Lawyer Reads Own Confession: Devil’s Backbone almost the final stop in my bipolar legal career

 

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Screenshot_20190817-014510In the Spring of 2012 and while living in Tennessee, bi-polar symptoms sent me to psych hospitals three times in three months. The last time was after Williamson County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Deputies came to visit me at the Natchez Trace Bridge. I’d spent too long discussing the merits of crashing onto State route 96 – in the seventh wealthiest county in entire country – with the lady at the “please don’t jump” number on the sign in this feature photo. (1-800-273-8255)

Since my return to Tucson in April of 2012, I’ve experienced no psychiatric emergencies of any type, barring frequent suicidal ideations during my first year or so back here. Cognitively, I’m at the top of my game. I wrote the bulk of this essay in the few weeks between my sixth and my last hospitalizations.

 

 

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[PLEASE NOTE: BULLET POINT LIST OF SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS AND HOW TO RESPOND HAVE BEEN ADDED IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THIS ESSAY.]

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VIDEO: AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION TO THIS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY AND IDENTICATION OF THE RESOURCES FOR MILITARY AND FIRST RESPONDERS MADE AVAILABLE AFTER THE READING.

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VIDEO: AUTHOR READS “Suicide Bridge on the Devil’s Backbone: in the Spring of 2012, almost the final stop in my bipolar legal career.”

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The Natchez Trace was called the Devil’s Backbone long before Spring 2012, when it almost became the final stop in my bipolar legal career

[March 2012, somewhere near Franklin, Tennessee] The patients in the psychiatric unit mumbled their revulsion for the distinguished lawyer whose bloated colostomy bag had slipped open, sending its vile contents onto the floor and furnishings of the break room where the patients had gathered to watch television.

I loathed the man for another reason.

Moments earlier the gentleman confided in me that he bore the ugly bag because he had blown out his insides with buckshot. He had tried to kill himself, he said, because bipolar disorder had destroyed his legal career.

My disgust wasn’t at the wretched odor that now hung in the break room. It was at this man; his simple existence mocked my hope that my own bipolar disorder would stop terrorizing me and let me return to what society calls worthwhile work.

Two days earlier, I’d almost killed myself. Williamson County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Deputies came to visit me at the Natchez Trace Bridge, an award-winning structure that as of 25 January 2019, had kept its promise to 32 men and women who chose this extraordinarily beautiful part of Middle Tennessee to end their lives. I’d spent too long discussing the merits of crashing onto State route 96 – with the lady at the phone number on the “please don’t jump” sign.

And now I stood, again, in pale blue scrubs behind the locked doors of a mental hospital. I looked down at the fecal trail that followed my fellow lawyer down the hall. I thought of my own path. It reeked too. It consisted of less-than-political statements and acts, simmered in the cauldron of pharmaceutical side effects I had to endure, I was told, if I was to live.

 

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It wasn’t always this way. I had started my legal career as a prosecutor who didn’t have the slightest clue how many people are broken. But my case load included more than criminal cases. It included the commitment of men and women who had become a danger to themselves or others. In stately courtrooms, the County Jail, and ammonia-laced emergency rooms, I asked judges to lock up broken people like this lawyer I had just met.

To lock up people like me.

imageIn the years that followed¸ my legal career continued to intersect the blurry line that is mental illness. Reviewing psychiatric records, questioning expert witnesses who tried to explain the depths of somebody’s darkness and getting courts to see that my clients were more than just numbers on file folders, were just things that any lawyer should do. That I was particularly passionate about mental health issues didn’t occur to me.

I slept little in those days. Back then, I could rely, again and again, on having enough energy to work late at my office or to meet with clients at the Oklahoma County jail well past midnight even though I had to be in court first thing in the morning.

Despite a caseload of time-intensive state and federal cases, I volunteered time and energy to serve as an officer of my local chapter of the Federal Bar Association and as a member of the American Inns of Court. I judged law school moot court competitions and taught a couple of CLEs. I took the time to write articles and essays that proposed strengthening a federal criminal statute and which encouraged my colleagues to think outside the box about the death penalty and about how we practice law.

“How do you keep up that pace?” asked the lawyer who would soon handle my divorce. “You’ll burn out,” he said.

John was right.

Screenshot_20190816-222806On a blistering July afternoon, my mind began to race itself toward a crash, with both brake and gas slammed to the floor. The intensity was strangely familiar, but this time the sensation was unbearable. I was in the passenger seat, with my wife driving and our daughter in the back.

I jumped.

In the days that followed, I roamed the streets, a shopping mall, barely sure where I was. I rummaged through my mind like a bargain hunter digs through the leftovers at a garage sale. I wanted to find something familiar.

But no matter what I turned over in my mind, I couldn’t find my clients’ names. I couldn’t find what their cases were about. And I couldn’t find a single memory that told me how I could file even the simplest of legal documents for them.

I was already scheduled, as president of my Federal Bar Association chapter, to welcome attorneys who had recently been admitted to practice in federal court. It was no big deal. But I was terrified, and for good reason. As I stepped to the podium and began to speak, I found that everything I knew so well about our federal courts was balled up in my mind like a spider web. I heard that same confusion in the words I tried to welcome my fellow lawyers with. I didn’t want anyone to see me after that.

In the months that followed, I passed off my cases to other lawyers, closed my practice, left my wife and child, had an affair, wrote an overly confessional 300-page novel manuscript, returned to Nashville – where I’d finished high school – and tried to start a new life.

I stopped listening to news and to any commentary about the world around me. Old friends Sammy Hagar and Angus Young started coming around a lot more often. And I banged hard on my old upright piano, hoping to drown out the screaming tension that had taken over my life.

The doctors diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. According to Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, co-author of the definitive medical text on Manic-Depressive Illness, bipolar is a condition that is characterized by fierce energy, high mood, quick intelligence, increased risk taking and decreased need for sleep. It also comes with a very high risk of suicide.

I certainly knew of bipolar disorder and had studied the DSM diagnostic criteria. It was the unbridled manic-depressive symptomology that made a lot of those commitment hearings necessary during my tenure as an assistant D.A. The condition never has been and never will be a stranger to my criminal cases, either as a prosecutor or a defense lawyer.

I considered the diagnosis a death sentence.

 

John had been right. It would have been impossible – at least for me – to maintain that same kind of pace indefinitely. But I was handling it all pretty well and hadn’t sacrificed any of the top-shelf legal work that I did for my clients.

Something specific must have triggered otherwise dormant symptoms. At least it’s always seemed that way to me.

At the time, I was trench deep in reviewing seemingly never-ending evidence that federal prosecutors had turned over in a multi-state child-sex-trafficking case. I was having a hard time shaking an image my mind had created while reading through FD-302s and other investigation documents: a ten-year-old girl who’d been kidnapped and taken from her home state so that she could be sold out for sex. What was left of the child’s broken body had been found in a dumpster behind a grocery store across town. The poor kid had refused a bottom bitch’s order to let an over-the-road trucker rape her.

My little girl had been that age not too many years earlier.

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Whatever the cause or causes, I still considered my new bi-polar diagnosis a death sentence. For my career. For my life.

But men and women in white coats with their names embroidered on them told me that if I took my medications, saw a therapist and steered clear of drugs and alcohol, that my condition would no longer interfere with my life and my ability to practice law. This should be easy enough, I thought. Illegal drugs had never been a problem for me. And I hadn’t abused alcohol since I was in college.

I did everything the doctors told me to do. And I did it exactly as they had instructed. Between late Summer of 2004 and April of 2012 – seven years ago – my bipolar disorder cost me two jobs and forced me to close a private practice. BP severed relationships with those I cared about most, alienated friends and family, and put me in psychiatric hospitals seven times. My manic depression made me want to die more times than I can count.

[Even though I’ve not once thought of killing myself for almost six years, I remain wary. Bipolar disorder has a way of jumping up and biting you in the ass. So I may again clutch a 38 revolver as i try to figure out how to make the smallest mess for folks to have to clean up. I my again stand on a sidewalk, struggling to make an educated guess as to optimal moment when I should step off the sidewalk and into the path of a bus traveling at 40 mph. If so, I hope I’ll do a better job remembering this analysis than I did that day in late March or early April of 2012, when I drew near to a jumping bridge on the Devil’s backbone.]

“I can either kill myself, which would take me away from those who love me but it would stop the pain, or I can choose to live. If I am to live, I’m going to have to remember five important truths.

First, I am not alone with this illness. And the lawyer who filled himself with buckshot is not alone either. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, we are among more than fifteen million people (statistic needs updating) who suffer from severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder during a given year. As my medical expert explained it to jurors some years ago, people with bipolar disorder can rise to the very top of their profession. And, the physician explained, we’re talking about people with household names.

Screenshot_20190819-010138A second fact I need to remember is that there are organizations out there to help me and my loved ones. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) are just two of the groups dedicated to helping individuals and their families cope with what can be a disabling condition. Crisis hotlines exist in many cities for those who think they can’t go on.

That there have been profound pharmaceutical advances is a third truth I should keep in mind if I am to avoid becoming just another statistic. I need to remember that some of my medications have helped me live and work as well as anyone else. It’s just that sometimes the medications need changing. Yes, I become weary as the doctors try to find one or more that works. But the science of treating brain disorders has allowed medications to target parts of the brain with increased focus and efficacy. The likelihood that medications will again help me function is greater if I just let the doctors continue their work.

The fourth truth I should remember about bipolar disorder is that it has forced me to stop and ask if my career is consistent with my passion in this life. Years before many ask the question, I have the opportunity to ask “what am I here for?” and to change direction while there is still time.

[Now, I maintain a perfectly good Tennessee law license. And before that I had a perfectly good Oklahoma law license. There’s never been reason to investigate me for professional misconduct. And even though bipolar disorder can be a fast track to a criminal record, I still don’t have a criminal record. But even so,] bipolar disorder has given me a fifth issue to consider.

Manic-depressive illness has forced me to look deep inside and find my worth in who I am and not in what I do. It’s not easy. Ours is a society that tells people they count if they work in professions that others think matter. That is, the more others pay for someone, the greater that person’s worth.

But I have a worth separate and apart from what others say or pay. I have worth because the Divine says so – because God says so – and because I am part of the human family. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the greatest difficulty is that men do not think enough of themselves, do not consider what it is that they are sacrificing when they follow in a herd, or when they cater for their establishment.” Bipolar Disorder has forced me to see the truth in Emerson’s statement. It has forced me to tell the establishment that it will no longer define my worth. Strange as it sounds, bipolar disorder has given me a reason to live.

 

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Sandra Day O’Connor, Associate Justice of The Supreme Court of the United States (25 Sept. 1981 – 31 Jan. 2006)

 

WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE

 

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Five Finger Death Punch

WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN – scrolling list of resources for past and present mil

Wrong Side of Heaven + resources for all past and present military personnel

BLUE ON BLACK. The Gary Sinise Foundation to benefitFirst Responders.

Official music video for Blue On Black (feat. Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brantley Gilbert & Brian May) by Five Finger Death Punch. Stream or Download:https://5fdp.ffm.to/blueonblack

Proceeds from this song to be donated to The Gary Sinise Foundation to benefit First Responders. If you are considering donating yourself then you can do so by visiting – https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/ Fol

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The Fighter
C.J. Chivers
After graduating in January 1988, Chivers served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated from the United States Army’s Ranger School, served in the first Gulf War and in peacekeeping operations during the Los Angeles riots in 1992 before being honorably discharged as a captain in 1994.[5] Chivers graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism a year later.[6]
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FAST COMPANY
Tracking The Lives Of Veterans To Figure Out Where They Slip Through TheCracks
About 20 veterans a day commit suicide, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But that number is probably far higher if you factor in those less than honorably and dishonorably discharged, which the VA doesn’t include in its statistics.
In general, these deaths often have contributing factors that are recognized in hindsight, say, depression or substance abuse, and maybe access to a firearm. But that doesn’t really tell much about who the person was or how they interacted with their community.
A $3.5 million research initiative led by the nonprofit veteran services group America’s Warrior Partnership, along with the University of Alabama and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, aims to change that by first tracking all of the local-level risk factors that lead to veteran suicides, and then creating a holistic plan to help communities prevent more of them.
Jim Lorraine, the president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP), considers this a new kind of sorely needed battle plan. By his count, there are 21 million former military service people in America, but the VA only serves about half that number. “It’s a general way to say it, but we can move from fishing for those veterans who might take their life, to hunting for [them],” he says. (Lorraine is the former Deputy Command Surgeon for the United States Special Operations Command, so prone to militaristic terminology.)

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Re Bad Paper: Legal Services Center, Harvard University, National Veterans Legal Services Program, & Swords to Ploughshares. (2016, March). Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper.

https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/liman/document/underserved_liman_program.pdf

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The VA encourages those who need help to reach out: “Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.” https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

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(GREAT BRITAIN / UK) All Call Signs is a peer-to-peer communication app for Veterans and serving Military Personnel. Our chat service is manned by volunteers who have served in The Forces and understand the stresses and struggles that come with daily life in and out of uniform. If life is getting you down and you need someone to speak to, hit the chat button below. We’re here.

https://allcallsigns.org/

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https://combatresearchandprose.com/2019/07/07/combatresearchandprose-introduction-to-new-source-for-real-world-research-products-created-with-policy-makers-in-mind/

 

Lethality cuts both ways at the tip of the spear: 1st SFOD-D operator KIA when Kurdish Peshmerga allies couldn’t get the job done serves as an example of the character and calling of those tasked with keeping terrorism away from American shores

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“Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions—The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us.”

General George Washington, General Orders, July 2, 1776[i]

Author Note

Between Christmas Eve 1994 and mid-April 1995, three terrorist attacks received worldwide attention: Algiers – Marseilles, Tokyo, Oklahoma City. Joshua L. Wheeler enlisted in Army infantry in May 1995. A year later, I would coordinate selected activities in support of an Army veteran’s reelection to the United States Senate. My zone of responsibility for United States Senator Jim Inhofe (in 2019, the new Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee) included the entirety of Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District [which includes zTulsa], a big chunk of OK-02 and a sliver of OK–03. Twenty counties in northeastern Oklahoma, almost all of which had entrenched majorities of conservative aka “Blue Dog” Democrats. Master Sergeant Joshua L Wheeler was born and raised in one of those.

Shoved up against the Oklahoma / Arkansas line at Ft. Smith is Sequoyah County, named for the Cherokee credited with the birth of the tribe’s written language. And it was there, on the 12th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination that Joshua Lloyd Wheeler was born to a mother with far more troubles than she had resources. She would be single much of the time that her children were growing up, and the family often needed help from grandparents and government assistance to get by. Her kids are heirs of what media reports describe as their late mother’s two marriages with “troubled and abusive men.”

As Dan Lamothe wrote in the Washington Post for Memorial Day 2016, it was there, “[i]n a tiny trailer near the eastern Oklahoma border, [that] Joshua L. Wheeler played a central role in raising his five younger siblings. He’d cook them breakfast, work odd jobs to bring in extra money, and even fasten his little’s sister’s hair in ponytails before school.”

**Please note: an earlier version of this article first appeared on social media on Veterans’ Day weekend 2017. Those familiar with that version will note that this June 2019 reissiue includes no mention of, and no reference to, a widely-used assessment tool used to choose those who will receive a federal benefit. Please note that this issue is being introduced to readers under two titles.

INTRO

In the United States, 92.7% of us have never served under arms.[1] And we – myself included – seldom have a clue what life is like for those who do. One example: almost nothing in our civilian reality mirrors a fundamental fact of life for our Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen, as well as their families: an order to march into Hell is neither an invitation to nor an opportunity for, a career change.[2] For this Independence Day 2018, I share the story of a Cherokee warrior from the sticks who charged into Hell time and again to defend this nation and its interests.

