He Made a Difference

Dean Massey, the founder of Horses Help Heroes, praising his horse, Hannah, in 2016. (Photo by Kristina Truluck)

I lost a Marine Corps veteran and friend to suicide in August. Dean Massey founded and ran a non-profit, Horses Help Heroes, to help military, veterans, and their families. My husband and I had the privilege of assisting this organization through the use of our horses, support at events, and participation in fundraisers.

As one of his Horses Help Heroes assistants said, “Dean was so busy helping others that he forgot to take care of himself.”

Dean’s sudden death shocked those who knew him. I personally wondered, “What did I miss?” And this is the same question I asked myself after my first cousin took his life. And after my stepbrother took his life.

A shocking statistic is that in 2019, an average of 20 veteran and active duty servicemembers have committed suicide every day. In case this may help just one person, here are the warning signs according to the Department of Veterans Affairs:

What are signs that someone may be considering suicide?

Many Veterans don’t show any signs of an urge to harm themselves before doing so. But some may show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or hopelessness, like:

  • Seeming sad, depressed, anxious, or agitated most of the time
  • Sleeping either all the time or not much at all
  • Not caring about what they look like or what happens to them
  • Pulling away from friends, family, and society
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things they used to care about
  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame, failure, lack of purpose in life, or being trapped

They may also change the way they act, and start to:

  • Perform poorly at work or school
  • Act violently or take risks (like driving fast or running red lights)
  • Do things to prepare for a suicide (like giving away special personal items, making a will, or seeking access to guns or pills)

Get the full list of signs that someone may be considering suicide

If you are a Veteran or you know a Veteran who is showing any of these signs, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net, or text to 838255 today.

There are many remembering you, Dean, and the purposeful life you lived serving others. May you rest in peace and know you made a difference.

Returning Freedom to Those Who Fought for Ours

In honor of the final day of Veterans Month, I share a story I wrote that appeared in the Inside the Gate magazine last month.

Veteran patients from Walter Reed Medical Center didn’t know horses would help them. Gold Star Mothers didn’t realize how equine relationships would evolve. And military families weren’t aware of local horse facilities and the joy they would bring their children. Horses Help Heroes marched in and made a difference. [Read more…]

Brave HEART – Horses Helping Military

BraveHEART_CoverI recently had the opportunity to work with the Brave HEART program on several writing projects. Brave HEART (Heroes Equine Adventure & Riding Therapy) “provides an environment where Veterans, military members, and their families come together to facilitate healing and strengthen relationships through equine interaction and outdoor activities.” A 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Brave HEART program supports those who have served, or still serve, at the peaceful Larkspur Lane Farm setting in Hagerstown, Maryland.

While speaking with the founder and Executive Director, Laura Lane-Unsworth, we determined one of the Brave HEART projects would be a tri-fold brochure to help inform people about Brave HEART’s work. Laura was most helpful in getting me the top five points to get across, testimonials, and a general feel for the tone of the brochure. I put together the words and then enlisted the help of my talented graphic designer friend, Brittany Klein of Radiant Resolution, LLC, to display the information in a far more pleasing manner than I could. I am not a graphic designer – at all – and know the value good graphic designers bring to any visual project. [Read more…]

Lessons from a Humble Warrior

George Ormond, 1917, a proud member of "New York's Division"

George Ormond, 1917, a proud member of “New York’s Division”

In honor of Veterans Day – a story about my grandfather.

George Ormond’s pale blue eyes watered until the day he died. But he never complained about the Great War. Word was that mustard gas got him, but in those days, people didn’t talk much about injuries, follow-on treatment, or post-traumatic stress. My grandfather died when I was 21, about the same age he was when returning from the war. I wish I’d had adult conversations with him about his experiences, but it’s obviously too late. He likely didn’t realize how interested people might be in a blue-collar kid from Brooklyn’s renditions of his encounters on the front lines. [Read more…]

Fun With Freedom U.S.A. Tour

 

Billy meets Freedom at Loftmar Stables, Bowie, Md.

Sometimes we just have to have fun. Last week, all the way from Vancouver, Canada, Freedom the “Spokes-character” for Voice For The Horse Foundation Children’s International Writing Competition made his first U.S. stop in Bowie, Md. I’ve been fortunate to work as a volunteer helping coordinate the Voice For The Horse annual writing competition for the past three years and serving as a judge.

I had the honor of being the first to host Freedom Flat Stanley to help promote the horse-themed children’s writing competition. We began the tour at Loftmar Stables ,where our Maryland horses welcomed him. [Read more…]

Learning Partners

Following is a guest post I provided to the Lollipops and Books Blog  recently, that I wanted to share with my readers here.

Teacher's Tack for Believing In Horses

The product of an author and an educator working together as a team

One of the unexpected joys in writing Believing In Horses came from my brother, Eddy Ormond. A career educator, Eddy developed a keen interest in my book from the start and stayed involved during the writing process. Even as a non-horse person, he accompanied me on my research visits to barns, horse rescues, and even a live horse auction. My brother provided valuable input to me, as a writer, from spending years with fourth and fifth graders, knowing what they would like and maybe not like. It was a wonderful journey for both of us that I thought would end at the book’s publication. But I was wrong.I have read many Middle Grade and Young Adult novels, and frequently wondered, “Do these kids ever go to school?” Besides that fact, I felt compelled to have a teacher in my novel passionate about his profession and making a difference in the lives of children. [Read more…]