Brad Noone is an Army veteran who has found healing through the outdoors. Brad has participated in outdoor trips and even volunteered with several veteran organizations to help lead expeditions.
Brad shares his experiences after getting back from Afghanistan and how the outdoors gave him a place to recover.
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Scott DeLuzio: 00:00 Hey everybody, this is the Drive On Podcast where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:14 Hey everyone, thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is Brad Noone who served with me in the Connecticut Army National Guard for a while. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and since getting out of the military, he's found an outlet that allows him to get in touch with nature, which I wanted to talk to him about. I think that's a path that not enough Vets take and it certainly seemed to work wonders with Brad. So Noone, buddy, I don't want to give away too much about what you have going on here, but why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and just introduce yourself.
Brad Noone: 00:56 Hear me?
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, go ahead.
Brad Noone: 00:59 Oh, sorry. My name is Brad Noone. Like Scott said, we served together in the Connecticut Army National Guard and I did two years active duty with the Guard and then six years on drilling status. We did a deployment to Afghanistan in 2006. I struggled a lot when I came home and I became fully involved in the outdoors, which I assume we'll probably delve into that here in just a second.
Scott DeLuzio: 01:27 Yeah, absolutely. So, if you don't mind touching on some of the things, some of the struggles that you went through and I don't know all the details necessarily but during your time in the military or even after getting out, what were some of those things that were difficult for you? I know you said when you got back home from Afghanistan, you had a tough time but what were some of those things, if you don't mind sharing some of that?
Brad Noone: Sure, absolutely.
Brad Noone: 01:56 When I was in Afghanistan, I experienced a number of traumas. Everything from having to take the life of enemy combatants to seeing charred and mutilated bodies, to seeing, and experiencing just what we call combat stress or anxiety. I lost sleep. I would go days without sleep and this was in a combat zone. This was in Afghanistan. I came home and I didn't have a coping mechanism, so I drank and I partied and that's what I did. I ended up living in my car; readjustment back into civilian life, even after I got my drinking under control is still one of the biggest hurdles that I have to overcome on a day-to-day basis. The way the military trains, it doesn't operate very well in civilian life with a military mentality. This is what I went on to experience. I have experienced homelessness on and off, some involuntary, some voluntary, for the past, I don't know, five or six years. I've been in and out of my truck and it's been a great experience but it's been very hard at the same time.
Scott DeLuzio: 03:13 Sure. So, let's talk about some of the, let's just call it the healthier, coping mechanisms that you've worked your way through and discovered about some of the outdoor adventures and how that has helped you now. What are some of the things that you do to get outside and how is that beneficial to you? Or how have you found that to be beneficial to your coping?
Brad Noone: 03:40 Sure. The outdoors, I tell people all the time, it acts as my church. It acts as my therapist that acts as my doctor and my gym. It serves as all of those things. It serves as a place to be completely quiet. I can just be alone with my thoughts, which scares a lot of folks and it definitely scares me, as a Vet, who's experienced actual combat. A lot of that stuff comes right on back when you get into a quiet place. But that's why it's so important to go out there and we have to address these things. The outdoors gave me a really healthy coping mechanism. Instead of drinking, I went for a hike, instead of staying out all night, smoking cigarettes and smoking weed or whatever folks choose to use or do to cope,
Brad Noone: 04:39 I took that and replaced it. It wasn't easy. It took months and years to do. As I built up a skill set in the outdoors and then it began. Once my skill set was established a bit more, I began volunteering and putting myself out there to other veterans, out to other veteran organizations that just by Osmosis and by being around them and those environments and those people, you pick up more and more skills. You expand your networks of people and a support structure while still having your outdoor experience, the fun that goes with it. And that's what a lot of people forget that the outdoors and these things are supposed to be fun. We're supposed to be out there and bringing in the mud and climbing on the rocks and rafting the rivers.
Scott DeLuzio: 05:35 And you think back to little kids playing outside. They're playing in a sandbox or playing in the mud. They're getting dirty out there. Every one of them has a smile on their face right out there. They're having fun. Like you said, it's supposed to be fun getting outside and even though you get a little dirty, it's not bad thing, necessarily
Brad Noone: There's a little bit of pride in getting dirty.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. When you're doing the grunt training though, it's not always smiles on your face because guys see you're getting dirty and yes, you're outdoors, but you're also humping a pack that's half your body weight or whatever and it sucks. But at the same time, you're outdoors.
