September is National Suicide Awareness Month and some of our biggest helpers are hurting.  More than 20 Veterans take their own life EVERY DAY.  According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, Veterans are TWICE as likely as civilians to die at their own hands.  Why is this?  And more important, what is being done to STOP it?

During the month of September, the Your Oxygen Mask First Podcast is HONORED to be showcasing some of the men and women who are fighting to keep our Veterans alive and able to thrive.  We will be sharing their stories of struggle and heartbreak; but also, their stories of healing and resilience.

We can’t help anyone if we are not talking about the problem. By opening a dialogue and having authentic conversations surrounding the challenges and stigma, solutions and resources appear.  As a civilian, I can never really truly know the horrors and inner demons these brave men and women face.  But by listening to their powerful stories, I now have an understanding…a glimpse of their challenges and have already applied some of this knowledge in my professional life. 

The “Conversations Around Veteran Suicide” series aims to educate and provide resources for both military and civilian alike, in hopes to end the stigma and this devastating cycle.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it with my new friends.

If you or someone you know may be thinking of suicide, please contact the Veterans Crisis Call Line at  1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, Text 838255, or visit the episode pages for more resources.


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It all started when…

William Felty, a Post 9/11 Marine Corps Veteran, has been doing 22 push-ups every day for 706 days consecutively in honor of the 20+ U.S. Military Veterans who take their own life every day.  He does this every day as a reminder to be there for his fellow Veterans and others in times of need. September is Suicide Awareness Month, so we will be encouraging our communities to commit to 22 push-ups every day throughout the month of September starting 9/1.   We will be posting on social media with the hashtag #battlebuddies2018 in order to bring awareness to the needs of those still suffering alone and in silence, to ask others to join us, to remind ourselves to be there for others in times of need, and to open conversations around recovery and wellness.

the Your Oxygen Mask First Podcast family is proud to be joining William in this challenge and we would like you to participate too!


  • Purpose of our Push-ups: Getting connected and staying connected with one another and nature, in order to bring awareness and change to the fact that on average, 20+ Veterans take their own life every day.


  • Want to Help Out? Be there for someone else or others during their time of need, and then listen for how you can be of assistance if possible. That simple act of kindness can go a long way for someone suffering and struggling alone and in silence.


  • Also, you can do your own push-ups (alone or with others), record them, and share it with your network, and/or share this post to help us keep this message and our efforts alive.  Post your pictures with the hashtag #battlebuddies2018!

Follow us on our pushup challenge journey on the Your Oxygen Mask First Facebook page or our Instagram!  We can't wait to see your push-ups!


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In our first episode of The Power of the Story: Conversations Around Veteran Suicide, we sit down with William Felty and Sara Correll.  Both William and Sara are integral members of the San Diego Veteran community and are working tirelessly to reach out to those Veterans and families that may be struggling.  Learn why the current state of mental health help for Veterans is frustrating William and fueling his passion to ensure not another Veteran dies by their own hand.

William Felty

William is a United States Marine Corps Veteran who is working tirelessly to help improve conditions for our Veterans and Youth, as well as spearheading a Veterans Crisis Outreach Initiative in San Diego.  He is out in his local community every day, interacting with Veterans in hopes to identify a Vet or family who may be heading for crisis before it is too late.  William is also very active in the military community and serves on five different Veteran Leadership groups.

Sara Correll

Sara is a civilian who is a wife and mom who has been personally touched by suicide.  She has been working with William forming a Veteran Crisis Outreach Initiative in San Diego and is dedicating her time to end Veteran suicide by helping Veterans get their stories out...and is the AMAZING woman that thought of and helped create the “Conversations” series!


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Survivors of Suicide:  You Are Not Alone

Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about.  And because of the stigma surrounding suicide, many survivors of suicide may feel shunned, guilty, and alone.  But this needs to change to help end the vicious cycle.  In this episode, we talk with Joyce Bruggeman, the Executive Director of the amazing organization Survivors of Suicide Loss in San Diego to discuss why sharing our stories of suicide is so important for not only healing, but to also help prevent others from taking their own lives.  Joyce is joined by Floyd Strayer, a Veteran who is dedicating his time to share his own stories of how he has been affected by suicide.


Joyce Bruggemen

Executive Director of Survivors of Suicide Loss

Survivors of Suicide Loss in San Diego, an amazing non-profit that reaches out to and supports people who have lost a loved one to suicide and help them cope with the aftermath of the loss.   After losing her own husband to suicide, Joyce set out on a mission to educate the public in dealing with the trauma and stigma the survivors of suicide face so that this horrible cycle does not continue.

SOSL’s 3rd Annual Ride for Life & After Party

Purchase SOSL's book, Beyond Surviving, on!