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U.S. Army Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler, 1st SFOD-D (1975-2015)

Article Note

On this Veterans Day weekend 2017, I respectfully offer this true story of a Cherokee warrior from rural Oklahoma who, by choice or happenstance, enlisted in the U.S. Army just five months after members of the Armed Islamic Group (G.I.A.) hijack a passenger-laden Air France Flight 8969 in Algiers on Christmas Eve, 1994. It’s also a story of that same man, a soldier who joined the Infantry only two months after members of Aum Shinrikyo cult release Sarin, a deadly nerve agent, at virtually the same moment into five different subway lines . . . all converging on the center of Tokyo.

But this is also the story of an older brother who from his youth fed and clothed and protected his 5 younger siblings, a big brother who by accident or purpose, enlisted in the Army the month after what was until then the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil. 168 dead. Nineteen of them babies and young children. Their little shoes to become an exhibit none should forget. And all the carnage . . . just two and a half hours west of the economically struggling patch of eastern Oklahoma where that warrior had been born and raised.

This is a story about that same man, by 2015 a highly decorated member of “Delta Force,” who died in combat with ISIL a little more than two years ago. A warrior who by creed assured the nation that, “I will never surrender though I am the last.” A special operator whose last mission saved 70 lives destined for a waiting mass grave. As U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told his Senate colleagues during a floor speech on November 16, 2015, “I think we all understand what Delta Force is all about. It’s a unit of the elite, the very best of the best. That was Josh. The best of the best. A true American hero.”

The breadth and depth of this Oklahoma warrior’s valor over a 20-year career will likely never be made public. And there may be many reasons for that. An October 10, 2017 article in The Times (London) reveals just one of the easier-to-miss but closer-to-home reasons that secrecy cloaks much of the work done by “special operators”: Operators like Joshua Wheeler have families who can become targets of the same adversaries who plot to kill them: retired SAS operator Chris Ryan told The Times that his adult daughter had become the target of an Islamist-backed threat. A threat serious enough for her to need two years of police protection and threat monitoring by the anti-terrorist branch.

Whatever the myriad of reasons for State secrecy surrounding special ops, what it means is this: the research this article is built on is open source. So it may be only those with sufficient clearance who will ever know if I told his story right.

An “Unseeable” American Hero

On Christmas Day in 1834, U. S. Rep. Davy Crockett (TN-12) wrote that the Federal policy of removing Native Americans from their homelands was built on a particular assumption about the nature and value of humanity: “The time has Come that man is expected to be transfarable and as negotiable as a promisary note of hand, . . . .”

A little over two years ago and on the far side of the world, a Cherokee warrior from lands forced on his tribe at gunpoint, testified that such a “transactional” view of humanity is a lie. U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was the married father of 4 and a decorated member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D). As the Washington Post wrote for Memorial Day 2016, “On Oct. 22, [2015] he became the first U.S. service member to die in combat against the Islamic State… The mission freed some 70 prisoners who U.S. officials think would have been executed and dumped in a mass grave later that day.”

 

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The Presidential Citation that accompanied a posthumously awarded Silver Star declared that team leader Joshua Wheeler’s fearlessness, selflessness, and effectiveness in the face of enemy fire had been critical to mission success and had saved lives. His “. . . distinctive accomplishments,” the citation says, “are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service. . . .”

 

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Those Sworn to “Fight Whenever and Wherever [Their] Nation Requires”

Master Sgt Wheeler is just one of the remarkable, non-fungible warriors I might never have heard of were it not for my own consequential duty: to do what I can to help bridge the spreading gap in knowledge, experience, and understanding that divides the 93% of us who’ve never served from the seven percent who have.

The need for such a bridge is urgent: it’s too easy for our overwhelming majority to make public policy that runs right over those who’ve served this nation in uniform. And we can do it without ever even knowing that we hit something on the road.

None of the warriors I now think I know something about even those whose valor was “accidental” – can be squeezed into the 1,300 characters and spaces allowed for most LinkedIn posts. And any effort to make them fit would fail.

But few would question the decision to craft a longer piece about a decorated member of “Delta Force,” a special operator who was killed in combat while saving others, a warrior who deployed at least 14 times and whose “acts of heroism involving cobunflict with an armed enemy” had been honored repeatedly.

It’s not Master Sgt. Wheeler’s many awards or his hidden service in 1st SFOD-D that has prompted quiet reflection about him every day for weeks. It’s the fact that his life and service demonstrate two truths that can kill if we fail to learn them. First, Cherokee Joshua Wheeler from rural Oklahoma shows us how wrong we are to assume that “unseeables” of any stripe are all the same, will never make the world a better place, and that no one will miss them when they’re gone.

And Master Sergeant Wheeler, his widow, his four sons and other family aren’t asking us. They’re telling us in unison that there is a second lethal truth: that we visit unforgivable evil on the very ones who have kept us safe when we dare to insist that the civilian lives of most of us in the modern, industrialized world are really no better and no worse than the lives of our veterans and their families.

But there’s another reason that I keep thinking about this particular warrior and now, on this hallowed Veterans Day, tell you a bit about him:

I know the land and the good people Joshua Wheeler came from.

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A Word about Special Operators

I’ve found during research for this task that my attention is often drawn to the special operators – smart, broadly skilled, deliberate, resilient and quick of mind, flexible, multi-lingual, resourceful, ever lethal. Flawed mortals to be sure, but efficient warriors known for their loyalty, effectiveness, and ability to get the job done even if their silence leaves hidden cavities in a nation’s historical record. Even if their work prompts the powers that be to burnish the nation’s historical record with some Bondo and fresh paint.

“Quiet Professionals” Who Manage – and Deliver – Violence

I don’t look at special operators in the same way that, as a 6-year old State Department evacuee still living below the Sahara, I looked at the Marines who provide the visible defense of our embassies.

I was just a privileged white kid from America. A “young’un” whose gestating geopolitical consciousness received plenty of nourishment during his years in Africa – only some of which came by way of a welcome wagon of Guardia Nacional, soldiers who laid a bayonet against him and then, months later, attempted to arrest the kid before later that day charging him with the national security crime of making a “weapon dangerous to the Republic.”

Back then those Marines represented more to me than just a force to keep me and my family safe. They represented my country, which was an ocean away. And they were visible evidence that proved true all the national myths into which this son and grandson of veterans had been baptized.

As an adult in 2017, I think sobering is the term that best fits what I think I now know about those chosen to serve as special operators – whether they be the Navy SEALs who slipped into Pakistan and in May 2011 killed Osama bin Laden as the President watched; in Sierra Leone, where British JSFAW Chinooks joined with SAS/SBS forces in September 2000 to rescue captured British military trainers while under fire; or French GIGN special operators who, at a Marseilles Christmas in 1994 and in a raid broadcast on live TV – stormed an Air France Airbus A300, killed the four Islamist hijackers in a 17-minute firefight and freed the plane’s 173 passengers and crew. With no else on that plane having to die that Christmas.

Special operators like Joshua Wheeler are among the most agile of weapons in a nation’s arsenal. And as Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, then- commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) said during the Aspen Security Forum in July of 2017: “We are relevant to most if not all national security challenges.”

MSgt Joshua Wheeler was among those operators who offer precision, scale, and discretion to politicians seeking flexibility in a game of three-level chess that’s increasingly played atop a game board drawn from fault lines. Special Forces warriors who are ready to go anywhere in the world when they get the order. Special operators who train for and then tackle tasks they’ve known and done for decades. Warriors whose job it is to tackle the new threat within hours of anybody knowing that threat exists. And when combatants now lock horns in cyberspace, fake news is just another weapon in the arsenal, SIGINT remains a limited tool, and reliable intelligence assets can be hard to come by, there are places and circumstances on the planet where the clandestine special operator may be the only one left who can separate fact from fiction and relay critical facts to those who must make decisions that affect the nation.

So what do a lot of special operators have in common? A July 1994 report from the U.S Naval Health Research Center says this of Navy SEALS: “. . . SEALs are more likely to be forceful, energetic, and to become leaders than men of the general population. The average SEAL is also more persistent, reliable, and scrupulous, viewing life as a series of task oriented challenges.”

The Art of War, which is still ascribed to “Sun Tzu,” contains a teaching that warriors must find frustrating: “[h]e will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.” For it remains true that in the United States and a number of other countries, warriors report to the political class. No matter how elite. No matter how decorated. No matter how close to power.

Like all who serve in uniform, warriors are de facto government property. Tasked by politicians to act in the name of national security. When and where they are told to do so.

In a November 2010 review of A. J. Langguth’s Driven West, the Pulitzer Prize – winning biographer of Andrew Jackson, Jon Meacham, wrote of two immutable truths of the political class, two truths with life and death consequences for the special operator: (1) “[p]olitics is rarely logical, and politicians are, at best, flawed logicians;” and (2) “[p]hilosophical coherence is an academic, not a political, virtue.

But cowardice can also be a truth of the political class. And in a series of decisions that should be seared into the American consciousness, political cowardice killed legions more of those sent to war than valor and courage ever would.

In a Sept. 26, 2017 column in the Indianapolis Star, U.S Army veteran and seasoned political scientist Pierre Atlas strips away an insincere varnish from the historical record. In writing about U.S. decisions about Vietnam that go all the way back to 1945, Professor Atlas writes about “what was arguably the most egregious aspect of the war: one U.S. administration after another, Democratic and Republican, knew that the war was unwinnable but kept sending more troops nevertheless. They were more concerned with losing face than with losing the lives of young Americans.”

A Rare Peak Inside the Machine

A “groundbreaking” exhibition re Special Operations opened in October at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Former Australian Minister of Defence, Special Representative to NATO, and current director of the Australian War Memorial Dr. Brendan Nelson told the Sydney Morning Herald that the new exhibition is a first-time-ever among the “Five Eyes” Special Forces communities of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Britain.

Dr. Nelson explained that State secrecy about these types of operations is necessary. But he also recognized that one consequence of secrecy is that the public has “no idea” what these soldiers face on the frontlines of the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. Fighting in Afghanistan has often been “as intense as the battles of the Vietnam War,” said Dr. Nelson, a physician.

And special operators pay a high price for doing the nation’s work.

Dr. Nelson asked the Australian public not to judge these warriors before they had seen the new exhibition. “We can’t as a nation send these young men, highly trained, highly skilled, repeatedly into operations and expect that everything will always go according to plan,” he said. When U.S. Sen John McCain (R-AZ) spoke to the American Legion earlier this year, he talked about those missions that don’t go according to plan. When that happens, he urged, it’s not for lack of valor: “To somehow equate whether a mission succeeds or not with their bravery is a failure to understand the courage and sacrifice because these brave Americans when they are told to go they go.”

Combat: a Costly Business

Second Lt. Billy Bob Walkabout – also a Cherokee Indian and Airborne Ranger from Eastern Oklahoma – was awarded for his service in Vietnam the Distinguished Service Cross, a Purple Heart, five Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. Following his death at 57 from complications related to Agent Orange exposure, USA Today quoted the Ranger as saying that war is worse than hell.

Per USA Today:

He said he struggled with failed marriages, thoughts of suicide and years of self- isolation when he would spend six months at a time alone.

Everyone I went to high school with thought I was dead for years. They’re amazed when they see me and they say, ‘You’re not dead.”‘ Walkabout said.

He often refused to sleep near his wife, afraid he would strangle her in his sleep or try to push her under the bed to protect her from the bombs he imagined were going off.

Tragic responses to combat are nothing new. But we keep rebranding them.

Over the years, militaries in the U.S. and in other NATO countries have doubled down on the selection process for special operators as well as the training they receive. And national experts in participating NATO countries appear to agree on what psychological, cognitive, and physical qualities SOF “ideal candidates” have.

These traits are discussed in an unclassified October 2012 NATO technical report entitled, “Psychological and Physiological Selection of Military Special Operations Forces Personnel.” Among other qualities, the ideal operator “must be stable and stress-resistant, able to overcome fears, and endure and maintain cognitive abilities (e.g., attentiveness, reaction speed and accuracy) in persistent, physically and psychologically demanding environments.”

How these psych traits converge to protect the mind of the special operator doing his job is explained in the first of five SO “personality traits” posted by “Sig” at SOFREP.com in October of 2014.

Stress Resistance. The typical individual who succeeds in BUD/S, Ranger school, or the Q-Course, has a high resistance to stress. In fact, a man who can make it through such a trial has an almost inhuman ability to absorb a stressful situation and carry on through it, while suppressing whatever other emotions might be trying to bubble up during the course of the stressful conditions. This can manifest itself in an often limited emotional range in everyday social interactions, but in combat conditions, it is ideal. We enter a mental auto-pilot, and shut out emotions that might keep us from carrying on.

“Sig” doesn’t claim that the special operator can’t suffer psychic trauma in the months and years following one mission or many missions. But he seems to tell us how the “typical” special operator deals with that trauma:

Stoicism. Finally, we learn in SEAL training to “suffer in silence,” and it is a trait we try to carry with us throughout our lives. Operators just learn to deal with shitty situations, and we revel in them over time, often to the point of finding humor in horrible circumstances. . . .Efforts to Train a Bulletproof Mind

Shortly after 9/11, Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times Magazine that “. . .Today, the military believes, the United States is fighting an intimate war in the right way, because soldiers have been prepared and equipped in a manner that increases the prospect of their victory and decreases the prospect of their injury – whether physical or psychological.” The result, writes Maass, is what a former Ranger, professor, and author of On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, refers to as “the bulletproof mind.”

How to get there? Maass quotes from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s first book: “What makes it work is the single most powerful and reliable behavior modification process yet discovered by the field of psychology, and now applied to the field of warfare: operant conditioning.” When combined with stress inoculation training at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Ft. Bragg, the result, as Maass puts it, is that “Special Forces soldiers may develop cold-blooded reflexes, but they are also trained to know when not to kill.”

But reflex-quick killing carries a risk for the special operator. Quoting a then-recent article by a philosophy instructor at West Point, Maass writes that such efficient killing “can be a psychological time bomb”:

“Training soldiers to kill efficiently is good for them because it helps them survive on the battlefield,’‘ wrote Maj. Peter Kilner, ‘‘However, training soldiers to kill without explaining to them why it is morally permissible to kill in combat is harmful. . . . When soldiers kill reflexively — when military training has effectively undermined their moral autonomy — they morally deliberate their actions only after the fact. If they are unable to justify what they have done, they often suffer guilt and psychological trauma.”

In 2014 RAND Project Air Force issued the study, “Enhancing Performance under Stress Inoculation Training for Battlefield Airmen.” The report also examined how Special Operators from other branches receive SIT. But it cautioned that “[t]his report is not intended to inform issues related to stress and mental health (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depression, or anxiety). Consequently, we do not review research evaluating the effects of SIT to either treat or prevent psychopathology (e.g., PTSD).”

For many who do the kind of work that Delta operator Joshua Wheeler did for much of his military career, there’s yet another job hazard. As one former SEAL explains in writing about the 2017 suicide of his son, Ryan (also a SEAL), new scientific evidence reveals that the psychically shitty situation that “Sig” said typical operators face with stoicism, can be due, at least in part, to violent structural damage to the brain.

U.S. Dep’t of Defense – Funded Research: High Price Paid by Special Operators and Their Families

A little over three weeks ago, Navy SEAL Ryan Larkin was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He ended his life after tremendous suffering and repeated inability to get relief from blast-induced TBI as well as PTS.

In a letter titled “Traumatic Brain Injuries are a Physical Problem, Not an Emotional One” his father, Mr. Frank J. Larkin, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and a former Sergeant-at-Arms of the United States Senate, wrote,

Like many special operators suffering from PTS and TBI, it was a struggle for Ryan to move through daily tasks; sleep was elusive and nightmares were abundant. He was always on guard for something to happen, often dealing with unannounced attacks of anxiety and depression. Ryan often expressed he was haunted by things he experienced in combat; where at times he questioned his own survival.

Ryan’s father expressed a frustration voiced by many veterans – special ops or not – and their families:

Throughout Ryan’s painful journey, the “system” defaulted toward treating him as a behavioral problem or a mental health patient. The “system” hung all types of labels on him to justify their assessments and actions.”

