EP 43 Veterans Issues and Resources
EM Weekly starting right now.
[TODD DEVOE] Hi, and welcome to EM Weekly. This is your host, Todd DeVoe with you. And well, I guess the New Year’s dream of not having any major disasters that kind of crossed the United States and the world has really quickly failed on that one. The winter storms hit hard, rivers are freezing over, the ocean is coming into Massachusetts and freezing cars into the ground. It’s amazing, the weather events that we’re having here.
Today, I was listening to a different podcast, it’s actually an NPR. And they were following global warming issues, and the weather patterns, and these things, and how they’re affecting us. And whether you believe that global warming is man-made or it’s not, or it’s cyclical, or whatever, those issues that are going in that; whatever the political side of it is, we gotta agree that there’s something going on here and that we have to plan for it.
I’m looking to bring in a weather expert, specifically, to talk about global warming, or weather pattern changes, climate change, whatever you want to call it. I’m not trying to be political here, I’m just talking factual aspects of the fact that we have areas that are really being impacted by storms, whether it’s cyclical or not. The fact of the matter is that, as emergency managers, we have to take that into consideration. So, if you have any comments or anything, please go to EM Weekly, pop in there, and tell me how you feel, and let’s discuss it. Let’s not avoid this conversation about the way it’s looking right now as far as weather and how it’s impacting us, as emergency managers.
Whether it’s droughts in California, with the wildfires going on, or whether it’s, you know, are we at a drought? We’re not sure. We’re talking about California being back in a drought. The weather patterns that are hitting Houston, there is no (inaudible) floods there, some of the issues that are associated with that. And also, the concepts of, are we, as emergency managers, doing the right thing? Are we being involved in the planning of cities, where they’re building more buildings in hazard zones, and how does that impact us as emergency managers and how we respond to disasters, and how we respond to events, that type of thing?
I was just thinking, realistically, we talk about the fact that if you had an earthquake and there weren’t any buildings, is it truly a disaster, or just a geological event? Right? So, if a 7.0 earthquake that happens in the middle of the desert and nothing occurs, or damage occurs to any buildings, it’s really just a geological event. So, when we’re building buildings in areas where, historically, have burned or flooded, are we creating or allowing the creation of disasters and emergencies to occur? So, chew on that for a little bit and again, just let me know how you feel in the comments below, as far as that goes.
Also, I’d love to have you guys come and be part of the EM Weekly community on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, Instagram as well. We’re sharing a lot of good information there, and also, pushing on new stories from around the globe through those mediums as well. So, it’s not just about what we’re talking here on EM Weekly, we’re also sharing other ideas and stories that are happening around the world. So, if you want to stay informed, I’d love to have you join those groups as well.
This week is a unique episode, we’re actually doing three separate interviews, and it’s around the theme of veteran services. And why is that an emergency management issue? It’s debatable, right? So, you have the increase in homeless veteran population around the country, you have the 22 every day, where veterans are killing themselves. And you have other services such as schools and job placement, and things like this, that aren’t being necessarily utilized by veterans, and that we need to get our veterans to begin to really employ, to be productive citizens once they get out, in the transition.
So, what I have here today, is we’re speaking to High Caliber Community, which is an app for veterans. Even if you’re not a veteran, and you have people that are veterans, or that you’re working on the field with them, this is an app that you can turn them on to, where they can find other veterans in the area and services that they can use.
The second group we’re speaking to is called Warrior Built. And Warrior Built is a non-profit organization that is doing recreational therapy right here, in Southern California, and they’re growing, so they’re starting another one in (inaudible) to be Warrior Built East. So they’re working on that right now, that’s their goal, to have another Warrior Built East by the end of this year, I believe. And then again, that’s another organization that you can put veterans in place with. And one of the things that they’re really doing a lot of work with as well is the PTSD portion of it, they’re working with the PTSD foundation.
So, another resource that you can turn people on to during a crisis, are those two organizations. The third one that we’re interviewing today is called Clever Talks, and this is a unique aspect, where they are bringing guests to speak to veterans about business and leadership, and just everyday programs for veterans. It’s almost like the TED Talks, if you will, right? This is called Clever Talks, based on San Diego.
I had the opportunity to go to one of their shows, it was amazing. They get CEOs, thought leaders from around the country. You know, Mark Cuban was part of their program. They don’t pay their CEOs and stuff; these guys are taking their time to come and speak at the Clever Talk. There is a fee to go into Clever Talks, there’s really cool stuff there. They had booths from other organizations, from all over the country, regarding education, jobs, service organizations that are based on veterans. So, it was a really good experience to be down there and see it firsthand, how that worked. So, those are the areas that we’re speaking into today. And I want, as emergency managers, we need to think outside that (inaudible) box, if you will. Because there are more things that are being put on our plates as our profession grows, you know? We think about what they’re doing, and Seattle using their emergency manager to work with the homeless. And so, this is the type of stuff that we need to think about if we’re gonna be doing those other programs, how can we get services for people.
So, I hope you enjoy the interviews, and we look forward to seeing you guys out there on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, and LinkedIn. And anyway, enjoy.
[TODD DEVOE] I have Alyssa Quinn with me. She is the founder of High Caliber Community, which is a vet app. For lack of a better term it’s… I don’t know, it’s gonna sound silly, Alyssa, but the way I can explain it, it’s like a dating app, but you’re not trying to date anybody, you’re just trying to find friends.
[ALYSSA QUINN] Yeah, yeah.
[TODD DEVOE] So, Alyssa, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in the veteran space – obviously, as a veteran – but how you got involved in the veteran space and what you’re trying to do with the High Caliber Community.
