The Greatest Generation Will Always Inspire Us – Happy Veteran’s Day!

“Illegitimi Non Carborundum”
by Dan Clark

Have you ever had a tough day? How about a rough month? Can you imagine twelve months of pure hell? The next time you think you have it bad, remember that neither success nor failure means anything in and of itself—the meaning of both emerges only in comparison to something or someone else. For this reason, I want to introduce you to one of the greatest men who ever lived.

My dear friend, hero and father-in-law is Donald C. Sansom. He graduated high school at the age of seventeen and on his eighteenth birthday, February 25, 1943, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. America was in the middle of World War II, and Don wanted to do his part and serve his country. On April 7, Don left on a troop train headed for preflight officer training school in Santa Ana, California. That December, Don graduated third in his class of 130 servicemen, and at eighteen years of age, he was the youngest second lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps. Continue reading

Memories and Lessons of September 11, 2001

God Bless America

Sometimes stretching right now is not a choice. But with the realization that it’s not what happens to us but how we deal with what happens to us that makes or breaks us, stretching right now is often the key to success. Country singer Alan Jackson asks in his hit song, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?”

I was speaking the morning of September 11, 2001, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to a citywide early-morning leadership breakfast, sponsored by the local chamber of commerce and the Health Care Hospital community. When I concluded my remarks, I was whisked to the airport to catch my flight to JFK airport in New York to catch my nonstop flight home to Salt Lake City. We boarded our Delta Airlines jet and taxied out only to be immediately turned around and hurriedly sent back to the gate. Continue reading

An Eyewitness Essay On A Sure Way To Prevent Suicide

by Dan Clark, CSP, CPAE

Have you ever found yourself down and out in a seemingly helpless situation where your life has spiraled so far out of control that you thought the only solution was suicide? I have. Psychologists tell us that most of us will at some point in our lives become so distraught that we will consider giving up and taking our lives as the only solution to our pain. So the question is: why do some decide to complete their suicides and why do some decide that killing themselves is not the solution?

I love powerful, inspirational, life-altering quotes. For example we all know Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” May I add to this a few of my own: In two more days tomorrow’s yesterday; today you’ve never been this old before, and today you’ll never be this young again, so right now and every right now matters; you can’t always control what happens, but you can always control what happens next; pain is a signal to grow, not to suffer. Once you learn the lesson the pain is teaching you, the pain goes away. Which means that in life, there are no mistakes, only lessons. And yes, all of these suggest that no matter what our past has been we have a spotless future.

Interesting truths that you think would keep somebody from taking his own life and hanging himself with a belt. Apparently, they don’t work. At least not unless we do!

As we all attempt to make sense of our lives and search the universe for answers to why we even exist in the first place, what is the purpose of life, where did we come from, why are we here on earth, and where are we going when we die, I feel it is everyone’s human duty to share what we know and why we know it with one another, especially in times of testing trials and tribulation. In the shadows of the tragic death of one of my heroes Robin Williams, whom I’ve had the privilege of laughing and swapping stories with on three magnificent memorable occasions, I am compelled to weigh in on the international conversation that continues to permeate every channel and genre of media. No, I can’t explain why Robin took his own life. No one knows how he felt or why he decided to end his not so tragic life. But I do understand what will keep you and me from following in his footsteps.

With all due respect to the so-called experts, it’s not what you think. There are no big words or medical terms or quotes and case studies by famous psychotherapists that we are accustomed to hearing. My offering is foundational and real and raw and taken from the message in a dream where a genie appeared to a man and explained that because he had lived a noble life, he would grant him one wish. The man thought for a moment and replied, “I wish that peace and love and prosperity and happiness fill the whole earth.” The genie smiled and said, “That’s a wonderful wish sir, but we don’t deal in fruits here, we only deal in seeds.”

This essay is my humble attempt to plant and water and fertilize and nurture some seeds that you can grow and harvest in your own time and place, challenge the status quo, and fulfill my civic and moral duty to share the wisdom that I’ve personally garnered and experienced during my lifelong quest for truth, real purpose, self-acceptance, enduring happiness and significance.

I purposefully use the word wisdom because of a biblical scripture that has always given me direction found in James 1:5 (KJV), “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Note that it doesn’t say, “If any of you lack knowledge or information.” The dictionary definition of wisdom is, “applied knowledge; the practical application of information learned through experience.”

At the end of the day we don’t learn to know, we learn to do. It doesn’t do us any good to know how to read a book if we are never motivated to pick one up and read it. All of the information in the world is not going to make a person successful. It’s like the guy who has three PhDs: one in philosophy, one in psychology, one in sociology. He doesn’t have a job but at least he can explain why! Reason leads to conclusions but it is emotion that leads to action!

A lot of people know that smoking is harmful to their health but they smoke anyway. A lot of people know that their lack of exercise and horrible habits of eating deep-fried food with gobs of saturated fat causes obesity and may give them diabetes, but they over indulge anyway. And of course, we all have heard their lame and amusing excuses that explain away their lack of self worth, which causes their vacillating self-discipline and sketchy self-control: “My weight is a medical problem – obesity runs in my family.” Yes, for some this is the true prognosis. For most, the reality is that the only medical problem they suffer from is that their bodies retain too much chocolate fudge cake, and no – no one runs in their families!

Yes, some of us laugh, some think these comments are insensitive and politically incorrect, and some see it as tough love. But if someone you care about is over weight and having chest pains, and your sweet, politically correct attempt to get him/her to take better care of themselves is not working, what should you say and do?

It is in this context of tough love that I offer my thoughts and experiences to help you better cope with the tough side of life. With so many Make-A-Wish kids battling a terminal disease and fighting to live one more day; and with so many soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines willing to give their lives so we can be free to dream and laugh and love and live and experience the ups and downs of living, there are no reasons or excuses for anyone to cut short his/her life through suicide! All suicides can and should be prevented! Without going into personal detail, I ask that you trust me because I know what I know.

According to the World Health Organization, the United States of America ranks 34 out of 110 countries listed in the number of suicides per 100,000 residents, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. Because the official calculations for death by suicide usually lag behind by one to two years, the most current statistics available for this Blog are 2011, where someone in the U.S. took his/her own life every 13.3 minutes. In 2011, the highest suicide rate (18.6) was among people 45 to 64 years old. The second highest rate (16.9) occurred in those 85 years and older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. Adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 11.0. For many years, the suicide rate has been about 4 times higher among men than among women. Of those who died by suicide in 2011, 78.5% were male and 21.5% were female. Why?

I’ve read the theories and clinical explanations. We all have. My take is that in my 50+ years on this planet I have noticed that too many people are living their lives hoping to be happy, but because they only hope, they never really are. For some reason they are saving themselves for the Senior Prom and have never taken the time to learn how to dance. They hate their jobs, and only look forward to Friday instead of Monday, because they think they are paid by the hour, when in reality they are paid for the value they bring to that hour. And when asked if they are happy and fulfilled in life they say they are bored. Seriously? Usually when someone says they are bored they are admitting that they are boring, and expect their coworkers and family and friends to entertain them. When it doesn’t happen, they just sit around and complain.

I even see this mentality in our youth. When you ask teenagers in a small town if they like living there, they usually say no. When asked why not, they always reply, there is nothing to do. Where did we get this convoluted idea that it is our community’s responsibility to make our lives exciting and rewarding?

Am I taking this tough love too far when I remind us that it’s time and never too late for any of us to start taking full responsibility for our every thought and action, which means we must release all thoughts of blaming. Ask yourself, do you ever enjoy a brisk rampage of blame on the government, or the terrorists, or the Chinese, or the oil companies for high gas prices, or McDonalds for our obesity?

Although you are a leader, manager, mentor or coach, imagine yourself as a therapist, and a young woman comes into your office and starts to yell and cry and whine that the reason her life is out of control is because of her father; that her dear old dad is the cause of her pain and misery. What council would you give her? Would you suggest bringing in her father so you could begin treating him? It is only logical that if he is the cause of her woes, if you cure him, the effect would be that her pain should go away?

When you stop and refine your thinking to take 100% responsibility, you realize that you’re either participating in creating that situation or allowing it to continue. This means that as you stop blaming you should also release all of your complaining. Why? In order to complain, you’ve got to have a reference point of something you want; an item or a situation that is better than what you have now or more desirable than what someone else has – something you have not been willing to risk creating. So you feel entitled to complain about it instead.