Mr. Larkin referred his readers to a June 2016 article in The Lancet Neurology, which revealed findings from a U.S. Department of Defense – funded study to determine what impact blast exposure has on the structure of the human brain. https://files.acrobat.com/a/preview/5bde91bb-dda5-43f6-8257-e8add28afd04

As Mr. Larkin explained,

The new injury pattern of concern for NSW and our larger special operations community is different, in that the blast wave from an explosive detonation travels through all the brain tissue at high speed, causing micro-tears, scarring and a unique pattern of injury very different from CTE.

He explained that the kind of structural damage discussed in The Lancet article can only be found post-mortem.

Ryan’s brain damage was never picked up on X-ray, MRI, CAT or PET scans, let alone blood markers.”

Blast-induced structural damage to the brain has been around a long time. As the Fourtieth Sergeant-at-Arms for the United States Senate put it, “. . . we have been effectively blowing ourselves up since World War I.

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An “Unseeable” From Flyover Country

During the summer and fall of 1996, I coordinated and implemented selected activities in support of an Army veteran’s reelection to the United States Senate. My zone of responsibility for United States Senator Jim Inhofe – in 2019, the new Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee – included the entirety of Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District, a big chunk of OK-02 and a sliver of OK–03. Twenty counties in northeastern Oklahoma, almost all of which had entrenched majorities of conservative aka “Blue Dog” Democrats. Master Sergeant Joshua L Wheeler was born and raised in one of those.

Shoved up against the Oklahoma / Arkansas line at Ft. Smith is Sequoyah County, named for the Cherokee credited with the birth of the tribe’s written language. And it was there, on the 12th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination that Joshua Lloyd Wheeler was born to a mother with far more troubles than she had resources. She would be single much of the time that her children were growing up, and the family often needed help from grandparents and government assistance to get by. Her kids are heirs of what media reports describe as their late mother’s two marriages with “troubled and abusive men.”

As Dan Lamothe wrote in the Washington Post for Memorial Day 2016, it was there, “[i]n a tiny trailer near the eastern Oklahoma border, [that] Joshua L. Wheeler played a central role in raising his five younger siblings. He’d cook them breakfast, work odd rjobs to bring in extra money, and even fasten his little’s sister’s hair in ponytails before school.”

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The Lands that Sired Joshua Wheeler

Besides metropolitan Tulsa and, to a lesser extent, Bartlesville and Muskogee, this part of Oklahoma was in 1996 largely rural. Terrain ranges from the tallgrass prairie of the Osage to the dense woods of the Ozark Forest. The area, part of modern day Oklahoma, is nearly halfway between the coasts and still not the easiest of places to travel to.

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act. And in the years that followed, these lands became the unwanted home of, among others, five tribes that had been “removed” from the Southeastern part of the United States: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole.

Perhaps it’s historical irony that the traditional Seminole lands are now home to MacDill AFB, FL, home to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Both unified commands with roles in operations such as the one in which Delta operator Wheeler lost his life.

“Indian Territory” became one of the names used to refer to this part of modern-day Oklahoma. But it was not an “organized,” or “incorporated” United States territory. And as far as Congress was concerned, the U.S. did not have a territory relationship with the land. Much like a sausage, over the years “Indian Territory” shrunk as slices were cut in order to make formal territories. (For convenience, “Indian Territory” will be a term used here to designate this part of current-day Oklahoma.)

In the absence of a formal territory arrangement, treaties provided the relationships that Congress had with the Cherokee and the other tribes in Indian Territory. But during the American Civil War, Congress gave the President the authority to abrogate by proclamation all treaties with a tribe that was “in a state of actual hostility to the government of the United States.

That was pretty much the case for those tribes that had been removed from the South and which now largely fought for the Confederacy. Perhaps by a four-pack of historical curiosity, it was Brigadier General Stand Watie – like Master Sergeant Wheeler, also Cherokee – who (1) joined the minority in signing the 1835 treaty that surrendered Cherokee lands in Georgia and forced the Cherokees’ move to Indian Territory; (2) in 1861 raised and then commanded the Cherokee Mounted Rifles, the first Cherokee volunteer regiment in the Confederate Army; (3) led his troops in the only combat action to happen in the Sequoyah District during the Civil War when they ambushed a Union steamboat on the Arkansas River in June, 1864; and (4) on June 23, 1865, earned his place as the last Confederate general to surrender to the Union.

Indian Territory would soon be sliced again on the west to punish the tribes for siding with the Confederacy. Settlers and land speculators began to salivate.

It would be five decades after the Civil War before MSGT Wheeler’s part of Indian Territory was reconnected with lands to the west. With that merger came the current-day State of Oklahoma and the death of aspirational Indian Territory.

It would be a little more than 110 years after the Civil War that Cherokee Joshua L. Wheeler would be born in Roland, a pin dot on a map near Ft. Smith and the Arkansas line. An overlooked spot in the middle of flyover country.

The People Who Nurtured a Warrior

Oklahoma is a pretty conservative place to begin with. It was the last state in the Union to allow tattooing (again), when it ended its prohibition in 2006. Oklahoma voters have picked the GOP nominee in all but one of the last 16 or 17 trips to the wrestling mat. And in the last 4 presidential contests, the Republican ran the table.

I wrote in the Oklahoma Bar Journal in 2003 that more of those who jeopardize U.S. national security should face the death penalty (the law makes that easier now), but I still had to ask what it was about Oklahoma that led to the state in 2003 having ten times more people on death row than any other state in the U.S. Tenth Circuit.

It’s Either Right or it’s Wrong

The term “flyover country” is not just a geographic descriptor for that part of the continental U.S. that is bookended by the coasts. It’s shorthand for the people who call the place home.

Writer Matthew Wolfson equated “flyover country” with the American Midwest in a March, 2014 article in the New Republic:

Unlike many parts of the coasts, as well as the South and West where lax labor laws have attracted multinational corporations, the Midwest enjoys a degree of insulation from drastic changes. There’s still relatively little ethnic or religious diversity, there’s plenty of space to own land, prices aren’t too high, there’s not too much traffic congestion and, in an environment this familiar, people can afford to be friendly.

In a Molotov cocktail lobbed through cyberspace, The Hill contributor Mr. Duane Townsend described some of these regional attributes and the changes they brought in November 2016 derisively. In one of the less incendiary passages – I’m not kidding – he describes the region and its people this way:

A flyover state is the huge region between the coasts. As opposed to the eastern seaboard, northern post-industrial states and Pacific Ocean states, they’re overwhelmingly Republican, stanchly conservative, regressive right wing, evangelical Christian and working class, well, the loudest, most ill-informed of them are.

But politics has always had its own version of the fickle football fan. Writing in National Review in March 2016, Kevin Williamson said,

The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. . . The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. . .

It’s not hard to argue that the corner of Oklahoma that gave birth to Delta Force warrior Joshua Wheeler is a land of perceived moral clarity. A land in which the answers to difficult spiritual and theological questions are certain. Certain because they’re rooted in the widespread belief and practice of an evangelical, Protestant brand of Christianity that considers “Old” and New Testaments to be the specifically chosen words of a Trinitarian God.

To many, the Protestant Bible contains words directly from the Divine that allow it to serve as an instruction manual for anything humanity might encounter. Ready guidance for a largely white population whose exposure to those who look and believe differently was in 1996 more limited than it is now. For those who take pride in claiming that this part of the Country is the “buckle of the Bible belt,” there have been and always will be “absolutes.”

Some of these are subject to change.

Despite larger portions of rigidity and legalism than is probably necessary, these remnants of an aspirational Indian Territory are home to a good and generous people who do what they can for the untethered soul who finds herself in desperate straits. More often than not, even those who believe it’s a sin for folks who are not married to each other to have sex with each other, can find compassion for a single, teenage mother with few resources and who can sure use some help.

But no place, no people can avoid suffering. And the widespread and deeply entrenched belief in an omnipotent, anthropomorphic God has too often had to serve as a deep well from which solace is drawn.

Adversity and hardship and loss can come in a lot of shapes and sizes. So whether the tragedy is the combat death of a child or parent or sibling or a visit from a malevolent tornado that scrapes from the face of the planet all evidence that an entire town ever existed, Oklahomans in this corner of the state and elsewhere have for generations viewed – or at least explained – tragedy as being “Gods will.”

The predominant faith tradition in this part of Oklahoma extends the belief in Divine determinism to the political realm. And it uses Christian scripture to support the belief that God picks leaders, both good and bad (“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” Romans 13:1, NLT)

God’s been busy. Oklahoma voters picked the GOP nominee in all but one of the last 16 or 17 times at bat. And in the last 4 elections, including 2016, the GOP presidential nominee won all 20 counties in this corner of Oklahoma, as well as all the other 57 counties in the state.

Work Hard. Be Tough

Everything I know about the people from these 20 counties, including MSGT Wheeler’s Sequoyah County, is that hard work was and is considered proof of good character. Resilience has no alternative. And shame has long accompanied those – especially men – who accept public assistance.

During the years that Joshua Wheeler took care of his brothers and sisters, took roofing jobs, played football, and graduated from Muldrow High School, it was Tulsa County that proved a significant magnet for diversified economic growth in the Northeastern 20. But it was the petroleum business that paid for some of Tulsa’s elegant mansions and prospered the town of Bartlesville to the north.

In 1996, the petroleum business was in the midst of global changes that Oklahoma couldn’t control. Direct flights to Houston were becoming less frequent.

Perhaps the Cherokee Nation wanted to help Josh Wheeler’s family more than it did. Maybe the tribes in this part of Oklahoma wanted to offer more in the way of social services or supplement local healthcare services or create funds to encourage and support tribal members who wanted to go to trade school or college. Maybe Native families could have struggled just a little bit less.

In June of 1996, a class action lawsuit was filed that ripped an ugly scab off a long- concealed, festering wound. Estimates said that 50,000 Native Americans in Oklahoma, including many Cherokee, had been injured.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in D.C., alleged that for more than a century federal officials systematically stole or squandered billions in royalties owed to American Indians for oil and gas extraction and other activities on lands the Dept. of the Interior held in trust for them.

It would be three presidents and four Interior secretaries before the case would settle. In approving the $3.4 billion settlement, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said that the legitimacy of the Natives’ claims could not be questioned.

By 1996, the vast part of Northeastern Oklahoma that was rural offered a number of locally sufficient but isolated, limiting employment opportunities. A large plastics manufacturing facility here. And there, hidden off the main road, a medical-grade sterile plant that makes replacement parts for warplanes. A glass factory not far from Tulsa.

County governments and state social service agencies and public utilities employed people. Hospitals. Retailers. The VA medical center in Muskogee. Bacone College and Northeastern State University are among the educational institutions that hired folks. So did law enforcement. And tribal governments. Tribal-run casinos would improve the lives of many Native Americans, but at that time the tribes and the State of Oklahoma were still mud-wrestling over what kinds of gaming would be allowed.

Interstate highways vivisect the northeastern 20. I – 44 cuts a diagonal through Tulsa northeasterly to the far corner where Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas meet up. Interstate 40 slices horizontally out of Oklahoma City, ultimately cutting through three of the 1996 – assigned counties before entering MSGT Wheeler’s Sequoyah County, then exiting at Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Of course, Oklahoma has long thrown in a turnpike here and there for good measure.

Like in much of the rest of the country, interstate highways proved good for multi-state and international commerce. But the sacrifice to be made for that benefit were the collective souls of smaller communities that once prospered from networks of state and county roads. The same freeways that made it harder for the children of these counties to find work at home made for a much quicker, easier trip away from their families and the communities they had known as they went in search of work in cities thousands of miles away. Often on the coasts.

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You’ve Always Got Your Kin

Flyover Country like the old “Indian Territory” never has and likely never will match the myriad of things to do and see and learn and earn in global cities like New York and London, Tokyo and Sydney. In places like Roland and Muldrow, Oklahoma, going to “the city” can easily mean Little Rock or Oklahoma City or Tulsa. Or, for the more adventurous and aggressive drivers, the Dallas/Ft.Worth metroplex.

But close to home, events such as Vinita’s “World’s Biggest Calf Fry Festival,” Fourth of July events in Sallisaw, or a Friday night high school football game almost anywhere, take on a worth greater than the sum of their parts.

The people in this part of Oklahoma, the people special operator Wheeler came from, usually don’t get it when those of us who are third-culture kids tell them they have it so great. You see, people like Josh Wheeler already have what we’ve always wanted: a sense of rootedness, a sense of place, the confidence that we belong to family and community who will always be there for us.

It’s true that county courthouse dockets in the Northeastern 20 feature many of the same criminal charges you see in the bigger cities: domestic violence, drunk driving, shoplifting, child endangerment, theft, sexual assault, the occasional murder, and so on. Families sometimes mix it up, too.

There’s no question that agricultural communities like those in the Northeast 20 have also suffered the outsized destruction from methamphetamine and the scourge of opioids. In June, Oklahoma became the fourth state in the nation to sue opioid manufacturers.

Treatment resources for drug and alcohol addiction can be hard to find anywhere. But it’s even harder when you come from a part of the state with smaller, widely dispersed communities, limited ability to invest in community services, and few ways to get from here to there if you don’t have a vehicle, can’t keep the one you have running, or lost your license along the path to addiction.

My work that 1996 campaign season was about politics, not about practicing law. But if what I’ve encountered in courthouses in similar rural communities in Oklahoma and Tennessee is a guide, then family will likely be there for you if you get in trouble. At least eventually.

And unlike Tulsa or Oklahoma City, let alone New York and Chicago and L.A., sometimes the prosecutor and the defense lawyer can huddle for a minute after church or during half-time at Friday night’s game, or in a hall at the courthouse and haggle for justice.

At first blush, the process can look a lot like the negotiating that’s been done through millenia in any one of the numberless local souqs that dot the ancient lands where Delta operator Josh Wheeler made an exchange with multi-generational impact: offering his life for the lives of scores of parents and children and siblings who, it turns out, might not be that different from his own.

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“Cherokee citizen and World War II veteran Virgil Carter is among 11 veterans participating in the 2015 Cherokee Warrior Flight Sept. 28-30.” (Photo Courtesy: Will Chavez/Cherokee Phoenix)

It’s an Honor to Serve

Master Sergeant Wheeler enlisted in the U.S. Army in May of 1995. And he stayed for nearly 20 years, even as an increasingly threatening international security environment created more jobs with higher pay for special operators who start successful businesses or go to work as private contractors for the myriad of governments, corporations, and individuals who need and can pay well for such specialized services.

“Josh” Wheeler was not only a proud American. He was proud of his Cherokee heritage. And all of his service, from his first days in Army Infantry to a Special Forces warrior in “Delta Force,” is part of a proud tradition among Native Americans.

Writing in Huff Post in May 2015, the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, summarized that tradition. “American Indians serve in their country’s armed forces in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group, and they have served with distinction in every major conflict for over 200 years.”

According to a November 2015 post on the tribe’s website, the “Cherokee Nation estimates there are more than 4,000 Cherokee veterans.” Two of those warriors were from towns not far from Roland and Muldrow, OK. And they had done the kind of deeds that we should always tell people about. The kinds of deeds that earn the term “hero,” no matter how unwelcome that label may be to those who wear it.

Billy Bob Walkabout was from up the road in Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee Nation. Like Wheeler, Walkabout was an Airborne Ranger. He’d served in Company F, 58th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. His valor in combat in Vietnam earned him “five Silver Stars (incl. one upgrade to Distinguished Service Cross), ten Bronze Star Medals, five with Valor device, one Army Commendation Medal (including one valor device and two oak leaf clusters), and six Purple Hearts.”

Seventeen minutes to the west of Muldrow is Sallisaw, the hometown of another Cherokee warrior, Jack Cleveland Montgomery. Lt. Montgomery is among 29 Native Americans to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the award was first established during the American Civil War. It’s the “highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who distinguished themselves by acts of valor.”

