the time. I feel tense right now. Give me something please? Thankfully eventually a little bit too late probably, but eventually I got something that helped me out.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:19:09    And I guess the moral of the story is that it's better late than never, but the sooner, the better definitely ask and get the ball rolling and get on that if you need it. So going back to the article you wrote about your buddy who was struggling with PTSD and in the article you wrote nothing prepares you for when your buddy's wife calls and asks you to come quickly. She says he's in a real dark place. He's been drinking all day. He's talking about suicide, come quick. You know, so she's calling out for help. You know, she doesn't know what to do. She needs some help. So like a lot of other folks in the military, you are trained to recognize the Signs of PTSD. All these warning signs that people might have, but the situation still left you feeling sort of unprepared with this person, right.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:20:02    Completely blindsided if I'm being honest, completely blindsided and embarrassed to be blindsided, to be honest with you. I felt an almost sense of am I not a good friend to recognize this? And you know, this friend, we'd never been on a team outside of training together, but you know, when his wife said,”Hey, come quick.” I think I put in the article, like, what's going on here? You know, what's happening? What is going on? I had to go in and deal with a very large, well-armed man who was beside himself with grief, guilt, and doubt about the future. Not knowing if, for instance, he was worthy to raise his innocent young toddler daughter. And even with all the training, as a leader, you get all this training on how to deal with it. Nobody really ever gives you any good training on what to do if you're a friend. I'll tell you what I didn't do. I didn't ask him if I could have his stereo. I didn't try to go out for drinks. It was just like, wow. I called for help. I had to enlist some other people because I was ill prepared, ill equipped and uninformed. And so that's what I did. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:21:59    So since you had the training to recognize these warning signs with PTSD and everything, were those warning signs even there in this person, was he just covering it up and swallowing it down and not showing any of these warning signs?  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:22:18    Yeah. No real warning signs, master of disguise. I'm not taking anything away from any other MOS career field or whatever, but again, I'm special forces, infantry, all these things, there's a facade and there's an attitude that you have to take in. And he was master of putting on that front. And I mean, beside himself is understating it and learning things at that moment while, by the way, also completely intoxicated on like way too much moonshine. So you know, if someone seems to manage it, I hope this guy goes to sleep because he'll probably be asleep for 12 hours.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:23:20    That'll be 12 hours, but you know, he's going to be pretty much okay. Because he's out at that point. So you ended up getting him some help. How's he doing now with all of that, is he through the woods with all that? 

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:23:39    No, I got to say it's really interesting how things work out where now I'm in a position where I'm trying to get some message and some good information out for veterans because I'll tell you what it was less about. The trauma he'd been through and more about the time he had on his hands. And I say that because he was in the middle of transitioning himself, a big boy like a senior NCO had some free time to, “Hey, you have all these appointments, go take care of the appointments. We don't think you're going to not do these appointments, go do your thing from his chain of command.” That's how I transitioned. It worked out for me, albeit with some issues that I dealt with and time on this person's hand was not a good thing.The trauma or whatever had happened in the past, add alcohol, then add uncertainty about the future. I mean, that's a recipe for disaster and it very nearly was. And when I say, well, armed, I mean this guy has a lot of guns. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:25:10    I got that. Yeah. That makes sense. 

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:25:12    And then what you would think and so walking into like, oh, I'm going to my friend's house and he is intoxicated and beside himself, possibly suicidal and well armed, you have a pay split, what do I do if and not saying I went armed to my friend's house, but maybe I did just sayin’.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:25:38    Right. And honestly, it's one bad mistake, one bad decision that's all it takes to change the course of someone's life. And you know, in some extreme cases ending it and that's not what anyone wants for anyone, especially any of our friends or any of the other veterans or service members out there. We don’t want that.

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:26:05    Yeah. And to answer your question. So eventually he got help. By the way, I made some mistakes along the way. I chalked it up to alcohol because I was told by the person, I was just drunk. Sorry about that. It's all good, man. I'm going to get help. Well, that wasn't the last time, there were several times between that before I talked about in the article what I did and the mistakes I've made and it took biting that bullet, like reaching out to the chain of command through other people. And by the way, it's not an easy thing to do when this person's transitioning. Like who cares? I think the last time this person was already on terminal leave so who is in charge now?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:27:04    At that point there's that transition already in process, right. 

