Becoming a member of Returning Veterans of Diablo Valley, whether you’re a Veteran or supporter, is sure to be a positive experience.  Together, we will cultivate authentic and heartfelt connection amongst Veterans, and the community, and break ourselves free of isolation, stepping into a reality of brother and sisterhood.


Scraping the Skull of My Psyche with a Scalpel

Scraping the Skull of My Psyche with a Scalpel

I've traveled to the center of my soul.  Doing this has been the single most profoundly difficult, exhaustive, and emotionally arduous inward journey of my entire life.  As I write this, my heart feels battered, bruised, its veins are sore, the wound still bleeds through capillary walls -- has yet to clot.  This is all a welcome change from the deep-water arterial surges of depression, anxiety, an panic that have crashed over me as I...
Read
The Soul Crushing Pain of Family Estrangement

The Soul Crushing Pain of Family Estrangement

My mother was sexually abused by her father.  Growing up, I was completely blind of this horrible fact.  Yet I experienced its profoundly devastating ripple affects: from countless men entering and exiting our lives and home, exposure to my mother's rampant sexual life, a gaping void of maternal and paternal nurturance, constant instability, role reversal -- where I often behaved like a father to my mother -- to pervasive feelings of depression, worthlessness, anxiety, stress,...
Read
How I Transformed My Relationship

How I Transformed My Relationship

I met my wife on the internet.  Eharmony to be precise. It was early 2015 and I just got out of a tumultuous short-term relationship, which ended because the woman forgot my middle name -- I became enraged, packed up, and left her.
Read
Torture in Mahmudiyah: An Unbearable Chamber of Suffering

Torture in Mahmudiyah: An Unbearable Chamber of Suffering

Standing a few steps into the room, we both watched in horror, yet were mesmerized as we traded smirks.  We'd never seen anything like this before.  "If this person was responsible for plotting to kill us", we reasoned, "perhaps he's getting what he deserves."  We walked out feeling concerned and debated whether to tell someone.  We returned a moment later to see that one of the interrogators was urgently fumbling with a small battery one...
Read
Ali Baba: A Marine Squad’s Brush With Death

Ali Baba: A Marine Squad’s Brush With Death

The boy came up to our first team and yelled out “Ali Baba!” while pointing northward. Long radioed details back to me and I made the decision to take the team in that direction, the target would have to wait, since there was an Ali Baba that called for our attention. The young man walked forward with our point team while I stayed near the center of our patrol with Lcpl. Schlehr, our radioman, to...
Read
For Me, The Marine Corps Was a Suicide Mission

For Me, The Marine Corps Was a Suicide Mission

I joined the Marine Corps in hopes of dying an honorable death and restoring dignity to my family name.  My reaction to knowing that I would be deployed to Iraq in 2004 was nothing short of hysteria.  "Finally", I thought, "If all goes right (or "wrong") I can put an end to feeling unworthy and living this miserable life in one of the most honorable ways possible."
Read
For U.S. veterans, what does it mean to heal a moral injury?

For U.S. veterans, what does it mean to heal a moral injury?

The two corporals smiled at the chance meeting, their first in the war zone. “Happy birthday, Marines,” Giannopoulos said to Berg and a few others seated by him. Berg chatted with him for a minute before Gino, as most called him, strode outside to join his platoon for its next mission. The following day, after returning to base from a patrol, Berg stood talking with his squad leader. Another Marine from Giannopoulos’ unit rushed toward...
Read
Phoenix Rising: Becoming a Survivor

Phoenix Rising: Becoming a Survivor

It’s November 6, 1993, and I’m enjoying a beautiful evening on base in San Diego. I’m 19 years old - out with shipmates dancing and having a few drinks at the club on base. Feeling tired as the night went on, I decided to walk back to the ship early without my friends. It was raining sporadically that week, like it often does, so I was looking down towards the concrete, dodging puddles in the...
Read
As It Turns Out, I Am Worthy of Love

