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Don is a Licensed Social Worker and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional who retired from the US Army after more than 21 years of service, having served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, as well as 3 Tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division as a Platoon Sergeant.

In 2010 Don co-founded Soldiers And Families Embraced whose mission is to to ease the readjustment and reintegration of all veterans, along with their families, as they return from war.

In addition, Don is a PTSD survivor, and he brings that experience as well as the insights he’s gained, to his clients struggling with PTSD and other forms of trauma.

The Quote

For who listens to us in all the world, whether he be friend or teacher, brother or father or mother, sister or neighbor, son or ruler or servant?

Does he listen, our advocate, or our husbands or wives, those who are dearest to us?

Do the stars listen, when we turn despairingly from man, or the great winds, or the seas or the mountains?

To whom can any man say — Here I am!

Behold me in my nakedness, my wounds, my secret grief, my despair, my betrayal, my pain, my tongue which cannot express my sorrow, my terror, my abandonment.

Listen to me for a day — an hour! — a moment! lest I expire in my terrible wilderness, my lonely silence!

O God, is there no one to listen?

Is there no one to listen? you ask.

Ah yes there is one who listens, who will always listen.

Hasten to him, my friend! He waits on the hill for you. For you, alone.


What Led to the Specialization of Trauma?

Don talks about his experiences dealing with PTSD, being in mid-tour deployment in 2008 when things had reached a head. He was visiting his family, riding around on the mower in the back because that’s where no one could touch me and I could close myself off. And it was right at that moment, so quickly, suddenly out of nowhere, so plain and easy that the thought came into Don’s head: If I killed myself, all of this would stop.

A Crucial Early Mistake

Don shares the lessons he’s learned from not taking care of himself and trying to offer care for others: If you’re not taking care of yourself you can’t be there for somebody else when they need you the most. It’s not about being selfish, it’s about being smart?

Don’s Why

Because I struggled for years with this PTSD and survivor’s guilt. And what I allowed it to do to me and the pain I put my family through and it was ridiculous to have my family fear me.

Don’s Advice

  • You’ve really got to have a heart for this work.
  • Do not let compassion and empathy get in the way and cloud your judgement. You’re going to hear the most gut-wrenching things from people. Give them the safe space to talk, and just listen. Learn to be comfortable in the awkward silence and don’t fill that void with chatter.
  • Wait for your clients to share and speak.
  • Be the best you that you can be. Veterans want to see and deal with authentic people and not someone who is just going to push them through the system or give them a lot of jargon and terminology.

Don’s go-to books

Interview Links

Kathy Steele, MN, CS
Becky Thompson

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