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.

Standing Ovation for Military Writers

Thank you to Ovation Riding for their “Standing Ovation” for Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) and author Robin Hutton and I for our upcoming contributions to the Albuquerque veterans’ writing workshop. I’m thrilled to meet Robin in person in a few days having followed the Sergeant Reckless story for years and having lived in Korea. Her newest book, War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of WWII, tells amazing tales, too, in a riveting look at what our animal heroes did for us all. Here is the link for the full story, and so glad to be part of this team!

Military Writers Society of America Helps Veterans Write

The Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) will hold a free writing workshop Thur., Sept. 12, 2019, at the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Seasoned writers will present on the topics of storytelling, character, conflict, dialogue, memoir, short story, non-fiction, and editing.

MWSA published authors have conducted veteran-focused workshops over the past five years at VA medical and veteran centers in Phoenix; Waco, Texas; San Antonio; and Charleston, S.C. The goal of the writing workshops has been to help veterans and their families share their stories through a positive writing workshop venue at no cost to attendees. [Read more…]

Veteran Writing Services Celebrates Five Years in Business!

Who would have known that the first scribblings of a horse book would turn into Veteran Writing Services, now a a successful company for five years?

As crazy as it sounds, I woke up one night in October 2009 with an idea for a book sparked by an idea from a friend. My supportive husband understood, and I went to the living room and took down notes until early in the morning for what became the outline of my first book, Believing In Horses. I also fortunately had former bosses [Read more…]

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…]

Believing In Horses, Too Wins Again!

“A great read. Filled with inspiration and drive.” —Stroud Arts Book Festival”

Believing In Horses, Too won the Best Young Adult Fiction book and Literary Excellence Award in the 2018 Stroud Arts Book Festival awards. This win follows previous awards including a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America and 1st Place in Young Adult Fiction in The Authors’ Zone book awards.

Book festival Executive Director Guy Lozier said, “You have achieved A Gold Award for your efforts. The judges were impressed with your solid literary achievement.” [Read more…]