It was Lt. Montgomery’s service in Italy during World War II that earned him the accolade. The lengthy official citation that was given with the medal explains in great detail exactly how Lt. Montgomery single-handedly did all of this:

His fearless, aggressive, and intrepid actions that morning, accounted for a total of 11 enemy dead, 32 prisoners, and an unknown number of wounded.”

Lt. Montgomery returned to “Indian Territory” after the war. He worked for the VA out of Muskogee and died at age 84, in 2002.

There’s something else about the people Josh Wheeler came from. Native-American or not, they honored then and, I trust, honor now those who have served in uniform.

In small town Northeast Oklahoma, they applaud and wave the stars-n-stripes when veterans march, or ride by in open-top cars in local parades. They may defer to them in line at the Piggly Wiggly. And they elect those they trust to watch out for those who watched out for us.

There’s another thing. If, by chance, the planets are seriously out of alignment, the folks around here “honor” veterans by charging them with the all-important task of judging the best severed and deep fried calf testicles.

These people get this stuff better than most. They know that the choice about whether to call an action a “war” or a “police action” or a “train and assist” or God knows what else – that choice is most of all a marketing decision. Folks in this part of Oklahoma know that no matter what you call it, warriors fight and too often die – right away or over hours or weeks and months or until a suffering veteran is laid to rest decades later.

These counties also tend to do a pretty good job of supporting veterans organizations. In fact, Tulsa’s American Legion Post 1 was established in 1919 and is considered the nation’s oldest continuously operating post in the country.

The 1996 election season followed deadly violence against civilians and service members. Some of it at home. Some of it abroad. All of it making world news. All of it delivered by the media into the homes and workplaces and schools and churches of Northeastern Oklahoma. So maybe, just maybe in the months leading up the 1996 election season, everyone appreciated our veterans a little more than usual.

Lock ‘em Up

A brief word about Crime and Punishment in MSGT Wheeler’s corner of Oklahoma. Unless someone’s personal experiences allow her to look at criminal justice issues differently from everyone around her, it’s easy to forget that there’s more than one side to a story. More than one side to human beings.

My years prosecuting and defending criminal defendants, as well as spending a lot of time visiting with clients in various county jails and in state and federal prisons here and there give me some ideas about where Joshua Wheeler might come down on criminal justice issues. But I can’t say for sure.

For the ancestors of the area’s current residents – family whose stories get passed down from one generation to the next – living in Indian Territory meant living with little, if any, meaningful law enforcement. And the law officers they did have kept getting killed. The National Park Service reports that from 1875 – 1896, 65 Deputy U.S. Marshals were killed in the line of duty in “Indian Territory.”

The vacuum left Deputy U.S. Marshal and High Sheriff of the Cherokee Nation Sam Sixkiller, a broad range of interesting work. His “main problems were the whiskey bootleggers, cattle thieves, murders, rapists, timber thieves, land squatters, train robbers, card sharks, and prostitutes servicing the railroad towns.”

The Death Penalty in the former Indian Country

By more than 66%, Oklahoma voters declared on Nov. 8, 2016 that they’re quite happy with their death penalty, and they don’t want anyone messing with it. That’s nothing new. Pro-execution Christianity and “Frontier Justice” have long been braided together in this part of Oklahoma.

Residents come by their support honestly. Word gets around when 3 Deputy U.S. Marshals get killed every year. And in 1875, when Judge Isaac Parker first took the bench at the federal court that had jurisdiction over Indian Territory, death was the mandatory minimum sentence for certain crimes.

But it wasn’t just federal law or jurors in the federal district court at Ft. Smith that showed an affinity for capital punishment. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole had their own law enforcement and court systems with jurisdiction over their own citizens. They, too, had capital punishment.

The only question among these tribes was whether to hang ‘em or shoot ‘em. After all, Indian Territory was, according to a Ft. Smith newspaper, a “rendezvous of the vile and wicked from everywhere.”

In the Crosshairs

The people who nurtured Joshua Wheeler from his birth in Roland, OK until his graduation from high school six miles down the road were by time of the 1996 U.S. Senate campaign, already feeling under threat from forces and events at home and abroad. All of it amplified by a concurrent U.S. presidential contest and races for other state and federal elective offices.

It was an election season that was often cast as a contest between American morality and American moral decline. Throughout these counties, 1996 was a year when campaigns and evangelical churches often blurred whatever line still stood between them.

Beginning just 37 days after President Clinton’s 1993 Inauguration, bad things happened that got a lot of press. Everywhere.

Of course, people die from violence all the time and some of it makes the news. But these events seized control of conversations in Sequoyah County, OK and everywhere else.

Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Rep. Michael McCaul (TX-10) wrote about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in a Feb. 26, 2013 opinion piece in the New York Daily News: “. . . Radical terrorism once largely limited to the Middle East had come to America.”

Fast forward to early October of 1993: In what’s been called the “Battle of Mogadishu,” U.S. counter-terrorism forces faced their deadliest firefight since Vietnam. The 15-hour battle on the African continent left 18 Americans dead, 73 injured. Two Black Hawk helicopters were downed by enemy fire. And U.S. Army pilot Mike Durant was captured and held by Somali militants for 11 days.

An undated article on militaryfactory.com described what the world saw on TV: “The public forum mainly remembers the image of dead, half-naked, mutilated soldiers being dragged through the streets of the city . . . .”

It seems that the pace of terrorist attacks that got worldwide media coverage quickened with a Christmas Eve 1994 hijacking in Libya’s next-door neighbor. The 54-hour ordeal began when four Algerians from the Armed Islamic Group (G.I.A.) hijacked an early morning Air France flight in Algiers.

Hijackers shot dead 3 passengers. The third one, whose body the terrorists dropped onto the tarmac, was unlucky number 1 following the terrorists’ threat to kill a passenger every 30 minutes that the plane wasn’t allowed to take off.

The terrorists’ destination of demand? Paris, where the GIA members planned to blow apart the Airbus A300 over the Eiffel Tower.

French authorities decided that they could do a better job of addressing the crisis than could their former colony. So during a “fuel stop” at the French port city of Marseille, three teams of special operators from National Gendarmes Intervention Group (G.I.G.N.) “stormed the Air France jetliner, killing the four hijackers in a [17 minute . . .] firefight and freeing the plane’s 173 passengers and crew. Miraculously, none of the rescuers or hostages perished during the assault. . . .” The raid was broadcast on live TV.

Three months later and nearly half a world away, members of Aum Shinrikyo cult simultaneously released Sarin, a deadly nerve agent, into five widely separated Tokyo subway lines, all converging on the center of the world’s largest city. As Kyle B. Olson explained in an August 1999 bioterrorism article for CDC, “Tokyo was experiencing a coordinated, simultaneous, multi-point assault.”

Later that day, Nicholas Kristof described the scene for the New York Times: “Subway entrances soon looked like battlefields, as injured commuters lay gasping on the ground, some of them with blood gushing from the nose or mouth.”

Japanese special operators from police districts were already in a battle with the cult, which was estimated to have 40,000 members worldwide and a big pocketbook. But after the subway attack, Japan began to sharpen its spear. A year after the attack on the subway, after training with the German GSG9, French GIGN, and the British SAS, Japan’s Special Assault Team (SAT) went active.

Oklahoma-City-bombing-1996 Pulitzer Prize. Image by Charles Porter IV 300 x 393

But it was a terrorist attack just one month later and much closer to Sequoyah County that would forever change the lives of many Oklahomans. At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a rental truck packed with explosives detonated in front of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.

The explosion sheared off the building’s north wall and damaged or destroyed more than 300 other buildings. Body count after a two-week, multi-jurisdictional rescue effort? 168. Nineteen of those were young children, most of them just dropped off at a second-story daycare that opened in the Murrah building three weeks earlier.

Early media coverage in Oklahoma and beyond blamed the attack in mid-America on Middle East terrorists. CBS co-anchor Connie Chung: “This is the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil ever. A U.S. government source has told CBS News that it has Middle East terrorism written all over it.”

In following days, the official narrative switched to U.S. “homegrown” terrorism at the hand of a decorated Iraq-war veteran and 2 others he knew from the Army.

But not everyone in Oklahoma was sure that was all there was to it. Among Oklahomans not quite ready to buy the government’s story were a number of persons who called in tips to the FBI following the release of a sketch of a person of interest with Middle-Eastern features. Mainstream media were among those who aired stories that didn’t quite accept the official narrative.

An investigative reporter who worked for the local NBC affiliate the day of the bombing was among those who suspected there was more to the story. When her book detailing her investigation into a Middle-Eastern connection came out, it drew praise from top-shelf national security talent.

One of those was a public high school graduate from Tulsa who wasn’t quite satisfied with his high school diploma: R. James Woolsey – Stanford undergrad, Rhodes Scholar, Yale-trained lawyer, General Counsel to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Undersecretary of the Navy, veteran of 4 presidential administrations and Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 until January 1995, etc. He had this to say about the book:

This fascinating product of Jayna Davis’s near-decade of brave, thorough, and dogged investigative reporting effectively shifts the burden of proof to those who would still contend that McVeigh and Nichols executed the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing without the support of a group or groups from the Middle East.

The wreckage of the Murrah federal building and the lives that were blown apart that day were quickly cordoned off with a high chain-link fence set many blocks away from the site of the blast. But it was just two and a half hours west of Roland, Oklahoma on Interstate 40.

Joshua Wheeler enlisted in the U.S. Army the following month.

Joshua Wheeler: Bad Ass of the Week, case # 235490312434 (10.26.2015)

A note re source: Researcher, award-winning author, and power behind badassoftheweek.com since 2004, Ben Thompson is, according to his Harper-Collins author bio, “considered by many to be the world’s foremost expert on badassitude.”

I’ve checked. Ben Thompson’s legit. Yes, he adopts a different tone than would, say, the author of a RAND Corp. report or something from DOD. But then I don’t know if any of those writers has been recognized – as Mr. Thompson has – for presenting war and warrior history to kids in a way that makes them want to learn. Perhaps seeing the battle in Kirkuk Province through lenses provided courtesy of badassoftheweek.com will help Delta operator Joshua Wheeler stick with us for a while.

Joshua Wheeler: a Cherokee Bad Ass

This Bad Ass profile of MSGT Wheeler provides some details not covered in other open sources that were reviewed. And its count of 80 persons being rescued differs from the number of 70 that appears in other open sources and which was given in floor speeches from both of Oklahoma’s U.S. senators on Nov. 16, 2015.

One of those, U.S Senator James Lankford, talked in some detail about ISIL and the nature of the threat that MSGT Wheeler and his team of Delta operators, were fighting. Those remarks tend to support Ben Thompson’s graphic description of acts by ISIL that appear to have prompted the rescue mission in which MSGT Josh Wheeler was killed.

Here’s how Ben Thompson put it when he featured the Cherokee from Oklahoma four days after he was KIA.

. . . For weeks, the ISIS fighters in the region had been rounding up all threats to their rule, herding them to this camp, and systematically executing them. These maniacs were so over-the-top in their quest to cleanse the countryside of their enemies that they were literally arresting and murdering non-combatant civilians for no reason other than that they happened to be related to Iraqi police officers. Eleven beheaded, burned bodies had been hung from the bridge near the compound. Three mass graves were clearly visible on satellite imagery. A fourth had been dug, but hadn’t been filled yet.

The Kurdish Peshmerga wanted their boys back. They were going in, tonight, with or without U.S. assistance.

Special Operations Command ordered Delta Force to grab their shit and get ready for a fight.

Among the Delta operators who slapping mags into their M4s, powering up their night vision, and sprinting out to the waiting Black Hawk transport helicopters was Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler. A 20-year battle-hardened combat vet from Roland, Oklahoma, Wheeler is basically what you’d get if you crossed Captain America with Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe and then turned him loose on the Taliban with a heavy machine gun. A quiet, even-tempered family man who always told his wife he was going out on “a training mission” every time he deployed boots-first into a combat zone, this guy probably volunteered for more over-the-toppp white-knuckle firefights than an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie marathon over the course of two decades hand-delivering Democracy from the barrel of an assault rifle.”

. . .The clock had just clicked over to October 22, 2015, when the Black Hawks began unloading Delta Force and Peshmerga troops outside the ISIS prison. The mission was clear – Peshmerga would go in, breach the walls with explosives, and break the prisoners out. Delta was only there to provide a perimeter. They were not supposed to engage.

Of course, as tends to happen, shit got messed up.

Peshmerga demo guys got to the wall and detonated the charge, but it didn’t work. They weren’t getting through the wall. Time was of the essence – the ISIS guards had now been alerted, and it would be mere seconds before they’d set up a defensive perimeter and start capping hostages. If something was going to be done, it needed to be done ASAP.

Despite orders not to engage, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler left his position and ran head-on into the battle.

Under heavy enemy AK-47 fire, Wheeler calmly set up a breaching charge, stacked up his Delta troops, and blew the wall. He charged in, guns blazing, but sadly was hit by a burst of enemy fire that was directed at the breach. He became the first American soldier killed in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

Behind him, the rest of the Peshmerga and Delta Force raced through the breaching hole, firing and blasting with rifles and grenades in every direction. The assault operation was quick, vicious, and decisive. In minutes, Allied troops had blitzed through the prison facility and taken it over, killing over twenty of the enemy, taking five ISIS fighters prisoner, and driving the enemy back with a hail of automatic weapons fire. The rescuers reached the prison’s cell block under heavy fire, cut the gates open, and were shocked to find that instead of 20 Peshmerga fighters, the prison held nearly 80 people – most of them innocent Iraqi civilians. All of the prisoners had been slated to be executed at dawn.

The Black Hawks came under heavy ground fire as they evacuated the soldiers and hostages, but the only casualty was MSGT Wheeler, a man who died a heroic death while saving the lives of 80 people from a gruesome execution. He was brought back to the U.S. for burial on Sunday.

As the Black Hawks pulled away, a flight of F-15 Strike Eagles blew the prison apart with enough JDAM missiles to crater the earth.

Ben Thompson, #Badassoftheweek (10.26.2015) (excerpts)

In a passage partly excerpted here, Thompson takes a core sample from what appears to be – and perhaps always has been – the soul of the special operator from Roland, OK:

This guy would go to school all day, work nights and weekends as a roofer (one of the most utterly-brutal jobs on the face of this earth, especially when you’re doing that shit in the plains of Oklahoma in the dead of summer), and then still manage to change his little bro’s diapers and put food on the table for his sisters.

The ABC affiliate in Ft. Smith reported that more than 600 attended the Muldrow memorial service for “Josh Wheeler.”

Gideon’s Warriors Are Needed Now More Than Ever

Three terrorist attacks that garnered worldwide media coverage occurred in the six months before Delta operator Joshua L. Wheeler’s May, 1995 enlistment. Three jewels widely-spaced along a global necklace of death: Algiers/Marseilles . . . Tokyo . . . Oklahoma City.

Here’s a bit more information about the second of those attacks, the March, 1995 release by the Aum Shinrikyo of Sarin gas into the Tokyo subway system. Some of these details might not have found their way into the world’s newscasts back then:

Aum Shinrikyo’s next major act of violence would serve as a wake-up call to the world regarding the prospects of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. On the morning of March 20, 1995, packages were placed on five different trains in the Tokyo subway system. The packages consisted of plastic bags filled with a chemical mix and wrapped inside newspapers.

Once placed on the floor of the subway car, each bag was punctured with a sharpened umbrella tip, and the material was allowed to spill onto the floor of the subway car. As the liquid spread out and evaporated, vaporous agent spread throughout the car.

Tokyo was experiencing a coordinated, simultaneous, multi-point assault. The attack was carried out at virtually the same moment at five different locations in the world’s largest city: five trains, many kilometers apart, all converging on the center of Tokyo. The resulting deaths and injuries were spread throughout central Tokyo.

