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.

Benefits of Horseback Riding


Please welcome guest blogger Mike Shortridge –  all the way from Australia!

Horseback riding is an enjoyable pastime for all ages and can be a fun hobby. But it also comes with amazing benefits including offering good exercise and helping to strengthen your muscles.

A ride provides significant exercise, but also offers benefits including improved balance, coordination, and even a meditative effect, helping riders forget about everyday stresses for the duration of the ride.

We caught up with Russ from horseseller.com.au and asked for his top ten ways in which horseback riding can benefit your overall health. Here they are. [Read more…]

Creating and Managing Successful Internships

Maryland Horse Council Intern Holden Rafey interviewing Olympian Joe Fargis (photo courtesy of Holden Rafey)

I landed my first professional job at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Md., after serving as an intern while a student at Towson University. At 21-years-old, I became the station’s assistant Public Relations Officer with real duties and responsibilities and had the opportunity to work with industry icons like Oprah Winfrey. I owe that job and experience to my supervisor during my internship, Joyce Kashima. [Read more…]

Writing.com Anniversary

I received the following email today:

Dear Valerie,

You opened your Writing.Com account 7 years ago, on January 10th, 2011… which makes today your very own Writing.Com Account Anniversary.

So, from everyone at Writing.Com… Happy Account Anniversary! 

We wish you a very inspired day, filled with creativity, fun and, of course, lots and lots of writing. Please take a moment to stop in and visit Writing.Com. Write, read, review or just have some fun! Write On, Support @ Writing.Com http://www.Writing.Com/ [Read more…]

One Thing I Know for Sure About Writing Is…

               Image courtesy of Kaboompics

One thing I know for sure about writing is it offers us a snapshot of our life at a certain time that can never be taken away from us once we have committed our thoughts in writing.
I look back at my writing over the years, and it is such a window into who I was or what I was thinking at the time. From poems as a child, through papers in college, to current-day blog posts, they all provide a glimpse into where I was at that particular moment. Our memories serve us well about events, but never as well as how we convey our feelings through the written word. [Read more…]

Military Writers – Julia Maki

As I head off to the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) Conference, it seems a good time to recognize military writers.
On September 7, I have the privilege of joining award-winning authors Jack Woodville London and Don Helin to conduct the “Writing Your Story” one-day workshop at the Audie Murphy Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center in San Antonio, Texas. [Read more…]