Scott DeLuzio: 06:26 You're getting that fresh air, using the physical energy and mentally, I know for myself anyways, days that I exercise, I'm an early riser and I don't know if that was a thing that I took away from the military but I always just wake up early. I exercise first thing in the morning, right after getting up and the days that I exercise, I feel great for the whole rest of the day. I feel awake, alert, clearheaded and everything like that. Days that I don't exercise, I'm sluggish. I just don't feel on top of my game on those days. It’s actually a pretty amazing thing that I found that just getting outside and going for a run or something like that, getting that fresh air and get a little bit of physical energy. Some people might think, I'm going to run, I'm going to be so tired later on in the day. I'm 10 times more awake after doing something like that after exerting some physical energy. Which has been totally helpful for me. I'm sure you know with some of the stuff that you've been doing, it's probably something similar, as well.
Brad Noone: 07:42 Absolutely. I volunteer for a number of organizations now and most of them have physical activity as their primary core value. That on top of things that we bring from back from the military, like honesty and integrity. In the army, it was the seven core values. They are applicable; and a lot of people make fun of them, especially the stupid little dog tag that they give you that has all the seven army corps values and they want you to wear it and things like that. And everybody makes fun of it when you're in. But then when you get out and you start to grow up a little bit more and you go through those hardships of reintegration, you see that those core values actually are applicable.
Scott DeLuzio: 08:32 Ooh, absolutely. Even when you compare, take any company that has a veteran and a civilian who has never served doing the same job side by side, that veteran who's living those core values still, because it's just been ingrained in them, they're going to stand out far more even if their backgrounds, i.e., went to the same school and they got the same training and background and everything like that, but the veteran has military experience on top of it. They're going to just stand out that much more because they have the integrity and all the other core values and that's just going to make them stand out a bit more. You're right. We do mock it and make fun of it but in real life and real applications, it's a very useful thing to take away. If you take away nothing else from the military, like that's not a bad thing to take away.
Brad Noone: 09:34 Sure, absolutely. And those things, like you said, are ingrained in us. That ingraining of different, doctrines or mentalities is both part of the solution, part of why veterans, excel. But it's also why veterans struggle too, at least from my experience. I've also found that you can take seven core army values and you can apply them almost directly to the outdoors. Integrity. You have to let people know where you're going, what you're doing. If you're leading a trip, folks have to know what's going on. You have to be informed. And honest, you can't lie to them. Tell them it's easy and then they come up and you have 7,000 feet to climb vertically. They're not going to be happy with you. The same with personal courage, when you're out on a raft on a river and your adrenaline is going and you're scared. It takes personal courage to push through that and continue to paddle and continue to get down the river safely. All that safety, does rely on that. Safety of yourself and others relies on these core values.
Scott DeLuzio: 10:44 Yeah. Especially in a teamwork environment like rafting might be where we're at. You're not the only one who's steering the ship, if you will. You have to rely on other people and if you're going to cower away from the challenge or whatever and they're relying on you to do that and that's part of the deal, you all have to work together in that aspect, I would imagine. Something that you were talking about before, in terms of how people stand out and also how vets have trouble reintegrating back into the civilian world, I find through the people that I've talked to through this podcast and even other places that a lot of times veterans who are just trying to find a job or are working in the civilian world struggle a lot of times with the lack of communication, the lack of direction, and the lack of structure.
Scott DeLuzio: 11:52 Yeah. Structure. The one that I was looking for, the lack of structure that there is. A lot of times the civilian employers or managers don't realize that that’s the thing that's missing from this. And they may not even know how to structure their organization or the job and may not even know how to structure it so that veterans can succeed. But that's something I think is super important for the employers, for middle management or whatever levels that you're talking about.
Brad Noone: The decision-making levels.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. To recognize that that's one of those things that the veterans need to excel. Without that, they sometimes just feel lost and it sometimes might feel like they're getting hired just to follow orders and being like a yes man or yes woman.