First reports came from the inner suburbs and then, very quickly, cries for help began to flow in from one station after another, forming a rapidly tightening ring around the station at Kasumagaseki. This station serves the buildings that house most of the key agencies of the Japanese government. Most of the major ministries, as well as the national police agency, have their headquarters at Kasumagaseki.

By the end of that day, 15 subway stations in the world’s busiest subway system had been affected. Of these, stations along the Hbiya line were the most heavily affected, some with as many as 300 to 400 persons involved. The number injured in the attacks was just under 3,800. Of those, nearly 1,000 actually required hospitalization—some for no more than a few hours, some for many days. A very few are still hospitalized. And 12 people were dead.

Within 48 hours of the subway attack, police were carrying out raids against Aum Shinrikyo facilities throughout Japan. Police entered cult facilities carrying sophisticated detection systems and wearing military-issued chemical gear (which was issued to the Tokyo police the week before the subway attack).

The real target of the raids that began [three days earlier] was the building known as Satyan 7, a supposed shrine to the Hindu god Shiva, the most prominent figure in the Aum Shinrikyo religious pantheon. In reality, the building housed a moderately large-scale chemical weapons production facility, designed by cult engineers, with first-rate equipment purchased over-the-counter.

Why the raid on the terrorist cult on March 17, 1995? The Aum Shinrikyo had attacked Japan with Sarin before. On Monday, June 27, 1994, the group used the deadly nerve agent to attack a neighborhood in Matsumoto, a city of 300,000 persons. The target? The residence of all three judges who sat on a panel hearing a lawsuit over a real-estate dispute in which Aum Shinrikyo was the defendant. The attack killed seven and sent more than 500 to area hospitals.

As Kyle Olson’s bioterror article makes clear, this cult wasn’t a one-trick pony:

Chemical weapons were not, however, the only option available to the Aum. The first cult laboratory for toxin production was actually in place by 1990 and was subsequently replaced with two new laboratories, one at Kamakuishki and the other in Tokyo. Aum dabbled in many different biological agents. They cultured and experimented with botulin toxin, anthrax, cholera, and Q fever. In 1993, Ashahara led a group of 16 cult doctors and nurses to Zaire, on a supposed medical mission. The actual purpose of the trip to Central Africa was to learn as much as possible about and, ideally, to bring back samples of Ebola virus. In early 1994, cult doctors were quoted on Russian radio as discussing the possibility of using Ebola as a biological weapon.”

Source: Olson, K. B. (1999). Aum Shinrikyo: Once and Future Threat? Emerging Infectious Diseases, 5(4), 413-416. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1999).

The reason I offer these additional details about the Sarin attack that occurred the month before the Oklahoma City bombing is because it’s a good illustration of how much hell can be unleashed on the government and the citizens of a vast metropolitan area by those hell-bent on killing folks. And how close they can get to killing any law enforcement response in the womb. All of it at the whim of a leader who inspires useful people who have the right resources.

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The Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway system was 22 years ago. And there’s a lot of readily available open source information – much of it accessible by smartphone – that suggests the world has not become a kinder, gentler place since then. If beauty pageant contestants still ask for world peace, they should probably start asking for something else.

Comments from the national security community here in the States seem to support the argument that, by some measures, the world has become a hell of a lot more dangerous in the years since the Tokyo attack. And with a list of military honors for valor that stretches the distance from the Cherokee capitol of Tahlequah, OK to the warrior’s birth site in Roland, OK, it would appear that over his 20 years of service, there have been enough threats to the nation’s security to keep Delta operator Joshua Wheeler and his teams quite busy.

Today’s security environment is dramatically different than the one we’ve been engaged in for the last 25 years,” said SECDEF Ashton Carter at the Economic Club of Washington, DC in February of 2016. “. . . and it requires new ways of thinking and new ways of acting.” Transnational terrorism is just one of many interrelated threats stacked one on top of another, sort of like Delhi/New Delhi sits atop a thick stack of previous civilizations.

Since the 2011 National Military Strategy was published, global disorder has significantly increased while some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode. We now face multiple, simultaneous security challenges from traditional state actors and transregional networks of sub-state groups—all taking advantage of rapid technological change. Future conflicts will come more rapidly, last longer, and take place on a much more technically challenging battlefield. They will have increasing implications to the U.S. homeland….

Complexity and rapid change characterize today’s strategic environment, driven by globalization, the diffusion of technology, and demographic shifts….

Source: June 2015 National Military Strategy released by DOD (quoted in Ronald O’Rourke, A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress, at 6 (Congressional Research Service, October 26, 2017).

So the international security environment presents new challenges and new opportunities. And if an expert from Ft. Bragg who was quoted in 2002’s “Bulletproof Mind” article is right, then “interspecies [sic]homicide” is really quite common.

A Caveat

Before I let Sgt. Wheeler’s life and story and sacrifice get a bit blunt with us, I offer a caveat. It is true that most of us who are civilians in modern, industrialized states don’t have even a single reference point from which we might begin to imagine with any accuracy what legions of veterans and their families have suffered – both when they wore the nation’s uniform and after they separated. But history, literature, archaeology, and other collected data are among those sources that remind us that this statement is not true for all places and all times. Great Britain during German bombing campaigns in World War II. Gang-plagued nations such as El Salvador and Honduras, where, as Voice of America reported in July of [2017], homicide levels are comparable to those in war and aid agencies are forced to use conflict-zone tactics. And in dozens of countries that in 2016 alone saw 19,246 deaths and injuries from IEDs. Nearly three out of every four victims were civilians. according to data reported 3 weeks ago by London-based Action on Armed Violence. (NOTE: AOAV research activities funded by governments of Norway, France, U.S., and other NATO sponsor countries.)

The Truth? We Can Do a Lot Better by our Warriors

On this sacred Veterans Day Weekend 2017, what little we are free to know of the life and service and sacrifice of Delta operator Joshua L. Wheeler points us to two truths that, if missed, carry the power to kill our warriors at home and abroad.

The first truth is this: Cherokee warrior Joshua Wheeler, who took care of his younger brothers and sisters from a “tiny trailer near the eastern Oklahoma border,” was the kind of hardworking, honorable person few notice as they drive past places like his uncooperative patch of the American Midwest. The sort of person whose life and whose family’s life deserve the serious attention and study that they get from Nancy Isenberg, Matthew Desmond, and J.D. Vance. But he was an “unseeable.” The sort of person we pay no attention to. The sort of soul too many of us simply label and dismiss: “white trash!” “trailer trash!”

But here’s the deal: if we pay attention, “Josh” Wheeler will teach us that we’re dead wrong to ever assume that “unseeables” of any stripe are all the same, will never make the world a better place, and that no one will miss them when they’re gone. And if we won’t learn that lesson from this American hero, then we won’t learn it from anyone.

May I offer into evidence the following?

EXHIBIT A:

United States Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) speaking to his Senate colleagues during a floor speech on November 16, 2015: “I think we all understand what Delta Force is all about. It’s a unit of the elite, the very best of the best. That was Josh. The best of the best. A true American hero.”

EXHIBIT B:

A former officer who commanded Sgt. Wheeler told the New York Times that “[Wheeler] was very focused, knew his job in and out . . . It is hard to describe these guys. They are taciturn, very introspective, but extremely competent. They are Jason Bournes, they really are.”

EXHIBIT C:

Mr. Zach Wheeler told the Ft. Smith ABC affiliate the day of his brother’s memorial service that “You got to be proud of somebody like that, Good Lord . . . that’s just how my brother was. ‘taking care of people. He took care of me. He took care of my sisters.”

EXHIBIT D:

Ms. Rachel Quackenbush, younger sister, told the New York Times that her big brother “was exactly what was right about this world . . . He came from nothing and he really made something out of himself.”

EXHIBIT E:

More than 600 attended a Nov. 24, 2015 memorial service for Josh Wheeler in Muldrow, OK.

Just a little over two years ago, U. S. Army Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler was a long way from home. Assigned to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, he led a team of special operators in support of less-skilled fighters trying to get their people back before they were killed and dumped in a mass grave that was already waiting for them. And on that day Josh Wheeler, from a pin dot in flyover country, told the world loud and clear that Tennessee U.S. Rep. Davy Crockett was right: a nation’s people aren’t just assembly-line units to be swapped out one for another. They’re not just another form of transferable currency. That was true in 1836 when Crockett died in battle at the Alamo. It was true when special operator Joshua Wheeler died in battle in Kirkuk, Iraq two years ago.

But there’s a second truth. And U.S. Army Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, his widow, and his four sons aren’t asking us. They’re telling us in unison that yes, there is a second deadly truth and we damned well need to pay attention to it. For their sake. For our nation’s sake.

The lives of veterans and their families – MSGT Wheeler and family included – are frequently harder than most civilians can imagine. And those of us who claim to care about veterans and about policy choices that affect them visit an unforgivable evil on these valiant souls every time our actions and our words repeat the lie that all our lives are essentially just as hard as everyone else’s.

If that were true – if life’s “ups and downs” are essentially the same for those who’ve served and for those of us who haven’t – then the VA would not have reported in September 2017 that in the years between 2001 and 2014, female U.S. veterans killed themselves at a rate 250% that of women who haven’t served. Suicide would not claim twenty current and past service members in this country each new day.[3] [per June 2018 data clarification by the VA, the 20/day number includes active-duty troops, Guard and Reserve, separated Veterans.]

image attribution 2017
(image frequently identified as that of Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30; 11 August 2011 DOD Release No: 705-11: “The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of 30 service members who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Aug. 6 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed.)

Independence Day 2018: We Still Need Warriors. And we still owe them.

A lot of people we will never hear about – including warriors whose funerals must be private affairs and whose records of valor must remain secrets of the State – put it on the line all the time to protect the rest of us from some profoundly evil people who are trying very hard to kill us and to destroy an American way of life worth saving. A way of life that soldiers and farmers and clergy and teachers and all manner of professionals – all of them sons and fathers and brothers and uncles from the American colonies – fought and died to secure.

Cherokee Indian Josh Wheeler from rural Oklahoma protected his family, his military tribe, and this nation for nearly two decades. On this Veterans Day weekend 2017 he and every other warrior deserve more thanks and prayers than any of us could ever give.

Charles Bloeser. “Independence Day 2018: We Still Need Our Warriors.” Unpublished work Copyright 2017 (as amended and subsequently retitled.)

[i] Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-05-02-0117, accessed December 8, 2015); in The Papers of George Washington, 5:179–182 (all as accessed 2 July 2018 at allthingsliberty.com).

Must you carry the bloody horror of combat in your heart forever?” — Homer (ca. 8th century BC), “The Odyssey”

Tour of Duty: Ty Carter fought in Afghanistan and became a hero. Now he has one more enemy to fight: PTSD.” Foreign Policy. Excerpted from Yochi Dreazen, The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. Deckle Edge 2014. https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/10/06/suicide-mission/

https://combatresearchandprose.com/2019/07/07/combatresearchandprose-introduction-to-new-source-for-real-world-research-products-created-with-policy-makers-in-mind/

Combatresearchandprose: introduction to new source for “real world” research products created with policy makers in mind

A special note re suicide among active-duty service members and veterans

A Stars and Stripes article posted June 25, 2018 on the blog of Special Forces Association Chapter IX suggests that the VA’s reporting of its suicide data has lacked precision:

For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported an average of 20 veterans died by suicide every day – an often-cited statistic that raised alarm nationwide about the rate of veteran suicide. However, the statistic has long been misunderstood, according to a report released this week. The VA has now revealed the average daily number of veteran suicides has always included deaths of active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve, not just veterans.

Craig Bryan, a psychologist and leader of the National Center for Veterans Studies, said the new information could now help advocates in the fight against military and veteran suicide. “The key message is that suicides are elevated among those who have ever served,” Bryan said. “The benefit of separating out subgroups is that it can help us identify higher risk subgroups of the whole, which may be able to help us determine where and how to best focus resources.”

The VA released its newest National Suicide Data Report on Monday, which includes data from 2005 through 2015. Much in the report remained unchanged from two years ago, when the VA reported suicide statistics through 2014. Veteran suicide rates are still higher than the rest of the population, particularly among women. In both reports, the VA said an average of 20 veterans succumbed to suicide every day. In its newest version, the VA was more specific.

The report shows the total is 20.6 suicides every day. Of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active-duty service members, guardsmen and reservists, the report states. That amounts to 6,132 veterans and 1,387 service members who died by suicide in one year. The VA’s 2012 report stated 22 veterans succumbed to suicide every day – a number that’s still often cited incorrectly. That number also included active-duty troops, Guard and Reserve, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Wednesday. https://sfachapterix.blogspot.com/2018/06/va-reveals-its-veteran-suicide.html

Deana Martorella Orellana USMC. 325 x 325. photo courtesy NPR WUNC re female veterans suicides accessed 14 June 2018

A Word About the Women

Barely over a month ago, a North Carolina Public Radio story explained that VA data show that female veterans take their own lives at a rate 250% that of women who’ve never served. And the “VA has recently received data showing that a startlingly high number of suicides come in the first days, weeks and months after veterans leave the military. . . .”

The WUNC segment told the tragic story of Deana Martorella Orellana, a United States Marine who in 2010 deployed to a “particularly combat-torn part of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, . . .” The Marine “was assigned to a small female team that was attached to a male infantry unit. The team worked with the Afghan women and children they encountered. . . . When Deana came back, something had changed, said her family. . . . One of Deana’s siblings, Robin Jewell, said the problem had to do with something Deana saw or experienced involving Afghan children, but Deana never opened up about the details.

She said that she didn’t see things the same, and she could handle everything except for the kids,” Jewell said. “And I don’t know what that means. She just didn’t talk.”

The WUNC/NPR story explains that “[o]n March 4th, 2016, Deana went to the VA for help, her mother said. VA officials later told the family that Deana agreed to counseling.

But just hours after the VA appointment, Deana asked a friend to drop her at the house where she had lived with her boyfriend, who wasn’t home. She went in the bedroom and retrieved a .45-caliber handgun.

She sat on the floor and leaned against a wall. That’s how her body was found.

She wrote a note,” said her mother, sitting at Jewell’s kitchen table in Maryland.”

But not a real note,” Jewell added. “Not a Dear John.”

Her mother recalled what it said: “I’m sorry, call 911, take care of the dog, don’t come in the bedroom.”

Medical examiners’ reports have a line listing valuables found with a body. Deana was wearing a fitness band and a plastic bracelet.

In her pocket was a sheaf of handwritten inspirational quotes. Words, as they say, to live by.

She had been out of the Marines only a few months. . . .

Audio: https://www.npr.org/2018/05/29/614011243/battling-depression-and-suicide-among-female-veterans

Transcript: https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=614011243

The VA encourages those who need help to reach out:“Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.” https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221

Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted, Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

254,821,429 views: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch – scrolling list of trauma- and other- resources follows video

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Wrong Side of Heaven + resources for all past and present military personnel

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From the resource guide, below:

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20 June 2019: I checked the Swords to Plowshares website today to see if they have a newer version of this 2017 guide. There’s not. t matter for a lot of stuff in this guide, thou

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May 2017 Resource Guide for Veterans and Their Families

 

*** Data used to create this blogpost’s feature image are borrowed from the May 2017 Resource Guide for Veterans and Their Families, published by Swords to Plowshares’ Institute for Veterans Policy and described this way:

“This is a comprehensive guide for researchers, policy makers, advocates, and veterans. It covers demographics and cultural characteristics of veterans and their families, the scale and scope of veteran issues, and the availability and limitations of federal resources for veterans and families.”

Writing about lawyer suicides because The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility asks you to is risky when you’re hiding from fellow attorneys your own suicide-prone mental illness.