[ALYSSA QUINN] I had joined the National Guard as a medic about nine years ago now, and when I joined as a medic, after training, I came back home to my unit and geared up to deploy with that unit. And I was injured, (inaudible), I had my lower back injured pretty badly. And I think that’s important to tell, just because I am the only one on our founding team who is not a combat vet, but that has not deterred me from doing this, and I think it’s important to remember that, you know, we all serve in different ways, in different capacities.
But anyway, so I came back and I was injured and had to fight to stand the guard, and you know, I won that fight and I was able to prove that I could still do my tasks and duties. But I knew I wanted to be in the uniform more often, and I loved it. So, I ended up searching across the nation for different full-time National Guard jobs, and I found a weapons of mass destruction response team in California, which was all full-time guard. I applied for different positions on those teams, and I think it was probably the third or fourth time I applied that they flew me out, interviewed me, and then ended up hiring me. So, I was on the Civil Support Team, it’s what they referred to, in the first responder community in Northern California. And I was out there for about four years.
Towards the end of that time that I was out there… I mean, you live in California, you know, sometimes people are… they’re not as friendly in California. And it depends on where you’re at, of course. But where I was, just out of Oakland, you know, in the East Bay, it’s hard to go out and meet people. It’s really hard. It’s not like anywhere else in the country I’ve been. So, I was actually, towards the end of my time there, I voluntarily resigned. After about four years, I was ready for a new challenge in life, so I had resigned, I was training my replacement and getting ready to come back to Iowa, but I was still missing social connections. So I was actually using dating apps, at the time, to find people to hang out with. You know, I want to go hang out at a bar and drink some beer.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ALYSSA QUINN] And, as I was using these dating apps – first of all, you know, a dating app is a horrible way to find a friend. And at the time there weren’t any dating apps for… you know, just social interactions, other than, you know, maybe Facebook. But Facebook didn’t really link you with people in your community. So, I was using dating apps, and Tinder was one of the main ones. And I found, when I was going through Tinder, people I would meet who did not have a military background, it was very difficult for me to just go out casually with them, because the question would always come up, “What do you do?” And I would say, “Well, you know, I’m an Army National Guard. I’m a full-time National Guard soldier.” You know, you ought to be careful about what you say, “I’m on the first response team.” Cause you don’t want people to misunderstand, or freak out, and oh my gosh, there were always just crazy questions from people, because they didn’t understand. And after telling that story so many times, I finally decided, you know what? If
I’m going to use Tinder, I’m going to be looking for people who have a military background. And I’m not kidding you, it was one in every 100 on there, who either said they were a vet, or had an old photo of them in a uniform. And anytime I would see one of those guys or gals in uniform, I would like, yes! I hit gold! Finally, I got someone who is like me! And this was all in California, it all happened when I was living in California. And it was on Veterans’ Day 2016, I had matched with a former marine on Tinder, and I told him the whole (inaudible), I said, “Hey, I’m just looking for buddies to hang out with, and you’re a military guy, so you get it. You want to meet up on Vets’ Day and have a beer?” So, while we were sitting there at the bar that night, he starts telling me about his time at the marines and his deployment, how he missed his buddies. And I thought, “Man.” It was like a light bulb, it just went, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Tinder did something like this for vets?”
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ALYSSA QUINN] But not for dating. Yeah, yeah, not for dating, not for anything, you know, because first of all, the ratio is not good. And second of all, I don’t want to deal with (inaudible), and that’s not what I was looking for. I wasn’t looking for a date, I was just looking for buddies like me! And that’s how it really started, it was just this idea of, “Why isn’t there something that’s exclusive for vets that helps them connect with other people in their communities, who have similar interests and a similar military background, of course?” So, it started with this very premature thought, and then it grew to a whole bunch of other things, and then scaled back down to what we’re launching now, which is an app that is exclusive to military vets, current service members, retirees, whatever category you’re in, as long as you, at one point, have signed a document, you have worn a uniform, you can be verified by our partner (inaudible). And once you get into the profile, select your hobbies, enable your location, and you can connect with people nearby.
[TODD DEVOE] So, you decided: “Ok, I need to find a way to find friends. This Tinder thing is kind of a cool idea, it doesn’t really work for what I’m trying to do,” so you come up with this app. So, how did you develop the app? What was that process like?
[ALYSSA QUINN] Well, we had to get investment, because technology is expensive, and I’d be the first to tell people, a lot of times people say, “Why didn’t you do a non-profit? Maybe you could have raised money through donations.” And that was my first thought, back in… it was probably last December, was the first developer I had talked to. I said, “I got this idea for this app, this is what I want to do, I want to do it non-profit.” And thankfully, that person I spoke with was very honest with me, and he said, “If you want to do this as a non-profit, good luck.” Because when you develop an app, like I said, it takes a lot of money, it takes a lot of consistency, it takes a lot of action to get this thing going. You know, you don’t want it to just kind of function, you want it to function well. So, he had said, you know, if you want it to be non-profit, you’re not going to get the funding you need. You might, but it’s going to be a lot harder. You know, we worked on structure in the company, and we worked on doing all the steps you take, you know? These little things, like filing the IN, filing the patent, working on customer discovery, all these things that go into starting a business. And I had a hard time with the idea of asking people for money, cause I’d never done that in my life. But finally, one of my mentors told me, he said, “Oh, so you’re not asking people for money, you are giving them an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than them, that helps America’s veterans. And who doesn’t want to be part of that?”
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ALYSSA QUINN] So, when he explained it to me that way, that really sunk in, I went, “Holy cow, you’re right!” Because hopefully, we get these investors that come in and we make something that’s really great and it ends up being this wonderful product for our veterans, and our investors get the money back! You know? Hopefully, it all works out well, but that was how we’ve been able to fund it so far. And yeah, our development team is really great, they gave us a grant as well. So funding has… I mean, we haven’t raised a whole lot, but enough to at least get the first version developed.