As It Turns Out, I Am Worthy of Love

The first time I saw a Marine I was seven years old at a college baseball game in my hometown, Omaha, Nebraska at Rosenblatt Stadium.  They were in the outfield, frozen, wearing crisp white pants, holding a rifle salute during the national anthem.  It captivated me as I locked my gaze onto them. "What are they?"  How do they stand so still?"  I thought.  I just stared and remember feeling deeply touched by their grace,...
Read
“The Mask”

“The Mask”

I am sad and lonely, I have nobody to comfort me, So I wear a mask that always smiles, To hide my feelings behind my hurt.
Read
The Fear Within: Nightmares’ Womb

The Fear Within: Nightmares’ Womb

Iraq was hellish.  It was insanely hot, extremely physically and mentally demanding, and imminently dangerous all of the time.  Our late battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Smith, a man for whose picture adorns the wall in my study, was pushing us to our limits in the area, and exposing us to the fight.  Nay, we were bringing the fight to the enemy. I don't particularly blame him - I understand that he wanted to establish...
Read
Pumping the Breaks on Tears

Pumping the Breaks on Tears

My friend Alex committed suicide a month ago. For context, he was not a Veteran. A week prior to his death, he visited my wife and I at our home. I met Alex in community college in 2007, and we remained in touch intermittently. I was drawn to Alex because of he made me laugh hysterically every time I saw him – without fail.
Read
Psychotherapy Has Profoundly Deepened My Sleep

Psychotherapy Has Profoundly Deepened My Sleep

As the whole world knows by now, I am a patient and advocate of psychotherapy. And ever since about nine months into treatment, there was a major shift. There have been several major, profound life-changing positive shifts in my outlook, behavior, and feelings so far — but there’s one I’m particularly grateful for...
Read
I Understand Your Deep Sadness

I Understand Your Deep Sadness

A few days ago I was having a really rough time emotionally, feeling heartbroken.  To be up front, today isn't all that glorious either.  Things periodically get difficult since I'm currently in psychotherapy talking about very painful things - not to mention the fact that I'm human and inherently vulnerable to a universal spectrum of suffering.
Read
The Heartbreak of Leaving the Marine Corps

The Heartbreak of Leaving the Marine Corps

Just a few hours prior, I sat in the confines of a fluorescent lit conference room with 3 field grade officers, all built like brick shithouses, chizzled, professional, determined, yet compassionate, staring back at me.  They had just stated their verdict that I would be discharged from the Marine Corps.  Honorably, but discharged nonetheless.  "Do you have anything you want to say, Sergeant?"
Read
Therapy and Shame – Veterans’ Voices

Therapy and Shame – Veterans’ Voices

In this clip, RVDV co-creator, Ryan Berg, talks about his journey though psychotherapy, and why having a therapist is like having and "executive coach.....on steroids".
Read
The Damaging Affects of Patriarchy

The Damaging Affects of Patriarchy

When I was in Iraq, I saw men holding hands all the time. As you might imagine, most of us Marines assumed there was something homosexual about doing this, and all sorts of jokes sprung up as a result. After more than ten years, and a lot of personal reflection, I’m not so sure that I believe this anymore. I’m more inclined to think that Iraqi men were simply comfortable with openly loving one another....
Read
Pain Is Never Weakness Leaving the Body

Pain Is Never Weakness Leaving the Body

...You walk into your bedroom and clang your pinky toe on the sturdy, round wooden leg of the bed frame. A mind-numbing ache ascends instantly from your foot to your skull. You lie down on your mattress and clinch hard your eyelids as you whisper hateful obscenities. The pangs climax into one loud verbal curse. The pain pulses, but the worst is over, and a little laugh slips out for there is mercy after all...
Read
As a U.S. Marine Infantryman, Psychotherapy Has Made Me Even Stronger

As a U.S. Marine Infantryman, Psychotherapy Has Made Me Even Stronger

The experience of therapy was new to me.  I wasn't used to someone listening.  To caring.  To someone asking questions about my feelings, and affirming the validity of them.  To someone simply being present as I cried about hurtful events in my life.  We talked a lot about my early years (still do) as a child and adolescent. We painstakingly went back to moments when I was physically abused as a child. The horror. The...
Read
Thank God for Emotional Pain

