Seven days on the road and all is well. Sara is handling well and other than the holiday traffic all is going well. More importantly, I have had an opportunity to meet some fantastic people along the way.
Visiting with Mental Health and Addiction Professionals at Marine Corps Base – Quantico, VA
My first stop was Marine Corps Base- Quantico to speak with those who provide mental health and addiction services to our military service members. First, I would like to thank the Unites States Marine Corps for taking the time to share with me how mental health and addiction services are facilitated in the Corps. For those of you who do not work with veterans or those who are considering working with veterans I encourage you to make a point to speak with those members of the military who provide these services. Due to the nature of MCB-Quantico no photographs or recordings were allowed and I was instructed to remove my GoPro action camera from my helmet at the gate as I entered. Trust me the well-armed and highly trained Marines at the gate were as polite as they were professional. The GoPro came off without question or debate <smile>.
The highlight, for me was talking to those professionals -who names I cannot mention, who provide mental health and addiction services. They also were friendly, professional and polite and were willing to educate me on the services they provide and how things have changed since I left active duty in Corps. When I left active duty must addiction concerns were addressed by a Substance Abuse Control Officer (SACO). The SACO was usually someone assigned to Headquarters and Services Battalion, though they might also be embedded in a unit. In many, if not most cases, the SACO may or may not have had any formal addiction training. In today’s Corps, mental health and addiction services are provided by a group of well-trained mental health and addiction professionals consisting of civilians, Marines, and Naval personnel.
The one question that stuck in my mind was a concern I had previously heard mentioned from past service members, the issue of confidentiality, specifically when it relates to service members’ retention, advancement, and security clearances. I was immediately put at ease when I was informed that service members with mental health and addiction concerns information is not released to theirs commands and stays within the mental health and addiction services professionals’ purview. As such, service members are not at risk of being penalized for seeking mental health and/or addiction treatment and services. The only information retained is aggregate data that is used for research purposes.
Overall, Outstanding! Thanks to the civilians, Marines and “Big Blue” (United States Navy) who sat down to talk with me and those who navigated the military and judicial processes to help me obtain this meeting.
Dr. Robert A. Horne, NCC, LPC, ACS, LCAS, ICAADC, MAC
(Note: This brief blog synopsis is in no way meant to be a detailed summary of the United States Marine Corps or any other branch of the military’s mental health and/or addiction services. It is only my interpretation of my meeting with those professionals who provide mental health and addiction services at MCB- Quantico.)
Lakota Pipe Ceremony – Shelton, CT
One of the great things about taking this 10,000-mile motorcycle ride around the country to promote mental health and addiction awareness is it has provided me with an opportunity to connect and learn from so many different people from various cultures. On Friday, July 1st, I was scheduled to meet with Jim “Ceta Luta” “Redhawk” Francek and Patricia “Morning Dove Woman” Francek in Shelton, CT to discuss their work at Tava Full Circle, LLC, which they co-founded. Jim is an executive coach and chaplain who has worked with people with addiction concerns for over 40 years. Patricia has a Masters in Clinical Social Work and has over 30 years of experience working with clients with mental health and addiction concerns. (For more information about Tava Full Circle, LLC. Please visit http://tavafullcircle.com/index.html).
Fortunately, I was not able to meet with Jim and Patricia on July 1st due to traffic delays. I say fortunate because I had to reschedule the meeting for Saturday July 2nd, which was the day Jim and Patricia were holding a Pipe Circle. The Pipe Circle is a sacred Native American ritual that connects the physical and spiritual worlds. The pipe represents both female and male qualities and serves as the link between earth and sky. Real tobacco is used as it roots go deep into the ground and its smoke ascends to the heavens. The fire in the pipe represents the sun which is the source of life and the smoke is the physical embodiment of the prayers of the people and serves as a connection between all things.
For Lakota Native Americans and practitioners of Native American religions, I do not believe there is anything more sacred than the Pipe Ceremony, as it represents the hopes, beliefs, and communal nature of the people. As such, to be invited to join the circle, especially as an outsider was indeed a great honor. After being saged for smudging (spiritually cleansed), I was instructed about the purpose and meaning of the: Pipe Circle and the pipe. This was followed by instructions regarding smoking the pipe and how to pass it to the next person. Each person in the circle is given the option of smoking or not smoking and passing the pipe without judgement or recrimination. After the pipe has completed the circle everyone was allowed the opportunity to share the feelings and thoughts they experienced as they spoke. My thoughts centered on the interconnection of all people and all things. As well as the appreciation for this group of wonderful people who had invited an unknown traveler into their most sacred and safe space and shown him/me all the hospitality of a loved family member.
