Keep up with the hike schedule

Day 1: New Hampshire

Today is the first day of the 2022 #IWillListen Ruck Challenge and again, I’ll start with my home state of New Hampshire.  Shortly after moving to NH when I was nine years old we were remodeling our home and had an electrical fire.  If I remember correctly, it was actually a Police officer who arrived first and extinguished it with fire extinguisher.  The sight of the fire trucks and the excitement of event must have also affected my step father who consequently joined the volunteer Fire Department. Later that same year he would respond to a fully involved structure fire and recover three bodies of a four person family.  The only survivor was my classmate.  He went on to serve over 30-years with that department, ultimately becoming the Fire Chief.  My first exposure to the trauma and stress of being a first responder was as the child of one.  These walks are as much for those that survive the trauma as those who don’t.  Today we honor the First Responders in the state of New Hampshire


Day 2: Ohio

Six Ohio First Responders were reported to have been lost to suicide since January 1, 2022.  In April, I was fortunate enough to do a 3-Day #ResponderReadiness Workshop in Lorain County thanks for FirstNet – Built with AT&T, with Fire Fighters, Police Officers, Dispatchers, Medics, and Mental Health Providers. Since then, Chief Barfield of the Wellington Police Department has gone on to train dozens more in his own community as well for the Cleveland Fire Department.  This morning before and after the walk shot another short video.  In the video below I mention First H.E.L.P.’s, “R.A.N.G.E of Resilience.”  This simple tool is changing lives and enabling responders and leaders in agencies throughout the nation to either set the stage for new RESILIENCE PROGRAM or round out an existing program with an easy to remember set of practices: R – Recognize the Good, A – Active Constructive Responding, N – Notice the World Around You, G – Get Up and Move, and E – Energy Management.


Day 3: West Virginia

So far, in 2022 there are no reported First Responder Suicides in West Virginia.  However, in 2021 there were at least two.  At First H.E.L.P., our reports of suicide come from individual submissions by family members or agencies.  Occasionally, our own volunteers will report suicides they discover in the media.  Only those that can be corroborated by family members or other official sources will be reported on our website and we only share names when the family says its OK. 

This morning I didn’t walk.  I am traveling from my home in Madison, WI to Sandy, UT for a #ResponderReadiness Workshop hosted by the Sandy, UT Police Department.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s video, I was going to highlight each of the R.A.N.G.E. of Resilience Skills over the next few days.  The Airport is a great place to practice the Resilience Skill of, “Notice the World Around You.”  This is a grounding skill for busy people and tactical professionals.  This skill helps us ground ourselves and regain control of the sympathetic nervous system and pull up from the tailspin of a full on amygdala hijack while at the same time, not giving up the safety of situational awareness.  Begin by taking a few full deep breaths while casually scanning the area.  This helps connect us to a baseline before we start to look for things that might be out of the ordinary.  It also regains control of our breathing, lower our heart rate, drop our blood pressure, and improve visual acuity… more on all of that later.  Next, begin what is called 3×3 grounding. First, visually identify three things in your environment that stand out to you.  Then, as you continue to scan with your eyes and your body begins to regulate, listen more intently with your ears.  Identify three sounds that are out of the ordinary or stand out to you.  Lastly, as your attention on the outside world broadens and you are much more in tune with your surroundings move the focus closer to your core and discover three things your feel with your sense of touch.  This body scan will heighten your mindfulness and help you continue to lower your body’s response to stress.  I want to point out that the first few times people try this, it can feel awkward and they’ll feel compelled to move through each one quickly and miss the details.  It is essential that we practice this skill during low threat, low stress times with finite detail if we expect it to work well during the high stress times.  In the #ResponderReadiness Workshop we do a “Notice The World Around You” activity that demonstrates how every First Responder Can use this on scene, in the office, or in the dispatch center.  Police officers use examples of felony traffic stops, and crime scenes.  Medics can use it while staging for a hot call. Fire Fighters while preparing to make entry to structure fire, and dispatchers in between stressful calls.  Family members can use in countless situations as well.  The key is use it and use it often.  There are other grounding activities that work incredibly well also – we may address those over the next few weeks as well.  But, of all the practices I’ve tried, this one works best for me.  


