“Eagles Slaying Demons”
Death to Suicide
By Florida Night Train
Thirty years, 262,800 hours… and within seconds, the trigger was pulled. The person I knew as dad, took his life with a gun. When Fran Haasch, and her husband Rhett reached out announcing an event called “22-A-Day” to be held at Bert’s Barracuda HD in Clearwater November 14, 2020, in honor of servicemen and women who lost their lives to PTSD-induced suicide, I knew the day had come for me to go back to a place where the silent killer, the insidious demon in one’s mind needed voice to reason. To say the prospect of writing this column created a sense of intimate fear in me is something hard to understand. I underestimated the task from every emotion possible acting out in ways that led me to almost give up, but I persevered because it was the right thing to do.
It was only this year on a bitterly cold day in January that I was drawn to a place to make my peace with this good man I once called dad. At his tombstone accompanied by a most kind and understanding soul, I crouched down and whispered to him “It’s ok, Dad. I love you. If you can, try to look after me and the children in some way. I’m doing good. Don’t worry.”
The human heart and soul’s emotions are extremely powerful. They can come to control the strongest will-minded men or women out there. I read a book called “Care of The Soul” once by Dr. Thomas Moore. In this book Dr. Moore makes the case that emotions, in a sense, are the barometer of the soul. A direct line of communication to our own soul where our soul either speaks to us gently, or screams for some form of nourishment or healing. When we live a balanced, healthy life then the soul within makes way for happy sentiments. When we, however, deprive our soul of the attention it needs it will send signals of unhappiness to the degree of neglect we are causing it. Hence, addictions, pain, psychiatric disorders and worse, suicide can result when we bottle up our emotions without an outlet of peace and positivity. We must pay attention to nourishing the soul as much as we nourish our body.
Patrick Bradley’s life was used to fight the Vietnam war without much preparation or attention to what his soul needed. He had no choice. He followed orders to accomplish tasks and missions that can rob the soul of the best of humans. As a result, Patrick Bradley came back empty. He came back to civilization with extreme severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) now referred to as PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Not a week goes by where Patrick, by his own admission, is not haunted by thoughts of suicide. Rare are the days he does not have visions reminding him of the horrors of war. Stats show ~22 veterans per day commit suicide. That is not to mention CDC’s numbers showing 45,000 cases in 2016 with suicide rates going up more than 30% in half of states since 1999. More than half of people (54%) who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
In her book “The Eagle On My Arm”, published author, co-author and long term personal friend of former President Bush’s family, Ms. Dava Guerin who also lost her late husband and co-author to suicide, writes about the life of Patrick Bradley and his triumph over his demons. Patrick Bradley enlisted in the US army in 1967. He was later deployed to North Vietnam as a special operator with missions to kill high value targets. Combat left him physically and psychologically wounded. Mr. Bradley struggled to adjust when he returned home. He seemed destined for military prison after an altercation where he broke a superior officer’s jaw. His life changed forever when a psychiatrist recommended a unique path for healing; a program sponsored by the Canadian government. Patrick traveled to Canada to study bald eagles and documented their behavior. Alone, with only a backpack full of supplies, he entered the woods with instructions to count the northern bald eagles and determine if their population was decreasing. Patrick’s military training prepared him for survival in the harsh Canadian wilderness, and he found himself recovering while living alone with minimal human contact. His work paved the way for groundbreaking research, including the discovery of a link between the use of pesticide and a decrease in southern bald eagle populations. Bradley forged a successful career, training wild animals for movies and television and managing birds of prey sanctuaries at theme parks and nature preserves. He also committed himself to helping other wounded warriors by co-founding the Avian Veteran Alliance, a nonprofit that pairs veterans suffering from PTSD/PTSS and physical injuries with injured birds of prey. To date more than ~4000 soldiers have taken part in the program, with dramatic results. This book is a moving account that reveals how a soldier became a dedicated healer using his years of study and solitude to face his demons and turned his pain into a lifelong passion for helping others.
It became evident in my live interview with both Ms. Guerin and Patrick which you can watch on my YouTube channel; “Florida Night Train” on November 6, 2020, that Patrick is one of the few who was led to reconnect to some degree with the beauty of life and his soul. Patrick’s life has not been wasted—on the contrary! Because of his ingrained courageous resilience, this generation as well as future generations will have the means to heal to some degree and cope with PTSD/PTSS through words and actions. I did not ask him, but I would dare to say this man would not hesitate going through hell again so he could help his fellow patriots and civilians as well. We owe him our deepest gratitude for our quality of life, our freedom, and now for making a huge difference with wildlife preservation as well as providing hope for the souls out there who are experiencing anguish deep in the core of their hearts.
Patrick is the living example of the absolute critical importance for men and women to connect with the outside world, wildlife, or to develop a passion and healthy outlets that will help them cope and possibly heal. To him it was wildlife and to others it may be other outlets. I experienced this firsthand myself in 2017, going through such anguish and pain I literally would lose consciousness on my knees praying to God to take the pain away. That is when I called for counseling and it went a little something like this…“Hello? I am going through intense pain and I don’t know what to do with this. I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Can I come in and see someone please?” Following that I discovered my own outlets; fine art on sheet metal and writing editorial features such as this one, and wind therapy on my motorcycle. Had I not focused on pouring my emotions into my outlets and my children, I might have become a statistic.
Join Patrick, Dava, and I at Bert’s Barracuda Harley Davidson on November 14, 2020, for the “22-A-Day” event to fight suicide and raise awareness. If you experience thoughts of suicide or if you know someone who does, you are not alone. Reach out! It takes courage to say “Hey? Help me out. I just don’t know what to do with these emotions.”
For free help you can confidentially call the “National Suicide Prevention Lifeline”; 1-800-273-8255.
Thanks Dad for showing me how to ride, do art, and for the love of literature. RIP
Co-Author Dava Guerin who wrote “Eagle on my Arm” with her late husband Terry Biven who was an accomplished award-winning journalist: Ms. Guerin is author or co-author of six books, including “Rebuilding Sargent Peck”, “Vets and Pets”, “Unbreakable Bonds” and now “The Eagle on my Arm”, a biography of Vietnam war veteran Mr. Patrick Bradley and the healing he found in the wilderness and birds of prey. Ms. Guerin is a Communications Consultant and a freelance writer. She previously served as Communications Director for the US Association of former members of Congress in Washington DC. She is an active supporter of Barbara Bush’s Foundation for Family Literacy and, The Gary Sinise Foundation.
Life’s blessing is to care… love, honor, forgive and respect. Be blessed always…