Floyd Strayer

Floyd served 21 years active duty in the United States Marine Corps and is the Military Sub-committee chair for Survivors of Suicide Loss San Diego.  He has also been personally affected by suicide and has an active role in the San Diego community using public speaking engagements to help spread the message of suicide prevention to the military.

SOSL’s Walk in Remembrance With Hope


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The Reality of Being a Veteran:  Joe's Story

Military Veterans face a whole new reality and set of challenges when they transition to civilian life.  Imagine being a young adult who is just starting out in life being thrown into a life that is full of trauma, death, structure, and brother/sisterhood only to come home and be paralyzed by simple tasks like making decisions at the grocery store?  How do you integrate back into a world that has not seen the horrors you have seen or understand what you have gone through?  Today, Joe shares his raw story of how he was able to claw his way out of the darkness to living a life of compassion and how is he now educating others by sharing his own experience.  And his wife Julie graciously shares what reality is like for their family supporting Joe through his challenges...and his mission.

Part 2

The Nation is celebrating Veterans this week, and we are honored to continue our conversations with Veterans who are making a difference by sharing their stories of courage surrounding mental health.

Today, we meet back up with Green Beret Special Forces Operator/Delta Force Medic Veteran Joe Hudak to go more in depth about what happened when he came home, his two suicide attempts, and what he did gain resilience, heal, and learn how to live his best life possible. And if you ever wanted to ask a Veteran a question, you now have the opportunity to ask Joe what you would love to know...yes, he is taking questions from our audience!

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Joe and Julie.jpg

Julie Onton

Julie is Joe's wife and a neuroscientist that has done trauma/TBI research.  She has experienced first-hand the difficulties service members face when transitioning to civilian life.  Julie has also worked for the Navy and UCSD researching mental trauma in Veterans in the hopes of finding scientific answers to the question, “Why are so many Veterans taking their own lives?”


Joe Hudak

Joe is a Green Beret Special Forces Operator/Delta Force Medic Veteran who has been in the clutches of suicide himself and was able to fight his way out.  Joe volunteers his free time to authentically and honestly speak about his experiences with mental health challenges and the difficulties transitioning from soldier to civilian life…in hopes he can save someone else.

The Meditation Initiative

Warriors Live On

Military OneSource

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PTSD and the Veteran

Shad Meshad is a voice that encourages empathy for Veterans because he witnessed so much in Vietnam, as well as the shock of coming home to (at times) a hostile and dangerous homecoming from Americans. 

Not only is Shad a soldier; he is also a mental health clinican and expert in PTSD.  In this episode, we get to hear Shad's insight and stories of wartime; as well as what things Veterans need to survive and thrive after coming home.


Shad Meshad  LCSW, CTS, TFTdx

President and Founder of the National Veterans Foundation  

Shad has been advocating for Veterans’ rights and mental health for over 40 years and has been considered the “founding father” of PTSD studies in Veterans.  Shad also consults and teaches stress reduction and anger management techniques to mental health, law enforcement, and critical incident professionals through Quantum Performance Institute, a firm he established in 2001. He continues his work with Veterans in the Los Angeles area, helping them through the process of healing and readjustment. Shad raises awareness about the issues returning Veterans face at his regular blog at the Huffington Post.

CALL Life Line for Vets: 888.777.4443

National Veterans Foundation:
Blog on the Huffington Post: 
Book: Captain for dark mornings: A true story

Shad, Sara, and Joe

Shad, Sara, and Joe

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When Regular Therapy Isn't Enough

Sometimes, regular talk-therapy isn't enough for Veterans to manage their mental health challenges.  And sometimes, the spiritual injury from the things they have seen and done in wartime is too much to bear.  That is why the incredible organization The Mighty Oaks Foundation exists.

In this episode, we sit down with Mighty Oaks Foundation Executive Director, and USMC Infantry Officer and Iraq Veteran Jeremy Stahlnecker to discuss "out of the box" solutions for Veterans suffering spiritually, dealing with addictions, family difficulties, and the challenges they face transitioning back to civilian life...that are free.

Jeremy Stahlnecker

USMC Infantry Officer and Iraq Veteran
Executive Director of Mighty Oaks Foundation

Jeremy is a United States Marine Corps Infantry Officer and Iraq Veteran.  He is also the Executive Director of the Mighty Oaks Foundation, a program that focuses on spiritual injury that our warriors face and is free to Veterans.  Out of 1700 alumni, they have been 100% successful with preventing suicide and nearly as effective in preventing divorce.

Learn more out their book "March or Die"


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Steven Padilla


Steven Padilla is a San Diego native who joined the US Army in 2008 where he became a Combat Engineer. He would be stationed at Fort Campbell and later deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq in Jan 2009 where he and other soldiers from 511th Sapper EN CO would conduct route clearance, as well as train the 12th Iraqi FER (Field Engineer Regiment). During this deployment, Steven would be switched off mission 15 minutes prior to the mission start and one of his friends would take his spot. Later during that mission, Steven’s friend whom took his spot would trigger an IED, which would be Steven's triggering moment for survivor's guilt and PTSD.

