Life After The Military: Operation Mend with Dr. Jo Sornborger and Dana Katz

In this new episode of Life After the Military, Lee and Howie speak with Dr. Jo Sornborger and Dana Katz about the work they do with the Operation Mend Program at UCLA Health as part of the Warrior Care Network.

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Doctor Sornborger currently serves as the Executive Director of the UCLA Health Operation Mend Program. She is a certified clinical psychologist who has associated herself with UCLA  Health for over fourteen years.

Dana Katz is the Director of Community Engagement and Buddy Programs for the UCLA Operation Mend Program. Dana has worked with this program for over fifteen years. 

The Operation Mend Program is a partnership between UCLA Health and the United States military. In this episode, learn from Dr. Sornborger and Dana Katz how this program provides advanced surgical and medical treatment, comprehensive psychological evaluation and support, and intensive treatment programs for symptoms to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury for service members, veterans, and family members. 


Show Notes

1:32 Dr. Jo explains her involvement in Operation Mend.

4:28 Dr. Jo Expands on the Resilience of the military family.

8:49 The scope of Operation Mend’s Care

11:45 Dana Katz shares her experience being with Operation Mend for 15 years and the organization’s origins with her family.

18:28 Dana and Dr.Jo discuss the community of buddies and warriors that Operation Mend has built.

22:57 Lee shares an anecdote about meeting some of the Band of Brothers.

36:53 Dana talks about sourcing “Buddies” for Operation Mend and the Importance of Warriors to seek help.

48:00 Howie Delves into the “Deadly Gap”.

58:54 Lee calls to action! “You are not alone”.

1:10:00 How our guests practice mental fitness in their lives.

Military Spouses, Serving Others, and The Emotional Rucksack

In this new Pivotal Moments Media Charlie Mike Channel episode of Life After the Military, Lee and Howie speak with Richelle Futch.

Richelle is a Marine Corps Veteran, current special operations military spouse, and advocate for military employment, preventative mental health care and reform. She has worked with members of congress on policy reform and has been invited to the White House on behalf of her work and advocacy efforts.

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An accomplished 4x published author, Richelle printed more than 10,000 copies and sold thousands of digital editions of her workbook Unpacking Your Emotional Ruck. 

In this episode, Richelle shares her experience as she transitioned from her active-duty tour by pursuing her undergraduate degree and working as a court appointed special advocate who provided the voice for children in the foster care system. Richelle emphasizes the importance of focusing on and serving others.

Richelle discusses the work she does with youth by using didactic training techniques to help them understand and overcome their challenges. Richelle also describes the work she does with military and first responder families. She talks about the family system and how each family member can be successful in our stress filled society today.

Richelle masterfully describes the work she does with families to build resilience and their ability to overcome adversity. Richelle talks about the work she did that led to the development of her workbook, Unpack Your Emotional Ruck.

Richelle shares about the challenges she faces as a spouse as she and her husband prepare for his transition out of the military.


Show Notes

2:14 – Richelle takes us through her transition out of the military and her advice for those going through it today

5:41 – Richelle talks about redefining purpose

8:54 – Lee and Richelle dive into serving others

17:25 – Richelle explains what it means to meet people where they are at

33:20 – Howie & Richelle discuss the importance of allowing children and teens to experience hardship in order to better prepare them throughout life

41:58 – Richelle explains what unpacking your emotional ruck means 

50:08 – Richelle discusses her husband’s upcoming transition out of the military and how they are preparing for it

57:08 – Richelle discusses how she practices mental fitness

Passion: When Curiosity Meets Community

In this new episode of Life After the Military, Lee and Howie speak with Sergeant Major (Retired) Topaz Navarro. Topaz shares the importance of being curious, vulnerable, and fearless as he learned to use LinkedIn to find his voice and establish his network to help with his transition planning and execution.

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Learn from Topaz as he describes his passion for helping others through his business, Escape Velocity Academy, where he teaches others to become intrinsically motivated to find the overlap between curiosity and community.

Topaz highlights the work he does with Work Play Obsession All In Foundation to help others deal with challenges they may have with their mental fitness. 

Topaz defines his concept – authentic happiness – to help transitioning veterans find their meaning and purpose in their post-military life. He beautifully describes our need and desire to find and experience micro-flow states in all we do.