Scott DeLuzio: 12:49 Because that's what we're trained to do. We're trained to follow orders and it's obviously not the only thing we're capable of doing.
Brad Noone: We’re trained to take initiative and to lead by example. Set that bar high instead of just meeting standards.
Scott DeLuzio: Yes, exactly. You said you work with other veteran organizations. What are some of those organizations, first off? Let's talk about what some of those are and what are some of the things that you guys do to get outside; what are some of the activities that you do and other things like that. Let's talk about that a little bit and let people know how to find you and all that stuff too. So that should they be interested in getting outdoors and learning more about that, we can point them in the right direction.
Brad Noone: 13:49 Oh, absolutely. I have volunteered for four or five, six different organizations over the past, I don't know, six or seven years. I'll start with the beginning and go chronologically. At the end of each one, I'll let you know which organizations I'm still with and which ones I'm not.
Scott DeLuzio: Sure.
Brad Noone: I initially started with Wounded Warrior Project as a participant. They had reached out to me; they had some shooting events and things like that and they reached out to me and said, “hey, do you want to go ice climbing in New Hampshire?” I go, “that's a long way away and I've never ice climbed before. They go, “it's open to everybody.” I go, “okay, why not? Yes, I'll go give it a try.” I had hesitations; it's a bunch of new people and in a place I've never been, doing things
Brad Noone: 14:35 I've never done. It wasn't just a veterans’ organization or veterans’ trip. There were about three different organizations there. I have worked with all three since. The first one that was there and the one I was dedicated to probably the longest was Veterans’ Expeditions. They can be found at veteransexpeditions.com. They primarily build community amongst veterans using outdoor sports. I'm no longer with Veterans’ Expeditions, as of last year. I took a step back to work on myself. But Veterans’ Expeditions is an outstanding organization. Their leadership, specifically their board is top notch. Their board and the field leaders are incredible. I have nothing bad to say about any of them. They are a 501c3 nonprofit and they are based out of Colorado but run trips nationwide. Now they're starting to run trips internationally.
Brad Noone: 15:45 I've been up a number of mountains in Colorado. My very first paddling experience on whitewater was with Veterans’ Expeditions. The big pointer for Veterans’ Expeditions is that community and the outdoor training where folks can come out and you learn. We run everything from basic snowshoeing and rock climbing and hiking trips to summits of the world's highest peaks. We've sent multiple teams up Denali, so the tallest peak in North America. We've had two teams from Veterans’ Expeditions go up in it; which is absolutely incredible to think of where some of these folks, five, six, eight, seven years ago, even a year ago to where there summitting a 20,000-foot mountain is unbelievable. And I've nothing but pride for my time served within Veterans’ Expeditions and the people that I've met there.
Scott DeLuzio: 16:48 I found, too that you talked about the community building that they do through that. And I found that one of the things that a lot of other veterans that I talk to find lacking is that sense of comradery in that community or family feeling that you might get with the guys that you deployed with or the people that you deploy with or the people who are in your unit. They get out into the civilian world and they lose that. And especially if they're not really close or they don't really have their own traditional family, they lose that. And so, something like Veterans’ Expeditions, where they build that community through those sports and everything, I think that's a great mission to have.
Brad Noone: 17:37 It absolutely is. And they stay non-political. Anybody who wants to come out and is qualified or in general okay physical health and that doesn't exclude anybody with disabilities that does not exclude folks who have missing arms or hands or folks who are paraplegic or quadriplegic. I've been up ice climbing with a paraplegic. He was paralyzed from the waist down and he had special gear and all sorts of stuff and he was fine. The executive director of Veterans’ Expeditions is missing half of his hand. He's out there. He's an avid mountain biker. He's an incredible outdoorsman. We're all about bringing everyone out as long as they're there to actually build the community and there to help each other and to learn new skills and are looking for self-improvement.