Day 4: Utah

Prior to November 11th, one First Responder from the state of Utah was known to have died by suicide, I had the opportunity to walk the mile for them while I was there for a #ResponderReadiness Workshop hosted by the City of Sandy Police Department. Utah is one of the most beautiful places to hike but unfortunately we had a very busy day and had to do it during lunch between two sessions. Luckily, my good friend, Graham Tinius is the one of the City’s Park Police Officers and knows the best places to to just that. Instead of posting my video for this hike I wanted to share one of his. I’m blessed to host an event called, The Emerson Hour for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association and one of my favorite things to do each year is select speakers for the event. Each speaker is challenged to answer Ralph Waldo Emerson’s question, “What’s become clear to you since we last met?” Graham’s answer tells the story of a high performer with a heart to serve who finds himself chasing the dopamine high that so many of us crave. But in a moment of clarity, Graham said, “#SoWhat” and reached out for help. It’s OK to realize that even the things that look productive and good on the surface may actually be harmful and have a cost associated with them. It’s OK realize you can’t manage it on you own.


Day 5: South Dakota

Today was a travel day and while I had intended to use a layover to do my mile for Tennessee either inside or outside the air port, the timing didn’t work out. Although I walked far more than a mile today, I just didn’t have time to do the sort of reflection that would have made this an actual #IWillListen Walk. So instead I moved South Dakota to today and was able to do my reflection during the fight. On the days with no miles I am intentional about reflecting still. I use Insight Timer for daily mindfulness practice. We’re currently on Day 2 of a 14 Day Breathing Challenge. Check It Out!


Day 6: Tennessee

Today was one mile for the women and men of the state Tennessee where one First Responder is known to have been lost to suicide. When I started this walk we had 139 reports. In just 6 days, that number climbed to 143. Today during my walk I spent some time thinking about the plan for #ResponderReadiness workshops in 2023. Throughout 2022 we will have reached over 1,200 First Responders with our 4-hour workshops. We are working on plans to exceed that significantly next year.

In the video today I talk about the RANGE Skill of Get Up and Move. This skill covers a wide range of practice but today I talked about the simple practices of walking. Walking requires us to use both hemispheres of our brains which activates neural pathways across the midline. When we’re intentional about walking during decision making or critical thinking we’re more effectively balancing the cognitive load across a broader range of our brains capabilities. #GetUpAndMove. #Range.


Day 7: Oklahoma

Today I did one mile for the women and men of the state of Oklahoma where we lost one First Responder to suicide. Tonight was a short video. Last night was a long winded one. Tonight I shared a little bit about the #IWillListen Campaign.

Day 8: Wyoming

Today was for the women and men of Wyoming where we know of one police officer lost to suicide this year. This was a quick walk tonight. Normally, I try to stick to a 20-minute pace regardless of the distance. Remember, this is about mindfulness and reflection – not working out. I did take a moment to remind myself how great Madison is – even if it’s not San Diego. #IWillListen | #ResponderReadiness | #RangeOfResilience. Tomorrow is a 14-miler and it’s gonna be cold!


Day 9: Florida

Today was 14 Miles for the women and men of Florida where we’ve lost four firefighters and 10 police officers this year. Over the last few days I’ve mentioned a few times how this event for me is an opportunity to reflect on the the year and to be intentionally mindful. I’m sure I am not the only person who finds it challenging to sit with a quiet mind for even a minute. Thanks to the insight timer app, that is gradually improving but for an ADHD kid like myself, it’s damn near a street fight inside my head – especially when it’s quiet. Mindful walking is one way of practicing mindfulness while staying in tune and aware of my surroundings. Perhaps a career in the army helped with this, but walking quietly and being intentionally aware of minor details is a big part of mindful walking (AKA Walking meditations). Intentional breath work and regaining focus in response to a distracting thought are another big part of it. Today’s hike is brought to you by the letter E – Energy Management. Stick around ’till the end and join me for some mindful breathing.