Learn how Topaz strengthens his mental fitness by taking his MEDSS (Mindfulness, Exercise, Diet, Sleep, Social Interaction) every day.


Show Notes

1:28 Topaz gives an overview of his transition out of the military.

11:40 Topaz expands on the focus of the Escape Velocity Academy 

13:15 Where curiosity intersects with community, you will find purpose/passion

19:45 The Origin of the Escape Velocity Academy name and its services

22:51 Howie explains what “Mile 62” means in relation to building good habits

26:06 Topaz explains the influence that “ The Second Mountain has had on his work

33:10 Topaz opens dialogue on the role of mentors vs coaches

39:30 Topaz elaborates on Work Play Obsession and his role as a connector to other non-profits

47:35 Lee explains the importance of finding community 

54:12 Topaz expands on “purpose” and finding it through authentic happiness

1:04:09 Topaz talks about taking his M.E.D.S in maintaining his mental fitness

Helping Military Spouses Find Stability

How do you handle unexpected adversity? 

Despite preparing and planning for the transition to civilian life, there was an emotional toll Teresa Shick’s family did not expect. The devastation of leaving their military life and the family they built caused an identity crisis that shook them to their core.

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Military spouse and founder of the Pillar Foundation, Teresa Shick, shares insight from the challenges of her life after the military with Howie and Lee on this Charlie Mike episode. 

The community aspect of military life is very important to their family; which led Teresa to create her own in Texas. After serving as an Ombudsman at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group alongside her husband, Teresa founded The Pillar Foundation to provide a support network to newly transitioned military wives into the civilian world. Her dedication to our country’s military families and spouses is unwavering. 

Replacing the purpose these men and women have post-military is pivotal for the healing and growth in their new lives. Teresa is a voice for all military families and a resource that deserves to be shared with all.


Show Notes

00:30 – Introductions

02:00  – How do you and your military spouse prepare for your transition? How did it go and what did you learn?

07:45 – The importance of community camaraderie, and the particular kind you find within the military

10:00 How did you overcome a loss of identity and purpose after leaving the military?

13:45 – Teresa on founding the Pillar Foundation and the importance of being able to find a great community

17:30 – Teresa on the important roles of the military spouse, the importance of teamwork for a successful transition,  and resources available to help families and spouses transition and settle into life after the military

31:00 – How naval special warfare shapes family communication, and lessons learned from training and preparations

34:15 – How and why Teresa started the Pillar Foundation 

43:00 – Lee gives his book titles

46:15 – Teresa is asked what she does to maintain her mental fitness

The "We" to "Me" Mindset Flip with Jose Velazquez

In this episode of Life After the Military, Lee and Howie speak with Sergeant Major (Retired) Jose Velazquez. Jose provides invaluable insights into his military transition preparation and execution.

Jose wisely advises transitioning service members to apply the skills they learned in the military to own and execute their transition. 

Jose shares the importance and value of eliminating debt to lower the stress of the transition period.

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Jose also describes the invaluable role that his spouse played in their steps to execute their transition. With his wife taking part in all transition briefings and classes, she brought a perspective to the process that really helped Jose plan more effectively. 

Jose also shares the importance for him to seek a post military role that enabled him to find purpose and value in what he wanted to do in broadcasting and teaching. 

Jose and Howie describe the value they received by completing the Leader Transition Institute course “Changing Focus from We to Me” and highly encourage all transitioning service members to take this course.

Jose expands on the importance of finding and using mentors to leverage their lessons learned. When he decided to pursue his entrepreneurial spirit and start his own business, he leaned on several mentors to show him the way. 

Although struggling with some mental health challenges resulting from leading men and women in combat, Jose candidly shares the value of seeking and asking for help and being there for others when they need someone to talk to. 


Jose’s LinkedIn


Show Notes:

2:00  Jose discusses his personal transition out of the military 

10:15 Howie discusses the value of reducing debt to create breathing room during transition 

12:51 Finding purpose and fulfillment after the military

15:18 Jose elaborates on becoming an entrepreneur

20:31 Discussion around “Owning the Process” of transition and asking for help.