I left thinking, “The world would be a much better place if everyone treated a stranger as if they were a loved family member”. Perhaps one day we will achieve the type of enlightenment that allows each of us to look at our similarities more than our difference and allow everyone to follow their own journey without judgement or recrimination.
Yes, I will take this experience and added to my counseling repertoire. More importantly, I will use this experience to change my life and better the lives of those around me.
Dr. Robert A. Horne
(A very special thanks to Stewart “One Wing” and Karen “Sweet Grass Woman” who hosted the Pipe Ceremony, and all the new family members I met who invited me into their sacred circle and lives)
Special thanks to Dr. Lynn Tovar, my friend and Ph.D. cohort member for introducing me to the Franceks… FFL -Friends for life!
Four Corners Park and Joe LaChance – Madawaska, ME
(Receiving a Certificate of Award signed by the Maine governor, local state representative, town manager and of course Joe LaChance, president and founder of the Four Corners State Park)
Four Corners Park is a park dedicated to long-distance motorcycling located in Madawaska, ME and is one of the 4 checkpoints/stops on the USA 4 Corners Motorcycle tour. I had originally, planned to contact the founder of the park, Joe LaChance to see if I could meet with him and get a picture. However, weather and traffic delayed my arrival until July 4th. Since I knew most people would be home BBQing, cooking out or just relaxing on a day off I forewent an email to Joe to schedule a meet-up. So I decided to go by the park and take a few pictures for personal memorabilia and as proof that I had arrived at my 1st checkpoint on the USA 4 Corners Tour and ride on. When I pulled up, there was another bike parked in front of the monument dedicated to long-range riders. The owner of the bike, gratefully volunteered to take the pictures for me. I say gratefully, because selfies aren’t my thing, but when you are traveling alone and want to be in a picture… a selfie is all you have. The pictures led to a conversation with biker, who worked at the park. As biker do, we talked about bikes, the park, its dedication to long-distance riders, long rides we had both gone on, and some of the reasons long-distance bikers ride long distances. The numbers are various, but I guess some of the reasons most bikers ride are; piece of mind, the feel of freedom, and the feel of the air in your face when you are riding. There’s something about riding that settles the soul. I think its one reason so many vets ride. An article published June 9, 2015 in the Milwaukee, WI Journal-Sentinel entitled, For military veterans, motorcycle ride provides an antidote to stress, suggests many veterans have turned to motorcycling as a way to address stress and PTSD. Now researchers, are starting to study how motorcycling may be used to address stress and PTSD concerns among veterans returning from combat and/or hazardous duty assignments. However, I digress…back to the Four Corners Park.
As I was mounting up preparing to leave the park and head to my next destination a gentleman rushed up to introduce himself to me, it was Joe LaChance the creator and founder of the Four Corner’s Park. I told him I had wanted to meet him but after realizing I would not arrive until July 4th I did not email because I thought he would be taking the day off. He replied with a smile, “I’m here every day”. After a few moments of sharing riding stories Joe gave me a personal tour of the park. Joe was a magnanimous host and tour guide explaining why he started the park, how the 21 day time limit for the USA 4 Corners Tour came into being, and pointing out interesting pavers of people who were important regarding the park and long-distance riding. The park also has a dedication to fallen riders as well as red pavers for some of the finishers of the USA 4 Corners Tour. While I was thinking I am going to get a red paver and how glad I am to be doing this ride while I am still young enough to complete it (I’m turning 56 in a few weeks), Joe pointed out the paver of a woman who completed the 4 Corners Tour 4 times. She completed for the first time at age 64 and the last time at age 82. Wow, that’s inspiring and sign that you can begin new dreams at any age.
Well, I have to wrap this up and hit the road so I qualify for a red paver. I will try to update this page each evening now that I have settled into my riding groove.
Next stops Detroit, Chicago and Madison, WI