Brad Noone: 18:36 A lot of what turns some folks off of outdoor veteran’s trips are what we call professional trip takers. And they're just out there for free vacation and we don't get them a lot and this is across all of the organizations I volunteered for in the outdoors. But they are out there and it absolutely can take away from the trip and take away from the group dynamics. But if that is your biggest concern, that you're going to be having to deal with somebody who's not there to improve themselves or improve others, I think that's a pretty good place to be. If that's the worst that you're dealing with. If there's 15 people on the trip and one of them maybe isn't there for the best reasons; you just continue on and try to get all the good out of it.
Brad Noone: 19:39 But then after Veterans’ Expeditions or around the same time that I got involved with them, I was involved with Sierra Club's military outdoors. And a lot of people, if you're involved in the outdoor community or involved in politics, you hear the word Sierra Club and you think, “oh, no, crazy hippies, left-wing, protesting the government and chaining yourself to trees, things like that.” That's absolutely what the Sierra Club does or has done in the past. The military outdoors program is different. Yes, it does attract folks and the trips that we lead there are based around conservation and protecting lands but it's also reconnecting veterans back to our lands, back to the outdoors. I had typically run, for I think three or four years, I had a run a Navajo Sweat Lodge trip in conjunction with Friends of Cedar Mesa.
Brad Noone: 20:38 There are conservation organization down in southeast Utah in conjunction with the Navajo nation, in southern Utah, as well as Sierra Club and other partnering organizations like the BLM. The model for that trip I think is really unique and very important. We would start off by doing a service day. So, everybody would come out, we'd camp out the next morning, we would wake up and we would go out and we'd volunteer with Friends of Cedar Mesa doing conservation volunteer work, whatever they needed. Most of the time it was surveying archeological sites or transporting fence building material out to these sites or things along those lines like cataloging archaeological sites, you name it. We would volunteer with them and Friends of Cedar Mesa has really championed a lot of the conservation efforts in southern Utah, specifically around Bears Ears and the recent national monument there.
Brad Noone: 21:48 After that day of service, we would head out to the Navajo nation. Per capita, the Dena or Navajo people have the highest percentage of veterans in their population of any other demographic. You always hear Navajo code talkers and World War II and Vietnam. Now they pay back. They pay it back. They pay it forward to the rest of the veteran community outside of just the Navajo world. It's a very rare thing to be able to experience as a Navajo sweat lodge. They do what's called a warrior welcome home ceremony and I won't go too far into it. I suggest you check out that trip on Sierra Club Military Outdoors website. There at SierraClub\militaryoutdoors and you can find them.
Brad Noone: 22:50 The primary contact there is Rob Vessels. He's a 10th Mountain veteran. Both Veterans’ Expeditions and the Sierra Club Military Outdoors, are vet run and vet led 100%. Sierra Club has a lot of civilian folks working for them. But all of the leadership on the military outdoors side and the Veterans’ Expedition side and the outdoor leadership, are veterans, which is huge because veterans understand veterans. We know what it was like being in the military even if we serve different branches or jobs. But I'm sorry, I digress. I keep getting sidetracked here. Back to the sweat lodge trip. After we complete the Warrior Welcome Home Ceremony and are welcomed into the home and onto Navajo reservation in monument valley, we then go do a single night or two days/three days out in the back country.
Brad Noone: 23:46 We do a backpacking trip. It's nontechnical, canyoneering, it's like Steep Piking. We'd go out and we experience some of these archeological sites. We go out and we experience these canyons and these lands that are protected. The lands that we literally fought for and that's the big point that I try to make to folks is that we fought for something in the military. What was it a lot of folks say, I serve for school or I served for patriotism, I serve for whatever. But when you come back here, what's the tangible thing that you fought for? Was it your family? Was it your house? I know for me and a lot of the other veterans I've met in this outdoor and conservation community, we fought for the lands themselves.
Brad Noone: 24:32 I personally didn't fight for my government. I'm not stoked on the state of society and how people are treating each other right now. But one thing I will always love is our lands. Without them, my coping mechanism goes away, which is tough and that's one of the reasons why I do care so much and I have become so involved in conservation. Moving forward from there I got involved with a small nonprofit that used to be based out of Connecticut. We now have state chapters across the country. Not every state, but we're constantly growing. It's Operation Vet Fit. That's the organization where their true mantra is physical activity. As you mentioned before, Scott, you go out and you run and folks think that they're going to be tired afterwards and you may feel a little fatigue in your legs but your energy levels are through the roof, they call it the runner's high.