36:49 Jose explains the Leadership Transition Institute and going from “WE” to “ME”

45:39 Howie expands on his experiences transitioning and the tools he finds value in today

55:01 Lee Discusses helping yourself before helping others

1:01:45 Jose describes his mental fitness journey 

1:15:20 Jose shares a personal story about reframing his experiences through a redefinition of              strength

How to Find Mentors and Ask for Help

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In this new Pivotal Moments Media Charlie Mike Channel episode of Life After the Military, Lee and Howie speak with Navy Petty Officer First Class Mike Brown.

Mike talks eloquently about the value of owning your own transition and starting your professional network early in your military career. Mike shares how he used LinkedIn as an effective tool to broaden and deepen his network. Even though he had to medically retire and did not have as much time as most to prepare, his early networking efforts helped him land softly in his post-military career.

Mike also speaks about the importance of finding and using mentors who have recently navigated the military transition process to take advantage of their lessons learned.

Although struggling with some mental health challenges, Mike candidly shares the value of seeking and asking for help and being there for others when they need someone to talk to.


Show Notes:

1:20 – How did Mike prepare for his transition? What went well? What didn’t? What did he earn?

9:30 – Howie on why it is important to take ownership of your transition

11:50 – The importance of networking and some tips for finding success 

23:30 – They reflect on the challenges of joining a new team and finding success 

28:20 – You are not alone, you do not have to go far to find the right people to help you along the way. Find the right communities to give purpose and replace the military presence in your life

34:00 – Don’t hesitate to help others who are transitioning, even if you are just finding rhythm after your own transition

39:00 – How Mike found his job at Intelligent Waves, what he does there, and what he has learned so far from his time working there

51:30 – Book titles

53:20 – Mike on some struggles with mental fitness and what he does to strengthen his mental fitness

1:06:00 – The importance of being there for someone if you see them struggling

Life After The Military: Army Signal Officer and Paralympic Athlete, COL (Ret) Patty Collins

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Do you want to be inspired? Do you want to learn how someone overcame a life-changing accident to propel herself to be an Olympic athlete?

In this new Pivotal Moments Media Charlie Mike Channel episode of Life After the Military, Lee and Howie speak with Army Colonel (Retired) Patty Collins.

Patty shares an invaluable perspective on how she planned and conducted her transition from the Army. She highlights the value of finding a new community, taking time to spend with family and recharge, and the challenges of working in a consulting firm and pursuing a career in government service.

After surviving a cycling accident that left her as a below-the-knee amputee, Patty talks candidly about her challenging battle to recover and overcome significant adversity. Not only did she complete an extraordinary 24-year career as an Army Signal Officer, but Patty also competed as a triathlete in the 2016 Paralympics held in Rio de Janeiro.

Patty continues to inspire and lead others serving as the Deputy Director of the U.S. Government Publishing Office and as a coach and mentor of aspiring competitive disabled athletes.


Show Notes:

00:00 Intro

2:03 – Lee asks Patty how she prepared for her transition

6:50 – The importance of finding and/or creating a community, taking time to settle in and readjust, and being open to finding a new purpose

8:56 – Howie brings up how much of a difference financial discipline, becoming debt free, and how that financial freedom can greatly affect a transition for the better

11:57 – Why 6 weeks is the golden grace period for adjusting to your new life outside the military

14:25 – Patty shares more about her past and current work positions, why she chose those positions, and what she learned 

26:25 – Patty discusses a major accident she suffered and why she chose to amputate her leg
38:00 What motivated Patty to eventually compete in the 2016 Paralympics

41:00 – Lee talks about his experience in injury recovery, the benefits of physical therapy, and the emotional release that comes with healing

48:00 – Howie brings up the importance of claiming ownership of your situation, what it can take to do that, and how it can benefit your transition and your life.

57:28 – Lee gives Patty’s book title

59:30 – How does Patty maintain mental fitness at an Olympic level?

Life After The Military: Marine Corps Colonel (Retired) Beau Higgins

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Interested in learning about the opportunities for transitioning military veterans to work at Amazon? 

In this new Pivotal Moments Media Charlie Mike Channel episode of Life After the Military, Lee and Howie speak with Marine Corps Colonel (Retired) Beau Higgins.

