Podcasting is a strange medium. In my case, I speak with someone in my garage for a while and then a few weeks later it gets uploaded onto iTunes, Jaymohr.com, the Mohr Stories App, Stitcher, etc.
People will tweet and email me about episodes they like and numbers don't lie -- over 30 million downloads. But you still have no idea who or how you are affecting. What does this podcast do to lift someone up on a subway or a train or in their car or while they shovel snow? Or... When they're at war.
I received this email at Jaymohr.com and read it as I took my first sips of my coffee. I cried. Not teary-eyed, but I actually had tears streaming down my cheeks, into my coffee.
Please note: This letter fills me with absolutely no pride. No satisfaction or validation. This email sent to me from Commanding Officer "Doug" fills me with a little gratitude but mostly embarrassment. I talk in my garage with friends, and guys and gals like this are wearing earbuds in the desert listening to Mohr Stories. There's nothing a publicist can do with that. There is no benefit to me sharing this with anyone.
There is, however, a need for humanity to see that there are people that work much harder than we do. They work in very faraway places. Sometimes they work for three consecutive days. Sometimes they work in front of "a conveyor belt of body parts." And sometimes, they do this while listening to podcasts. Which makes me cry. Into my coffee. To all men and women serving our country, I know "thank you" isn't enough. You need jobs. You need someone to sit and talk with. You may need meds. Please know that you are loved and there are many, many podcasts out there you can listen to as you save our damned lives.
"Doug" is writing about the Mohr Stories episode with U.S. Army Captain Nate Boyer, who after coming home from his third tour of Afghanistan, at 27, taught himself how to play long snapper and made the team at the University of Texas. He learned by watching Youtube videos between raids... Nate and I are now good friends and speak often. Typing this sentence also made me cry.
Dear Mr. Mohr,
I just wanted to thank you for such a great podcast -- funny, irreverent and relevant all at the same time; eclectic, thought-provoking, varied and honest. I am a veteran of the war in Afghanistan where Canada fought alongside its NATO and U.S. partners for over 10 years. The podcast that got me hooked was the podcast with Nate Boyer. For three years we kept the Taliban at bay in Kandahar; Canada held the homeland of the Taliban where we lost over 160 souls (may not sound like much, but our military is only 60,000 folks so you basically know everyone.) A lot of them who came back also took their lives, and we have had an epidemic of suicides as well. I think every country that was involved has seen this trend. [Nate Boyer's] story brought back a lot of memories of friends lost, injured or who have issues to this day. PTSD can be a devastating illness, and in my role running the combat hospital, we saw a lot of battle trauma. At one point, the NATO Role 3 Combat Hospital was the busiest trauma hospital in the world. In the hospital, doctors, surgeons, nurses and other medical folks from six different NATO countries (Canada, U.S., U.K., Dutch, Denmark, Aussies) came together to form a team the likes have been seen in a long time, not since Vietnam and Korea. We did not do it for medals or glory, but we did it because the men on patrol like Nate depended upon us, that if they hit our doors, they would live. Our overall survival rate was 98 percent and that's after seeing literally thousands of patients (soldiers, Afghans, UN civilians, children, men and women, bomb dogs, you name it, we treated it). It was like the tale of two cities... It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. It's the most satisfying job that I have ever done and the most heartbreaking at times.
A lot of those people that I worked with saw a conveyor belt of broken and wounded bodies that affected them greatly, and they came back changed and I understand Nate's comment regarding this on the podcast. In my experience, you can't pinpoint what has changed, but you just know that something is different. Your family notices, your wife notices, but you don't. You're somehow blind to it or desensitized or afraid to acknowledge it. I, for one, kept it down inside and kept on keeping on being a soldier until I got to a point where my glass just spilled over. My wife came to me and said 'Get some help, or I am leaving. I love you but am tired of losing you little by little.' PTSD is a death of a thousand mental cuts. Believe me I know. I was also a senior officer, and I could not allow weakness to be shown or to portray myself as weak. The stigma of mental illness is there whether we want to acknowledge it or not. In the military culture and even those first responder cultures, you're supposed to be impervious to this type of thing. PTSD can destroy you or it can sometimes be for the better; the changes make you stronger. I suffered with the realization of having PTSD for over six years before I found help and I know what Nate is trying to accomplish with 22kill website.
Like General Mattis' view, he doesn't want the public to see all veterans as victims. 'I would just say there is one misperception of our veterans and that is they are somehow damaged goods,' Mattis said. 'I don't buy it. If we tell our veterans enough that this is what is wrong with them they may actually start believing it.' Like Nate tried to convey to your listeners is that Mattis cloned the term 'post traumatic growth' where you come out of a situation like that and 'you actually feel kinder toward your fellow man and fellow woman.' That's the way we should be reframing the discussion on veterans and PTSD.
I just wanted to say that this podcast was one of your best and well, I have listened to a lot of them since I found your show. I have listened to most of them, as I have a one-hour commute one way to and from my unit, where I am the CO. I watched your special that was nominated for the Grammy and your wife Nik and her wicked sense of humor coupled with your honest and loving delivery of it, made me laugh for a long time afterward. Especially the bit about 'mutual dislikes.' For me and my wife it was the epiphany when we were at a Starbucks drive-through and saw a bunch of granola crunching, skinny jean and flannel shirt sporting, big-assed bushy beard hipsters. You just wonder if the invasion of the body snatchers has arrived and instead of aliens they are producing hipster clones. Why can't people be themselves, a just 'you do you' type of thing? And tell Nik she is still easy on the eyes, meant very respectfully. She was awesome in Las Vegas. I listened to the podcast where you two just shot the shit, and that was an amazing connection you guys had. You could just tell and the wit displayed by you both was great. Like you said, I am not washing your balls here, it's just my appreciation of good, dry wit like mine.
I bit of a ramble, but hey that's what we humans do. Again, thanks for the great podcast and thanks for the mental stretch each day. Tell Nate that he is bang-on and his brothers in Canada support him as well.
-- 'Doug' Commanding Officer 1 Canadian Field Hospital