Brad Noone: 25:39 Right? That carries on throughout the day. At least I know it does for me but that organization started as a nonprofit, offering free gym membership and training to veterans. It's owned by a veteran and his family. He's a Marine Corps, Somali era veteran, mid 90’s and he absolutely kills it. His name is Dan Gayda and you can find Operation Vet Fit at operationvetfit.org. We do all sorts of stuff now, golfing tournaments, rafting weekends up in Massachusetts. My position there is Outdoor Program Coordinator and Liaison and our Colorado State Rep. If you have questions, please reach out to me on that organization or Dan Gayda and you can find all of the numbers, email address, things like that on the website. The last organization that I've really been seriously involved in is operation Vet Voice Foundation.
Brad Noone: 26:56 They're more of a conservation organization. They bill themselves as a nonpartisan conservation organization looking to protect lands and historical sites around the country. What Vet Voice Foundation does is that they find veterans that do care about these places or have a connection to specific places and they elevate their voice. Me personally, I was brought on by a good friend of mine, Garrett Reppinhagan. He used to be the Western States Director for Vet Voice Foundation. I made the connection to my service with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan and Camp Hale. If you don't know about Camp Hale, it is where the 10th Mountain Division started. It's just outside of Leadville, Colorado. There used to be 14,000 people stationed in this tiny little valley and that's where you hear about the ski mountaineers.
Brad Noone: 27:58 Our skiing troops and our winter mountaineering and the U.S. Army still uses both summer and winter mountaineering schools. I know the Marine Corps has their own. The great connection between 10th mountain or Camp Hale and a lot of the western states ski industry is that most or a lot of these big resorts, places like Vale, Aspen, Steamboat Springs were started by veterans from 10th Mountain Division who came home after World War II and were looking for coping mechanisms. They fell in love with the training that they were doing, the hiking, the skiing, the climbing, and they went back out to the mountains when they came home. The Appalachian Trail was first hiked all the way through by a World War II veteran looking to walk off the war. There's a great book by Doug Peacock called Walking Off The War. I highly suggest it. He's a special forces veteran in World War II and has incredible perspective on the outdoors and conservation and things along those lines.
Scott DeLuzio: 29:26 Great. So, I'll link to all of these organizations in the notes for the show with brief descriptions about what each of them is up to and things like that. And also, to that book that you were just referring to, as well. I think all of these organizations and I'm sure there's others that are out there but all of these organizations I think are really great and a really a great way for veterans to get outside and like you said, “walk off the war” to get outside, clear your mind, get that physical energy out and boost that mental energy. Get yourself into a better mental space and when you make a habit out of these things, when it's not just a one and done type of thing,
Scott DeLuzio: 30:21 I think it totally can transform your mental state of mind and really help things out. Now, obviously I would say before we started recording, I'm not a licensed therapist or counselor or anything like that. So, I can't say for sure, if you go outside and do X amount of exercise every day or hike or anything like that, that it's automatically going to fix you or whatever the issues are that you're going through. I can't say that. I don't think any of us,
Brad Noone: 30:56 Neither can l, I'm not a licensed therapist or anything. I'm a volunteer. I'm a veteran and I care.
Scott DeLuzio: 31:03 Sure. I think that's where a lot of us come from and the way I see it is, it's not going to hurt you to try and maybe this is a thing that out there and you're like, “wow, after a little bit, this, at first I thought it was going to suck because I haven't gotten off the couch for years and years but it's actually not so bad. So, it's actually making me feel good and I'm enjoying that fresh air and enjoying getting outside and everything and getting a little bit of sunshine on my face and everything. So, this is great stuff. Great Information. And I'll bet, like I said, I'll link to all of this in the notes for the show.
Brad Noone: 31:46 Please link my personal contact information there. Anybody who feels like they could use some of these organizations or wants to learn more about them can reach out on my end as well.
Scott DeLuzio: 31:58 Yeah, absolutely. And I'm sure all of these organizations have ways to get in touch on their websites as well. So, your inbox isn't getting bombarded with all that stuff either.