Perhaps you have been complaining about your job, which means that you believe a better job than the one you have exists somewhere out there. And if you are complaining about your spouse or your partner, it means you believe there is a better spouse or partner somewhere out there waiting, looking for you. When someone is complaining about something it means they know there is something they can do about it, because people don’t usually complain about the things they cannot change.

The ironic truth is that complainers usually whine and voice their complaints to those who can’t do anything about the issues. Therefore, the next time you hear yourself complaining, stop and ask yourself, “what would I rather have, why do I want it, what will it cost me in time and resources to get it, am I willing to pay the price now so I can enjoy the prize forever, will I actually want it when I get it, and what is my first step to getting it?”

Great questions, eh? And I belabored this point because of the hundreds of interviews I’ve had with people from every socioeconomic background who have told me that all they really want in life is to find happiness. Great, but happiness is not discovered at a destination that is impressive, it is created during a journey that is important. The purpose of a dance is not to end up on a specific spot on the floor, but to enjoy every step along the way until the very last beat of the song.

In fact, the premise and title of my newest book, The Art of Significance – Achieving The Level Beyond Success, comes from this understanding that was illuminated for me in an observational experience with one of my football teammates. He was drafted out of college into the National Football League in the second round and became an instant superstar. However, after only four years in the league and at the height of his career, he walked out of practice and quit, never to play again. Why? He loved being a football player, but he hated playing football. He loved the celebrity perks, fame and fortune that allowed him an existence we all think is successful, but because his inner voice and true purpose were misaligned with what he did, he would never be able to enjoy a life of significance.

In a more intimate illustration, one of my daughters is a prolific songwriter who has written with many of the biggest names in Nashville. When she goes to Nashville she is in high demand and the stars want to write with her. She is smart, beautiful and talented, possessing every quality required to get what she wants. Consequently, when she first arrived in Music City, some of the lead singing bad boys of the bands were attracted to her, which attracted her to them. As a conservative father I quickly counseled her to make sure she didn’t just go after what she wanted, but that she should occasionally stop long enough to evaluate whether or not she was wanting what she was getting. To my chagrin, it was like water off a ducks back: “yea, yea, yea, I know, I know.” I never got through to her.

Then one day I had an epiphany. I told her she was no different than a dog chasing cars, and asked her that if the dog finally caught the car, what would it do with it? Would she just let the car drag her down a road she never intended to go down and let it beat her up and abuse her until she finally let go, only to recover to the point where she could chase another loser like the one she just got rid of? Luckily I finally made sense, she got it, and stopped dating the wild stallions who would never have given the stable spiritual family life that she had always significantly wanted, planned, prepared and prayed for.

With all due respect for the dead, I believe in my heart of hearts that if we could somehow interview everyone who has killed themselves, most would confess that yes, they got what they wanted, but because they had given up what really mattered most for what they thought they wanted at the moment, and had gained the whole world but in the process had lost their souls, there was no way they could ever want what they got, and therefore caved into the temptation to run from their unhappy, unfulfilling results, relinquishing their reason to live to dying with their song unsung. In a real sense they had been fed with the “fast food/instant gratification” things of the world but had not been nourished with the necessary healthy “food groups” of positive self-worth, and service through participating in something larger than themselves.

A true-life example of this happened in my backyard in Utah. One winter we received so much snowfall that the deer population was forced down from the mountains into our neighborhoods in search for food. Because the deer were stranded in cul-de-sacs and in parks, the wild life management organizations brought in truckloads of hay to feed the deer. However, within a week there were over 100 dead deer lying in the fields, yards, parks and streets around my home. Why? When the veterinarians performed the autopsies they found that each of the dead deer had a stomach full of hay. Yes, they had been fed, but they had not been nourished!

Bottom line. Successful people feed themselves and get what they want. However, individuals who are striving to live lives of significance do everything in their power to make sure that they want what they get, and are fed what they need so they don’t die with their music still in them. They know that if the things they believe in and think deeply about are different than the things they do, they will never be truly happy. Successful people kill themselves all the time. However, I know of no individuals who are living lives of significance full of enduring happiness, whose “why” for living and purpose for persevering has hit a low enough point where they don’t believe their lives matter any more, and choose death over life. Do you?

Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room, or lonely in a loved ones arms? I have. Have you ever had a friend encourage you to “go find yourself?” I have. And where do most people go find themselves? Yep. Boulder Colorado! If we could all meet up somewhere and board a bus and drive into Boulder together, we would actually see people walking around in the bushes with backpacks on looking for themselves: “Hey, you, come out from behind that tree, where have you been my whole life, it’s finally nice to meet me;” acting like they can play hiding-go-seek with themselves: “I finally see you, come out and play!”

No, no, no! Self is not discovered, self is created. Which means that you don’t see things as they are, you see things as you are. When two people in Los Angeles are looking out the same window at the same rainstorm and one says it’s a horrible day, and the other argues that it’s a wonderful day (because the rain has dissipated the smog so he can see what he is over paying for in LA), the weather did not change! You must first get yourself right, before the world can ever be right. And yes, you are worth all of the time and every resource necessary that it takes to get yourself right!

You are somebody completely unique from every other soul in the universe. You are more than a mortal being, living on a small planet, for a short season. You are an eternal spiritual being having a physical experience having come to earth to gain a body and to walk by faith, in the wisdom that nothing happens to you, only for you, to give you experience and develop your character, that will rise with you and give you advantage in the world to come. For this reason, you should be you – the very best you, you can be, excepting the fact that you are human and are supposed to make mistakes.

From a religious perspective, God isn’t disappointed in you when you screw up, sin and make a mistake. That’s what this life is supposed to be about: trial and erroring and failing your way to success and significance. If you are not failing a few times it means you are not pushing yourself hard enough. God is only disappointed in us when we don’t learn the lesson and get back up and go again! He always forgives us, so we should always forgive ourselves! And if you are a member of a religion that requires that you confess your transgressions to an ecclesiastical leader in order to get yourself right with God, remember that discipline is to teach, not to punish – you cannot increase a person’s performance by making him feel worse – humiliation immobilizes our behavior – a is right twice a day, never give up on anyone, especially yourself! We can hate the sin and still love the sinner!! My dad always told me I should always be me – because I will make a lousy somebody else. You too. If you spend your whole life trying to be somebody you are not, who is going to be you? And if you give up on yourself, it’s even tough for God to help those who are not willing to help themselves!!

J. Stone wrote: “The most significant beings are those artists whose medium is life itself. The ones who express the inexpressible without brush, hammer, clay or guitar. They neither paint nor sculpt. Their medium is being. Whatever their presence touches has increased life. They see and don’t have to draw. They are the artists of being fully alive.” This is my personal goal – not to live forever, but to create something that will and to leave a legacy of leadership behind so everyone with whom I came in contact was inspired to also be an “artist of being alive,” so everybody leaves him and her saying, “I like me best when I’m with you, I want to see you again!”

Using the amalgamation of these observations, anecdotes, analogies and quotes as the preamble to the “practical application wisdom-filled experience” that I now share, it is my prayer that you will be able to find and feel the in-between-the-lines messages, knowing that my credibility comes only from my own personal expert eye witness account that taught me two life lessons that I definitely know to be absolutely true:

1. Psychologists teach that the average person talks between 400 to 800 words per minute, and yet we think between 800 and 1200 words per minute. Which means no one ever knows everything we are thinking, or everything we are feeling, or everything we really want to say. Author Henry David Thoreau is correct when he wrote in his book, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I experienced this first hand and relate to everyone else who has.

2. Some of you who are reading this blog have been clinically diagnosed with a chemical imbalance causing bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and real depression. If not, you know a loved one or friend who is struggling with some mental challenges whom I pray you will encourage to read this essay. Regardless if it is you or someone you care about, it’s okay to need prescribed medication, and we will give you non-judgmental friendship and unconditional love and support. God bless each of you with the strength and confidence to overcome the social stigma that seeking help somehow suggests that you are weak or unworthy and uncool. This is the furthest thing from the truth! Personally I honor you and look up to you as an example of THE STRONGEST OF THE STRONG because you are seeking help! We love you and will stay by your side and help you get the help you need. As the REM song says, “Everybody Hurts Sometime!” Untreated mental illness is the number one cause of suicide in America.