Thank God for Emotional Pain

“Thank God for emotional pain”… was a thought that I had as I entered the park on an afternoon walk a few weeks ago. “Wait, what?”, I said to myself internally. “Did I really just utter that?” Something within me stood resolute and firm. Was their truth to this utterance? I sat down on the bench in the park as a deeply intense sadness pulsed through my body, and a warmth took over my skull....
Read
I Stopped Smoking Weed and I’ve Never Felt Happier

I Stopped Smoking Weed and I’ve Never Felt Happier

So I smoked in college, after I graduated, and off an on when I entered professional life.  I would quit because I felt ashamed, and then fire back up again.  It became a vicious cycle.  I realize now that this viciousness was a result of my unconscious desire to avoid difficult emotions - not to mention the fact that the habit was engineered into my brain as an acceptable response to life-difficulties by my mother...
Read
Veterans’ Next Mission: Topple Patriarchy, Reduce Suicides

Veterans’ Next Mission: Topple Patriarchy, Reduce Suicides

As Veterans, we know all to well what it means to suck it up.  "Embrace the suck" has become so common place that we often live our lives from this place, and even tell our friends in one way or another, to do just that.  But what actually are we embracing here?  Are we embracing ourselves in a manner that leads to our own happiness, or are we simply trying to love what our lives...
Read
These Muslims Wanted Me to Live

These Muslims Wanted Me to Live

As I sat up against the wall of the roof with my back towards the street where the car was, I was rocked by the most powerful explosion I've ever experienced.  It shook my chest cavity. I passed out for a nanosecond. I then tried standing up as my head spun, and I instinctively strapped the buckle of my helmet's chinstrap.  Immediately, I heard one of the Marines say, "there were Marines over there".  In...
Read
Disobeying Orders: One Man Lives

Disobeying Orders: One Man Lives

It was a bright and sunny morning in 2007 at the downtown Fallujah, Iraq, police station where a dozen or so Marines and I were tasked with providing security for a day of police recruiting.  There seemed to be a over a hundred or more local Iraqi men lined up right outside of the front gate eagerly awaiting to get inside and begin the process of becoming police recruits.
Read
On The Road To Nabatiya

On The Road To Nabatiya

ON THE ROAD TO NABATIYA THEY COME TO ME AS IF I’VE CALLED THEM BACK FROM A PLACE I’VE LEFT BEHIND THEIR FACES, YOUNG...
Read
Leadership and Healing: Creating Space for Transformation

Leadership and Healing: Creating Space for Transformation

The first time we took enemy contact was on our first patrol. We had just arrived in country, and we had not yet gained enough experience to conduct a foot patrol that didn't leave us exhausted.  Despite having trained for the past three months, the sweltering heat, and the weight of carrying a full combat load weighed on us.  We carried around 60 pounds of gear, and some even more with radios and machine guns....
Read
Do You Ever Feel Like A Part of You Died in Iraq?

Do You Ever Feel Like A Part of You Died in Iraq?

Connection after service among Marines can be tricky at times. Our relationships were fostered in an environment where feelings and emotions were mostly suppressed, or at least not acknowledged or talked about much. When we come together, it can feel like we are picking up right where we left off. And where did we leave off? We left off at the end of a combat deployment in an extremely dangerous place. Where sixteen out of...
Read
Wake Up Call

Wake Up Call

I felt sickened. While I could see the need to move the man, seeing a machine do it was so disrespectful to human life. I quickly pushed these thoughts down since there was nothing I could do about it, and then told myself, “hey, it’s war”. And then, BOOM!
Read
Warrior…for Love

Warrior…for Love

I served 7 years in the Marine Corps Reserves, deploying twice to Iraq in some of the most dangerous areas, including the Triangle of Death. This is the same place that the modern day terror group, ISIS, was hiding out and trying to harm my friends and I. My experiences in country, and the training received to become a Marine, helped shape my understanding of what it meant to be a warrior. In this context...
Read
Remembering to Remember

Remembering to Remember

My point is we’re on edge. We’re worried about those still fighting; we’re trying to find ourselves and other vets; and we’re seeking the care and treatment we need without feeling like it’s a threat to our warrior ethos. We often hear today by many that every day is Veterans Day. Is it? ...
Read