Brad Noone: 32:14 I just wanted to say that, I said at the end I would say which organizations I'm with and which I'm not. I'm no longer with Sierra Club Military Outdoors or Veterans’ Expeditions. I am still with Operation Vet Fit and I am still volunteering with Vet Voice Foundation.
Scott DeLuzio: 32:31 Cool. Okay. So that's good to know that if they reach out about those other two, it's not necessarily you that's going to be the person that they're interacting with but they potentially could be interacting with the others, Operation Vet Fit and Vet Voice Foundation, which is good to know. What advice would you give to a veteran who might be struggling with some issues, maybe similar combat related issues to what you are going through. Maybe it's PTSD or whatever you might want to call it. Maybe they don't realize how powerful it can be to get outside. What would you say to them as far as like first steps? What would you say would be the thing for them to do to get off the couch and get outside? What would that first step look like to somebody?
Brad Noone: 33:31 Sure. You can tackle it a number of different ways. I'll just run down how I discovered it. I had been looking for something. I was looking for something other than alcohol, other than partying, other than the bar scene, other than Karaoke to go out every day to a place to put this energy and this mentality in these thoughts. Well, I needed a way to process them. So, I just reached out to random veterans’ organizations. This was 2007, I think, or 2008 Wounded Warrior Project was the biggest one out there. I had started heading out with them. It wasn't too much outdoor stuff. I knew I enjoyed shooting. So, they had a trap and skeet shooting event that I went to and that was incredible and I had a blast. But it was just a one and done.
Brad Noone: 34:38 It didn't have that community; they were a very big organization that took in a lot of money and had a lot of civilians and a lot of veterans and it just seemed all over the place. It just seemed like people would pop out of the blue and say, “hey, you want to go on this?” “Okay, when can I expect the next one?” “We don't know. We'll reach out.” So, it was like, “okay, what else can we do?” So, I just started going hiking on my own. I looked for what were the tallest peaks in the state surrounding me. I started to see if I could go climb them. It started off really easy. I went up for a half mile hike and I was tired.
Brad Noone: 35:22 I was exhausted after that because I wasn't in shape. I had an ankle injury and I had the brain injury and I was sitting on the couch. Something that I've discovered and then a lot of folks have shared the sentiment with me both in the veteran outdoor community and civilian outdoor community is that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. When we think of Newton's laws and the picture books or textbooks where a rock is rolling and it's not going to stop rolling unless something else stops it. That same mantra applies to the human body, both our mind and our emotions and our physical being. If you just sit there and you don't work on it, it's going to stay down, low and depressed
Brad Noone: 36:09 and inactive. There's some really good political art or cartoons that are on the Internet right now of folks sitting there with a remote in their hand and growing out of their butt into the couch or roots like a tree. It's just the opposite as well. If you're out there, even if it's a half mile a day, even if you go for a two-mile hike or two-mile run twice a week, something, just to get you moving like you had stated earlier, Scott, once that becomes habit, it's much easier. You feel way better. Your energy goes, your mentality, you have a coping mechanism or a way to process it like the things that are going on in your head and your emotions.
Brad Noone: 37:03 It's not a cure all. It's not an end all be all, the outdoors isn't. I don't think anything is. I think that the outdoors is just that, it's a coping mechanism and a healthy one at that. It does give you a skillset. There are team sports like rafting. There are individual sports like, free solo rock climbing or skiing. I don't suggest anybody go out into the outdoors on their own, at least to start. Always let somebody know where you're going, things like that. But go outside. Don't be afraid that you're going to get eaten by a bear. Don't be afraid that you're going to get caught in a thunderstorm or hailstorm. It actually brings up a really good experience that I had and it was, I think my second year as a river guide, as a raft guide out here in Colorado.
Brad Noone: 38:07 It was going to rain. We said, “screw it. We're going anyway.” So, we went up to this really fun Class 4 run, that we call the Numbers on the Arkansas River, just outside of Buena Vista, Colorado and right as we launch from the shore, the skies open up with thunder and lightning, raining, sleet. It was like snowing and sleet. It was thunder. It was fire and brimstone big thunderstorm, which aren't super common here out in the high desert mountains of Colorado. But it was one of the best experiences on the river I've ever had. We're hitting these huge waves and these huge holes in the river and we're just getting soaked with freezing cold water and there's lightning and thunder all around you. It felt like I was in a movie. It was just so much fun and it made me feel as cool and as Badass as I did when I was doing the cool stuff in the military.