[TODD DEVOE] Now that you’re going forward, how are you reaching out to veterans? And that’s a two-part question here. And the second thing is, how do you think you’re going to be able to use this app to be able to help veterans kind of, I guess, transition back into the civilian life and/or into some sort of normalcy?
[ALYSSA QUINN] So, the way we’re reaching out to vets in the community now is really by word of mouth and social media. I mean, just in the past week or two, I’ve gotten phone calls from vets, and literally, more than 1,500 miles away from each other, people who don’t have any relation with one another, you know, from different parts of the country, who are hearing about this by word of mouth, which is amazing. And that’s how I want this to really grow, organically. Because people who share word of mouth, they really believe in it, but that’s the hope. But other than that, we’re using, you know, social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, you know, newsletters to our website, keeping people up to date on our progress.
You know, pretty standard stuff. But yeah, word of mouth is ideal. And then, for the transition, how this is really gearing to help vets, we did a survey a few months ago, and we asked specifically, you know, how would you rate your transition? And what’s the number one thing you would say it’s most difficult, or what’s most difficult about your transition? And this, again, went back into how we selected how this app would launch, what we would release first, I guess. But the number one response for transition difficulty was finding connections. That was repeatedly the number one thing. And then the number two thing was finding stable employment. So, we looked at our plans, and we said, “Ok, when we launch this app, we want to make sure we’re helping provide the connection. So, that way, when you get out of the military and you go back home, and I’m from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. So, say I’m at the duty, I come back home to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I can’t… I’m just not relating as well with my friends and family. Or, like a lot of people do, they come back and there’s not as much structure, and they’re just kind of aggressive and confused.
You know, it’s just not the same, and you want to be around people who are like you. So, that’s the first step. Let’s connect people with people who understand. Someone that’s your brother or sister, who lives in your community and who gets it. That’s the first thing. The next thing we want to do is to match vets with resources in their communities. Whether it’s, you know, something that’s online, or something that’s within their city. Things like… a good example, and I always think of, Hire Heroes USA; which is a non-profit that helps the vets build their resumes, and does interview coaching, and all these things. Well, a lot of people just don’t know about these organizations! So, if we’ve got a platform that’s, you know, a social connection tool for vets, then we get enough people in there, and then we can include things like resources near them, even down to connecting people with their local veteran services officer. Things like that, that’s the route we want to go with this.
[TODD DEVOE] Have you reached out to any of like, the established veterans organizations? Reached out to them, to like, Warrior Built, or Team Rubicon, or Red, White, And Blue. Those organizations that are doing some of this stuff? And are they going to be partnering with you on this app, or working with you on that?
[ALYSSA QUINN] Ideally, what we can do, is partner together with these organizations, and we would both (inaudible) each other’s platforms as a resource. So, I think it’s incredibly important. All these organizations, we all are working for very similar things, you know. It’s to empower and uplift them, you know, and make sure that veterans come back and become contributing members of society. And that these 22 a day number goes down significantly. We’re all working towards these common goals, and I don’t believe this kind of fight can be won alone. Honestly, if this fight could be won alone, the (inaudible) would have won, you know?
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[ALYSSA QUINN] One single place, one single app, one single non-profit organization. It’s not working, just one. We have to work together on this. So yeah, absolutely, I want to partner with these guys. And we’ve reached out to a few. I think a lot of the problem, you know, one of the challenges, I guess, that we have in this is kind of like… the best way to describe it is like, a pre-teen teenager, when they’re not a child, but they’re not quite yet a teenager or an adult. That’s kind of the phase that we’re in right now. You know, we’ve got the foundation, we’re building it, we’re beta testing the app. But yeah, we’ve reached out to a few, and they’re busy, just like we are. And like I said, right now we’re kind of in that awkward stage, where people probably aren’t so sure, you know, what we are or what we’re doing. So, once we get out in the market, hopefully, that mind shift will happen.
[TODD DEVOE] So, this organization called 1OC, and it’s a one-stop center for people who are looking for… well, number one, if you’re non-profit, you can go there and you can get information about starting a non-profit in Orange County. If you’re a person who is looking for volunteer opportunities, you can go to the 1OC and they will hook you up with your skill set to a non-profit.
[ALYSSA QUINN] That’s perfect.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah.
[ALYSSA QUINN] That’s perfect. Yeah, that’s really cool.
[TODD DEVOE] And I sort of see you guys doing that.
[ALYSSA QUINN] When people come into the app, the High Caliber Community, or HC2, for short. HC2 it’s a lot easier to say. When they come into the app, they put a little bit about their military background, and then it’s almost like a game, where you select your hobbies and interests, and one of the hobbies that you can select is volunteering. So, I mean, wouldn’t it be neat if, down the road, we spot a community in the High Caliber App builds up in Orange County, we can identify who, in that area, is interested in volunteering, and then direct message all those people. Or, you know, put out in the group form in Orange County, say, “Hey, here is this organization that helps connect you with volunteer opportunities.”
[TODD DEVOE] So, Alyssa, if somebody wanted to get a hold of you, or a hold of the app, or at least the website, how could we find you?
[ALYSSA QUINN] Our website is highcalibercommunity.com. They can go there. We also have Facebook and Instagram, @highcalibercommunity. And Twitter is HighCalCom. And of course, any of the founders can be reached, you know, through the contact form on the website or through direct messaging on Facebook. We all monitor it, we all take turns answering questions, so.
[TODD DEVOE] Ok. And here is the toughest question of the day. So, what book would you recommend to somebody who is just starting to get into this area?