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:27:09    And so we're fortunate enough. A couple of things happened. Number one, we got him help. He went away for a while, a couple of times. and then he got his time taken care of meaning that he ended up getting a job, which gave him something to do something he was interested in. And I'm not saying we're out of the woods, but for now things are really good. I check up on him just like other people do. Hey, how's it going? what's going on? And I could be reading it wrong, but right now it seems like things are steady and I haven't gotten any late night phone calls. So that's good. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:28:02    And having a sense of purpose is probably a big thing for people who are transitioning out. And if you're sitting there with no job, no prospects for a job, you have no idea what your future's going to hold for you it's kinda hard to say that you have any sort of sense of purpose.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:28:21    And when you've led such a purposeful life, right. In this person's case, his job on the team was an important job. Like people depended on him, even when he wasn't on the team, when he was training people that depended on him, people, if he didn't do his job, things didn't happen. You didn't have what you needed to do the mission or the training mission or whatever. So going from being important, having purpose, to not knowing what your purpose is, that's an extremely dangerous, extremely volatile moment. And I don't have the empirical data, but I would guess that leads to a lot of these numbers that we see when it comes to veteran suicide or active duty suicide.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:29:23    I don't think that you're wrong there. I think that that's definitely some of the reasons why. So to wrap up this article, what we're talking about here, you wrote about some resources and tips for their loved ones to go check out and stuff like that and the VA is a great place to start. I think that's one of the common places that most people would look right off the bat when looking for these things, and there's hundreds of other resources, we talk about a lot on this show. I'm not going to go and list through all the different types of resources that are out there. We can spend a whole other episode just talking about different resources that are out there.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:30:13    But I think more important is let's say someone is in that same situation that you were in, where they got a phone call from a buddy's wife or a girlfriend or a family member or whatever. And they're there in that same situation. And the person's talking about suicide and obviously no one wants that to happen to a friend or anyone that they care about. So what are some of the steps? I know you said you made some mistakes and so making mistakes is all part of life that you make the mistakes and you learn along the way. And so what are some of the things that you did and wish you had done better along the way to help your buddy out and how can people help out their friends and go forward in the future or their loved ones.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:30:58    Right. It's a tough one, because there are so many resources out there, right? And if you get to the point where somebody is in that state, you forget about their feelings. You gotta forget about how it's gonna affect their sense of self-esteem, to be honest with you. A lot of people don't want anybody to know about this, or don't want the chain of command to know. And man, I ended up calling somebody who got the chain of command involved in an unofficial way, to be honest with you. We were blessed to have some resources that maybe some other folks don't have. I should've done that earlier. I shouldn't have left the first time with the idea, oh, he'll sleep it off, thankfully he did. And thankfully there was a time in between the first and the second incident where things were relatively calm, but you know, I think that there's everything that I could have done the first time. I could've been a better friend, maybe I could have stuck around instead of, oh, he's asleep. I'm gonna go home.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:32:36    You know, I could have been more prepared. And I think that's really what I want people to get out of this. Maybe you're not suffering. if you are a veteran, chances are there's somebody out there who is dealing with trauma from their military experience, or even if you have a friend who's never been in the military, you being empathetic and honest about what you're feeling what you're gathering from being empathetic, ask them questions and be a person who somebody could talk to and drop the facade of, oh, we're all tough. We're not, we're human beings. We're all human, we're all human beings. And you might be able to ruck march with a hundred pounds on your back for 20 miles. Your brain does not care. You know, you're going to carry that load with ya, right?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:33:43    Yeah. And I think sometimes all people need is just someone to listen to them and hear them out. And you don't have to have a pissing contest and say things like my problems are better or bigger than yours or anything like that. Like sometimes their problems are their problems and they just need someone to listen to them and hear them out. And maybe help them work through that issue that way and sometimes, people are smart, they can figure things out on their own a lot of times. And sometimes they just need a sounding board to talk to and I think ultimately if like you did in your situation, if it's too much for you to handle, and it's not something that you can do on your own, call another friend, get somebody else involved, make and send up the flyers and let people know that there's a situation going on. And, that way, more people are involved in that way, if there's a mistake that you were making, hopefully the other person is going to step in and  pick up the slack where you were making that mistake too.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:34:50    You know, Scott, that's an important thing too, is there's a lot to be said about the mental health and emotional health of the supporter. It's exhausting four hours, five hours with somebody who's in that state or thinking, Hey, I wonder tonight, it's a Friday. I wonder if I'm going to get a call, you come home and for me, I spoke to my wife and was just like, I don't know, out of the blue, I'm blindsided. I'm exhausted so having the ability to bring others in, by the way, this is not a one size fits all solution. But for me I talked to some other people so we had an internal support group, and it spanned a couple of states but that really helped and I think in the long run, it  pushed us to where we are now, where we're coming out of the woods, nobody's ever out of the woods.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:36:12    Yeah. But you're on your way out. You see the field on the other side and everyone's doing a little bit better. I liked how you said that you're always  just waiting for that call and you're just on edge, tonight can be the night that I'm going to get that call or whatever, but it  reminds me of when you're out in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever you're deployed to, it's like, is today going to be the day that I roll over and I IED, or is today going to be that? And so you're constantly on edge. You're constantly looking for something. And so, I mean, I know from my experience that that gets exhausting too. And so it's probably exhausting very much in the same way where you're constantly waiting for that next thing. And you can't necessarily make plans to go enjoy life, because you're worried am I going to have to drop everything to go help this person out? 