Brad Noone: 39:09 That's a part of the outdoors that a lot of other things can't give you, it’s that adrenaline? That rush. Every single time I put on the river, I have a little bit of apprehension in my stomach, a little knot, it's like when, and this is more geared towards combat folks or folks who are outside the wire, it's every time you get geared up and you're starting to roll outside that wire, out into the combat zone, it's, “hey, this is real.” There is inherent danger in this but we know what we're doing and the outdoors is just like that. You take courses and you learn from people who have been there and done it. It's a standard progression, the crawl, walk, run progression. Start off slow and baby steps. And then before you know it, give yourself a couple months, especially if you're really dedicated into it, you'll be advancing quicker than you ever thought and it doesn't matter.
Brad Noone: 40:13 Well, I just said it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter the sport or the discipline that you choose.
Scott DeLuzio: 40:20 Yeah, absolutely. And I was actually going to say something along those lines. I know when I first got into running, when I got out here, I hadn't really gotten off the couch for a few years after getting out of the military. It probably was three, four years or so. I didn't really exercise; I didn't work out. I didn't get outside very often outside of doing yard work and stuff like that. I just didn't for whatever reason. And the first day I decided to go out for a run, I went about a half mile and I felt like I was about to puke because it was just so out of shape and I was in such bad shape or whatever. And I just walked back home the half mile; I went out a half mile and I just walked back there a half and I was just like this was so miserable.
Scott DeLuzio: 41:15 But I forced myself to just keep at it because I knew I was in shape. I wouldn’t say like I was in the military, I was in pretty decent shape back then. I knew that I could get back to that spot, maybe not quite as great of shape but I knew I could go for a run and not feel winded or not feel like I was going to puke because I knew I could get back to that. And so, I just kept at it and kept going and going and going. And I actually worked out a schedule with my wife because we have three young kids. And so, I go running one day and she goes running the next day and we just switch off every day, every other day.
Scott DeLuzio: 41:56 And so three to four times a week I'd go out to run and it just feels great, going out and getting that exercise now. Over time, I'm able to build more miles. I've done half marathons and things like that now and that's a long way from feeling like you're going to puke after a half mile to being able to do over 13 miles in a half mile marathon. So, it's hard at first, but it gets easier like what you're saying and it doesn't matter what you're doing, whether it's a walk around your neighborhood or going for a hike up in the mountains. Go rafting or climbing or whatever it is, get outside and that is really going to help transform the energy that you have.
Brad Noone: Yeah, I fully agree.
Brad Noone: 42:52 Going back to how I got into the outdoors, I did have a major ankle injury while I was in the military and Scott, I'm sure you remember, at that time I was pretty well laid up even while I was in the national guard. And then I got my surgery on my ankle and I got out and they're like, “hey, you might not walk again. Sorry, they didn't say, he might not walk again. They said, “you might not walk without a limb ever again.” They said, “you probably won't run, you're definitely not going to climb mountains and things like that. And I go, “Oh yeah?” A year later I ran a half marathon. One year later I ran a half marathon but I had the same experience. I went out and I was like, “you know what”, they tell me I'm not going to run again.
Brad Noone: 43:38 I'm not going to do these things. I'm going to pick a goal. And I did. And I think that's really important, as well for any coping mechanisms, specifically the outdoors. I think for me it was easy with the outdoors or running. I signed up for a couple of road races. I signed up for a 5K and then I signed up for another 5K and then signed up for my half marathon. That kept me committed because I was already paid. I committed to this and I had found a running partner. I'd found somebody that was willing to run with me and helped me out, especially at the beginning when I was not doing too hot. I'm coming back from an injury and a bit of laziness and depression attached to military service.
