Michael J. Kerrigan

Wounded Warriors

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I have been thinking about why some people, whether they are corporate executives, professional athletes or wounded warriors are so much better under pressure than other people.

In his book, Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t, New York Times columnist Paul Sullivan argues that under extreme pressure, these business titans didn’t crack. In fact, they excelled. Sullivan makes the point that clutch is not luck. It is the ability to do what you can do under normal conditions but under extreme pressure. He defines clutch as a combination of focus, discipline, adaptability, being present, and a balance of fear and desire.

Sullivan also says being great under pressure is something that you can lose. It was clear that Tiger Woods was on top of his game and one of the greatest athletes of all time in the clutch. But that didn’t mean he’d be great… Continue reading

Often I wonder what motivates some wounded warriors to get off of their meds, get out of their hospital beds and endure the arduous path of a successful rehabilitation from their combat injuries? Is there a single ingredient, key to the successful rehabilitation of Wounded Warriors?

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My initial impression was reflected in Courage in America: 7 Warriors with Character. Surely the courage they demonstrated in combat also carried over to their long war of rehabilitation. As I continued to meet and write in The Character Building Project about many other warriors who exhibit growth after traumatic injuries, I came to appreciate, in addition to courage, they possessed amazing will power, accountability and hope. Their heroic recoveries resulted, in part, by taking ownership and responsibility for their own future. But could this will power be exhausted and were there hidden challenges to the recovery process?

One warrior who has demonstrated positive… Continue reading

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In working with wounded warriors over the last several years, I was curious why some warriors had positive outcomes from their combat injuries and others did not?

  • Did those having success call upon their own will power as a means to recovery?
  • Did those not experiencing successful rehabilitation, might they have used up their reserves of will power?
  • Did some warriors possess better “character armour” than others?

In writing Courage in America, I chose to focus on those warriors having successful recoveries. Sadly, there were more warriors whose rehabilitation from injuries could not be viewed as successful, with a few ending with a life on drugs, alcohol or in suicide.

The warriors I profiled all had successful physical and mental recoveries from various kinds of combat injuries; losing their sight, to losing there limbs and having traumatic brain injuries. All exhibited an amazing will to recover and, rather than… Continue reading

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As a young student, I felt conflicted trying to understand why good men suffer. My father, James Kerrigan was a humble, good and God fearing man yet suffered with tuberculosis, seven years in the sanitarium and 13 major operations, dying at age 62! On the other hand, my father was also a dedicated and happy husband, a most cheerful family man, and an extraordinary athlete, notwithstanding his many years of disabilities. Justice should have delivered prosperity to my Dad yet his life was full of adversity.

My father’s most repeated advice to me was that “Michael, it is not what happens but how you handle what happens that counts.” In addition to bestowing the moniker of “Golden Boy” on me, my Dad shared many books with me as he made the best of his years in the sanitarium by being a voracious reader. However, the two books he cherished… Continue reading

Adm. McRaven

By Daniel P. Crandall

Chair, PTG Sports Caucus

 

When the issue is helping wounded warriors, be they veterans or active duty personnel, no solution should be off the table. A recent difference between Admiral William McRaven, leader of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the House Armed Services Committee, unfortunately, is not following this truism. Adm. McRaven sought funding for what might be considered a ‘both/and’ approach to minimize the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI—a designation many prefer over the more commonly known PTSD diagnosis). Legislators, however, declared there is only one method to help veterans at risk and that is the only method they are willing to fund.

On 15 May, the Washington Post reported that Adm. McRaven had requested additional funding “to hire physical therapists, dietitians, sports psychologists and strength and conditioning specialists to work with troops” in order to address the increasing rate of… Continue reading

In athletics, working as a team is vital to success. Soldiers facing combat know that working as a team is the difference between life and death. Teamwork is essential to survival. The same may be said for surviving the traumatic experiences that come from living through combat. That seems to be the case for those soldiers who are part of USA Warriors Ice Hockey.

One of those soldiers is Army sergeant Kevin Gatson:

WarriorHockey3

Healing and Growth through Ice Hockey

“Gatson was on patrol in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan on July 12, 2010, when he and other troops had to climb a wall in their way. Two teams of soldiers made it over, and Gatson, the first man from the third unit, was just about to clear the barrier when the man ahead of him stepped on a pressure plate and a bomb buried in the wall exploded.… Continue reading

It is time for layman to join the growing chorus of academics, clinicians, journalists and public health professionals by adding our voices in supporting the paradigm shift of dropping the notion of a disorder and substituting a more accurate terms of post traumatic stress injuries (PTSI). By doing so, the stigma of a disorder will be greatly reduced and by substituting the term injury, a more medically defensible definition can be used without carrying the stigma notion.

In my opinion, psychotherapy has too long focused solely on the detrimental effects of trauma and has, thus, confined understanding of trauma recovery to a deficit-oriented model. In lay terms that means study of “what is lost.”  The concept of changing to PTSI leads to the possibilities of post-traumatic growth (PTG.) PTG adds a new perspective, “what is gained.”

Warriors Do Not Need Added "Stigma" of a Disorder

Warriors Do Not Need Added “Stigma” of a Disorder

In visiting scores of… Continue reading

University of Virginia "Rotunda"

University of Virginia “Rotunda”

In order to be fully transparent with our readers as to seeking a venue for our PTG Colloquium, it has been suggested I share the Report on Meeting with Governor Baliles, CEO of the Miller Center. My PTG Colloquium Colleague and good friend, Dr. Rafael Triana joined me in presenting our ideas to Governor Baliles.

The morning of 1 November at 11 AM, after pleasantries and a two minute overview, the Governor responded by reminding Rafael and me, that the Miller Center specializes in presidential scholarship, public policy and political history and strives to apply the lessons of history to the nation’s most pressing governance challenges.

The Governor ever so politely and diplomatically was letting us know that the PTG Colloquium is NOT within the sweet spot of the Miller Center. However, the Governor told us he believed the PTG Colloquium DID fit squarely within the… Continue reading

In the spring of 2014, our team of experts plan to participate in daylong colloquium on Post Traumatic Growth (PTG.) We will bring together the best minds, to devise and implement best practices that inspire educate, and to motivate attendees about the importance of PTG.  Each panelist will offer key strategies for PTG, so that wounded warriors and veterans suffering from post traumatic stress injuries can become more resilient in their own lives and encourage others who have suffered traumatic events to recover positively in spirit and purpose.

Steve receiving the Bronze Star

Steve receiving the Bronze Star

My good friend Steve Basks is a splendid example of a post traumatic growth, having overcome his loss of sight during combat. Steve has since  become an expert mountain climber having scaled the Himalayas and is now devoting his “free time” to teaching the visually impaired how to turn their disabilities into living a full… Continue reading

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

After a thorough review of the academic and popular literature on wounded warriors, a few fundamental questions come to my mind… Why do some wounded warriors think of their life’s story as that of a victim, while a smaller group of wounded warriors, think of their life’s story as that of a survivor?  Why do so few navigate rehabilitation from the wounds of war successfully and, even more continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress injuries?

The stories of the survivors as evidenced by a growing body of knowledge and clinical case studies, term those warriors see themselves as survivors, may have experienced post- traumatic growth. These warriors, even after traumatic injuries realize their own possibilities for living a full life.

I interviewed scores of wounded warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center and Fort Belvoir before I profiled seven warriors with character in Courage in America. Many of these warriors… Continue reading

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Courage in America has been aurally transcribed for the visually impaired, thanks to Volunteers of Vacaville, California. Tel: 704.448.6841 ext 2044.