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:37:12    Like, we're already dead, that’s kinda how you feel? And you know, you brought up the whole ID thing and Iraq and having dinner a bunch of times. I tell people it can be a 20 minute patrol down in the green zone. When you get back, it felt like he fought 12 rounds. You're just like exhausted because the hypervigilance and the hypervigilance, isn't just in combat it's when you're dealing with a situation where you have a friend or a loved one who was going through that, so it's exhausting but it's worth the work, just like anything else.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:37:56    Yeah. I was just going to say that, I would do it all over again going on a deployment, doing the job that we did. And you know, even with all that work that was involved, that being exhausted after, like you said, after 20 minutes of just walking around and patrolling around an area because you're constantly head on a swivel looking for that next thing that's gonna come out and bite you.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:38:18    Yeah. And by the way, I don't know, not to mention all that, but it's  a change of subject really, but you know, those frozen bottles of water we used to get in 30 minutes of boiling water, let's not forget those days and Iraq when it was 120 degrees. And you're like, what the heck? I can make tea with this thing in an hour. It's a solid block of ice.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:38:42    Right? Yeah. No, I mean, that's true too. We used to do that you know, bring out frozen water bottles, walk around with those and then in no time they were almost boiling.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:38:55    Yeah. Well, it's a memory. Nobody remembers the good times, by the way. It always seems like a drill Sergeant of mine I occasionally see randomly, he always says sucked, didn't it? You only remember it because it sucked and I bet you love it. And I'm like, I  do.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:39:19    Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And just like that it did suck, but at the same time, you loved it. You would do it again. If you're looking back at it and you were to tell 18 year old yourself should I do this? Should I not do this? Give yourself advice. You would probably do it again. I think to that point, anyone that we are talking about here, who's struggling with PTSD, they're not a burden. There 's something that, if you came to me and said that you had a problem, and I was exhausted after talking to you through it and helping you out and everything like that, don't get me wrong, man. It might've been exhausting, but I would do it a thousand more times just to make sure that you got the help that you needed?  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:40:07    Yeah. I'll take it a step further. Anybody listening to this? My contact information will be in the show notes. I'm sure. I could be a friend. I could be somebody to listen to her. Somebody who could help you get the resources that you need.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:40:21    Yeah. And yeah, exactly. And I think that's a great point. You're not alone out there if you're listening to this and you're thinking, man, this sucks. I don't have anyone to talk to. I wish I had someone to talk to, but I burned all those bridges for whatever reason. You're not alone. There are people out there who are willing to talk to you, reach out, talk to people, get the help that you need. That got deep. Let's switch gears just a little bit here. I'd love to hear more about Veteran Life. So what it's all about and what's going on to help veterans and their families through Veteran Life.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:41:02    So Veteran Life is a new website, brand new. Basically, it's July now, but we had a launch here during the summer. The website looks fantastic and the intent behind it is to be informative, entertaining and authentic. So, it's equal parts of information that people want. You're a veteran. You want information about the GI bill, or you want information about VA loans or something like that. We want to have that information in a way that you could easily digest. Also we're really looking to be someplace where you can be entertained a bit. So some of the articles that we have on there are written by veterans or veteran spouses, and they're  funny. They might even be a little bit abrasive. Quite honestly, we're not trying to be controversial or we're not trying to piss anyone off, but when we sat down and talked about what we want the site to be, I explained it like this. I want it to be the grizzly NCO who is not afraid to look you in the face and be like, dude, what the hell are you doing? Or like, dude, get off your butt, man, this is America. Go out and do something.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:42:41    Yeah, exactly.