Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Tribute to Ron "Pappy" Papaleoni

A Tribute to Ron "Pappy" Papaleoni

Everyone has been posting their memories of Pappy. It has taken me awhile to decide what to say. Words do not always come easily. I met Pappy when we were working on the Patriot Guard Rider (PGR) Video with Cindy Smith. He was a great organizer and motivator. We grew closer when we started the book PTSD No Apologies, a book that Pappy was a part of creating. We then worked together on George Woodruff's book, Just Before Taps. We spent hours hidden away in windowless rooms at the legion going through edits and discussing/arguing over comma’s. Of course the oxford comma is correct. Discussing Pappy’s death with George was one of the hardest things I have done.
I was greatly saddened about three years ago when Pappy invited me over for dinner. Pasta of course. He told me that he had received news from his Dr. that his lungs were greatly damaged and they only gave him about 4 years to live. Again, words escaped me. I hugged him and cried.
Pappy knew he was dying. And he was as productive as possible with what time he had. He accomplished much. He wrote a riveting story for the PTSD book, and I encouraged him to write his own book. But time had other plans. It slipped away, and so has he. I will miss his yearly phone calls to assure me that I made Santa’s list. Pappy explained that there was only one list, the nice one, not two which is a common misconception.
Life is short and we are not always given advance notice of how much time we have left. Love people while they are here. I love you too Pappy, and your story will go on forever.
Hugs, Lynn

This stuff only happens to the living (Excerpt from PTSD No Apologies)

Ron Papaleoni USN CPO Retired

Having grown up in an era where the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) never existed and those suffering with that yet to be named disorder were commonly referred to as having “shell shock” or “soldier’s heart”. Most folks (mostly military) were labeled as malingerers or cowards. Civilians having the same symptoms were “having an episode” or “nervous breakdown” or just plain crazy. It wasn’t until I retired from the military (1981), that the term PTSD became a part of our common language.
My early childhood was filled with getting beaten up at elementary school because I was fat and a “goody-two-shoes”. This is what led me to become the class clown. I didn’t get beaten as often and actually made some friends. The beatings weren’t exclusive to school. My dad was an alcoholic and sometimes would beat me with his belt due to, what he called a “smart ass remark”. He was a binge drinker and as such, these incidents were infrequent but memorable not the less. But it was enough for me to move out of the house at 16 and join the Navy at 17.
As we have learned, this documented disorder has been around going back to Egyptian times and mostly involves the military and war. However, as in my case, it is very likely to occur following ANY type of serious emotion trauma. My time in a “war zone” was brief and uneventful and yet during the three years that bracketed that event was the worst the war had to offer. In the mid 1960’s, I was serving a non-medical assignment at one of the largest military hospitals in the Far East.
I watched the daily patient count rise from just over a hundred, most of those being not combat related, to over 700 at the height of the Tet offensive. I witnessed wounds that were the worse man could inflict on another human being. Our doctors, nurses and corpsmen had to finish to work that began in the field of combat. Repairing severed limbs; doing plastic surgery; rearranging vital organs; performing physical therapy; dealing with both the physical and mental anguishes of war while some of those patients lay waiting in the passageways to be seen or waiting weeks for a bed.
As non-medical personal, we were obliged to perform “duties” of a non-medical nature such as ambulance driver; baggage room and customs (this meant going through a patients personal effects when they finally got around to send them). This that all of their personal belongings were sent to after their arrival. We had boxes filled with weapons; drugs; unauthorized souvenirs (like gold trinkets) and just plain weird crap like human scalps.
We were called upon to perform other duties like human tissue removal from the Operating Rooms. Not pleasant but necessary. If after the every six hour bed count, someone was missing, we had to secure all the exits and search for the missing patient.
Usually it was uneventful but sometime they were passed out in the head (bathroom) or sleeping in the wrong place or one time, under the hospital. Our hospital was elevated due to close proximity to the ocean. One evening while manning the “After Hours” desk, we had a report that one of our patients from the Psych ward was missing, we secured all the exits and began our search, and my team (per our SOP) had to search one of the four exterior quadrants.
We spotted our patient underneath the hospital about twenty feet in. As the senior ranking team member, it was determined that I needed to go in first to evaluated the situation. With four able-bodied Hospital Corpsman five feet behind, I crawled in and as I got closer, I observed that he was kneeling and looked like he was playing with marbles in his hand. A few long seconds later, he slumped over to the side and we discovered a single edge razor blade in one hand and his testicles in the other. Despite the massive amount of blood loss he survived. If we hadn’t found him, he would have become another victim of this war. During the mid-60s through mid-70s, I lost a number of friends; classmates and shipmates in the Vietnam Conflict.
Throughout my life there has been trauma. Motorcycle accidents, numerous surgical procedures to correct motorcycle injuries, dealing with our mother’s Alzheimer’s, my parents’ death, my 5 year old nephew dying while in heart surgery, my best friend’s debilitating fall of 50 feet, a bull goring my leg, my daughter losing her leg below the knee, an ex-wife’s death, a divorce, and losing a son to suicide when he was 17.
After my son’s death in 1982, my therapy involved drinking massive qualities of alcohol. Not only to ease the pain, but to deal with “What could I have done different?” It didn’t help. I spent most of his insurance money on things I didn’t need; couldn’t afford; to impress people I didn’t even like. It did however, put me into a different kind a trauma. The trauma of being an alcoholic, just like my father. I never beat anyone; only drank on occasion and never stopped at just one drink. Why? After a few years of sobriety and therapy, it seemed that the trigger for the “binge” was usually related to a significant event or trauma. My deceased son’s birthday, anniversaries of his death, any major event were I was expected to attend were some of the triggers. I would go out with a couple of buddies after work, have a few and when they went home to their families; I stayed and had a few more. This caused many encounters with law enforcement.
I’ve been sober from over 25 years. Still have MANY issues regarding family, anger, health, aging and visions of the past. After many years of packing those traumatic incidents in a box and hiding them in a closet, I’ve come to realize that is not the best thing for me to do. I know that in the past, counseling has helped, but I still resisted because……I still can’t find the answer to that. I try my best to stay busy, but lately health issues has interfered. I want to have patience, but struggle with anger.
I’m a work in progress, and as my mother would often say when there was a crisis, “This stuff only happens to the living.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Champion-The Movie

Champion-The Movie 

Champion is not like the normal movies I watch. If it were not for my friend inviting me to come see it, I probably would have overlooked this movie all together. No CGI, no special effects, no blood & gore. However, it had something more. Something from the heart.

Shot in Georgia, Champion follows a racetrack driver and how his life interconnects with others. The main focus of the movie is FORGIVENESS. Everyone makes mistakes. Life is about choices. But your life does not have to be tied to that one action. You can rise above it. You can forgive and BE forgiven.

Forgiveness comes in all sorts of ways. Time helps. However, sometimes it takes more. In Champion, we learn that forgiveness is not just for the person that harmed you. But to forgive someone, frees yourself.

Life is too short to hold grudges, to live with regret, and to keep bitterness in your heart.

I had a depressing morning and I cried through much of the film. Very few movies can touch one's soul, but Champion does. It was brilliantly written and had wonderful actors, such as my friend’s son Liam Peeples. .

Take a leap of faith, and go see this movie.