[ALYSSA QUINN] I have a little bit of a backstory with my book.
[TODD DEVOE] Ok.
[ALYSSA QUINN] The book I would recommend, I’m sure other people said it on your podcast before. But the book I would recommend is Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell. And the reason for that is there was this guy that I was just… I mean, he was wonderful, and he impacted my life in a lot of ways. He’s not alive anymore, but he had written me a letter one time about this book he read. And he said in the letter that he read in about the 10,000 hours. And this was a few years ago, but in the letter, he said, I read about this 10,000 hours, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about you. And I know, as soon as you find your thing, you’re going to find your 10,000 hours, and you’re going to make it great. And I’m paraphrasing the letter, but it was something very similar to that. I went back and I read that book after he passed away, and I read that piece about the 10,000 hours, and I thought, “Wow, this is amazing.” And I remember one day, oh gosh, maybe back in February, when I started working on this project, and I realized, this is big. This is not a small hobby, this is a lifestyle change, you know?
This is a big project, and I have to be fully committed. And I started to doubt it. I was like, “Man, do I really want to do this?” And then, all of a sudden, I kid you not, his face just lit up the sky, and I just heard it, “10,000 hours”. Just over and over, his smile and 10,000 hours, 10,000 hours. This is it, do it. So, that book, I would encourage anybody to read. Even if you don’t have your idea yet, or something you’re really passionate about working on, to read that and to realize that, first of all, there are no overnight successes. And things will be hard. But if you’re willing to dedicate your life and at least 10,000 hours to this thing that matters most, you will accomplish great things.
[TODD DEVOE] Wow. That’s very powerful right there. That’s been the best recommendation we’ve had so far, and that’s great.
[ALYSSA QUINN] Oh, good.
[TODD DEVOE] So, I just want to say, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day…
[ALYSSA QUINN] Thank you.
[TODD DEVOE] …to talk to us here at EM Weekly. I just want to let everybody know that I’m passionate about this app, I’m actually one of the beta testers, and the website is really put well together. I think this is something that’s going to be a game changer for lots of people, and it’s going to impact veterans’ lives in a positive way, so. Alright, it’s been a pleasure having you in the show.
[ALYSSA QUINN] Thank you so much, Todd.
[TODD DEVOE] We’ll be back right after this short break.
[TODD DEVOE] Welcome back from that short break, and let’s continue on. Hey guys, I’m here with former Navy Chief, Aaron Seibert. He is a combat wounded veteran. He’s part of a non-profit organization called Warrior Built and he works with the PTSD Foundation. So, Aaron, welcome to EM Weekly.
[AARON SEIBERT] Thanks, Todd. Good to be here.
[TODD DEVOE] Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with what you’re doing, and what kind of projects you guys are working on.
[AARON SEIBERT] All right, well, I’m Aaron Seibert. Again, Todd had mentioned, I’m a retired navy chief. Luckily, I made it there 2006, I would say, (inaudible) my third time over to Iraq, as part of the military Iraqi transition team, (inaudible) Iraqis should take over their country. So, I was part of a 10-man team. In April 2006, I was hit with over 100 pieces of shrapnel, and my last (inaudible), basically, I’m alive number two. Lucky to be alive, though, I ended up being the command chief of
Wounded Warrior Battalion West, which is owned by the Marine Corp. It’s Wounded Warrior Battalion West and East are really designed to take on the injuries of combat, to ill, and guys who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, to just accidents in general. And in doing that, I basically was taking care of veterans, taking care of our military. Taking care of guys that are there, combat wounded. I, myself, was there going through a lot of processes of my own, dealing with my own stuff. I retired in 2011, and I said, “Hey, I still want to be part of something.” I still am part of Wounded Warrior Battalion West, getting down there on Wednesdays and running a PTSD group there with the combat vets. And then, I train in an underwater treadmill to help my physical injuries, to all these other things that I kind of brought me to Warrior Built. Nick Hamm, the president of Warrior Built, really wanted to specify, “Hey, I want something for combat vets, where they can come together and have like-minded situations and environments where they can share and thrive.”
This was a vocational-recreational therapy piece. We have a motorcycle race team, that goes down and races (inaudible). Inside our facility, we have a music room, where guys can come in and jam out, and just have some other aspects of releasing some of the tension that might build up in combat. We have a gym downstairs, that allows the guys to come in if they want, and utilize that. And then we have a lounge where, you know, warrior groups are in through the PTSD Foundation of America, of which I’m part of that as well. And we run groups out of there on Tuesday nights. And a lot of things happen at night. During the day, the guys can come in, but you know, guys work, and we also want to have the environment for them to be able to do so. Wednesday nights is photography night, and guys come in for that. And Thursday nights, our softball team gets together, that we just started probably about four months ago. And it’s taking (audio cuts off). That’s a suggestion from one of the combat vets that come in here, they’re like, “Hey, can I learn how to weld?” “Yes.” “Can I start a softball team?” “Yes.” So it happens.
Then the guys start to develop relationships, they start hanging out, they start (audio cuts off) camaraderies they had when they were in the military and they’re able to drive and steer and move on with their lives, hopefully, in a better condition. If they’re going to work, and then they’re just going home, home and work, home and work, the environment might not work out for them and they might need this extra piece, to have that camaraderie that gives them the outlets, so they’re not taking this home to their family, and they’re not taking it to work with them. They have a place where they can actually release some of that tension, the rigors of dealing with society after getting out, and not having a combat buddy that you might have had when you were (audio cuts off) developing that. So, that just gives you some insight as to what it’s all about, and I’m happy to be part of it.
I feel like it’s a support network that I had when I was in, and I still have. I kind of took the uniform off, just to put another one on, that’s still doing the same exact job as I was doing, just in a different format and different uniform, so yeah.