Writing about lawyer suicides because you’ve been asked to is risky when you’re hiding from fellow attorneys your own suicide-prone mental illness.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/writing-lawyer-suicides-because-youve-been-asked-risky-bloeser

 

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Former Assistant D.A. and Career Criminal Defense Lawyer Reads Confession: Devil’s Backbone almost the final stop in my bipolar legal career

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Former Assistant D.A. and Career Criminal Defense Lawyer Reads Confession: Devil’s Backbone almost the final stop in my bipolar legal career

Former Assistant D.A. and Career Criminal Defense Lawyer Reads Confession: Devil’s Backbone almost the final stop in my bipolar legal career
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/former-assistant-da-career-criminal-defense-lawyer-reads-bloeser

 

 

 

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LAWYER READS HIS RECENT CONFESSION – Suicide Bridge on the Devil’s Backbone: in the Spring of 2012, almost the final stop in my bipolar legal career

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[PLEASE NOTE: LINKS TO VETERAN- AND-FIRST RESPONDER FOCUSED RESOURCES APPEAR BELOW. BULLET POINT LIST OF SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS AND HOW TO RESPOND HAVE BEEN ADDED IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THIS ESSAY.]

VIDEO: AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION TO THIS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY AND IDENTICATION OF THE RESOURCES FOR MILITARY AND FIRST RESPONDERS MADE AVAILABLE AFTER THE READING.

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VIDEO: AUTHOR READS “Suicide Bridge on the Devil’s Backbone: in the Spring of 2012, almost the final stop in my bipolar legal career.”

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[PLEASE NOTE: LINKS TO VETERAN- AND-FIRST RESPONDER FOCUSED RESOURCES APPEAR BELOW. BULLET POINT LIST OF SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS AND HOW TO RESPOND HAVE BEEN ADDED IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THIS ESSAY.]

In the Spring of 2012 and while living in Tennessee, bi-polar symptoms sent me to psych hospitals three times in three months. The last time was after Williamson County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Deputies came to visit me at the Natchez Trace Bridge. I’d spent too long discussing the merits of crashing onto State route 96 – in the seventh wealthiest county in entire country – with the lady at the “please don’t jump” number on the sign in this feature photo. (1-800-273-8255)

Since my return to Tucson in April of 2012, I’ve experienced no psychiatric emergencies of any type, barring frequent suicidal ideations during my first year or so back here. Cognitively, I’m at the top of my game. I wrote the bulk of this essay in the few weeks between my sixth and my last hospitalizations.

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They lost loved ones to suicide on the Natchez Trace Bridge. They say better barriers could prevent more tragedies.

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/2019/01/25/natchez-trace-bridge-suicide-barriers-prevention/2481298002/

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The Natchez Trace was called the Devil’s Backbone long before Spring 2012, when it almost became the final stop in my bipolar legal career

[March 2012, somewhere near Franklin, Tennessee] The patients in the psychiatric unit mumbled their revulsion for the distinguished lawyer whose bloated colostomy bag had slipped open, sending its vile contents onto the floor and furnishings of the break room where the patients had gathered to watch television.

I loathed the man for another reason.

Moments earlier the gentleman confided in me that he bore the ugly bag because he had blown out his insides with buckshot. He had tried to kill himself, he said, because bipolar disorder had destroyed his legal career.

My disgust wasn’t at the wretched odor that now hung in the break room. It was at this man; his simple existence mocked my hope that my own bipolar disorder would stop terrorizing me and let me return to what society calls worthwhile work.

Two days earlier, I’d almost killed myself. Williamson County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Deputies came to visit me at the Natchez Trace Bridge, an award-winning structure that as of 25 January 2019, had kept its promise to 32 men and women who chose this extraordinarily beautiful part of Middle Tennessee to end their lives. I’d spent too long discussing the merits of crashing onto State route 96 – with the lady at the phone number on the “please don’t jump” sign.

And now I stood, again, in pale blue scrubs behind the locked doors of a mental hospital. I looked down at the fecal trail that followed my fellow lawyer down the hall. I thought of my own path. It reeked too. It consisted of less-than-political statements and acts, simmered in the cauldron of pharmaceutical side effects I had to endure, I was told, if I was to live.

It wasn’t always this way. I had started my legal career as a prosecutor who didn’t have the slightest clue how many people are broken. But my case load included more than criminal cases. It included the commitment of men and women who had become a danger to themselves or others. In stately courtrooms, Spartan jail cells and ammonia-laced emergency rooms, I asked judges to lock up broken people like this lawyer I had just met.

To lock up people like me.

In the years that followed¸ my legal career continued to intersect the blurry line that is mental illness. Reviewing psychiatric records, questioning expert witnesses who tried to explain the depths of somebody’s darkness and getting courts to see that my clients were more than just numbers on file folders, were just things that any lawyer should do. That I was particularly passionate about mental health issues didn’t occur to me.

I slept little in those days. Back then, I could rely, again and again, on having enough energy to work late at my office or to meet with clients at the Oklahoma County jail well past midnight even though I had to be in court first thing in the morning.

Despite a caseload of time-intensive state and federal cases, I volunteered time and energy to serve as an officer of my local chapter of the Federal Bar Association and as a member of the American Inns of Court. I judged law school moot court competitions and taught a couple of CLEs. I took the time to write articles and essays that proposed strengthening a federal criminal statute and which encouraged my colleagues to think outside the box about the death penalty and about how we practice law.

“How do you keep up that pace?” asked the lawyer who would soon handle my divorce. “You’ll burn out,” he said.

John was right.

On a blistering July afternoon, my mind began to race itself toward a crash, with both brake and gas slammed to the floor. The intensity was strangely familiar, but this time the sensation was unbearable. I was in the passenger seat, with my wife driving and our daughter in the back.

I jumped.

In the days that followed, I roamed the streets, a shopping mall, barely sure where I was. I rummaged through my mind like a bargain hunter digs through the leftovers at a garage sale. I wanted to find something familiar.

But no matter what I turned over in my mind, I couldn’t find my clients’ names. I couldn’t find what their cases were about. And I couldn’t find a single memory that told me how I could file even the simplest of legal documents for them.

I was already scheduled, as president of my Federal Bar Association chapter, to welcome attorneys who had recently been admitted to practice in federal court. It was no big deal. But I was terrified, and for good reason. As I stepped to the podium and began to speak, I found that everything I knew so well about our federal courts was balled up in my mind like a spider web. I heard that same confusion in the words I tried to welcome my fellow lawyers with. I didn’t want anyone to see me after that.

In the months that followed, I passed off my cases to other lawyers, closed my practice, left my wife and child, had an affair, wrote an overly confessional 300-page novel manuscript, returned to Nashville – where I’d finished high school – and tried to start a new life.

I stopped listening to news and to any commentary about the world around me. Old friends Sammy Hagar and Angus Young started coming around a lot more often. And I banged hard on my old upright piano, hoping to drown out the screaming tension that had taken over my life.

The doctors diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. According to Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, co-author of the definitive medical text on Manic-Depressive Illness, bipolar is a condition that is characterized by fierce energy, high mood, quick intelligence, increased risk taking and decreased need for sleep. It also comes with a high risk of suicide.

I certainly knew of bipolar disorder and had studied the DSM diagnostic criteria. It was the unbridled manic-depressive symptomology that made a lot of those commitment hearings necessary during my tenure as an assistant D.A. The condition never has been and never will be a stranger to my criminal cases, either as a prosecutor or a defense lawyer.

I considered the diagnosis a death sentence.

John had been right. It would have been impossible – at least for me – to maintain that same kind of pace indefinitely. But I was handling it all pretty well and hadn’t sacrificed any of the top-shelf legal work that I did for my clients.

Something specific must have triggered otherwise dormant symptoms. At least it’s always seemed that way to me.

At the time, I was trench deep in reviewing seemingly never-ending evidence that federal prosecutors had turned over in a multi-state child-sex-trafficking case. I was having a hard time shaking an image my mind had created while reading through FD-302s and other investigation documents: a ten-year-old girl who’d been kidnapped and taken from her home state so that she could be sold out for sex. What was left of the child’s broken body had been found in a dumpster behind a grocery store across town. The poor kid had refused a bottom bitch’s order to let an over-the-road trucker rape her.

My little girl had been that age not too many years earlier.

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Whatever the cause or causes, I still considered my new bi-polar diagnosis a death sentence. For my career. For my life.

But men and women in white coats with their names embroidered on them told me that if I took my medications, saw a therapist and steered clear of drugs and alcohol, that my condition would no longer interfere with my life and my ability to practice law. This should be easy enough, I thought. Illegal drugs had never been a problem for me. And I hadn’t abused alcohol since I was in college.

I did everything the doctors told me to do. And I did it exactly as they had instructed. Between late Summer of 2004 and April of 2012 – seven years ago – my bipolar disorder cost me two jobs and forced me to close a private practice. BP severed relationships with those I cared about most, alienated friends and family, and put me in psychiatric hospitals seven times. My manic depression made me want to die more times than I can count.

[Even though I’ve not once thought of killing myself for almost six years, I remain wary. Bipolar disorder has a way of jumping up and biting you in the ass. So I may again clutch a 38 revolver as i try to figure out how to make the smallest mess for folks to have to clean up. I my again stand on a sidewalk, struggling to make an educated guess as to optimal moment when I should step off the sidewalk and into the path of a bus traveling at 40 mph. If so, I hope I’ll do a better job remembering this analysis than I did that day in late March or early April of 2012, when I drew near to a jumping bridge on the Devil’s backbone.

“I can either kill myself, which would take me away from those who love me but it would stop the pain, or I can choose to live. If I am to live, I’m going to have to remember five important truths.

First, I am not alone with this illness. And the lawyer who filled himself with buckshot is not alone either. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, we are among more than fifteen million people (statistic needs updating) who suffer from severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder during a given year. As my medical expert explained it to jurors some years ago, people with bipolar disorder can rise to the very top of their profession. And, the physician explained, we’re talking about people with household names.

A second fact I need to remember is that there are organizations out there to help me and my loved ones. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) are just two of the groups dedicated to helping individuals and their families cope with what can be a disabling condition. Crisis hotlines exist in many cities for those who think they can’t go on.

That there have been profound pharmaceutical advances is a third truth I should keep in mind if I am to avoid becoming just another statistic. I need to remember that some of my medications have helped me live and work as well as anyone else. It’s just that sometimes the medications need changing. Yes, I become weary as the doctors try to find one or more that works. But the science of treating brain disorders has allowed medications to target parts of the brain with increased focus and efficacy. The likelihood that medications will again help me function is greater if I just let the doctors continue their work.

The fourth truth I should remember about bipolar disorder is that it has forced me to stop and ask if my career is consistent with my passion in this life. Years before many ask the question, I have the opportunity to ask “what am I here for?” and to change direction while there is still time.

[Now, I maintain a perfectly good Tennessee law license. And before that I had a perfectly good Oklahoma law license. There’s never been reason to investigate me for professional misconduct. And even though bipolar disorder can be a fast track to a criminal record, I still don’t have a criminal record. But even so,] bipolar disorder has given me a fifth issue to consider.

Manic-depressive illness has forced me to look deep inside and find my worth in who I am and not in what I do. It’s not easy. Ours is a society that tells people they count if they work in professions that others think matter. That is, the more others pay for someone, the greater that person’s worth.

But I have a worth separate and apart from what others say or pay. I have worth because the Divine says so – because God says so – and because I am part of the human family. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the greatest difficulty is that men do not think enough of themselves, do not consider what it is that they are sacrificing when they follow in a herd, or when they cater for their establishment.” Bipolar Disorder has forced me to see the truth in Emerson’s statement. It has forced me to tell the establishment that it will no longer define my worth.

Strange as it sounds, bipolar disorder has given me a reason to live.

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Five Finger Death Punch

WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN – scrolling list of resources for past and present mil

Wrong Side of Heaven + resources for all past and present military personnel

BLUE ON BLACK. The Gary Sinise Foundation to benefitFirst Responders.

Official music video for Blue On Black (feat. Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brantley Gilbert & Brian May) by Five Finger Death Punch. Stream or Download:https://5fdp.ffm.to/blueonblack

Proceeds from this song to be donated to The Gary Sinise Foundation to benefit First Responders. If you are considering donating yourself then you can do so by visiting – https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/

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The Fighter
C.J. Chivers
After graduating in January 1988, Chivers served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated from the United States Army’s Ranger School, served in the first Gulf War and in peacekeeping operations during the Los Angeles riots in 1992 before being honorably discharged as a captain in 1994.[5] Chivers graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism a year later.[6]
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FAST COMPANY
Tracking The Lives Of Veterans To Figure Out Where They Slip Through TheCracks
About 20 veterans a day commit suicide, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But that number is probably far higher if you factor in those less than honorably and dishonorably discharged, which the VA doesn’t include in its statistics.
In general, these deaths often have contributing factors that are recognized in hindsight, say, depression or substance abuse, and maybe access to a firearm. But that doesn’t really tell much about who the person was or how they interacted with their community.
A $3.5 million research initiative led by the nonprofit veteran services group America’s Warrior Partnership, along with the University of Alabama and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, aims to change that by first tracking all of the local-level risk factors that lead to veteran suicides, and then creating a holistic plan to help communities prevent more of them.
Jim Lorraine, the president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP), considers this a new kind of sorely needed battle plan. By his count, there are 21 million former military service people in America, but the VA only serves about half that number. “It’s a general way to say it, but we can move from fishing for those veterans who might take their life, to hunting for [them],” he says. (Lorraine is the former Deputy Command Surgeon for the United States Special Operations Command, so prone to militaristic terminology.)

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Re Bad Paper: Legal Services Center, Harvard University, National Veterans Legal Services Program, & Swords to Ploughshares. (2016, March). Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper.

https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/liman/document/underserved_liman_program.pdf

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[PLEASE NOTE: Late last year, President Trump and the Congress made sure that the VA provides short-term mental health services to veterans in crisis but who are not receiving services from the VA. For more info, contact:]
The VA encourages those who need help to reach out: “Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.” https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/
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(GREAT BRITAIN / UK) All Call Signs is a peer-to-peer communication app for Veterans and serving Military Personnel. Our chat service is manned by volunteers who have served in The Forces and understand the stresses and struggles that come with daily life in and out of uniform. If life is getting you down and you need someone to speak to, hit the chat button below. We’re here.

https://allcallsigns.org/

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https://combatresearchandprose.com/2019/07/07/combatresearchandprose-introduction-to-new-source-for-real-world-research-products-created-with-policy-makers-in-mind/

To avoid dying in prison, the young, destroyed woman across from me in this jail, unable to think or speak, would need an expert like none other.

To avoid dying in prison, the young, destroyed woman across from me in this jail, unable to think or speak, would need an expert like none other.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/avoid-dying-prison-young-destroyed-woman-across-from-me-bloeser

Good and law-abiding folks trapped in cultic influence relationships often have pseudo- personalities that can and do lie, cheat, steal, and kill, explained former cult member and Ph.D. cult expert Paul Martin to jurors in a death penalty trial of the younger D.C. Sniper. Less than two years later, that same expert witness was giving a lot of years back to my good and law-abiding client who was facing life in prison for crimes she’d done for her boyfriend’s homicidal, cultish Mexican drug cartel ****This post uses my client’s circumstances before an early morning SWAT Team raid to introduce the federal sentencing guidelines, which are used in all 94 federal district courts and all 12 federal circuit courts but which even the vast majority of lawyers know nothing about.

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THE FOLLOWING INTRODUCTION TO THE USSG PRECEDES ADDED CONTENT:

*Good Girls Made Bad, which now discusses in detail what cult expert Paul Martin was able to bring to my client’s case

*Access to November 1986 Report of the American Psychological Association’s Taskforce on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control

* Links to published research findings by Paul Martin, Ph.D. and other scholars who’ve documented the nature and prevalence of trauma inflicted on hundreds of former cult members from a broad spectrum of cult relationships.

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Introduction

The most hollow, soul-hemorrhaging client I’ve ever defended was arrested minutes before 6 am by a SWAT team that found her in bed with her boyfriend, pornos still playing on the TV. That her boyfriend worked for a cultish, homicidal Mexican drug cartel and stole my client’s ability to refuse sex by use of human manipulation techniques was the least of her problems.