Having said this, let me point out that when I was paralyzed playing football, and sixteen doctors told me I would never get better, and my heart was broken and my dreams were shattered, and my career was over leaving me paralyzed both physically and emotionally in “quiet desperation,” I hit rock bottom and didn’t think I could go on any more. Consequently and understandably, I thought I was depressed. And what happens when you think you are depressed? You are depressed. And what happens when you tell an irresponsible physician that you are depressed and he doesn’t test your blood for a true diagnosis? He gives you a prescription for Prozac or another anti-depressant medication, which flattens out your emotions so you no longer authentically feel highs or lows, which literally numbs your desire and ability to scramble and fight, which stifles your inherent human spirit of resiliency to overcome obstacles and survive. This is ludicrous!

I live in Utah, and through research I discovered that our psychiatrists prescribe 400% more Prozac than any other state in America! Are you kidding me? You cannot convince me that we have 400% more depressed people in Utah than in any other state! Obviously some of our doctors are sicker than the patients they are supposed to be helping to heal!! And no this medication does not help heal anything! It is simply a medical procedure that gives the doctor and family members some relief from the intense care required of them as care-givers, and a Band-Aid for the patient with the hope that he/she will somehow endure! Not acceptable! Someone needs to sue these lazy quacks for malpractice and I have a personal case with my mother-in-law who experienced this very thing in a rehab center that I will gladly attach to the class action suit if anyone feels the need to corral this corruption and file!

When someone goes through the loss of a loved one, or experiences a devastating divorce, or the loss of a job, he/she doesn’t suddenly have a chemical imbalance that requires medication. He/she is sad and they have a right to feel sad. When I got hurt playing football and hit rock bottom, yes it was a physical injury, but it affected my entire life. In one moment I was the king of the world as a projected number one draft pick by the Oakland Raiders into the NFL. Yet in the next moment I was struggling to find my identity. You see, I thought I was a football player, when in reality that is not who I am, just merely what I did. And when we identify ourselves in terms of what we do instead of who we are, we become human doings instead of human beings – unacceptable if significance is what we seek. It wasn’t until I separated the person from the performance, and realized failure is an event, not a person, that I started to recover. And it wasn’t until I discovered that there is a huge difference between being depressed and being disappointed – a giant difference between being depressed and being discouraged, that I had the required desire to face my fears, persevere through the pain, reinvent myself and do whatever was necessary to get back up and go again.

Are you digesting what I am saying? My injury didn’t suddenly create a chemical imbalance in my body. I was not suddenly depressed and in need of medication. I was simply confused and needed to have someone remind me that “I couldn’t quit, it’s a league rule;” and that if I “got knocked down seven times, I needed to get up eight.” I needed to be reminded of the power of purpose and the short and long term ramifications of dreaming another good, clean, pure, powerful, positive, mighty and meaningful dream! As I share in the details of my complete recovery story, the reason I stayed paralyzed for fourteen months is because I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking the doctors “how” to get better, when I should have been asking myself “why” I should get better. Once we answer why, figuring out the what and the how-to are simple. Not easy, But definitely simple. If it was easy everybody would recover from everything. We need to learn to do hard things.

You don’t take down the net when you play tennis. You don’t lower the basketball hoop so everybody can easily score. The opposition of the blowing wind is what keeps a kite flying in the sky. The only way an athlete can get stronger in the weight room is to create discomfort by fatiguing and tearing down his muscles through strenuous weight lifting exercises and repeated resistant movements, and then to take a day off to allow the muscles to recover and build more muscle upon muscle. In physical therapy you have to stretch before you strengthen, and all of the strengthening occurs in the area past the point of discomfort. You know you are a champion only when losing hurts worse than winning feels good. The hard in everything is what makes it great!

Because of this reality, my football injury is clearly one of the very best things that has ever happened to me. No, I don’t mean the accident was a good thing – it wasn’t. But who I became as a man and what I learned about priorities, which transformed my life from successful to significant as a result of going through the setback, makes it one of the most important experiences in my life. Adversity introduces us to ourselves. No one will ever know how strong and courageous and extraordinary we really are, or ever reach our full capacity and potential as a human being, until we are tested!

The Promised Experience And Solution To Suicide Prevention

The whole truth of the matter is that while speakers and doctors and therapists are quoting statistics and case studies and conducting seminars to point out the “warning signs” of suicide and encouraging us to be on the look out so we can be our “brother’s keepers,” many of our family members, coworkers and friends who never had a suicidal symptom or showed one of these warning signs, went ahead and killed themselves! Which then takes the conversation to the lame response: “He/she seemed so happy and had good health, money, fame, healthy children, great relationships. How could this have happened? What could I have done? Why didn’t he/she confide in me?”

For starters, when a person feels he has lost control of his life and gets quiet and introspective to the point we worry about him, and then suddenly is back to his old chipper self, and then blindsides us by taking his life, it is a clear indication that when someone finally decides to complete their suicide it gives them a sense of control again that they have been missing, and in a strange way empowers them to go through with it. This is why watching someone giving away personal possessions and/or suddenly wanting to be recluse are not reliable red flags of what is to come. When it gets to these points, it is usually past the point of prevention, and can only be addressed in a rehabilitation mode. How sad and unacceptable if you really want to stop suicide. The following experience explains why, what, when and how to prevent suicide.

Between 1983 and 1989 I was the main guy in the Ronald Reagan White House who took Mrs. Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program to the high schools and junior high schools throughout America. In those seven years I spoke to over six million teenagers in thousands of schools in all 50 states. During those same years we also had a suicide epidemic that was sweeping across America that effected every socioeconomic demographic in the country, from super affluent areas in Texas, California, New Jersey and Connecticut to small mid-western towns in Iowa and South Dakota. Thirty days prior to me coming to one school to do an assembly and community program at night, they had one hundred suicide attempts. One girl died (the head cheerleader) and the rest survived. Most of them were on the honor roll. Six were elected student body officers, three were cheerleaders, three were football stars, and three were musicians – with each of them getting a lot of attention and praise for their exceptional performances. The alarming truth is that each of them told us they appreciated winning their respective popularity contests and loved the recognition, but they still had a hole in their hearts. Something was still missing and they were crying out for help. They all said that they lacked “commitment” relationships in their lives. Do you?

According to the dictionary, a commitment is a two-way relationship where both parties do what they say they are going to do for the betterment of each another. In the most meaningful relationships, love is a commitment, not a way of feeling. Romance is not love. Romance comes from a Greek word that means erotic (so I don’t even want to talk about it). Think about it. If I love you because you are beautiful, that’s romance. But if you are beautiful because I love you, that’s real love – a value creating love that inspires us to be the very best we can be.

For this reason, the single most important commitment oriented words in the world are not I love you. They are “I need you.” Proof?

I was asked by a good friend to write a song for his wedding. I said yes. He told me that he loved me and asked me to sing it. I said no. With more passion he responded by telling me that he really needed me to participate in his special day and needed me to sing my special song to him and his bride. I couldn’t say no. I wrote the song. Two days later he called to explain that the band had cancelled and would I fill in for them with forty or fifty songs that I could practice and perform. Had he said, “I love you” I would have told him no, and given him the number of a band. But he said, “I need you!” What a jerk. I couldn’t say no, and I don’t think you could have turned him down either.

His wedding reception rolled around on the calendar and he gathered al of the guests to listen to me sing my first love song to him and his bride. But as the crowd dispersed to have their refreshments and socialize, suddenly the band showed up. There was a miscommunication. Now I didn’t want to sit and sing anyway. I wanted to eat and hang out like everybody else. So I helped the band set up their equipment. When I arrived, I had arrived with the attitude in mind that I was needed, and was planning to stay for four hours and play all of my songs. But when the band showed up, realistically I was no longer needed, they could do without me, so why hang around, and I didn’t. I left the reception. We can fool others, but we can’t fool ourselves.

For this reason, the most provocative question in this essay is not do you lack commitment relationships in your life? It is, “Are you truly needed?”

This is the message I learned all those years ago from high school students who had attempted suicide and survived. At the end of our long day of putting on a motivational assembly and conducting a teachers in-service training in that one mid western school, we invited in the healthcare professionals, school administrators, and school counselors and interviewed each of the students who had attempted suicide to find out what they were thinking and feeling and why they thought taking their lives was a solution to their pain. Every one of the surviving ninety-nine students told us that they knew they were liked, they knew they were loved, but they didn’t believe they were needed. And when we don’t feel we are genuinely needed, why hang around.

Do you think Robin Williams knew he was liked? Obviously yes. Do you think he knew he was loved? Absolutely. I wonder what would have happened if he had firmly believed that he was genuinely needed?