[TODD DEVOE] That was great. So, it’s a continue to service type-thing. That’s awesome. So, I mean, as a vet, you get out, especially after combat, and transitioning back to civilian life is really difficult. Talk a little bit about what you were (inaudible) right now, with helping those vets transition from the military life, combat like, and into civilian everyday life.
[AARON SEIBERT] Yeah, you know, a lot of us are getting out, and we’re going to be paid for the rest of our lives because of our injuries, because of dealing with things, or whatever the situation is. And sometimes, these guys feel like they want to work, but they feel like maybe they’re not going to be that great of an employee because they have BA appointments, they have situations that they’re dealing with, things that are kind of popping off. They’re unsure of how to go about it. And so, you know, we have a computer station upstairs for guys to work on their resume, to the VA paperwork, to whatever.
But I also have employers coming in here and asking the guys, saying, “Hey, can we get these guys a job?” Some of these guys were like, “Yeah, I’ll take that job. How can I do it?” But working with the employers, the employers are already under the understanding that these guys may have two days off next week because they have a VA appointment, and they have VA appointments every month, or they have VA appointments every week. So, can you, instead of giving him a $50,000 package, give him a $40,000 package, but understand they need the leeway to deal with all these situations that arise on their system. So, most of the guys that I worked with, they come through here. And the employers that want to hire these guys put it out, “Hey, here is the job title.” But in order for a combat vet to get that person, they’ll come through me and say, “Hey, I’d like to work there.” At the same time, I’m able to evaluate and see if there is anything in Warrior Built or in the PTSD Foundation of America or any other organization that might be able to help these guys out with, to ensure that this is a successful job opportunity.
Now, most of these guys get out there, they’re in their lanes, they’re doing what they want, they’re doing what they need to do, and they’re taking care of business, and I’ve only gotten five or six guys jobs out here in the last two and a half years. But it’s mainly because these guys are already on their own path, they just need a little extra help with some things. And some other job opportunities that come up from here, they may transition into that job, but they already have the benefit of the doubt of the employers understanding what they’re getting in and why they’re getting them, (inaudible) taking on. So, it’s an important, cool factor, for sure.
[TODD DEVOE] What’s the most common issue you’ve seen with that transition period?
[AARON SEIBERT] With the transition, what happens is a lot of these guys, they go home to the middle of America, they go home to wherever their home is at, and they basically just… they’re so used to… I’ll tell you, the military is a very catering concept. I mean, you’re there, and your housing is covered, everything. You’ve got all these allotments set up, you’re covered with everything, your medical is taken care of, this, this, and that.
When you get out, it all falls back on you as an individual. So, you become super overwhelmed with all the tasks that are at hand, that it sometimes overwhelms them to the point where they’d just rather stay in their house and not really be that functional, or they might get out and about, but they’re not really engaging too much, because they’re already dealing with, “Hey, I gotta pay this bill, I gotta pay that bill now,” the allotments that were set up in the military are no longer allotments, now I have bills coming to me, how am I going to manage all these different things and have a job and be this person that my family wants? You know, when it comes down to it, medical is the last thing on anybody’s mind when they’re getting out. They’re worried about the job, they’re worried about how they’re going to pay their bills, they’re worried about all this. So, they come in kind of dealing with some things that they need to talk to some other vets about, to navigate the VA system, it might take about a two-year process just to kind of feel comfortable about a) going in and getting the benefits that they are supposed to be getting.
Yeah, the biggest problems that I’m seeing with a lot of these guys coming through here is that the last thing on their mind is that medical piece, and we, as veterans, don’t really always think about how we want to receive our medical care, how we want to deal with our medical care, and how we want to deal with the VA. And the VA sometimes gets a bad (inaudible). But my experience with the VA has been outstanding, it’s been working, I’ve gotten there and gotten the help that I needed. You do have to go through the process, it’s a two-year learning curve, and a lot of these guys, they’re like, “Hey, I didn’t even know this was part of it, and that.”
So, when they get in the VA, it takes a two-year process to really kind of get your system all squared away and get set up. And some of these guys haven’t even done that, so, they’re missing out on some of the benefits by not being involved in that. And they’re more worried about getting a job, or they’re worried about just staying at home and not dealing with anything that’s going on, because it’s too crazy outside the walls. So, that whole environment becomes kind of toxic, and getting those jobs and dealing with medical care becomes a secondary thought. So, helping them out with that is important. You know, helping them out from here, we’ve got the computers that they can get on and start working on their benefits to guys, to VA people that I know, or personnel that I know that can help them and guide them through some of the process is that can really give them benefits that they need for them, as well as their families, sometimes. The non-profit organizations that we’re with, we’re built in the PTSD Foundation of America, Operation Solar Star, (inaudible).
I can go through a long list of non-profits that kind of funnel through here to also help our combat vets, because we’re just one piece of a pie and there’s a lot of people that are out there that they don’t really know that there are resources for them. And it’s not something… you know, not all these vets want, want, want. They just come in here and they kind of… you don’t really know what they need unit something comes up, and so, yeah, those are complications that arise the most.
[TODD DEVOE] Ok, so, one of the things I know that you do is you work with local law enforcement to put them to training on how to deal with veterans’ issues, specifically the PTSD side of it, to be able to make those interactions (inaudible). What kind of program is that, and how would could somebody that would like to see that at their (inaudible) get a hold of you to have you come in and teach us classes?
