Michael J. Kerrigan

Courage in America: Warriors with Character

After publishing Courage in America: Warriors with Character on Veterans Day 2012, much of the next twelve months involved my taking a deep dive into both the trade literature and academic research on warriors struggling with post traumatic stress injuries (PTSI). During this period, I interviewed and learned many lessons from scores of wounded warriors who are experiencing PTSI.  I discovered that some are able to experience post traumatic growth (PTG.)

I have shared warrior success stories with many groups interested in the resilience of our wounded men and women. The audiences ranged from high school students in Scottsdale, to politicos in Washington D.C., to executives at the Union League Club in Philadelphia, and to the Cadets at West Point.

As the year closes, it is now apparent that I must do more than share their stories. I must expand beyond my limited expertise to better serve our wounded… Continue reading

Readers have asked, why invite wounded warriors to tell their own stories in Courage in America: Warriors with Character?

I believe the successful rehabilitation of the warriors that I profiled were largely due to their attitude. The wounded warriors chronicled in my book and on The Character Building Project site all made conscious decisions about their own future. They took responsibility for their own physical rehabilitation and psychological growth. As a result, they eventually experienced post-traumatic growth.

By reading repeated drafts of their stories, I believe, each warrior gained, in varying degrees, comprehension and closure concerning what happened to them. I suspect that is why many of the warriors highlighted on the site are quick to encourage other wounded warriors to tell their stories. They realize that this exercise may also help the new storytellers make sense of their injuries and move past the trauma to productive lives.

For the… Continue reading

The American Psychological Association recently published a study (i.e. A Clinician’s Guide to PTSD Treatments for Returning Veterans) that states the cost of PTSD to the individual (and therefore to society) is significant in at least four ways.

“First, comorbidity is high, with only 17% of veterans with PTSD diagnosed solely with PTSD. Second, PTSD often demonstrates a chronic course, with as many as 40% of individuals exhibiting significant symptoms 10 years after onset. Third, PTSD is a risk factor for suicide. Finally, health problems are more common in individuals with PTSD. The cost of PTSD to society is also significant and exceeds that of any other anxiety disorder. In the military, the number of veterans reporting PTSD between 1999 and 2004 grew from 120,265 to 215,871 (a 79.5% increase.)”

The Character Building Project concurs the cost of post-traumatic stress is extraordinarily high. However, after reviewing the literature it seems… Continue reading

My story of Courage in America began after volunteering, as a member of the Knights of Malta, to visit wounded warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center and Fort Belvoir.

Among the many wounded warriors I visited was Corporal Todd Nicely. Todd is a Marine and a husband to Crystal (another Marine.) After losing both arms and legs from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) during combat in Afghanistan, Todd and Crystal have successfully navigated Todd’s rehabilitation and transition to civilian life. By getting to know Todd and learning of his personal growth after trauma, I wanted to share Todd’s story and those of other young men who had successfully overcome their traumatic injuries.

Soon after publishing my book, a SOCOM Colonel told me, ” Kerrigan your book maybe finished but your mission continues.” I now feel and obligation to narrate their stories by continuing to interview and profile those wounded warriors… Continue reading

Whether we approach aiding wounded warriors from the perspective of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) or Post Traumatic Growth (PTG), the goal of all, is to help these warriors feel less depression and feel greater levels of life satisfaction.

In researching Courage in America: Warriors with Character, I observed the powerful support of caregivers and the families of these warriors, were most effective, by helping warriors’ complete their rehabilitation with amazing patience and empathy.

Next, I learned considerable time is necessary for outsiders, such as myself, to gain the trust of the warrior and his or her family. Once trust is established, the warriors I met were willing to repeatedly, retell the story of their traumatic event. They allowed me great access and, in time, discussed how their lives have been changed by their injuries. I learned from those warriors that I chronicled; it is not the event of their injuries… Continue reading

In researching Courage in America: Warriors with Character, I witnessed two types of wounded warriors: the larger group, slow to leave their hospital bed for the gym, longer on their meds and least likely to turn their traumatic injuries to positive growth; while I noticed members of the smaller group who were anxious to leave the comfort of their hospital bed and get off their meds as soon as possible, were willing to sacrifice by enduring painful rehabilitation regimes in the gym and determined to make a “growth declaration” as to their eventual, amazingly rapid recoveries from their traumatic injuries.