So again I ask, are you needed? If not, why not? And if when, why not now? And if now, the how-to is the easiest, most powerful, and most effective suicide prevention solution in the world. Because of the way our society is set up, we can’t afford to wait for someone else to tell us or show us that we are needed. It might never happen. Therefore, we must do something on a daily basis to prove to ourselves that we are needed. This means that the kicker word in commitment relationships is to “participate” and get involved. If you don’t feel like you are genuinely needed by your spouse or significant other, participate more and get involved with what matters most to them. (What matters most is what lasts the longest). If you don’t feel you are needed in your children’s lives, participate more and get involved in their schools and hobbies and recreate together in wholesome activities as a family. If you don’t feel needed at work or needed in your community, participate more, get involved in planning training sessions and conferences, volunteer in charity work, get involved in a political campaign, join your local Kiwanis/Rotary, commit to mentoring some young people, volunteer as a coach.

Guaranteed, when you commit to participating more and getting more involved, you become an expert in time management, realizing that when you are doing something positive you never have time to do something negative, which means your positive thoughts and actions automatically say no to the temptations of the world for you.

Tragically, we had 98 suicides in the U.S. Air Force in 2013; triple that in the Army and Marine Corps. But for the record, our brave and amazing men and women serving in the military who have tragically taken their own lives, have completed their suicides for the same reasons people outside of the military kill themselves. Suicide is not more prevalent in the military than it is in the civilian world. Resiliency in recovering as a wounded warrior and healing and dealing with PTSD are specific to the military and require specialized therapy and rehab and deserve our unconditional love and financial and emotional support. But the other major causes of sadness and feeling disappointed and getting discouraged including infidelity and working through an ugly divorce with a messy child custody battle, and bouncing back from hard financial times, plague everyone of us in and out of uniform. The good news is that the way we deal with these tough times is to always approach them in humility by seeking professional help, being unafraid to ask for and expect sustained support from loved ones and friends, and by getting fully engaged in something larger than ourselves that makes our lives matter and worth living.

And because it is always so obvious, I must also remind us that alcohol, prescription medications and illegal drugs are nothing more than numbing substances, which are usually present in the body or in the room when someone decides to complete his/her suicide. Among the many suicides that I have researched and the accompanying suicide notes that I’ve read, I cannot site more than a handful of suicides that did not involve the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, and/or addictive prescription drugs such as the brutal Oxycontin, which is at the route cause of the deaths of two of my close friends.

For this reason, if you or anyone you care about is suddenly caught up in and adversely effected by one or more of the SEVEN EMOTIONALLY DISTORTING ATTITUDES AND CONDITIONS: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Sad, Disappointed or Discouraged, which can naturally spawn a suicidal thought or two, immediately recognize the cause of this condition and do something to circumvent it from continuing in yourself and in others.

Eat something nutritious to give yourself real energy so you don’t have to deal with the sugar blues when the sweet sugar high of a candy bar goes away. Let go of your anger and learn to forgive with the realization that when you get mad and hold a grudge, it’s the same as you drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Call up a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor and talk through your loneliness. Take a nap to recharge your batteries – fatigue makes cowards of us all. When something makes you sad, let yourself be sad. It’s okay to cry. Big boys really do cry. If you have a success and a win and experience the thrill of victory in your life and you don’t want to cheer and phone everybody you know to tell them about it, then you didn’t work hard enough to achieve it. It means very little to you. And if you stumble and fall or fail in a relationship, and/or experience the agony of defeat in school or sports or music or in business and you don’t cry and feel low, down and out and emotionally drained drip dry, and you are ashamed for anyone to find out, then you didn’t work hard enough to achieve what you just failed at. It really didn’t mean as much to you as you thought.

Again, it really is okay to feel. You shouldn’t try to control your feelings – this causes insanity and blocks your opportunity to be vulnerable, and your ability to be emotionally available, which is a requirement to develop meaningful loving relationships. You should only control your actions. If you are mad don’t hurt someone else. If you are sad don’t hurt yourself.

After you engage in these real and immediate fixes, it is critical to now focus on the longer term strategy of getting fully engaged in doing something – any one exhilarating thing of your own free will and choice, and begin again to push yourself everyday to be a little better physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, socially and within your family, that you may create real, authentic and significant happiness along your way. As simple as it sounds, attitude really is everything – when your attitude is right, your abilities will always catch up!

Remember: Happily-ever-after is a day-at-a-time proposition. What you’ve been in the past does not make you who you are today. What you plan to become in the future makes you who you are today! Know there is a God and be still enough to feel His influence, with the firm conviction that this life is the time for us to prepare to meet Him. Hang in there. Never say never. Hold on! You can’t always control what happens – but you can always control what happens next! Do something today with your commitment to service before self to prove to yourself that you are genuinely needed. You can get anything in this life that you want if you are willing to help enough other people get what they want. Keep smiling. Re-read the ten quotes in this essay and share this simple suicide solution with your family and friends. And if you feel so inclined, keep in touch with me and like me on Facebook at danclarkspeak. God bless you.

Your friend,

Dan Clark

Military Tribute Tour: WHO – WHERE – WHY – WHAT I LEARNED

080514-2American Idol super star David Archuleta, David’s musical director Dean Kaelin, celebrity impressionist Jason Hewlett, and I departed Salt Lake City on July 8 with a personal commitment to entertain, inspire and support our troops, engulfed in family fear that something horrible could happen. The tour is over and we returned safely on July 25.

The reality is that NOTHING horrible happened. In eighteen days I came to fully understand that nothing happens to us – everything happens for us, for our good, to give us experience, that we may grow as human beings and deepen our understanding that it’s not what happens that defines us, but what we do with what happens that makes us who we are! Clearly I came home as an eye witness to the motivational fact, that we become the average of the five people we associate with the most; and it is not enough to say I will do my best – I must succeed in doing that which is necessary!

080514-7Yes, we were in harms way – everyone is in a combat zone. There is evil lurking everywhere. But you don’t realize it until a bad guy appears, or someone shoots at you in a helicopter, or you hear the PA system announce, “incoming,” or an IED explodes and kills your battle buddy. This also applies to character, class, work ethic and commitment to being part of something larger than yourself. You see, in a deployed environment and military combat zone, there is Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage, and commitment to Excellence In All You Do also lurking everywhere. But the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen don’t realize it until someone like me, a civilian from outside this culture of excellence, appears and reminds them of how unique and special and incredibly amazing they are.

Everyday our military men and women in a deployed environment dress the same, eat together, oftentimes sleep in the same tent or room and get ready in the morning together, and go to their job with the same expectation and work ethic to do their job to the best of their ability, even if they don’t love their boss, or if the weather conditions are brutal. They put in ten to twelve hour workdays and are always there for each other. And because they are involved in something larger than themselves they genuinely feel needed, which translates into a personal desire to become better today than they were yesterday, which transposes into participating in activities on the base that sustain their own morale and encouraging everybody around them to do the same. THIS IS WHAT THE DEPLOYED MILITARY CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE ENVIRONMENT IS ABOUT, AND WHY AFTER HAVING BEEN IMMERSED IN IT FOR EIGHTEEN DAYS, I RETURNED TO AMERICA A BETTER MAN, A BETTER HUSBAND, A BETTER FATHER, A BETTER FRIEND, A BETTER NEIGHBOR, A BETTER COWORKER, A BETTER AMERICAN!

080514-9In every show I had stated that if we can think, laugh and cry all in the same day, that is a heck of a day. And if we can think and laugh and cry in the same show, that is a heck of a show! In humility, I believe we delivered on this promise in every performance! There are a lot of super stars who can sing and many headlining comedians who can make us laugh. But with all due respect, our mix of music, laughter and the inspirational spoken word brought a special spirit to each performance that allowed the service men and women and contractors in attendance to connect with us in a deeper, more long lasting, meaningful, memorable way! Consequently we were given a special coin referred to in the military as a “RMO” – Round Metal Object, presented only by a military commanding officer or commanding NCO to someone who exemplifies the core values of his/her branch of service and has significantly helped the military in its mission.

We flew First Class commercial carrier on Delta Airlines from Salt Lake to Atlanta, to Amsterdam, KLM to Abu Dhabi, to Bahrain. Gulf Air from Bahrain to Kuwait. Kuwait to Afghanistan on Military Air, back to Kuwait on Military Air, to Addis Ababa Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines, on to Djibouti. From Djibouti on Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, onto Paris France, concluding our trip on Delta Airlines from Paris non-stop to Salt Lake.