[AARON SEIBERT] Yeah, you know what? I was… at Wounded Warrior Battalion West, I got a request for the Riverside. Actually, you know, to the Riverside police department. The negotiators had requested, a) some information, they wanted to know about PTSD. And then they wanted to run some scenarios on how do we talk to a guy who is dealing with combat PTSD or a combat vet down from a situation that he might be in, whether it’s jumping off of a bridge to hostage situations, to certain situations that they may deal with in a common way. They want to be trained on how to talk, how to better bring down a situation that may develop. So, the Riverside negotiators that really got in touch with me, and ever since then, they kind of stayed in touch, they wanted a perspective from a combat vet versus, sometimes, the perspective from the psychologists or psychiatrists might look good, a little bit like, it has nothing to do with their job, it gives them, you know, the meanings behind it. But it doesn’t really give them the functionality of how to really deal with somebody that’s dealing with PTSD.
So, you really like to kind of spend some time and they asked if I’d continue doing these classes. So, at Warrior Built, we actually have those guys down to go through a little bit of classes, ask the questions that they want to know, and help them understand the mindset of somebody dealing with PTSD or combat PTSD. Then, they’re going to run some scenarios and say, “Hey, can we talk you down from a bridge?” And this is kind of cool, because guys are far enough along with dealing with their PTSD, it’s a huge situation. But they’re able to fully keep it in control and go through some processes in the deep parts in their brain they haven’t touched on. But they’re able to do so because they’re going to get into that factor, they’re going to get into that resistance, to the situation that’s coming up.
They’re going to get into some of the things that they’re going to trigger some stuff, but they’re controlled triggers, and they’re meant to be here for the purpose of helping out somebody else to understand, for the purpose of, hopefully, keeping somebody from dying, suicide by cop, or dealing with situations that can hopefully be helped in that environment where the negotiator can talk them out of a situation that, if they didn’t have that line of communication, that they might not know to use this tactic. So, overall, I think that’s really a good aspect of it, you know? And that’s just one little piece of it, you know? We have the fire department from (inaudible) that come down here right before we go into (inaudible). And Todd, you yourself, you’ve been here to help get the guys spun up on basic first aid, and starting IVs on guys for an environment that is down in (inaudible) and we can’t get anybody. So, it’s really… we can end up in situations where we really need that expensive medical care, too.
So, that training takes into consideration, so we have a full-on class here, you know, giving those guys that basic first aid and that tourniquet class, and the ABC’s and just the basics on how to stay alive by yourself on a motorcycle out in the middle of nowhere. So, there’s a lot of aspects of emergency training, emergency medicine, to you know, also, the mind and how to better help the police deal with guys that are dealing with PTSD. So, we have those dynamics as well here, and I think it’s important that we have them. So yeah, I’m available, just, you know, at Warrior Built, you can look it up online, my phone number is on there. I give my card out a lot of times. It’s on Facebook, Aaron Seibert, if you look me up. Every week, I usually post that we’re having our Warrior Groups at Warrior Built on Tuesday night, at 8:30 for combat vets. So, yeah, there’s a lot of things that we have that are going on.
[TODD DEVOE] If somebody wanted to donate to the Warrior Built Foundation, how can they do so?
[AARON SEIBERT] Yeah, if somebody wanted to donate to the Warrior Built Foundation, you can go right online to www.warriorbuilt.org, or just look up Warrior Built on Google, the Warrior Built Foundation will come up, and at the bottom of the page, if you scroll down, it will say, “Warrior Built 501(c)(3)”, which we are. You can donate to Warrior Built.
The PTSD Foundation’s website is at the bottom too, you can click on that, because we utilize a lot of their resources and help them out, and I run the PTSD groups for our Warrior Groups. So, peer-to-peer mentor groups. And you can also donate to them as well, through their website. There’s a lot of other organizations, if Warrior Built isn’t for you, or you want to know something else to donate to, then contact me and I also have some of (inaudible) that we associate ourselves with, and help that out. Yeah, definitely, www.warriorbuilt.org. Where you can contact me if you have any questions, Aaron Seibert. My phone number, 951-805-2734. And you can get a hold of me on email at email@example.com.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s awesome, Aaron. Thank you so much, and I know you’ve got a busy day going on here, so I’m going to go ahead and let you get going. But I just want to say, man, thanks a lot for what you’re doing, I appreciate it. And just for clarification, Aaron and I did serve together for a bunch of years there in the Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club, and also with the Marine Corp. So, (inaudible).
[AARON SEIBERT] Todd. Thanks, brother. Out.
[TODD DEVOE] I am here with the creator of the Clever Talks. And Chris, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about yourself here, your background, and how you got started with Clever Talks.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Absolutely. My name is Chris Soriano, I am the CEO and co-founder of Clever Talks, and we share the ideas of our active duty and veterans throughout the nation. And this all happened, I’d say, about three and a half years ago, when I wanted to create a conference out here in San Diego, and I just wanted to create a conference to inspire other millennials, like myself, because I think it’s really good to surround yourself with like-minded people. And sure enough, after the conference, a lot of people came up to me, and they would say like, “Oh yeah, I’m a former navy SEAL, I’m a former special forces operator, I’m a former marine.” You know, I meet all these great people, and I’d be like, “Man, these people are too young to be formers, you know? They look like my age.” And long story short, I realized that I had something here, I wanted to nourish these relationships and make a non-profit that helps support our military.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s great. So, I looked at some of your stuff online, the Clever Talks, obviously. And I was able to attend the tactical fest, to witness this myself. So, everybody out there, this is the real deal. Chris has a really good thing going, a lot of great people, got to meet a lot of great people, I got to network with a lot of veterans, and a lot of other veterans’ organizations. But the one underlying thing that I did take from this was leadership. And I think that the Clever Talks, in my mind, and this is no offense to the TED Talks, because I do enjoy those. But I think Clever Talks is like TED Talks, but cooler, you know?
