It’s a Process, Not a Destination
By Jim Kuiken
It’s certainly been a long time coming! And I will have to say it was a couple of specific events that helped me see that I was arriving at the train station!
I don’t want to dwell in the past, but many of you have seen the evolution over the last 3 or 4 years, in some of my articles like “Let's get real about Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury”, “Gaining Freedom - A Personal Journey in Surviving PTS and TBI”, “The Long Hard Road” and several others.
The progress was very gradual, almost unnoticeable – but it was steady thanks to several non-profit organizations, especially K9s for Warriors (who gave me Freedom to start back up the slope), Give an Hour (who worked through the tough walls to get me started on opening back up), Healing our Veterans (who helped me tremendously, with SPECT brain scans, hyperbaric oxygen treatments, etc…but then went out of business for lack of support and donors…), and finally, Headstrong Project (who gave me the tools – and used some innovative technology – to really start putting some of those demons back where they came from, and taking power away from those that remain…).
So…after years of struggling, I didn’t realize how far I’d come, until those specific events I mentioned came along.
I had started working out again (didn’t even realize it was because I was finally pulling my head out of my 4th point of contact – that’s for you old-time military jumpers – and was feeling much better). I had also started being more regular in my efforts to write, in my personal relationships, and several other areas.
And although I belong to several veteran, military, law enforcement, etc. organizations, I have never gone to reunions or fraternal get-togethers. I supported all the organizations, but was never really moved to participate in reunions.
So imagine how surprised I was when I saw the Marine Corps Force Recon Association 2019 Reunion, and got all excited about going and seeing (and meeting new) Force Recon brothers! I was eagerly anticipating that reunion for months! I just couldn’t get it out of my head!
I’ve written about Force Recon before, in a couple of articles, but let’s just say of all the things I did in the Marine Corps over 30 years…it was where I felt most at home – with guys who I felt were “my guys”, who had the same peculiar mindset I’d always had.
And I wanted to “go home”, feel a part of that unique brotherhood again. THAT’s when I first noticed that I was Getting the Mojo Back! Feeling like I used to – strong, focused, alive…happy…like before.
Finally the date arrived, and wouldn’t you know it, Hurricane Dorian was going to hit town the same time we were scheduled to be there in Camp Lejeune. I went anyway. I figured I wasn’t going to miss it, and my Force Recon brothers had to have the same feeling I did. Never give up, never back down, never quit. Period.
Imagine how disappointed I was when I got the message (I was already there, in my hotel room) that it had been cancelled! I was thunderstruck! These guys couldn’t have backed down! I was shocked and in total disbelief…
And then I got the emails. A bunch of the old (and some young), hard-core guys (and their wives) were already there! With a “hospitality room” already set up and going strong. Regardless of the base shutting down facilities, supporting units shutting down activities, etc., we were still going to get together and have fun – regardless. It was a great time, and I felt at home – again – with my fellow “Dorian Diehards”!
And then serendipity struck again. Right after I got back to Virginia, another friend reached out, and let me know he (Brick by Brick) was partnering up with Skydive Orange on the “Courage Project” to bring a bunch of combat wounded veterans out to jump out of a perfectly good airplane – solo (by themselves) or tandem (hooked to an instructor). I hadn’t jumped out of any planes for decades, and was thrilled at the opportunity! I’d seen a video of one of the Dorian Diehards (Cpl. Todd Love, the one holding the flag in the picture) when he got his civilian skydive certification (you really should watch that one), and that only made me more excited to go!
Of course, being a Force Recon Marine, I’d jumped quite a bit while I was in the military.
But this is civilian skydiving, and I’d have to go tandem…strapped to an instructor. Some of the guys asked me if I’d be willing to do that, and my response was that I could sit there on my macho ego and look down my nose at something so demeaning to an experienced military freefall qualified tough guy…or I could just hook myself to someone else and go have some fun!
I’ll let you guess which way I went… (Egos are so cumbersome to drag around)
Now I just have to go get my civilian skydiving license, and renew my SCUBA diving certification!!
Dual Fool (as we used to say)