My educated, articulate client with a clean record and family who loved her, appeared to me as we sat across from each other in her jail south of Fort Worth, to be a woman cognitively destroyed, unable to think or mouth even the simplest of words to help me defend her. She was facing life in a federal prison because she committed crimes for her boyfriend’s drug cartel. Crimes that nothing in her upbringing, character, or history suggested she would ever agree to do.

The late Psychologist Paul Martin’s exceedingly rare expertise in cults, cult indoctrination, and cult behavior is the biggest part of why I sought and secured court approval to bring him into my client’s CJA trial panel case in the federal district court in Dallas. The fact that all that expertise and his ability to effectively communicate stuff that most people don’t even believe is possible, had been hard-earned during seven years that he, personally, spent in the clutches of a cult without knowing it, made this guy golden.

Good Girls Made Bad includes more info re Paul Martin, what he was able to bring to the D.C. sniper death penalty case of Lee Boyd Malvo as well as what he brought to my client’s TXND cult cartel case, and his work to document and repair the damage being done to persons on the losing end of cultic relationships.

**A word about this brief USSG primer: Those who’ve been on either side of a federal criminal prosecution or who have worked federal appellate, post-conviction, or certiorari proceedings in which application of the USSG is an issue, may find my brief overview of the federal sentencing guidelines boring or so basic that I’ve not included many of the finer points of federal sentencing.

Contextually, it’s important to note that my client’s sentencing occurred in the mid 2000s. Two United States Supreme Court decisions were handed down – one in 2004 and the other in 2005 – that answered the legal question whether mandatory sentencing guidelines violate one’s right to trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. SCOTUS answered in the affirmative.

The 2004 decision concerned mandatory sentencing guidelines in the State of Washington, under which state judges were enhancing punishments by reference to facts that had not been pled to or proved at trial. It’s my understanding that Justice Sandra Day O’Conner called the case out of Washington state an “earthquake.” It certainly was. And the American criminal justice system continues to register tremors from the decision.

The manual that I will use to introduce the federal sentencing guidelines is the 2018 version. It includes amendments effective 1 November 2018 and earlier. If you’re like I am and you frequently say to yourself “Cool! I get to learn more stuff!”, then you won’t wait until the end of my brief primer to go to the USSC to download the same manual, free of charge, from the USSC website. Here’s the link:

https://www.ussc.gov/guidelines

While you’re at the USSC website, you can review research products on a range of issues. You can also sign up to receive on a regular basis free publications from the Commission as well as the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies, including ATF and DEA. One very cool feature of the USSC website is that in some instances you get to pick which publications you want to receive by a publication’s intended audience: for example, the Courts and/or the Congress and/or Academia.

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Why the Guidelines?

As part of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) was established as an independent agency of the Judicial Branch. The agency was created to investigate and address vast sentencing disparities that were showing up in the research. For example, two persons convicted for the same criminal conduct in different parts of the country often received vastly different terms of imprisonment. The USSC constantly amends the rules to address new or previously unaddressed sentencing issues that have real-world consequences for those being sentenced for federal felonies and serious misdemeanors, as well as their families.

But the USSC doesn’t have the power to fix the statutury law that’s creating whatever problem the Commission’s trying to fix. Congress and the President are the ones who have that power. And with 435 House members, 100 senators, and one sitting president, problems that the Commission has identified and wants to fix may get fixed. Or they may not.

One example of a particularly thorny sentencing problem is the disparity between sentences for crack-cocaine crimes and sentences for powder-cocaine crimes. Both Republican and Democrat members of Congress have, over the years, supported efforts to eliminate the sentencing disparity. And in 2010 a partial fix was passed and signed into law. But efforts to get rid of the disparity altogether and to answer one particular question look more like the American version of a stnipe hunt than anything else: what do we do about all those folks who’ve been sentenced for cocaine crimes in the decades since the “crack baby” panic?

Here’s one of the articles that discusses the partial fix achieved in 2010. Lucia Graves. Crack-Powder Sentencing Disparity: Whites Get Probation, Blacks Get A Decade Behind Bars. Huff Post 3 August 2010.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/crack-powder-sentencing-d_n_667317,

A BRIEF WORD ABOUT PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION AND NATIONAL SECURITY

My client was looking at spending the rest of her life in prison because a lawyer exercised prosecutorial discretion. My own experience from the relatively short part of my career that I spent on the prosecution side of criminal cases was that the longer I served as an assistant D.A, the more sobering that kind of power became.

Historically and generally, a prosecutor’s decisions whether to file criminal charges against someone and if so, what crimes to allege, are sacrosanct. One of the reasons that’s so significant is that moderation and big-picture thinking are seldom in the perceptual playbook that subconsciously guides the decisions that a newly-minted lawyer who’s serving as a prosecutor must make. Those often include charging decisions.

D. Boyd, who served as the district judge for Oklahoma’s 8th Judicial District during my tenure as an assistant district attorney, once told me in chambers that what he liked about me as a prosecutor was that I didn’t just ask myself if I could prosecute someone but I also asked myself if I should. It’s a good thing that Judge Boyd wasn’t presiding over the criminal docket the day that a sheriff’s deputy had to pull me aside after I’d secured 5-day jail sentences for five criminal defendants charged with relatively minor alcohol offenses. “We just don’t have any more room in the jail,” he told me.

Moderation and big-picture thinking have long been important parts of what I think and do when it comes to matters of criminal justice. That’s especially true when criminal justice issues intersect with America’s national security needs.

One example of this kind of issue overlap, one that demands the wisest, most prudent exercise of prosecutorial discretion – should the matter come to a prosecutor’s desk in the first place – concerns dependable and effective weapons in our Nation’s arsenal that are best and more safely used when fewer people know they can and do exist. That’s why prosecuting someone is a terrible idea if, by virtue of law and procedure, there’s a genuine risk that proof of the existence, inner workings, and effectiveness of such weapons (for example, those used by IO/MISO/PSYOP personnel) will be thrust naked into the unsecured environment of a very public civilian court system.

But there are also criminals and crimes that demand prosecution. Some demand that a person never, ever be allowed again into society. And some of these demand the death penalty. One example is the series of D.C. / Beltway murders orchestrated by John Allen Muhammed and accomplished, in part, by his cultic exploitation of vulnerabilities in Lee Boyd Malvo, a teenager described at the beginning of a September 2004 Vanity Fair article as a “bright, popular, affectionate kid.”

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The Making of a Sniper: How 17-year-old Lee Malvo became one of the men responsible for weeks of sniper shootings in Washington, D.C. Donovan Webster. Vanity Fair. September 2, 2004.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2004/10/beltway-snipers-200410

Calculating an advisory sentence with the federal sentencing guidelines: a brief intro

Let’s work just the skeleton of an example that demonstrates how federal statutory law and the federal sentencing guidelines work in tandem. We’ll use just one of the crimes that my client’s mobster boyfriend committed against her frequently.

There are three facts of life about the USSG that you should keep in mind as we go through this.

1. The guidelines are used in all 94 federal judicial districts across the country, as well as in all 12 federal circuit courts;

2. Federal judges are required to review and calculate the guidelines as they contemplate and impose an equitable sentence;

3. Because the Sentencing Guidelines are now advisory, it’s perfectly constitutional for a federal judge to impose a sentence that’s even tougher because of conduct that’s never been charged, was not proven at trial, or which the defendant never pled to. For example:

(a) the felon being sentenced used a position of trust or used special skills to commit their crime(s);

(b) the felon victimized a vulnerable person; and/or

(c) the felon being sentenced obstructed justice at any time before, during, or after their crimes.

The judge knows these and other facts about the person s/he will sentence because top-shelf professionals like my Uncle Ken and some of these folks who introduced me to jello shooters have produced extraordinarily thorough pre-sentence reports that both the prosecution and the defense have already reviewed and had the opportunity to make argument as to why the report needs to be changed.

All of this occurs before the judge receives the completed and, if deemed necessary, revised pre-sentence report. It’s only after that that the judge reviews the final report and, during sentencing proceedings and if they deem it necessary, hears from the assistant U.S. attorney(s) and the defense lawyer(s) why the report is not correct about this or that fact that’s presented in the pre-sentence report.

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Let’s get started.

18 U.S.C. 2241 is a federal statute, passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President; passed by Congressional override of the President’s veto; or held unsigned by the President for more than 10 days, that is, unless Congress adjourns within the same 10-day period.

This particular statute lays out the myriad of ways that a criminal defendant can be found guilty of aggravated sexual abuse. I’ve enlarged the statute so folks can read it more easily.

Section 2241 is a good statute for our example because it covers both the more common types of sex offenders – like those who use date rape drugs to prep their victims to be violated – and the much more rare type of predator, like my client’s boyfriend, who used human manipulation techniques to prep his victim – my client – to be violated.

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Generally speaking, calculations made with the federal sentencing guidelines follow a road-map of sorts, the table of contents in the applicable guidelines manual

Because other persons were involved in crimes committed by my client’s boyfriend, our excursion will stop at just a few spots in the guidelines that frequently arise.Screenshot_20190622-101521

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Let’s begin our journey at Chapter 2 – Offense Conduct.

We won’t stay long, but let me point out a couple of especially significant parts of guideline 2A3.1: Take note of the Base Offense Level. That’s where our equation begins. Subsection (a)(1) states that 38 is the base level for convictions under Section 2241(c). That’s the part of the Aggravated Sexual Abuse statute that applies to victimizing children. For convictions under the other parts of 18 USC 2241, the Base Offense Level is 30

Let me point to just three take-aways from this, and I refer you to the Sentencing Table further down the page.

Take-away 1: If two persons with no criminal history are convicted, the first under any part of 2241 except (c), and the second person is convicted under 2241(c), the differences between advisory sentence terms associated with base offense level alone is significant. Assuming neither person has criminal history, the advisory term for the first one, with Base Offense Level 30, is 97 – 121 months. For the person with Base Offense Level 38, it’s 235 – 293 months.

Take-away 2: both Base Offense Level 30 and Base Offense Level 38 are zone D levels on the sentencing table. That means prison for both, day-for-day, with virtually no credits to shorten the term of imprisonment.

Take-away 3: we’re just getting started.

Shall we go on to our next stop?

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For purposes of this illustration, I’ve excerpted all of 18 U.S.C. 2241 except that portion that follows the break that I’ve made in 2241(c).

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Federal Sentencing Table aka “the grid”

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We’re still in chapter 2 – Offense Conduct –

It’s not at all uncommon to encounter, as part of the crime, illegal behaviors such as those I’ve included below.

I’ll ask you to take note of just a couple of items here:

**The person who aids and abets begins his/her USSG sentence calculation at the same base offense level as that for the crime that they helped make happen.

**You might also take note of how quickly the numbers start adding up.

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Chapter 3 – Adjustments –

This is another part of calculating the guidelines sentence which the judge will take into account as s/he considers and imposes sentence.

For purposes of this illustration, I’ve just included a few of the reasons that advisory guideline sentences get longer and longer.

You might take note of just a couple of items here:

**The criminal law has never been fond of those who use their positions of trust to hurt folks. It’s also not keen on people who use their special skills to victimize folks, especially those who lack the skills to defend themselves against being victimized. Chapter 3 – adjustments – is one place where those who prey on others can really feel the love.

**Ignorance of the law doesn’t get you squat when you’re found guilty or are about to be sentenced for your crime(s). Perhaps it’s mercy, then, that prompts the U.S. Sentencing Commission to include in the guidelines manual more than a page of examples of activities that the criminal law has long considered “obstruction of justice.” For example, item (k) from 3C1.1: “threatening the victim of the offense in an attempt to prevent the victim from reporting the conduct constituting the offense of conviction.”

Even though

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Chapter 4 – criminal history and criminal livelihood

I won’t spend any time here on the matter of calculating the criminal history of someone who will be sentenced – except to say that, for some clients, these calculations mean doing more time.I

I recall a client I represented in the Western District of Oklahoma in the day when the Guidelines were mandatory. He had some criminal history that was pretty straight-forward to calculate. But he had this marijuana possession conviction from New York City. NYC treated the offense as a simple run-of-the-mill “violation.” The problem he had was that under the Guidelines applicable then, this simple NYC violation that came with nothing more than a $100 fine added a point to my client’s criminal history calculation. And that pushed him into the next higher category, which meant more time for him.

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Even though from this point on I won’t add more personal narrative to this overview of the USSG, I direct your attention to a few items from chapters 5-7. This overview includes none of Chapter 8, re sentencing of organizations.

5E1.2 explains that unless a defendant establishes that s/he is unable to pay a fine and that s/he is unlikely to become able to pay a fine, the court is required to impose a fine in all cases.

Here’s the USSG fine table. You’ll note that, for the most part, when it comes to determining the amount of the fine, the sentencing judge has broad latitude, beginning with the defendant’s calculated offense level. For example, if the man or woman who began with base offense level 30 has remained at that offense level, the judge can impose a fine anywhere from $30,000 to $300,000.

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5E1.5 reveals another component of the sentence that can become pricey: if the applicable statute allows it, then get ready to pay back the government what it cost to prosecute you.

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5K1.1 is the guideline provision that allows the sentencing judge to reduce a person’s sentence if the government – and only the government – asks the judge to “depart downward” because the defendant has “provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.”

Three facts of life about 5K1.1 departures:

**People who know they’re going to do hard time sell out their co-defendants, friends, lovers, family members and others all the time.

**Unless a defendant has committed him/herself to telling the absolute truth – without minimizing their own involvement – about everything and everyone s/he’s asked about during meetings with the agents who’ve frequently been working the case for a very long time – then it’s a really bad idea to tell the assistant U.S. attorney(s) that your client wants to talk.

**Frequently in multi-defendant prosecutions in which dozens of persons are charged and rounded up from across the country simultaneously, before a defense attorney can get to the courthouse, a race is already on to become the first defendant to ‘fess up

This brief intro to the USSG ends with a series of images that present conditions of probation (if one is so blessed) and what can happen if those conditions are violated. Very few of us can afford a personal assistant to follow us around and say, “I wouldn’t do that shit if I was you.” So, maybe you’ll find these helpful.

Good Girls Made Bad follows these images.

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Good Girls Made Bad

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The most hollow, soul-hemorrhaging client I’ve ever defended was arrested minutes before 6 am by a SWAT team that found her in bed with her boyfriend, pornos still playing on the TV. That her boyfriend was part of a cultish, homicidal Mexican drug cartel who stole my client’s ability to refuse sex by use of cult manipulation techniques was the least of her problems.

My smart, educated, articulate client with – as best as I recall – a clean record and a family who loved her now appeared to me – as we met in her jail far south of Ft. Worth – to be cognitively destroyed. A woman unable to process thoughts or to mouth even the simplest of words to help me defend her. And she was looking at life and her eventual death in a federal prison because she committed crimes for the cartel. Crimes that nothing in her upbringing, character, or history suggested she would ever do on her own.

By investigating what I could, reading a lot about the topic, and traveling to Dallas for especially informative and helpful meeting(s) with my client’s father, I was able to piece together enough information to know that I needed to find to an M.D. or Ph.D – level psych witness. But I needed a psych expert witness whose specialty was unlike anything I had ever encountered.

I needed an approachable, respectful, first-rate expert who could be counted on to use plain English to educate jurors, everyone else participating in the trial, and those who may in the future need to review the trial transcript. Someone who can teach us facts of interpersonal relationships, communication, and behavior that most of us are quick to assume we already know from our own life experience. And I needed an expert who’d been to the rodeo before. A professional who would respectfully, truthfully, and without getting rattled, continue speaking directly to the jurors while withstanding the blistering cross-examination that could be anticipated from the U.S. Marine federal prosecutor.

