An Interview with Asst. Commander Cody Jones

This month, I had the honor of interviewing a dear friend, Assistant Commander Cody Jones.  When Cody graduated from the Academy, he and his family joined the church I was pastoring in Austin.  He was, literally, the first Game Warden I had ever met.  But he and his family became dear friends of ours. Also, it was the dream of many that the Chaplaincy Program become a reality and that is how I came to be the Lead Chaplain for Texas Game Wardens and State Park Police Officers.  Because Cody became the Administrator of the Chaplaincy Program as well as the CIT (Peer-support Team), I thought it would be a good idea for you to hear Cody’s heart to help and facilitate our officers with the difficult challenges our officers come up against routinely.

The Power of the Story – Part 2

Last month I talked about three life lessons God taught me in one of the worst times of my life. So, this month, I begin with the first lesson. Why? Well, we as humans learn from the lessons of others. Its one of the ways God has given us to not only teach us, but for us to use to teach and help others going through difficult times of life. So, I hope you get something from this because “as iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen each other!”

Holiday Heroes

We talk a lot about heroes on this site because we honor our Game Wardens for the things they do – especially when they had no idea they were going to be put into certain situations.

This month, we interview GW Rob Frets just over a year after the horrific shooting in Sutherland Springs. Rob was one of the first on the scene after the massacre of so many people and we talk to him about how he is doing, how he’s coping and what strategies he used to get through this past year.

Listen in to his own words. We will all go through horrific incidents in our lives, but Rob gives us good advice about how those incidents do not need to defeat us in our minds and hearts.

Disaster Relief – What To Expect As First Responders Return Home

Meme3As first responders begin to return from Hurricane Harvey, it is vital that we pay attention to their well-being. Large scale disasters demand significant physical and mental amounts of energy that public servants readily give of themselves. However, the recovery process for these amazing first responders is frequently overlooked. If you are a public safety professional who has deployed to the hurricane, a family member, friend or colleague, here are some things from Dr. Tania Glenn, PsyD and LCSW, to consider:

First responders take about half a second to ramp up mentally and physically. The fight or flight response is immediate and vital to the roles that first responders take on during dangerous and even life-threatening situations. Coming off the response however, is very different. Think of this analogy: launching into response mode is fast like a microwave, with immediate heat and energy. Coming off response mode is like an oven that has been cooking at 500 degrees cooling down, slowly and gradually.

During Harvey, all first responders utilize the fight or flight response, which involves the sympathetic nervous system and copious amounts of adrenaline, glucose and cortisol. In the aftermath of the activation, rescuers will experience the counter effect of the fight or flight response, which is a parasympathetic nervous system backlash. This means rescuers hit the wall. They get very tired and irritable. They sometimes catch colds or simply don’t feel well. At the same time, they also begin to deal with reality as the sights, smells and sounds begin to replay in their minds.

Please understand that human beings are not light switches. We don’t simply “turn off” an experience and “turn on” normal life. We ask that every first responder give himself or herself time to recover.

For First Responders:

  • Specifically, please consider this:
  • Get rest. Take plenty of naps if you are not sleeping well through the night.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Take Vitamin C and zinc to help prevent or shorten the nasty cold you might have.
  • Talk to your family, your peers, peer support or a clinician.
  • Resist the urge to skip the gym. Yes, you are tired, but moving your body is the best way to get the fight or flight chemicals out of your system.
  • Resist the urge to drink too much. Heavy intoxication will only make matters worse.
  • If after two weeks you feel like you are not beginning to return to normal, get help immediately from a clinician who understands public safety.

For Family Members:

  • It is important to give first responders the time and space to return to “normal life.” Try not to overwhelm them with requests in the first few days. They will need time to restore their resilience.
  • If there were issues at home while your loved one was away and you are notifying him/her, be sure to include the solutions that are being implemented. For example, if your 10th grader is already struggling in biology, let your loved one know what steps are being taken for tutoring, etc.
  • Understand that your first responder has seen significant human struggling. They will come home with a perspective that the little things in life that don’t matter REALLY don’t matter. It is likely that they will have little tolerance when the kids are arguing over what video game to play. They are dealing with a sharp contrast of reality coming from where they have been.
  • Don’t be surprised if your first responder has no desire to go out in public for a few days. They have been over-stimulated by noise, people and chaos for several days.
  • Understand that your loved one might not want to talk about it. It’s ok for little snippets to come out here and there, and also for them to be more inclined to share with their fellow first responders versus family members.
  • Don’t take it personally if your loved one tells you that he or she wants to go back. This is normal. The work is very meaningful, much needed and ongoing in disasters. It is normal to want to return to continue to help.

For Coworkers and Supervisors:

  • Be there for your colleagues as they return and allow them the opportunity to discuss what they have been through without judgment.
  • Understand that they will view the normal workday as mundane for a while. Considering what they have been through, it is normal for returning first responders to be frustrated with the tempo, the paperwork and the protocol. They will feel restricted compared to where they have been.
  • Encourage them to get help if things are not returning to normal.
  • The main thing to remember is that it takes time and effort to restore your resilience after a disaster deployment. Also please understand that it is normal for all of the issues to crop up a bit later down the line. The delayed response is due to the fact that many first responders employ a healthy amount of internal numbing, and when the numbing wears off, the reactions occur.

Please take good care of yourselves and reach out to CIT / Peer Support Team or Chaplains if things are not improving.

Identifying the Spiritual Needs of Your Student in Today’s Culture

Many parents today are asking the question, “I know my teenager is entering a difficult world.  How do I help my teen continue to be strong and encouraged?”  This article can help you with some suggestions for understanding what comes up in your teen’s life and ways you, as their parent, can understand and guide them in these difficult times.

Identifying the Spiritual Needs of Your Student in Today

Dark Night of the Soul

We all experience a dark night of the soul at some point in our life and we also walk through others dark nights alongside them and experience it with them. How do you reach the dawn after a dark night of the soul? It takes growth…

Listen in to Chaplain McIntosh as he provides an insightful look at the Dark Night of the Soul.