080514-4Ironically, flying First Class provided the perfect contrast to the living and traveling conditions of our troops, which resulted in the unintended consequences of learning a powerful life lesson. Yes, our plane tickets were expensive and everybody sitting in the first class section enjoyed first class legroom, accommodations and received first class service. However, you can’t buy class! Many of the passengers riding in first class thought they were classy because of their money and job title, but most could not hold a candle to the military leaders I met on this trip to the war zone. First Class is subscribing to and living by the Core Values of the United States military, which incidentally ring true to the teachings I received as a Boy Scout that I should be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.




080514-13– In every audience, at every location there was at least one person who had missed a significant event in a family member’s life. One young man stood and announced that his first child, a new little baby boy, had been born that morning. Another single mom broke down explaining that she had been away from her eight year old daughter’s birthday that day and was deployed for a total of 179 days. To help her little girl keep track of the time, she had constructed a paper chain with exactly 179 links all hooked together so every morning her daughter could tear one link away that would shorten the chain and give her a visual of how much longer they would be a part. Another father shed an affectionate tear as he had missed all three of his son’s high school graduations. Several of the troops had been allowed to travel home for the funeral of their moms and dads, but had to immediately return to the war. Holy cow! The sacrifices our troops are willing to make on our behalf are mind-boggling. Let us never forget the price of freedom!!

– We performed three times on three Navy bases in Bahrain. Service men and women, contractors, and their children were present. I experienced the headquarters of the mighty 5th Fleet, toured a Patriot Missile Battery (where we performed for twenty-five soldiers in a small intimate lunch room in an extraordinary intimate setting, where we were so close and personal that our exchange of expressions and non-verbal communication hit an all-time high), and in between our performances caught some needed shade under Bahrain’s legendary Tree of Life. That night at about 9:30 pm we hosted a “fireside chat” at a local chapel with approximately two hundred people in attendance, some of whom drove across the bridge from Saudi Arabia to join in our Music and the Spoken Word. It was an exceptionally spiritual experience for all who attended.

080514-14– The next morning we flew commercial carrier to Kuwait City Airport on Bahrain’s national airline Gulf Air, where we were picked up by Joe and his Black Water security team of seven specially trained men, sporting the stereo typical sunglasses and one earphone in their ears for instant com, and taken away in three SUVs, driving us fast and furious in tight formation never allowing any vehicles to enter our little convoy on our way to Ali Al Salem Base. Our quarters were in Building 372, which is a DV apartment setting with a shared common area living room, kitchen, washer and dryer where each of us had our own bedroom and bathroom. It was across the street from the swimming pool and accompanying snow-cone shop, close to the amazing fitness center, which I twice took advantage of, and the perfect place to get out of the 130-degree blistering furnace like heat that was absolutely no different than having a hot blow dryer turned up to its fastest speed and held in your face at one inch a way!

– One thing for sure – the military feeds our troops and then feeds them some more. And the mess hall is the social gathering place on base with televisions broadcasting the news and sports. The first time I entered I was struck by how many Marines were on base. I had meet and greet autograph sessionspoken here in 2005 and it was primarily an Air Force/Army base. But now there were over 800 Marines staying in their own tent city. And these were not your typical fighting infantrymen. Every one of them was extremely buffed and looked and acted tougher than the rest of the troops. When I asked what the deal was a Marine Colonel explained they were a “MEW” – Marine Expeditionary Force attached to a Navy battleship that had just come a shore. The Marines had been at sea, stuck on this ship for three months and all they did was eat and exercise and lift weights and practice their drills and eat and exercise and lift every day for the last ninety days. On top of that these ultimate warriors had been caged up for three months waiting to fight. Yes, they had a right and a good reason to give one word answers when I talked to them, and their muscles had gotten so large that of course they had to strut when they walked. Man oh man am I glad I am on their side! When it comes to a well prepared and exceptionally trained fighting force, these men and women are definitely the baddest of the bad!!

– After we got settled in our DV quarters, we conducted a non-denominational spiritual service in the chapel for anyone who was interested in some fellowship. About 50 friends of many faiths attended where we sang and spoke about things of the spirit. It was an awesome emotional, uplifting experience for all who attended.

080514-6 That night we presented our Evening of Music, Comedy and Motivational Theater for a packed house in the base theater with standing room only. All 50 who had attended the chapel service also attended our show and the 400 people, including the Base Commanders, were actually blown away as they had no idea what to expect from a “music and the spoken word” format. The three Colonels went on video record as saying this is the best and most significant show they have seen over their ten years and multiple deployments in the AOR (Area of Responsibility).

– After the show we took a three hour flight in a C-17 from Ali Base to Bagram Base in Afghanistan. I arranged for David and I to sit in the cockpit where we were issued our own headsets to tune into the cockpit communication and listen to the bantering of pilots flying all over the sky that night. David and I put on helmets equipped with “NVGs” – Night Vision Goggles where we could see movement on the ground, especially as we flew up the coast of Iran, over Pakistan to Afghanistan. When we landed in Bagram we were met by the lovely, amazing, well organized and extremely passionate Elisa Weaver, who is the MWR Coordinator of all entertainment that comes in and out of Afghanistan. On the second day we were joined by her counterpart Army Sergeant First Class David Goins, and the two of them escorted us for the next six days to all four locations in Afghanistan.

080514-10We stayed in the DV quarters right across the street from the highly fortified and very private compound where Navy Seal Team Six assembled, prepared and executed their mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. There was an undeniable feeling and spirit that hovered over that campsite that oozed of extreme patriotism, character, discipline, guts, and ultimate macho manhood. I am in total awe of these men, and currently know of no man who could have been a Navy Seal except the two modern day, real life super heroes I have had the privilege and honor of hanging out with: Marcus Lutrell (The Lone Survivor) and Lieutenant Ben in an undisclosed location later on this trip.

– With all due respect to every other serviceman and service woman whom I met during this eighteen day tour, spending time with a Navy Seal and having him give me the Seal patch off his uniform brought me to tears. I gave him a Live Lucky hat and “coined” him with my Frank Clawson designed “Put On The Whole Armor Of God” RMO that highlights the Bible verses in Ephesians 6, with a challenge at the bottom of the coin that says “Pray Always,” flanked by two shields that frame the letters “RWH” – Return With Honor. I 080514-8asked Ben if he was religious and with his reply of, “not really,” I told him the coin would serve him as a highbred good luck charm until he had a spiritual experience that would bring him to believe in the total message of the coin. The coin would then become the reminded and challenge it is intended to be. You see, whenever I meet someone who claims they don’t believe in God, I always respond with the question, “What version of God is it that you don’t believe in?” There are so many, and perhaps your concept of God is not comprehensible and worth worshiping or praying to! We shook hands and hugged goodbye with the promise to keep in touch. What a Stud!!!!! May God watch over Ben and bring him and every other service man and service woman home safely to a hero’s welcome!

– On this first day in Afghanistan we performed for the prison guards at Sabula Harrison Prison, who watch and monitor the most violent of the enemy combatants – men who want to kill Americans at every chance they get – who because of their fanatical religious beliefs honor death more than life. Because these soldiers are isolated in the prison located on the far side of the base, they seldom get a break and the touring performers are not likely to be invited to their job site. For this reason, the show was an incredible experience for all of us as these men and women appreciated us more than any other audience. They laughed harder, thought deeper, and were moved by the music in a much more profound way, which resulted in a tear-filled standing ovation. I pulled some strings and got an opportunity to tour the prison yard, climb the tower and see the total prison complex of 080514-11fields, gardens and walkways. For The Record – the prisoners live better in our custody than they ever would outside the prison. They have plenty of nutritious food, clothing, shelter, liberty to pray and read and exercise and work if they desire. AND, the plan as we minimize our presence in Afghanistan, is to transfer these prisoners into the custody of their home countries with the explicit contractual commitment that their home governments give them fair and due process of law with full human rights granted under the laws and traditions of their homeland. 900 Afghan prisoners have already been released into the Afghan prison system to continue their detainment, be tried, and either released or incarcerated for life. This was the perfect introduction to Afghanistan and the more than perfect first impression for Elisa to experience the power and unique difference our program offers!

– The next morning we boarded a Chinook Helicopter with an escorting “wingman” helicopter flying shotgun all the way to an outlying FOB (Forward Operating Base) called FOB TB Airborne. On the way, we were shot at from the ground. The Chinook pilot suddenly and radically dipped to the right to avoid the ground fire and give the side gunner the opportunity for him to return fire. He shot back for about ten seconds until the pilot dipped to the left where that side machine gunner blasted away at the bad guys. What sound crew in Bahraina hoot! Apparently they had had some more contact with the enemy that day because on our return flight to Bagram they had also mounted and manned a third machine gun in the rear.