[CHRIS SORIANO] Thank you.
[TODD DEVOE] So, tell us a little bit about a few of the guests that you’ve had on the Clever Talks.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Sure. And I appreciate, first, that you said that this has to do with leadership, because that was like, the original pillar of why we did this, right? To help people become better leaders, and lead in any way possible. You know, whether they’re creating a non-profit or a for-profit, or they’re leading their troops out in the battlefield. Leadership is so important. So, the guests that we’ve had are some YouTubers to even public figures, like Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban. Veteran-known businesses, like Bottle Breacher, to even, you know, YouTube celebrities like Prince EA. So, we’ve had a lot of diverse groups, but the mission and core of this is always to support our service members. I wanted those people to give an example, who’s a combination of both, who’s a YouTuber as well as a veteran, is CT Fletcher. He’s known for using profanity to inspire people to work out, and lift, and he was able to speak on our platform to inspire troops.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s awesome, that is really awesome. So, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you started out in this endeavor.
[CHRIS SORIANO] I started off… I grew up here in San Diego, I was born in a navy hospital like, a mile away from our office and our headquarters, and I never served. A lot of people say, “How does this guy, this civilian, know anything about us?” And I look at that as like, that’s why I’m here. You know, this is my chance to get back. And I feel that there’s other ways to get back to your country. I’m a proud American. My father came here from the Philippines by serving in the Navy. My mother is a nurse, and you know, she’s been doing that, my father’s been doing that for years. So, I just grew up with the military culture. And I was just fascinated about it. I got a degree in Communications, and I wanted to pursue being an officer and going to the military, but then I was recruited to become a journalist. I ended up appearing on CNN, ABC, One America News; I was a journalist living that life. And I used those strengths to interview some of the speakers now that we have at Clever Talks.
[TODD DEVOE] Wow, that’s pretty exciting, and the journalism background definitely shows through with some of the speakers that you had and some of the conversations that you put up there. I find it really interesting that with some of the stuff that you’ve done, it’s been really diverse, like you said before. One of the ones that I liked so far was the Ted William speech, and he was able to get up there and inspire people with his story. And the other stories that were out there as well, that are really inspiring, and it shows you that as long as you go forward, and you can pull yourself up, and you can go forward, you can go from being a guy who’s living on the street to somebody who is now living the American dream again. How do you find these people?
[CHRIS SORIANO] Great question. I find these people by looking at some of the problems that our service members are dealing with, and veterans. And it’s based on an acronym called PMAF, which is physical mental and financial. Those are the three sectors which a lot of our service members are always dealing with some sort of trouble. So, when it came to Ted Williams, here is a guy who is broke, homeless, talk about no money. And he was able to use his talent, like his voice, right? He’s the homeless man with a golden voice, that’s how he speaks about it, right?
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[CHRIS SORIANO] And he ended up just saying, “Hey, how you doing?” In his deep voice to try to make some spare change. And eventually, he was able to get out of homelessness, and you know, he had a great story. But with the financial side, a lot of our service members are like, you know, getting broke! And I’m like, who the hell could help them, versus a billionaire? Like Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban. So, I was able to get him to come out to speak, and all of our speakers have spoken for free. We never ask for any money, we never pay them. You know, we do a mutual exchange because I make sure that whoever we put on that stage cares about the troops just as much as I do.
[TODD DEVOE] That is outstanding, that these guys are taking in their time to come and speak to the veterans. And just for the record, I served as a navy coreman, from 91 and 97, I served with the Marine Corp most of my time, so don’t ask me navy questions, I can’t really answer them.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Well, thank you for your service and everything you do. Look how far you’ve come to still give back.
[TODD DEVOE] No, it’s my pleasure, actually. And yeah, I mean, giving back to the veterans themselves, there’s a few non-profits and stuff that my circles are in. And I do think it’s important that we do understand that veterans definitely have a different view on life sometimes, and sometimes that view may get in the way of success. And I mean this in the sense that, for me, personally, after I got out of service, it probably took me a good, I don’t know, five, six years, before I actually became friends with somebody who hasn’t served.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Interesting.
[TODD DEVOE] So, I understand where they’re coming from. And so, you being able to bring people in that aren’t service members, and to show that they do care and they do understand, I think it goes a long way healing some people who have been overseas and have seen things that most people shouldn’t see, and that culture. So, thank you for doing that.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Yes, absolutely.
[TODD DEVOE] What’s in the future here for Clever Talks, and what direction are you guys trying to go?
[CHRIS SORIANO] So, the direction we’re trying to head into is being able to provide to our troops on bases. We’d love to go Afghanistan and Iraq, wherever these dangerous areas are, just so that our troops can take a second to realize that home is still here, and it’s in sharing your ideas, speaking about your story, and taking that piece back to the people here in San Diego, or wherever they are, you know? What I love about technology is that, you know, people come to our conferences because they want to see all these celebrities, or whoever, that are public figures. But the large audience is online, it’s not about those in the seat. And that’s what I want the future to be.
I want our service members who are on deployment to be able to go to our website and see our talks and be uplifted. We all see so much negative news out there, that they just… you know, they can just look out in the field and realize, “Man, what do I have left?” But when you can have that good inspirational talk, that’s the fuel that keeps you going. And a lot of our service members sometimes forget why they’re fighting. They know what they’re doing, they know the mission, they know how to accomplish it, but they forget why they’re fighting for that. And that’s where all the complications start. You know, we all want to do what matters, and what we think what matters, and there are people like that that just don’t care, and they just live life. But there’s people that, “You know what? I want to live for a purpose, I want to do something that makes a difference.” And you know, sometimes they forget, “Why did I even join?” Or you know, “Why am I even here?” And a lot of bad things happen, but once they find the “why” again, they’re back on track.