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:42:43    Screw this up bad, but let's fix it. Right. So that's what it is and we're a new site. So we have a handful of articles right now that are posted on there that have been written over the last year or so, some predate me joining the company and we've been able to get a website up, looks good. I've got an amazing team who is really working hard to get the content out there, make sure it looks good and it's appealing. And also you know, markets will be informative. and you know, I'm blessed to be in the position where I am now, where I could really have an impact. Bottom line is when you look across, we did a little bit of market research and what we found was that there's a lot of websites out there like, “Hey we're this place where you can read articles, testimonials, and get information and stuff. It's about veterans, blah, blah, blah.” A lot of it's really about active duty. And then they have a veteran section that's an afterthought, and that's weird because when you consider the amount of after duty people is X, I don't know, 3 million maybe tops in the amount of veterans out there, GUI veterans, which is the demographic that I think is what we're after is, around like 17-20 million, I don't know, big.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:15    It's definitely more than the current actively serving.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:44:21    Exactly. And so, it's just my sense too. Hey, let's talk to this audience. Let's get some information out there. Let's make them laugh. Let's make them want to come back. So I've been in my veteran brain, I've been spending a little bit of time every day thinking it'd be a funny meme, I posted one the other day, you can hear it. If you saw the meme, you could hear it. It's the guy from Nickelback holding the picture out and it's a photograph, right. It's, this is every veteran on 4th of July ruining the family barbecue with pictures from the flood. Everybody knows that guy. There's just things like that. So, we're trying to be entertaining.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:45:12    We're trying to be engaging. I'm trying to also be informative and right now, I have an amazing team of folks here in Nashville and actually several parts of the country who are making it happen. And I think it's going to really take hold. And I think it's going to be a lot of fun working with it. And you know, we're looking for contributors, we're looking for people who've written before who want to do a testimonial about that guy who was in the infantry platoon and then went to some liberal arts college in Maine, that's hilarious. Right. I mean, think about that. Like the juxtaposition of being in an infantry platoon and having to deal with, I don't know, some weird study in a college in Maine. I want to hear about it. I want to hear about it. And I want to put it out there because somebody out there is going to relate to it. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:46:16   I know that guy, I know exactly what I'm talking about because I did things a little bit backwards. I went to college first and then I joined the military. When I was in college, there was a guy who just got out of the military. He was like the Billy Madison type thing where he's the older guy in class and he was grumpy and pissed off. And all these 18, 19, 20 year old kids who were just being pains in the ass and everything. And he was that guy that you're talking about?  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:46:56   So that's a funny article, right? That's something that is relatable, but it also comes with like, here are the, some of the things you could do to maybe not stand out like a sore thumb, or just embrace who you are. Then there's other pieces of content that we're working on. Like things that nobody, if you weren't a veteran, you wouldn't know, Hey, I'm no longer in the military. I'm home all the time. I think my family wants me to deploy again, they're tired of having me around. Do they hate me? How do I get help? How do I be a 365 father? Which so many of us have never had the opportunity to be. And so, these are some of the ideas that are being kicked around for content. And I think it's going to be an absolute blast. And we're developing some tools along the way that'll be really helpful too. Some of them will be fun, some lighthearted, but also some serious ones about finance or like, should I refinance my house or should I use the VA benefit to buy a multifamily home? You know, things like that. So yeah, I'm excited about it. Thanks for mentioning it.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:48:22    Yeah, no, absolutely. I'm always looking to get more resources out there to people and make sure people know what's out there so that they can check things out and it looks like you guys are well on your way to putting out all sorts of great content and everything. And by the time this episode comes out, it'll be sometime in September when this episode comes out. So I'm sure there's going to be even more resources out there than there are right now. So, that's really great.   