– At FOB TB Airborne we were greeted by two big men wearing blue Stetson Calvary hats, with one wearing his spurs. They were proud leaders of the US Army 3rd Calvary, 3rd Squadron, “Brave Rifles” and welcomed us along side Captain Jackson, who was carrying a football. They were very close to a village of bad guys on the other side of Razorback Ridge (where six Silver Stars have been awarded for bravery and going beyond the call of duty). They had been hit by mortar attacks every five days for the last month until just before we arrived. But because of their counter attacks, they had destroyed the mortars and killed enough combatants that they hadn’t had an attack for fifteen days! Lesson: This life is the time for us to prepare to meet our maker; no matter what our past has been we have a spotless future; make today the best first day of the rest of your life!

080514-1– FYI – The battle of Roberts Ridge with Captain Self and his brave Army Rangers took place just over the mountain from where we were, AND the battleground where Marcus Lutrell and his Navy Seal Team 10 bravely fought for their lives was only 100 kilometers away in the other direction. After learning this, I shed tears of sadness as we again boarded a Chinook to fly out, remembering that it was a Chinook full of Navy Seals that was shot down in the rescue attempt of Lutrell and his brothers in arms. Much blood had been shed and sacrificed in that mountain area! It was an honor to visit such sacred ground!

On every base and FOB I always ate with the troops and talked to them about who they are, where they are from, and their career fields, so I can get to know them and get a pulse on the morale and commitment of our military force. When I had loaded my plate with food I looked around the mess tent and bee-lined it to a group of super fit chiseled men with longer hair and beards. They were the CBs (who arrive in the combat zone by air, land or sea) who fight and build to set up the airfields and construct the infrastructure of a base before anyone else shows up), a group of Elite Army Special Forces, and the Specialists working in EOD – Explosive Ordinance Disposal. A buffed young man by the name of Chris and I immediately connected and struck up an awesome conversation, that led to me giving him a “Live Lucky” hat and my personal Air Force Chief of Staff National Civic Leaders coin, which in 080514-12turn inspired him to give me his EOD coin and a handmade bracelet that he had just made especially for me out of a parachute chord. I wore the bracelet the rest of the trip and to remind me of what real courage and selfless service really means, I will not take it off again.

– At FOB TB Airborne they gave us a tour of our own mortar units that are in place to provide the counter attacks on the incoming mortars. I got to hold a live mortar shell that weighed in at around 50 lbs. Of course I pulled out a sharpie and signed it with a greeting to the bad guys wishing them a wonderful day in hell when they realize how wrong they are!! The soldiers promised me they would use my autographed bomb the next time they had to shoot at the enemy! Yee Haw!

– The show was in a huge tent that was actually the fitness center with an amazing weight set. The engineer corps on the FOB had created and built an incredible stage out of materials just lying around, that made our performance look more big time and professional. The soldiers never cease to amaze anyone – even themselves! We returned that night back to Bagram base in the three machine gunner Chinook.

– The following day we again flew in a Chinook helicopter to another outlying FOB Fendy close to the Pakistan border by a town called Jalalabad. Because it is also remote, it had been a long time since they had had any entertainment on post. Consequently, our audience was awesome and more appreciative as we again connected on a deeper and more meaningful way. Before our main performance, we visited the Medical Unit who were not going to be able to see the show. A doctor, nurses, a dentist, a dental assistant and others first showed us what they do and where they do it, which allowed us to sit on a bed and stand around in a small hospital room while David sang to Dean’s guitar accompaniment. Doctor Robert Morris was also a great guitar player who jammed with us for a bit. It was like being in the old movie and television show MASH. They are all exceptional top-drawer medical professionals who just happen to be serving in a combat zone. How cool is that to know that our injured, sick and afflicted will receive the same high quality care as we do here at home!

Because of its close proximity to Pakistan, a major part of the mission at FOB Fendy in Jalalabad is to employ four huge trucks that look similar to M-Raps on steroids, that are designed to sniff out, find, locate, uncover and detonate IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and attract vehicle born suicide bombers. These incredible brave soldiers willingly drive these vehicles into harms way to get shot at and blown up so others won’t have to. Every time they go outside the wire, the sole mission and purposeful job description for these incredibly brave and psycho soldiers is making it safe for everyone else who follows them. Wow! As part of our tour of the FOB they let us sit in their mighty trucks and play with the surveillance camera and operate their bomb detecting and defusing toys! It felt good to be a little kid again!

– The show for the base was well attended and our unique connection with each attendee made this performance an extraordinary show that all of us will always remember! As a thank you I was presented with an American flag that was flown over Jalalabad FOB on July 4, 2014. I will frame it and display it in my home as soon as I am able. We returned to Bagram on a Chinook.

– The next evening we performed at Bagram Base in the famous “Clam Shell” where all of the headlining groups perform. Before we began our show we were given a safety brief, that in case of an attack we should drop to our stomachs and put our hands over our heads and keep our mouths open so the blast doesn’t jack us up from the inside out. What? Yes. On July 4, one week before we arrived, while the band “Vertical Horizon” was performing on this same stage at this same time, two mortar shells were fired back-to-back into the base, landing just outside the entrance. Everybody dropped to their bellies and put their hands over their heads. Five minutes later they gave the “All Clear” and the concert continued. Crazy!

– The “Clam Shell” was packed with over 500 and all of the Base leaders were in attendance including Two Star Commanding General Townsend and One Star General O’Neil and Command Sergeant Major Lewis. In a quick conversation before the show started I asked General Townsend what he wanted me to talk about. Without a pause he told me to talk about the three most important things that he always emphasizes: the Seven Core Values of the US Army, to Live on Amber Alert, and to Always Take Disciplined Initiative! So, I spoke on them, illustrating each with a story. The General was blown away! And by allowing him to help me take a laser-like focus on my messaging it made it a spectacular show! All of his Aids said General Townsend never stays for the shows – he is too busy, and yet he stayed for our entire two-hour performance and laughed and thought and enjoyed the music. Generals Townsend and O’Neil and CSM Lewis all stormed the stage at the end to “Coin” us and sing our praises! I in turn, “Coined” each of them with my Air Force Chief of Staff National Civic Leaders Coin and gave each of them an official “Live Lucky” tour hat. They laughed and hugged me! In fact, we have been “Coined” at every base after every show! And no, the military leaders don’t feel obligated to coin us just because we did our show. A Coin ceremony is about saying thanks for an outstanding job where we went beyond the call of duty. Thanks to all of the leaders who gave us these prestigious tokens of their appreciation! I will add these 25 coins (RMOs) to my collection of over two hundred that I’ve accumulated over the last twenty years as a character and leadership development consultant for the United States Military.

– The next morning we shared our heartfelt thanks and said our goodbyes to Elisa and Sergeant Goins in Afghanistan and boarded a C-130 to fly back to Ali Al Salem Base in Kuwait. This aircraft was an old workhorse, called a Hercules, which has four turbo-prop engines, making it much slower than a C-17 jet. Consequently, our flight from Bagram to Ali Base was over four hours and loud and bumpy. Fortunately, two of the four crew members had heard me speak before and invited me to join them in the cockpit. This time it was a daylight flight and the view of Iran and Pakistan was cool and the view of the Palm Tree Island in the United Arab Emirates was spectacular!

– We had the day off at Ali Base and so I put in two good hard hours in the gym. Obviously I ran into many of the 800 caged up, cocked and loaded Marines who were still on base waiting for some action that the ISIS brethren in Iraq better pray never happens!

– The next morning we drove in our Black Water three SUV convoy to perform at Camp Buehring, only seven miles from the Iraqi border. This is the same staging base that I spoke at in 2005, to the hundreds of troops that had assembled to hear me speak just before they boarded the convoys to drive into harms way. Needless to say, the memories of the short and intimate interviews I had conducted with soldiers started flooding my mind, and I got emotional thinking about their answers to my question, “Where do you find your inner strength?” It was on this base in 2005 that I learned that every one of the troops in all five service branches (Air Force, Marines, Navy, Army and Coast Guard) all volunteered during a time of war because they wanted to serve their country. How incredible and noble! However, when the bullets start flying they are there to fight for each other as true brothers and sisters in arms! Camp Buehring received us well. We were Coined and felt like we had entertained and inspired and done what we came there to do! Interesting and pertinent to what is currently going on in Iraq with the terrorist group Isis, it was cool to see that we still had a lot of fire power within minutes of Baghadad, as we saw rows and rows of M1 tanks and artillery and Humvees all ready to make another assault on Iraq if required. And of course our troops are the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world who refuse to lose, so why don’t the insurgent combatant fanatical fools realize this and give up now while they can. THEY WILL DEFINITELY LOSE! And the interesting and somewhat amusing thing is that while they claim they want to die for their cause our military are committed to helping them fulfill their goal! Ha!