Brad Noone: 44:25 The outdoors is really easy to pick a goal. At least for me, it was. You see all these incredible photos on the Internet. There your backgrounds for your phones, for your computers, for pictures on your wall. Say it's the Grand Tetons or it's the Great Smokey Mountains or the Appalachian Trail or it's the Matter Horn in Europe or Denali or Everest or whatever. You can pick that and then you ask yourself what are the skills that I need to get to that level? And then you're okay, right. And then you break it down from there. Growing up, I was a big hiker. My father always took us on a small local section of the Appalachian Trail that ran through Connecticut, back in Kent, Connecticut.
Brad Noone: 45:14 So, hiking and backpacking was my bread and butter. Let me start there. I want to go climb some mountains and I picked the mountain. I want to go climb this 14,000-foot peak. And it's actually in the same town that I live in right now out here in Colorado, central Colorado. It's Mount Princeton. And that was my first 14,000-foot peak. And I did that. I'm using that same progression. I started off hiking small things, go up to a local waterfall or go up to a Connecticut peak that was a lot smaller as a 1,000-foot gain instead of 5,000 feet gain. And it's those baby steps. But it's easy to get discouraged. It's really easy to get discouraged, especially when you're looking at that stupid mountain all damn day and it never gets any closer but then you’re finally at the top and you're like, WOW, that really wasn't too bad.
Brad Noone: 46:07 Yeah, it was a long, hard day of hiking and climbing and weather and things like that. But when you get up there, that's what it's all about. That hard work, that reward and then you come down and you're just riding that high all the way back down to the trail head. There's a huge sense of accomplishment and it's addicting. It's very addicting. I accomplished this one. Okay, let me pick one a little bit higher or one that has a little bit rougher trail or requires ropes to get up and around and that's your progression. You build that confidence with each peak you go up, with each river you raft, with each new section, with each road race or each distance or time record you break of your own or somebody else's.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:00 Right? Absolutely. Well this has been great information. All the stuff about getting outside and
Scott DeLuzio: 47:11 all the physical activities and everything that you're talking about. I think it's really great and I think it's important information to get out to other vets who might be having trouble trying to figure out what they are supposed to do. What's next and all that stuff. So, I wanted to thank you for sharing your story and sharing these other organizations and how vets can start getting outdoors. I did have one other question for you. I preface it with, it can be answered both seriously or with a joke or a combination of the two, whichever you prefer. But the question is, “is there anything that you wish someone would've told you before you joined the military?” We've already had someone say that the recruiters lie. So, I think that's common knowledge.
Brad Noone: 48:08 Yeah, recruiters lie. I don't trust the government, you know? It's hard and things like that. Honestly.
Scott DeLuzio: 48:14 Military grade isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be
Brad Noone: 48:18 Military Spec. No, the piece of advice that I wish somebody had given me was to find that thing that matters to you most in life and give your heart to it, even if that is a military career. For me it wasn't a military career. I did eight years and two of them active and six guard and it wasn't for me, it wasn't my passion. I was good at it. Sure. Just like you were Scott, I don't know if it was your passion or not but I'm unsure. Find that passion to follow. Really follow your heart, as Cliché as it does sound, because after the military, you still have to live with yourself and that's what really matters. Military is a small part or can be a large part of people's lives, but it's not everything.
Scott DeLuzio: 49:20 No, it's not. And there's definitely a much bigger picture to that. And if your only identity is the military, that might not necessarily be the right thing for you. Especially if that's not the thing that matters to you the most. If it's family or whatever, there's other things out there. So,
Brad Noone: 49:43 and it's easy to fall back on that mentality or to fall back on what the military trains you to do because it's what we know best. There's a reason that the US excels in the militarily it’s because we're trained very well. Get outside of your comfort zone. I had to get outside of mine and I still live outside of it and it's still a challenge every day to do that, but it's worth it. It's worth it 100% every day, every time.
Scott DeLuzio: 50:16 Absolutely. Well, thank you again for sharing your story and I will link to all of this stuff in the show notes and let people know where to find some of these organizations and how they can get outdoors and get involved with these types of things.
Brad Noone: Every single one of these organizations is always looking for motivated and honest and qualified volunteers. So please check them out, check them out and get out with us.
Scott DeLuzio: 50:48 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 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at DriveOnPodcast.