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:48:48    I should mention too, by the way that nothing we put out is meant to be hurtful or harmful or anything like that. We have an article right now that's doing really well called How Not to be a Fat Civilian. You know, it's not PC. I understand that there's a lot of sensitivity over things now. And I didn't write that article. This is somebody who wrote the article, who was struggling with himself, perhaps becoming a fat civilian. And it's this way of saying, “Hey, here are some things that I can do to prevent that.” And one of the great comments that we got on Facebook this weekend was like, “Hey, when I got out after 30 years, I was 175. I was a lean mean fighting machine. And five years later, I was 276 pounds. And I looked at myself in the mirror and looked myself in the eye and said, “God do something” And that's what we mean. We don't mean any harm. The aim is to talk the way we talk, the way we communicate. And nobody in the military can tell me that somebody hasn't gone up to them with a knife hand, very bluntly said, Hey, idiot.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:50:05    Yeah, exactly. But with all the best of intentions, when they're saying they'll tell you you're an idiot to your face, but they mean it in the best possible way.   

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:50:14    Your hand is hot. Maybe you should take it away from that fire? So, that's kinda, in a funny, entertaining way, we're trying to, in the way that we know how to communicate.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:50:30    Absolutely. I think that's the best way to do it, to go back to your roots, if you will, and just talk the way that we're used to talking to each other. And I think that that can help with comradery that people are missing and even if it's coming from an article that they're reading online, it's good to get a good laugh and reminisce about things too. So, yeah, for sure. So, well, Cliff, it has been a pleasure speaking with you today. I think we covered a lot of topics. We got deep on some of the topics and I think we've really had some good stuff going on there. So where can people go to find out more about Veteran Life and check out Veteran Life and all the articles and follow them and everything?  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:51:19    Veteran Life.com is going to be your best bet. We also are on socials. There's several different handles just because Veteran Life is something that somebody is taking hold of at some point on Instagram. So it's, This is a Better Life. It'll be in the show notes you've told me. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:51:38    Yeah, all of this will be in the show notes. So I just wanted to make sure we had everyone know where to go. I know the website, VeteranLife.com. that'll be in the show notes, we'll have links to all your socials and everything too. So if anyone wants to follow you there, check out the show notes and be sure to give them a call.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:51:56    And if you get a chance to go to Veteran Life.com, there's a subscribe button where monthly we'll be sending out a, we're calling it the monthly debrief. So we kinda keep some veteran military vernacular in there.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:52:12    Sure got it.  

Cliff Van Rickley:    00:52:15    We're not coddling, but the debrief we'll send out what you may have missed or what you may have forgotten about from the previous month. That's probably the best way to keep up to date with what we have going on at VeteranLife.com.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:52:31    Okay, awesome. Yeah. So, check that out, go to VeteranLife.com, subscribe to their debrief and follow them on social media. We'll have all the links to all that in the show notes. And so go check them out. Thanks again. 

Cliff Van Rickley: Alright. Appreciate it.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:52:49    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 driveonpodcast.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at driveonpodcast. 

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