 Beau shares great insights into his planning and preparation for transition from the Marine Corps.

Working as the Senior Manager, Military Talent Acquisition for Amazon, Beau helps us understand the opportunities for transitioning service members at Amazon and how to best prepare and compete for them. Beau explains the Amazon interview process and how to succeed in that process.


Show Notes:
00:00 Intro

2:00 Lee asks Beau about his transition from military to civilian life

10:00 Don’t be afraid to ask for help

17:00 Why Beau chose to work with Custom Cable

26:00 Amazon plans to hire veterans and train non-military leaders to lead veterans successfully

41:00 Beau on Amazon’s keys to successful veteran integration 

50:00 Tips for preparing for interviews

1:05:00 Lee asks Beau about mental fitness

Life After The Military: How do you handle physical and mental abuse?

Have you suffered from physical or mental abuse?

If so, how did you handle it?

If so, how has it changed you?

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In this Pivotal Moments Media Charlie Mike Channel episode of Life After the Military, learn how LTC (Ret) Olivia Nunn dealt with an episode of physical and mental abuse early in her 20-year military career.

Olivia bravely and transparently shares how this episode of abuse and how the chain of command handled it led her down a very dark path that did not present itself until she decided to retire from the military.

Learn how Olivia confronted this challenge to get her life back on track to help other men and women in uniform who have similar mental fitness challenges.


Show Notes:

00:00 Lee introduces Colonel Retired Olivia Nunn

1:40 Olivia discusses her transition and her work at U.S. Army Soldier For Life

3:50 Loss of identity when leaving the military

8:00 Being a woman in the military and transitioning

13:40 How Olivia dealt with her challenges

15:30 Olivia was assaulted by her Platoon Sergeant during her first deployment

18:15 How Olivia’s mental health was affected by the incident 

21:20 Olivia had a successful career at the cost of her mental health

27:20 Why Olivia decided to finally leave the military and be a mom

31:00 Olivia’s exit from the military set her up for a successful transition

34:50 What resulted from Olivia’s troubles with mental health during her transition and after her divorce

37:00 Olivia contemplated suicide and reached out to resources

46:35 How Olivia’s family reacted to her struggles

51:45 Olivia eventually found a resource that helped her

54:00 Olivia tells how the resource helped her

1:02:00 Olivia talks about discovering her purpose and creating an LLC

1:07:00 Howie and Olivia discuss finding your past self following your service in the military 

1:19:50 Olivia speaks on why she shares her story

1:24:00 The three highlight the importance of giving back

1:28:30 Lee closes out the episode

Life After The Military: Sergeant Major (Ret.) Matt Quick

How much debt are you bringing into your transition from the military?

How much financial stress are you already experiencing?

Want to learn from one of the best and most respected voices in the veteran transition workspace?

Tune into this new episode of Life After the Military with Sergeant Major (Retired) Matt Quick.

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Matt shares his story about his transition from the Marine Corps and the Army. Listen as Matt describes the value of networking early and significantly lowering the financial stress of a transition by getting to a debt-free state before departing the military.

Matt gives invaluable insights into the offerings that the Project Management Institute, his current employer, provides for transitioning veterans, their spouses and family members.

Matt speaks passionately about his work with the Dylan Quick Foundation, in loving memory of his nephew lost too early to pediatric cancer.


Show Notes 

00:00 Lee introduces Matt Quick to the PMM audience, Matt Quick shares key facts about his transition from the military

8:01 Matt discusses his first job, overseeing the DoD skill bridge program 

10:14 Howie advises the audience to begin the transition process as early as possible, and to get educated

14:18 Matt describes his work at PMI – the Project Management Institute

17:26 Matt discusses what the PMI does for spouses and military families

21:13 Lee and Howie advise the audience – find your purpose

25:57 Mike explains his reenlistment into the Army and how he built a controversial website while training to become a career counselor

32:00 An important discussion on how identity shifts for everyone involved in a service member’s transition

41:09 The group discusses the incredible importance of spouses in military transitions

45:47 Matt discusses another passion project, the Dylan Quick Foundation

52:32 Lee gives Matt the title for his life’s book; Matt shares how he practices mental fitness daily

57:21 Howie and Lee end the show