– The next day we drove to Camp Arifjan – the headquarters office for all of the Kuwait theater. Arifjan is four times larger than Ali Base and houses and amalgamates the mind and heartbeat of the troops in Kuwait to execute the mission throughout the Middle Eastern region. The audience was older and more mature, filled with a lot of Reservists. The promo publicity was awesome and the larger than life posters on display in the theater were professionally done. I personally thanked them for going to this much effort! Because of the demographic makeup of the audience, I was able to deepen my message and really dive into the ins and outs of resiliency, reintegration into society after deployment, relationship management, and the required steps to recover from divorce and find true love again. We received a cheering standing ovation and were Coined again, and yes it is cool and a privilege to receive one each and every time!! I will display this coin by my picture of me standing on top of a captured Iraqi tank on display in front of headquarters!

– That afternoon we drove to Camp Patriot and performed to an amazing and hungry crowd who hung on every word and enjoyed the mix of humor and music. It was great to see a woman in charge of the base operations, flanked by a male Command Sergeant Major that supported her and rounded out their leadership team!

– Joe and our Black Water Security team then drove us to the Kuwait City Airport to fly commercial carrier on Ethiopian Airlines through Addis Ababa to Djibouti, where we conduct and execute the most amazing Joint Force Operation on the planet. Yes it is a Navy Base run by Naval officers and Enlisted leaders, but it integrates the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marines, as well as the French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese troops into their mission. Every morning at 8 am the Star Spangled Banner is played over the base sound system, while two French Mirage fighter jets take off in tribute to our coalition with them. Truly this Joint Base Djibouti is a well-oiled machine and a successful beta test for how all bases should and can be run in our global war on terrorism! Hats off to the amazing leaders whom we met and watched.

– As we flew in and out of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, the mountains and valleys were lush green and the temperature was cooler, it being the rainy season. We therefore, assumed Djibouti would be the same. Not even close! It was a flat and desolate desert of sand that very few humans would ever want to visit. There were a lot of soldiers from Kansas in both Kuwait and Djibouti and I kidded them in both performances that this base was a lot like Kansas in that it was so flat, they could sit on their front porch and watch their dog run away for three days! All kidding aside, Djibouti is the strategic hub for our anti-pirating mission off the coast of Somalia, it being right across the water from Yemen and close to the Horn of Africa. I loved saying, “How Djibouti?”

– The performance in Djibouti was in the MWR building to a packed house of 500 people with standing room only. It is a large room with pool tables, television sets, an internet cafe and an open bar. The bar started serving alcohol an hour before our show began and was kept open during our performance. They shut down the TVs and pool tables just as the MC introduced me, but there were a few who were tuned up and ready to party. Therefore, as the producer of the show, I decided to change up the order to match the energy and wild vibe of the room. I spoke at the beginning as usual, but then turned the time over to Jason who rose to the occasion and nailed his first set! He was magnificent. David followed him with “Stand By Me,” and Sting’s “Fields of Gold” that brought the house down. We now had the audience in the palm of our hands as we proceeded to deliver the most unique show they had ever had in that venue. Even with the alcohol factor we connected heart to heart, spirit to spirit, and kept our promise that they would think, laugh and feel throughout the 90 minute show! Again I tell you that David Archuleta and Jason Hewlett and David’s musical director Dean Kaelin with his solo piano performance, are special entertainers who as true and consummate professionals transformed that night club atmosphere into a tabernacle of personal improvement and wholesome entertainment. At the end of the show I invited everyone to the chapel for a much more intimate and thought provoking question and answer discussion with us about what really matters most. We had many friends of different faiths join us and my message was simple: “The things that matter most are the things that last the longest; When you dance, the goal is not to end up on a specific place on the floor, but rather to enjoy each step along the way; and The purpose of life is not to live forever, but to create something that will!”

– Chris from FOB TB Airborne in Afghanistan obviously represents and believes what Seamus, an EOD Specialist in Djibouti, whom I met on the last day of the tour, left on my video interview: “I chose EOD because I am constantly giving to others and saving lives of people who will never know my name. I willingly risk my life so that others will live. There is no more noble part of the military machine to be a part of!” After he had given our group a personalized back lot tour of his weapons and robots and bomb suit (which he put on David Archuleta to show him and all of us how and why the suit protects them while they do their hair-raising work), Seamus gave me his unique EOD coin with a handshake. During the show that night in Djibouti I gave him a “Live Lucky” hat and one of my “Put On The Whole Armor Of God” coins as a symbol of how many people are actually praying for him that he be protected and kept safe! As he came to the stage, I kidded him publically that it looks like Djibouti had a great steroid program going because he was buffed! Tall, dark and handsome with a mustache, big muscles, a Tom Cruise smile, natural leadership charisma and a sense of humility that his purpose in life is to unselfishly serve and sacrifice for others! Wow!!

In Djibouti, we originally came into the country thinking we could change things for the better, coach them up to a higher standard of living, and leave them in better shape than we found them. But finally those in charge got off their high horse and started appreciating their centuries old traditions and the reasons behind them. For example, the citizens of Djibouti didn’t understand our culture of toilets and use of toilet paper. They had never used a toilet. They use rocks to clean themselves after a bowel movement, and would do so and throw the rocks into the toilet, which clogged them. At first our leaders called them uncivilized, until they finally realized that Djibouti doesn’t have any natural resources or means whereby they can manufacture toilet paper, which means that when we eventually leave the country they will be forced to return to their old ways anyway. There are no trees from which to make toilet paper, but there is an endless supply of rocks. In every country wherein the USA enters, especially in a military capacity of protection or defiance against an enemy, our mission is always to help them do what they can’t do for themselves – socially, emotionally, economically, politically, militarily. And for the most part, our military has always left every country in better shape than we found it.

– On our way home from Djibouti we had a ten hour layover in Addis Ababa Ethiopia before we flew to Paris France and caught our non-stop Delta jet to Salt Lake City. So we conducted one last spiritual discussion with locals from across the city in a church that a local ecclesiastical leader had reserved for us. Our music and the spoken word went well and the spirit was strong. Afterwards the older couples took us to a local authentic Ethiopian restaurant with a stage that hosted native musicians playing traditional music accompanied by authentic traditional dancers. As usual, David was recognized by some Philippinos who wanted their pictures taken and autographs signed. David was gracious, but within 30 minutes, the owner of the restaurant came up to David and asked if he would perform for the two hundred dinner guests. David asked me what he should sing. I suggested “Stand By Me” and REMs “Everybody Hurts Sometime.” Dean plugged in his guitar, which he had taken in with him because we didn’t want to have it stolen from the van, and I introduced David as the American Idol superstar that he is. On the very first note the crowd went wild as David wowed them with his incredible stage presence and performance style! Even the traditional Ethiopian musicians playing the flute, drums and one string instrument chimed in to accompany him. What a hoot!! What a memory as I suddenly turned into security man and escorted David out of the midst of a room full of enchanted fans who wanted their pictures taken with him and an autograph in their book. We made it safely out of there and headed to the airport. We flew out that night at 12:30 am on a six hour flight to Paris to catch our connecting ten hour flight to Salt Lake and our home sweet home!

Bottom line. My thanks goes out to Mr. Daniel Cook in Qatar and Ms. Elisa Weaver in Afghanistan who work for Armed Forces Entertainment and Army MWR, who believed in my concept of Music, Comedy and Motivational Theater, which proved to be “just what the doctor ordered” to help the troops escape for a day from their stress, sacrifice and long hour jobs. Most significantly, we brought a little slice of home to them that was more thought provoking and meaningful than a group of cheerleaders and athletes, or actors, comedians and musicians there to simply sign autographs. Thank you Daniel, Elisa and David Goins for believing in my show concept and giving us this extraordinary and special opportunity to personally thank our troops for their sacrifice and service. At my age, speaking and producing shows like this is the only way I can serve my country. Thank you. We love our troops. We NEED our troops. We honor our troops. God bless each and every one of them and their families. God bless America!