Day 10: Washington

Short walk but long thoughts.


Day 11: Louisiana

2 Miles today for the women and men of Louisiana.

Last week we had the opportunity to interview Brian Willis, (Excellence in Training Academy & ILEETA Executive Director). During the interview he reminded us of the Viktor Frankl quote, “Focus on what you control and control the controllable.”

#rangeofresilience | #responderreadiness | #IWillListen


Day 12: Kentucky

Today was 14 Miles for the women and men of Florida where we’ve lost four firefighters and 10 police officers this year. Over the last few days I’ve mentioned a few times how this event for me is an opportunity to reflect on the the year and to be intentionally mindful. I’m sure I am not the only person who finds it challenging to sit with a quiet mind for even a minute. Thanks to the insight timer app, that is gradually improving but for an ADHD kid like myself, it’s damn near a street fight inside my head – especially when it’s quiet. Mindful walking is one way of practicing mindfulness while staying in tune and aware of my surroundings. Perhaps a career in the army helped with this, but walking quietly and being intentionally aware of minor details is a big part of mindful walking (AKA Walking meditations). Intentional breath work and regaining focus in response to a distracting thought are another big part of it. Today’s hike is brought to you by the letter E – Energy Management. Stick around ’till the end and join me for some mindful breathing.


Day 13: Maine

Currently there are no reports from the state of Maine. Even though there were zero miles to walk today, I spent some time reflecting after our meeting with the IAFF Center of Excellence. There are so many tremendous resources out there!


Day 14: Wisconsin

Today was 3 miles for the men and women of Wisconsin (my current home state). My father-in-law was able to join me for today’s walk. If ever there was a day to Recognize the Good, today is the day! Happy Thanksgiving!


Day 15: Virginia

Today was 9 miles for Virginia. Had a chance to ruck 3 with my Father in Law, then linked up for the last 6 with Team RWB – Madison. In todays video I talk about the power of stepping away.

Day 16: Colorado

A quick 3-miler for Colorado (my original home state). Such a beautiful day today! 40 degrees but with the sun shining it it felt much warmer.

Day 17: Maryland & DC

Day 18: California

Today I did the 8-miler for California and locked in plans for the 2022 New Years Eve Hike in #sandiego #california! Todays thoughts, #positiveaffirmations..

Day 19: Nebraska

Today was 3 miles for the men and women of Wisconsin (my current home state). My father-in-law was able to join me for today’s walk. If ever there was a day to Recognize the Good, today is the day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Day 20: Arizona

Day 21: New Jersey

Day 22: New Mexico

Day 22: Today we recognize the First responders of #NewMexico where even though we have no suicides reported we know the women and men of the Land of Enchantment struggle with the stigma like any other state.

Yesterday I did the 7 miler for #NewJersey. I promise I did the miles but ran out of time to put a video together.

Tomorrow, I’ll make up for it during the 10 Miler for #Illinois.

#IWillListen

Day 23: Illinois

A day like today is the ideal day to get out and embrace the suck and remember just how human we are. 10-miles and three hours to reflect on so many things…

#IWillListen#firsthelp

Day 24: Minnesota

Day 24 – Minnesota #IWillListen

Today was one mile for the women and men of #minnesota where we know of one #FirstResponder who was lost to suicide. Incidentally, two professionals from MN donated today. Truly honored that they supported the #FirstHELP mission.

#IWillListen#firsthelp

Day 25: Oregon

Special Shout Out to Riley Giles for her amazing Christmas Ornament decoration. I spent some time this evening reflecting on the family that #FirstHELP has become to so many people over the last five years. Thank you all for being so amazing to each other and providing the sort of community that only you can provide for one another. It’s truly an honor to serve.

#IWillListen#firsthelp

Day 26: Hawaii

Today was 1-mile for the women and men from Hawaii where one corrections officer is known to have died by suicide but countless professionals face the stigma surrounding their mental health wellness each day. Each one fighting their own battle while continuing to serve the community. In today’s video, I wanted to give a shout out to @Amanda Rea for her video highlighting our Numbers Page.