[TODD DEVOE] The “why”. That’s my favorite question to ask. It really is my favorite question to ask.
[CHRIS SORIANO] And it changes, right? Some people’s “why” changes all the time. They’ve got a kid now, “my wife is my family”, or “no, I don’t have a kid.” You know, I’m single and I dedicate myself to my non-profit, and that’s what I’m married to right now.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s awesome. And you’re right, we’re always changing, we’re always growing. And I think that if you don’t seek to grow, you’re just going to become stagnant, and stagnation is what really kills the soul. And I think Clever Talks is a really great avenue to keep that soul from stagnating, and asking that “why” question and really getting involved with the interesting conversations that people are having out there. So, when is your next event, sir?
[CHRIS SORIANO] Our next one is in March, and we’ve got another one in September. But our March event, we’re still tiding up the details. Not to tease it too much, but we are in talks with The Rock, Dwayne Johnson; and also, we are trying to figure out if some of other big public figures, (inaudible), even Marcus Lutrell. Whoever we can, whoever could put forward that our military really wants to hear from. And not the same speeches they’ve given in the past, but more like, you know, a unique perspective. And I wanted it more interactive, where our troops get to ask all the questions that they want with these people.
[TODD DEVOE] Well, that’s kind of cool, instead of just being like a TED Talk, where the guy goes up there for 15 minutes and runs his mouth. Get some really good questions from the crowd, that’s a really – I like that idea. I think that’s a winner right there, for sure.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Thank you.
[TODD DEVOE] What other avenues do you have outside of the Clever Talk events? Are you doing more stuff with your online things, are you doing any kind of webinars, teaching type of ideas coming through with Clever?
[CHRIS SORIANO] As of now, it’s all focused on the conferences, as well as tactical fests, those are the two things that we focus on throughout the year. But in the meantime, if anything comes up, like a podcast, we haven’t even started that, or you know, what you’re doing. You know, that’s a great thing, I don’t want to steal your thunder, but maybe one day in the future we’ll get something like that.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, you know, with my podcast here, I started it because I was bringing speakers into my online classroom. And I decided, from a friend of mine that was listening to a couple of them, said, “Hey, you should share these with everybody.” And so, that’s why we started doing the podcast. So, same kind of thing, you know? It’s just giving back to everyone in the emergency management field, in leadership. Because in the end of the day, emergency managers are leading during crisis, and so it’s about being able to step forward, being that leader during the time of crisis. So, what have you learned over your time doing the Clever Talks, as far as like, leadership, and how to lead during crisis?
[CHRIS SORIANO] Well, what I’ve learned in terms of leadership is that, there’s so many little intricate pieces that can really change your life. And I was a shy person, I still am an introvert, but you gotta know when to turn that off and adapt to the environment. One thing I learned from veterans it’s, you know, adapt or die. It’s more about, find a way when there is no way. And that’s the definition of clever, right? You gotta find an answer when you don’t have an answer. Or, you know, one thing I’ve also learned from service members is your command (inaudible). How you come across, you know? That all (inaudible) volumes. Like, I remember a good buddy of mine named Brady, a marine, sharing with me like, “See how that guy walks over there?” And he would point out, and I’d look. Like, you wouldn’t tell that to a civilian. “You see that guy, how he’s walking?” You tell that to a marine. And I’m like, wow. I started looking at the differences in posture, how people present themselves, how they talk. And it all circles back to that leadership.
[TODD DEVOE] Are you working more along the… as you bring in people to speak, more along the leadership realms of things, or are you expanding broader on that?
[CHRIS SORIANO] So, what we’re trying to do is expand more on some of the issues that our military and families go through. Like, one of the talks that we’re working with is this woman who is sharing like, the beauty of receiving a care package, and what that means to her while she’s on deployment. So, she’s an active duty service member, and she’s talking about what’s it like. And so, she’s going to go on our stage and talk about, “Here’s what this package looks like. This is how I feel when I’m working and I open this package.” So, she’s like, you know, that little intricate detail, the civilian world, they take for granted. Like, our care package. Like, I get that from FedEx every single day. But to a service member that only gets mail once every couple of weeks or whatever, it means the world. Or you know, what’s it like from a (inaudible) perspective on deployment? How does she feel? You know, this is the first day when her husband leaves. This is how she feels. So, a PowerPoint presentation on what’s it like to be mom, dad, and warrior while her husband is a warrior. So, that’s how she put it, you know? So we find intricate stories, that we can branch out to the public, instead of just the typical… not typical, but the constant leadership, or “here’s how you become this.” You know, just thinking outside of the box.
[TODD DEVOE] Those are great. Those are actually great (inaudible). You know, it is foreign to most people to understand what it’s like to be there, to be able to bring some of that back and to be able to break that wall down. Like I said, it makes it easier for your transition back to the civilian world.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Right.
[TODD DEVOE] All right, Chris. Well, we’re coming up here, I don’t want to take too much more of your time. I’m definitely excited about talking to you about this, I’d like to talk to you more as things come about. And this idea of the Clever Talks, I am hooked. I subscribe to the YouTube channel there.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Thanks, brother, I appreciate it.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah. And what I’m going to do is, I’m going to put all the links to Clever Talks, to the YouTube channel, and if there’s anything else you’d like to share, go ahead and shoot that over to me, and I’ll make sure it’s in our notes.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Ok, thank you so much.
[TODD DEVOE] You have a wonderful day, I look forward to seeing you again, and I definitely look forward to go into the tactical fest and to the Clever Talks.
[CHRIS SORIANO] Absolutely. We’re going to have a good time at the next one. Can’t wait to see you then.
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