With love and admiration,

Dan Clark, An American Patriot

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Entertaining Our Troops in the Middle East

Military Tribute Tour 072114-14From Ali Al Salem Base in Kuwait we flew three hours on an Air Force C-17 transport jet. I arranged for David Archuleta to join me and the crew in the cockpit where he put on the headset to listen to the tower communications at takeoff and throughout the flight, and where we both had the opportunity to wear the Night Vision Goggles and clearly see things on the ground and in the night time sky as clearly as noon day! Our route took us over Pakistan (praying the whole way they wouldn’t change their mind about giving us access to the air space!) and along the Iranian border to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

When we arrived and were taken to our DVQs (Distinguished Visitor Quarters) it was pointed out that the compound right across the street was the compound where Seal Team 6 trained and departed from to kill Osama Bin Laden. Cool.

After we got settled in, we were asked to do a show exclusively for the MP (Military Police) who were the prison guards at Sabula Harrison Prison on the side of the Base. The show was awesome – the best one so far, as they truly appreciated us for coming out to them to say thanks and give them a break from their daily routine of guarding the scum of the earth, positively dealing with degrading threats against America and their faMilitary Tribute Tour 072114-6milies, and being humiliated with human feces and urine being thrown at them as they work. These are some of the most mentally tough professionals in the military and I can speak for all of us in saying that we left the venue feeling we had just made some lifelong friends!

Our huge Base show was scheduled for the following Friday in the famous “Clam Shell,” so we departed on the Chinook helicopter to fly to Airborne FOB up in the high mountains, where we were greeted by two distinguished soldiers standing at attention in their BDUs, dawning their blue Stetson’s and spurs as proud members of the 3rd Calvary Division, 3rd Squadron “Brave Rifles.” The FOB is only a short distance from the famous battlefield called “Razorback Ridge,” where six Silver Stars have been awarded to soldiers who fought there! To the north of this FOB is another famous battle ground called “Roberts Ridge,” and to the west is where Marcus Lutrell (Lone Survivor) and his Seal Team members bravely fought, with the loss of life to many of his fellow Seals. Having shared the program with both Captain Self (Roberts Ridge) and Marcus Lutrell, performing and inspiring these extra brave troops made this FOB a very emotional and special experience for me! The Engineers had built an awesome stage especially for our show that was held in a huge tent that was also home to their amazing weight room/exercise facility. Our performance was extremely well received as they were also blown away by the fact that we had flown all the way to them in a dangerous place to say thanks! We Military Tribute Tour 072114-9flew the Chinook back to Bagram, and because of the excessive interaction with the enemy that day, they had added an additional tail gunner for our protection on our flight back.

Our show this evening in the “Clam Shell,” where every major act performs in Bagram, was the very best so far. We had dinner with General O’Neil and his boss Two Star General Townsend arrived in time for the show. I picked his brain about what he wanted me to address. I did. He loved the show and said it was the best he had seen in over ten years of deployments. We are humbled and grateful for this chance to bring a little slice of home to the troops through laughter, music and the healing power of a story!

We then hopped on a C-130 from Bagram for a four hour flight back to Ali Al Salem Base where we will speak at Camp Behring and then at Afrajon and finally at Patriot FOB before leaving on a commercial carrier (Ethiopia Air) from Kuwait International Airport to Addis Ababa and onto Djibouti. Will catch up then.

God bless our troops and their families. God bless America! My love to all of you. Dan

Update from the Middle East – Military Tribute Tour

Military Tribute Tour 072114-10What An Experience So Far! We were shot at in our Chinook helicopter and returned machine gun fire on our way to an outlying FOB (Forward Operating Base). We have toured a Patriot Missile Battery to see how our Army keeps the peace and provides security to Bahrain and United Arab Emirates in the gulf, was given a hand made bracelet by Chris, the leader of the Navy EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal Specialist) assigned to Seal Team 8, who is clearly one of the coolest and baddest dudes I have ever met, and then given a flag that was flown over Fendy FOB Jalalabad, Afghanistan on July 4th 2014!!! (Can’t wait to frame it and hang it on my Wall of Fame!) But… now I am ahead of myself!

Our tour took us first to Bahrain where we performed our “Evening of Music, Comedy and Motivational Theater” at three different bases – changing up our show content to accommodate the differences in each audience as we went. In one audience at NSA and the headquarters of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, we had an amalgamation of military leaders with their spouses and small children, mixed in with screaming teeny-bopper female fans who had a mad crush on David Archuleta!

Prior to us starting our third show to a few hundred sailors, airmen, and soldiers in the Base theater, I was inspired by a Memorial Wall of Fame at the back of the room that displayed significant photos from World War II. Tears filled my eyes as I reminisced on the life and legacy of leadership that my dad’s cousin Mervin S. Bennion left behind as a Naval Officer. He is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor who served as the Commanding Officer of the USS West Virginia, which was attacked and sunk at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Gallantly fighting along side his fellow sailors until his last breath, Mervin was killed on his ship the day before he was to return to his family waiting for him in Seattle.Military Tribute Tour 072114-5

The lesson: Yes, our moms and dads and brothers and sisters who wear the uniform serve our country, and fight to defend our freedom and Constitution. But every member of a military family who does not wear a uniform equally serves our country and unselfishly sacrifices to give us our spectacular way of life. Let us strengthen our personal resolve to serve our military families and look out for their children, especially when mom or dad is deployed.

With the President of the United States and his Senators and House Legislators voting for “sequestration,” which was a flat 10% mandatory cut across our U.S. military budget, there is a call for military force reduction, manpower renovation and mission capability restructuring. This means successful and proven weapons systems and the assets that deliver them are being are being sent to the bone yard. Necessary flying houMilitary Tribute Tour 072114-8rs that are required to keep our pilots certified and totally prepared for combat have been cut back. And consequently, there is now an ongoing, continuous invitation to thousands of our airmen, soldiers, marines and sailors to separate from the military and end their careers – either voluntary or mandated. Needless to say, there is rampant trepidation and uncertainty among the troops regarding the security and longevity of their military careers, which they assumed would last at least twenty years!

Can you see why I asked David Archuleta to include in his song sets the powerful, healing ballads, “Everybody Hurts Sometime,” “Stand By Me,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters?”

Write your Congressman and Congresswoman and make sure they vote to support our military leaders in everything they need to protect our country, execute waMilitary Tribute Tour 072114-11r when required, and take of the military families while they do!

This is also why part of my message on our tour program is to challenge our troops to take their attitudes, knowledge, skill sets and talents to the next level that they may sustain their military careers, or if necessary, confidently transfer their unique value proposition from military life into a civilian job opportunity. Guaranteed, if every employer in the world could be with me on this Military Tribute Tour to see what our brave and extraordinary troops do day in and day out, each of them would surely hire a vet! The military mindset fully comprehends and lives by the core values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Service Before Self, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage, which allows them to create a culture of excellence, perform under pressure, make crucial decisions on the fly, plan their work and work their plan, execute on a precise timeline, and inspire teamwork with a belief in something larger than themselves!Military Tribute Tour 072114-13

Between our three performances in Bahrain we visited the famous “Tree of Life” – a large, tall 600 year old tree, with twisted petrified looking branches covered with green leaves – growing out of the sand in the middle of a desolate desert landscape with no other living thing in sight for as far as the eye could see. The life lesson metaphors were oozing to be discussed including “grow where you are planted – no matter where you go, there you are; when your roots are deep and strong you can withstand harsh environments and still become everything you were born to be!”

Update from Afghanistan

Afghanistan 3I am now in Bagram Afghanistan. We arrived last night. An incredible three hour flight along the Iranian border and over Pakistan. Very cool. I sat in the cockpit of the C-17 and used the Night Vision Goggles to see the ground activity better. Amazing. No worries, but the bad guys lauched a motor attack on the airfield just after we landed. Cool. It was far enough away that we were not in harms way.

We perform a special show for the guards at the prison tonight. It should be awesome!

Our sleeping quarters are very small. My roommatAfghanistan 2e is David Archuleta with a community hallway bathroom and shower that we share with ten other military leaders.

The coolest thing of all is that the Navy Seal Compound is just across the road from our quarters, and this is where Seal Team 6 stayed, briefed, prepared and departed from to kill Osama Bin Laden!!

Tomorrow we fly on a chinook helicopter to a remote FOB. This is the long skinny twin engine helo that was used in the failed rescue attempt in the movie Lone Survivor.

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