I wondered why those in the smaller group were able to respond to trauma not just as survivors, but those who would add value to their post injury lives by mountain climbing or receiving gold medals in swimming during the London Olympics after being blinded by an IEDs (i.e. Steve… Continue reading

At Thanksgiving after the blessing, each member of the Kerrigan family lists the things for which we are thankful. The family priorities are first to be thankful for God, family, and country, then to offer gratitude to a special person or event that occurred during the year.

This Thanksgiving I wish to publicly share my thanks for one American whose testimonial graced the pages of Courage in America: Warriors with Character, namely, General Patrick Henry Brady.

General Brady’s name maybe familiar to you. He received the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and he is probably the most decorated pilot of the Viet Nam War. Pat Brady is also a great humanitarian who spearheaded the efforts of air ambulance operations, whose call sign was “Dust Off.” Dust Off was among the most dangerous of all aviation operation and rescued some one million in Viet Nam.

Dead Men Flying, General… Continue reading

The Wall Street Journal routinely provides excellent coverage of military affairs, especially of our wounded and fallen warriors. Today’s Journal pages were graced with two excellent articles in that vein: “First to Fight for the Right-And to Build the Nation’s Might,” and “A Harrier Jet Pilot True to the Creed, Every Marine a Rifleman.” The latter article, “Every Marine a Rifleman,” by Major Marc Weintraub, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), nicely captures a timely message to veterans and civilians alike:

“ Over the past decade, the fighting being done by U.S. forces on behalf of the country has been given too little attention-by our leaders in Washington, by the national press and, in turn, by many Americans. If there is ever a time to remember and appreciate the sacrifice of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, it is on Veterans Day. But beyond thinking about such matters on Sunday, please also vow… Continue reading

On Veterans Day, my latest book, Courage in America: Warriors with Character will be available on Amazon (http://amzn.com/1604948728). Seven American warriors tell their stories of tragedy and triumph after suffering and recovering from traumatic war injuries. The book showcases the good character of these young heroes, their caregivers, and families. These stories will motivate newly injured to have hope during their own rehabilitation, and will give all Americans a better understanding of the sacrifices made by many military patriots.

You will meet traumatically injured warriors: Justin Constantine who was shot in the head by a sniper; Chad Ellinger who was crushed by a collapsing wall during combat; Sam Angert and Chase Cooper who suffered traumatic brain injuries from IEDs; Steve Baskis and Brad Snyder who lost their sight from IEDs; and Todd Nicely who lost his limbs from an IED. The warriors will share the sentiment that they did not… Continue reading

My posts have been less frequent of late, as we near the November publication of my next book. Meanwhile, I have been receiving a good deal of encouragement from my friends and those interested in the plight of our wounded warriors.

Below is a note from Paul Stoltz, Ph.D. the father of the Adversity Quotient.http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=paul+stoltz+adversity+quotient&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

“First of all, congrats on this Herculean task of publishing Courage in America: Warriors with Character! You now understand why such a minute percentage of people who say, “I’ve got this idea for a book” ever deliver. This is noble and important work.

I spent last weekend with Erik Weihenmeyer, his No Barriers Foundation co-teaching a Soldiers to Summits group, along a 14,000 foot climb, in preparation for their 20,000 foot ascent of Cotopaxi in December. They had the full range of disabilities, challenges and plenty of adversity. It was very moving to see them… Continue reading

What if combat veterans were better mentally prepared before they volunteered to serve our country in war? Warriors are rightly trained to kill our enemies, as that is exactly what our nation asks of them, but often they are not trained why they or how much violence they should use. Nor are they trained how to deal with the effects of killing or where might responsibility lie for the killing and destruction.

What if our congressional leaders had a clearer understanding of what they are asking our warriors to do in the sacrificial fire called war? Who among us is there to help these young warriors and insure they do not turn to alcohol, drugs and suicide as they return home? These are a few of the moral questions raised by Karl Marlantes, a United States Marine combat veteran of Viet Nam, a Rhodes Scholar, Yale graduate and a fine… Continue reading

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