***

Psychologist Paul R. Martin, who died from cancer in 2009, was the expert I was looking for. I’d learned about him through Washington Post and New York Times articles – such as the one excerpted from below – that reported trial testimony he’d given as a defense expert in the State of Virginia’s death penalty case against Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger of two men who’d gunned down, sniper-style, 10 persons in the greater Washington D.C. area over a three-week period in 2002.

The judge presiding over that case had qualified Psychologist Martin to testify to the trial jury as an expert on the capture, indoctrination, and manipulation of human beings by cults and those who, like the other D.C./ Beltway Sniper, John Allen Muhammed, established and exploited power relationships to manipulate the beliefs, emotions, and actions of, perhaps, only one other person – a relationship dynamic that Dr. Martin testified had, in his own experience, given a person in John Allen Muhammed’s relationship position even more power to control the more vulnerable and susceptible of the two.

An even rarer fact about Paul Martin’s expertise is that he’d lived his subject in especially intimate ways. He’d been – without knowing it – in the clutches of a cult for seven years before his dad was finally able to rescue him. I recently read an article by Dr. Martin or a quote in which my expert witness said that it wasn’t until his studies for his PhD in Psychology that he was reading up on brainwashing and recognized just exactly what he’d been part of for seven years.

I have no doubt that those seven years Paul Martin spent in the clutches of cult manipulation are why he was able to show us a world that most of us don’t believe even exists. He did that with his trial testimony in the D.C. Sniper case. And he did it through an extraordinarily thorough, balanced, and educational report that drew on his substantial academic and real-world expertise, as well as his trips from Ohio to meet with my client in her jail south of Ft Worth.

I also don’t doubt that those 7 years Paul Martin spent captured by a cult are why he spent years devoting himself to (a) documenting by scientifically sound quantitative research, the complex mix of damage that’s being inflicted on literally hundreds of these people from a broad range of cultic manipulative relationships; and (b) through a cult recovery center that he established in Ohio, fixing, as much as possible, some very damaged people.

*************

Two decades before Paul Martin testified as an expert in the Virginia death penalty trial of D.C. Sniper Lee Boyd Malvo and then brought his expertise to my client’s federal cult cartel case in Dallas, the American Psychological Association had grown alarmed by the large number of people being victimized by tactics such as those John Allen Muhammed used to turn a quiet, studious kid whose teachers thought he had a bright future into a serial killer. In introducing its November 1986 report, the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control states:

Report of the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control.

November 1986

Margaret Thaler Singer, University of California Berkeley; Harold Goldstein, National Institute of Mental Health; Michael D. Langone, American Family Foundation; Jesse S. Miller, San Francisco, California; Maurice K. Temerlin, Clinical Psychology Consultants, Inc.; Louis J. West, University of California Los Angeles

https://culteducation.com/report-of-the-apa-task-force-on-deceptive-and-indirect-techniques-of-persuasion-and-control.html

*** At the end of GOOD GIRLS MADE BAD, the reader will find additional excerpts from and links to some of the published findings from quantitative research efforts by Dr. Martin and other scholars to document both the nature and prevalence of trauma inflicted on persons like Lee Boyd Malvo and the client whose federal criminal case started my search for a top-shelf M.D. or Ph.D. witness with this especially rare expertise.

**************

The thing about my client’s case is this: Had Divine Providence not put Paul Martin and me together and had he not taken what had been done to my client not just to head, but to heart, that educated, cultured, articulate woman from a good, loving family – a woman who would never have chosen a life of crime on her own – might now in August of 2019 still be in a federal prison somewhere, perhaps with decades still to go before a merciful death.

***

What’s profoundly disturbing here and now about the far from unique circumstances that my client found herself in is this: as I do a quick mental run through of those portions of the USSG that I included in the brief introduction to the Guidelines that i just provided, and keeping in mind that, if my client is found guilty by jury verdict or because of facts she admits to, then her life and the lives of her family would be changed profoundly as a result of then- applicable Guidelines, then the big question that I have is, “How’s this girl supposed to win”?

Just one example: assuming her return to basic cognitive function and an outward appearance that she’s making her own choices – then the same extraction of my client’s capacity for independent judgment that makes neither my client’s crimes nor her sexual activities voluntary, also destroys any chance that this especially valuable fact witness to POS boyfriend’s own crimes will seek or get a 5K1.1 downward departure at sentencing as a result of her providing substantial assistance to the government.

**

**

. . .

***

***

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What follows are additional excerpts from and links to published findings from quantitative research documenting the nature and prevalence of trauma being inflicted on the victims of cults and cult-like relationships.

FOR THE RECIPIENTS OF MY 13 JULY 2019 EMAIL, PLEASE NOTE: All sources, excerpted data, and links that appear below are exactly the same and presented in the same fashion as what you received in that 13 July 2019 email.

Report of the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control

November 1986

Margaret Thaler Singer, University of California Berkeley; Harold Goldstein, National Institute of Mental Health; Michael D. Langone, American Family Foundation; Jesse S. Miller, San Francisco, California; Maurice K. Temerlin, Clinical Psychology Consultants, Inc.; Louis J. West, University of California Los Angeles

https://culteducation.com/report-of-the-apa-task-force-on-deceptive-and-indirect-techniques-of-persuasion-and-control.html

In recent years, cultic groups in the areas of religion, politics, and psychotherapy have generated considerable public criticism as a result of the harmful consequences of the techniques such groups use to recruit, persuade, and control their members. Many of these techniques are highly, though often subtly, manipulative and deceptive. The casualties of the non-discriminating and unethical use of such techniques frequently wind up in the clinical or counseling psychologist’s office.

The American Psychological Association has long involved itself with the ethical aspects of psychological techniques and practices, e.g., the APA’s Task Force on Behavior Modification. Deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control, however, have not been adequately examined; nor have the ethical principles pertinent to their application been well defined.

Therefore, the Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility in Psychology (BSERP) instituted in the fall of 1983 a Planning Committee on the Use of Coercive Psychological Techniques. (In 1984 the American Bar Association established a similar group, the Personal Litigation Subcommittee on Cults.) The Planning Committee concluded that the importance of the issue under study, especially considering the unsophisticated understanding of influence processes demonstrated by the media and the general public, called for the establishment of an APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control.

The Committee made three assumptions:

1. The freedom to make informed, autonomous decisions beneficial to the individual is central to our culture.

2. “…Freedom is determined by the number of options available to people and the right to exercise them. The more behavioral alternatives and social prerogatives people have, the greater is their freedom of action.” (Bandura, 1974, p. 815)

3. Deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control limit individuals’ freedom by diminishing or restricting their alternatives, causing them to incorrectly evaluate the requirements and consequences of alternatives, or inducing them to perceive fewer alternatives than in fact exist.

Given these assumptions, the research to be reviewed later in this report, and the professional and research experiences of committee members, it seemed clear that individuals can be induced to make uninformed, personally detrimental decisions while under the illusion that their decisions are voluntary and to their benefit. In order to increase understanding of this phenomenon, the Committee charged the Task Force to:

1. Describe the deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control that may limit freedom and adversely affect individuals, families, and society.

2. Review the data base in the field.

3. Define the implications of deceptive and indirect techniques of persuasion and control for consumers of psychological services.

4. Examine the ethical, educational, and social implications of this problem.

Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse, Michael Langone, editor ISBN 0-393-31321-2, Ch. 10.

https://cultrecovery101.com/cult-recovery-readings/pitfalls-to-cult-recovery/

§ Paul Martin, the director of a recovery center victims of cultic
abuse wrote, in the book Recovery from Cults, that “The ex-cultist has
been traumatized, deceived, conned, used and often emotionally,
physically, sexually, and mentally abused while serving the group
and/or the leader. Like other trauma victims (for example, of criminal
acts, rape, and serious illness), former cultists often re-experience
the painful memories of their group involvement.”[1]

“In attempting to understand what has happened to the ex-cultist, it
is often helpful to employ the victim, or trauma, model. According to
this model, victimization and the resultant distress are due to the
shattering of three basic assumptions held about the world and the
self. These assumptions are: “the belief in personal invulnerability,
the perception of the world as meaningful, and the perception of
oneself as positive” (Janoff-Bulma, 1985, p. 15). The ex-cultist has
been traumatized, deceived, conned, used and often emotionally,
physically, sexually, and mentally abused while serving the group
and/or the leader. Like other trauma victims (for example, of criminal
acts, rape, and serious illness), former cultists often reexperience
the painful memories of their group involvement. They also lose
interest in the outside world, feel detached from society, and may
show limited emotions (Janoff-Bulman, 1985, pp.16,17).”Recovery from
Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse, Michael
Langone, editor ISBN 0-393-31321-2, Ch. 10.

Paul R. Martin, Ph.D., Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D., Jeffrey Wiltrout. Post-Cult Symptoms As Measured by the MCMI Before and After Residential Treatment. Cultic Studies Journal, 1992, Volume 9, Number 2, pages 219-250

https://www.icsahome.com/articles/post-cult-symptoms–mcmi-csj-9-2

Cults are exploitatively manipulative groups that utilize thought
reform programs (Ofshe & Singer, 1986; Singer & Ofshe,1990) to
subordinate members’ well-being to the goals of leaders (Langone, in
press). Clinical investigations of former members of cultic and
related groups indicate that cult involvement results in a significant
level of distress for this population (Clark, 1979; Goldberg &
Goldberg, 1982; Hochman, 1984; Schwartz, 1985; Singer, 1978, 1987;
Spero, 1982; Swartling & Swartling, 1992; Temerlin & Temerlin, 1982;
West & Singer, 1980). According to clinicians, the most common
symptoms ex- cultists experience are emotional volatility,
dissociative symptoms such as “floating” (a phenomenon similar to drug
flashbacks), depression, loneliness, guilt, inability to concentrate,
indecisiveness, difficulty communicating, fear of retribution,
fatigue, a sense of a spiritual-religious-philosophical void, career
confusion, and conflicts with family.

The handful of studies that have collected statistical data on
ex-cultists have, by and large, supported clinical observations. Among
the statistical findings bearing on distress are the following:

Conway, Siegelman, Carmichael, & Coggins, 1986 (The sample consisted
of 353 ex-cultists from 48 different groups. Because subjects reported
on “lasting effects,” symptom reports may reflect in-cult as well as
post-cult difficulties.)
§ 75% depression
§ 68% loneliness
§ 68% anger toward group leader
§ 59% guilt feelings regarding leaving the group
§ 59% feelings of humiliation/embarrassment
§ 52% suicidal tendencies
§ 49% fear of physical harm by the group
§ 48% nightmares
§ 42% inability to break rhythms of chanting, meditation, etc.
§ 37% hostile feelings toward family
§ 31% sleeplessness
§ 25% memory loss
§ 22% menstrual dysfunction
§ 20% physical punishment while in group
§ 19% sexual dysfunction
§ 18% abnormal weight loss
§ 17% violent outbursts
§ 17% bewildering, psychic phenomena
§ 16% abnormal weight gain
§ 15% hallucinations and delusions
§ 5% sex with leaders while in group (60% in Children of God)

Galanter, 1983 (The sample consisted of 66 Unification Church dropouts.)
§ 36% reported serious emotional problems after leaving
§ 24% sought professional help after leaving
§ 3% were hospitalized after leaving
§ 61% felt Rev. Moon had negatively impacted on members

Knight, 1986 (The sample consisted of 58 former members of a
psychotherapy cult.)
§ 97% were verbally abused in therapy sessions in the group
§ 86% felt harmed by the group exposure
§ 82% were shoved at least occasionally in therapy sessions
§ 78% were hit at least occasionally in therapy sessions
§ 75% sought therapy
§ 52% anxiety
§ 48% depression
§ 48% trouble making decisions
§ 41% confusion
§ 40% disoriented
§ 33% lonely
§ 25% had sex with their therapist when in the group
§ 18% menstrual cessation

Langone, Chambers, Dole, & Grice (in press) (The sample consisted of
308 former cultists from 101 groups.)
§ 83% reported feeling anxiety/fear/worry
§ 76% anger toward the group leader
§ 72% low self-confidence
§ 71% vivid flashbacks to group experience
§ 70% received counseling after leaving
§ 67% depression
§ 67% difficulty concentrating
§ 61% despair/hopelessness/helplessness
§ 56% guilt about what they did in the group
§ 55% “floating” among very different states of mind
§ 51% felt as though they lived in an unreal world
§ 46% had conflicts with loved ones
§ 44% reported that the experience was very harmful
§ 42% reported that the group experience was very unsatisfying
§ 38% feared physical harm by the group
§ 34% severe anxiety attacks after leaving
§ 11% were sexually abused in the group

. . .

The inescapable conclusion seems to be that the cult experience is not what it appears to be (at least for those groups that deem it important to put on a “happy face”), either to undiscerning observers or to members under the psychological influence of the group. Clinical observers, beginning with Clark (1979) and Singer (1978), appear to be correct in their contention that dissociative defenses help cultists adapt to the contradictory and intense demands of the cult environment. So long as members are not rebelling against the group’s psychological controls, they can appear to be ”normal,” much as a person with multiple personality disorder can sometimes appear to be “normal.” However, this normal-appearing personality, as West (1992) maintains, is a pseudo-personality. When cultists leave their group, the flood gates open up and they suffer. But they don’t generally return to the cult because the suffering they experience after leaving the cult is more genuine than the “happiness” they experienced while in it. A painful truth is better than a pleasant lie. (Langone, in press)

Gillie Jenkinson, M.A. [Hope Valley Counselling

Hope Valley, United Kingdom]. An Investigation into Cult Pseudo-Personality: What Is It and How Does It Form? Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2008, Page 217

https://www.hopevalleycounselling.com/media/files/1491468966usecultpseudopersonality-jenkinson-2008-icsa.pdf

“A woman in her 40s had been told by the cult that her father had sexually abused her, and this affected her deeply, causing her terrible trauma and resulting in a severe split within the family. When she came to me for therapy, we explored this possibility. As she chewed the issue over, she realised she had no memories at all of being abused by her father. She checked the claim out with him and her mother, and they confirmed that he had not abused her. She did not need to integrate this belief; she needed to chew it over, digest it, eliminate it, and return to her pre-cult view of her parents and reconnect with them.”

***

COMBATRESEARCHANDPROSE: INTRODUCTION TO A NEW SOURCE FOR REAL WORLD RESEARCH PRODUCTS CREATED WITH POLICY MAKERS IN MIND

https://combatresearchandprose.com/2019/07/07/combatresearchandprose-introduction-to-new-source-for-real-world-research-products-created-with-policy-makers-in-mind/

The most hollow, soul-hemorrhaging client I’ve ever defended needed a first-rate cult expert able to show jurors a world most don’t believe exists.

Feature image:

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The criminal case against my client, which had been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas – Dallas Division – and which was ultimately resolved without the case going to trial, was part of a larger prosecution of a homicidal Mexican drug cartel that used cult acquisition and influence tactics to run its business. My client was the well-educated, articulate, and upstanding daughter of a good Dallas-area (if I recall correctly) family that had raised her right.

It was clear from my meeting(s) with my destroyed, non-verbal client’s father that this woman was deeply loved and an important and on-going part of her father’s life. The reason she needed me was that she was looking at spending the rest of her life, and then dying, in a federal prison because of a highly competent and unflinching U.S. Marine-turned-assistant U.S. attorney and a strong prosecution case arising from crimes she’d committed at the behest of her boyfriend’s drug cartel but which nothing in her character or past suggested she would ever have committed on her own.

My client hadn’t told her father about the boyfriend she was found in bed with, pornos still playing, when a SWAT team paid their quiet, tree-studded, middle-class neighborhood a visit shortly before 6 am.

 

https://combatresearchandprose.com/2019/08/07/not-long-before-my-expert-witness-in-a-federal-cult-cartel-case-in-dallas-gave-a-lot-of-my-clients-life-back-to-her-psychologist-and-cult-expert-paul-r-martin-testified-to-a-jury-hearing-a-case-ag-3

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Baltimore Sun – 100 photos re D.C. / Beltway Sniper:

Washington DC sniper ten years later

a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it

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