Steven would later have struggles with alcohol, anger, anxiety, and depression that would affect his relationship with his wife. His actions would later make his wife threaten divorce if he doesn’t get help. Steven would go to the VA in 2012 after his retirement from the army due to a spinal injury and ask for help, this is where he is told he could not get help at the VA and it would be best for him to look elsewhere.

Steven would find a therapist that treats PTSD with Prolonged Exposure therapy. PE is a long and in depth process of multiple weekly visits as well as reliving those traumatic moments both in therapy and at home. It would take Steven several months to take the therapy seriously and when he did he saw a change in his life.

In this episode, we talk with Stephen about how entrenching himself in the Veteran community has not only been beneficial for his wellbeing; but also shows that through therapy and community, there was a way out of a vicious circle of traumas.

Branch: US Army Retired
MOS: 12Bravo (Combat Engineer)
Current position: Field Coordinator (Part-time), Military/ Veteran Consultant and Speaker

Steven a US Army OIF veteran who looked for IED's (roadside bombs) as well as aided in training the 12th Iraqi FER (Field Engineer Regiment) in 2009.   He is also a Former Field Coordinator for the Western Region for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and is currently working to improve mental health care for veterans at the Get Headstrong Organization; which is cost-free, bureaucracy-free, and stigma-free treatment for the hidden wounds of war.  Using his struggles as a motivator, he has had dinners with celebrities such as Kate Mara, Courtney Jai and has been invited to the Afghan Embassy and the White House to watch President Obama sign a Veterans Suicide bill into law.

Headstrong Website:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA):

IAVA Facebook:



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Jalitza Cardona


There is a very important conversation happening in America right now surrounding sexual assault. And while we had this interview scheduled long before some of the recent events unfolded, the timing couldn't be more important for her story to be told.

We are extending our deep-dive series on suicide prevention for veterans, and today I am honored to talk to Jalitza Cardona. She is a Veteran and a mental health advocate after surviving sexual assault and is now making it her mission to impress upon others that they are not alone…and that help is waiting for them.

Sexual assault is discussed but the specific acts or details of assault are not.

Warriors Live On Project

Wounded Warrior Project



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Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Victor Hugo

Bill Protzmann


Bill Protzmann is a man of many hats.  Not only has he been a successful businessman and an award-winning musician, but he has discovered how to use music to help heal those who have been affected by trauma by using music for self-care.  

In 2011, he launched Music Care Inc, a for-profit corporation dedicated to providing education in music as adjunct treatment for post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. In this episode, Bill talks about how music saved his life and how he is now helping others by showing them the power of music care.

A note from Bill:

Your San Diego Symphony is proud to offer honor tickets to Veterans, Military, Guard, Reserve and family members. If that's you, there is a link below where you may claim as many as four tickets (you and three guests) to attend the next concert Wednesday, October 24, 2018 from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM PDT as honored guests.

Use this link to claim your honor tickets and start your healing.

Bill Protzmann Home

Practical Heart Skills

San Diego Veterans Coalition



Dr. Ryan Stevenson

There are many new emerging modalities for treating mental health challenges being discovered every day. Did you know that researchers are making breakthroughs in treating people with PTSD and depression with psychoactive substances? In this episode, we talk with Psychologist Dr. Ryan Stevenson and unpack a whole lot of topics relating to mental health treatment, survivors of sexual assault and abuse, veteran and student mental health, as well as the difference between PTSD and trauma. 


MAPS involvement in research:


Other treatment options:

Dr. Ryan Stevenson, received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and his Masters of Social Work from the University of Utah. He completed his psychology internship at the UC – Santa Barbara’s Counseling and Psychological Services and his post-doctoral fellowship at UC – San Diego’s Counseling and Psychological Services. He has experience working in university counseling centers, community mental health, rape crisis centers, and private group practice. Prior to joining CSUSM’s Student Health and Counseling Services he worked at UCSD, the VA in San Diego, and on a clinical trial treating veterans with PTSD. He also taught a course called Strategies for Academic Success for three years in graduate school and he enjoys helping students with these skills in therapy and in campus workshops.

Dr. Stevenson has experience providing individual, group, and couples therapy. He utilizes an integrative approach drawing from interpersonal, mindfulness, feminist-multicultural, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Areas of special interest include PTSD/trauma, working with veterans/service members, anxiety, depression, mindfulness, multicultural issues, men and masculinity, conflicts around religion and spirituality, performance psychology, and substance abuse. Dr. Stevenson enjoys working with students from diverse backgrounds and providing a safe space for healing and growth. Dr. Stevenson provides clinical supervision to Psychology Interns.

CA Lic. PSY 27441