“Don’t ever give up”

Sunday, I was at one of my favorite lunch spots and had a brief conversation with one of the restaurant’s employees.

“What’s going on, brother?” I asked.

“Working! Working…working…working. Seven days a week. That’s all I ever do is work. I never get ahead,” he replied, while bussing a table and shaking his head in doing so.

“But you’re making it; you’re not giving up,” I said. “Don’t ever give up.”

One of my most popular stories about my stuttering is that of being the starting quarterback of my junior high school football team, but, in reality, I was not the starting quarterback. In fact, I was not a quarterback at all. Furthermore, my football career lasted all of eight days. To be honest, I saw the writing on the wall when I was beaten in wind sprints by a guy named “Beefy.” I called it a career shortly thereafter.

I gave up. I quit.

Speaking of football, last Saturday, as I was preparing for a speaking gig at Saugahatchee Country Club, I sent a text message to a friend asking for an update on the Auburn – LSU game.

Just before I started my set, he replied, “21-0 in the second quarter.”

Because they were playing in Death Valley, I didn’t have to ask who was winning. I just shook my head and hoped they wouldn’t give up, and, much to my delight, they didn’t. Auburn didn’t win the game but they fought valiantly until the end. By all accounts, they outplayed LSU in the second half but the 21 points were simply too much to overcome.

The Auburn family was very proud of our coaches and players, and rightfully so, because they never gave up.

I tried swiping this from the Auburn Arena but it proved to be too big. I finally gave up.

I tried swiping this from the Auburn Arena but it was too big. I finally gave up.

In 2006, the New Orleans Saints signed non-stuttering quarterback Drew Brees to a contract. Due to a contract dispute and shoulder injury, Brees was not resigned by his former team, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers instead went with Philip Rivers who was selected in the first round of the previous year’s NFL draft.

Brees almost landed in Miami but the Dolphins, fearing his shoulder had not yet healed, opted for Daunte Culpepper instead. Brees eventually found a home in New Orleans and did the unthinkable; he won a Super Bowl with the Saints.

Culpepper’s career fizzled and Rivers’ career has been one of disappointment, whereas Drew Brees has gone on to be a surefire, first ballot hall of famer.

He never gave up.

drew brees

In 1995, professional wrestler, Stunning Steve Austin, was fired from his job at World Championship Wrestling while injured. To, add insult to injury, literally, he was fired over the phone. After a couple of more speed bumps in his career, he developed his signature character.

Today, Stone Cold Steve Austin is arguably the most popular superstar in the history of the World Wrestling Federation and continues to be a prominent figure in the entertainment industry.

Why? He didn’t quit.

steve-austin

My Aunt Carol, Uncle Glenn’s wife, was a sweet lady and cooked a mean pot of chili. Sadly, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1991, followed by breast cancer in 1997. Carol eventually succumbed to the disease in 2011, but she fought courageously for 20 years.

She never gave up.

On June 21, 2012, four year old Emma Grace Mitchell of Oxford was diagnosed with a Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET), which is a rare tumor that usually occurs in children and young adults. The next day, she underwent surgery to remove it. However, the tumor quickly returned, and, over the next several months, Emma underwent chemo, radiation and a stem cell transplant at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

In August of this year, after just a couple of months at home, Emma underwent a second brain surgery for a third tumor and is currently going through chemo. According to her mom and her almost 10,000 followers on her Team Emma Facebook page, the fabulous Emma is always positive and is always spreading happiness with her infectious smile.

Emma is an inspiration to all and is not giving up.

Emma Mitchell

 

We sent Emma a shirt a few months back. She continues to be an inspiration.

We sent Emma a shirt a few months back. She continues to be an inspiration.

I could ramble on and on about the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced throughout my life but will spare you the drama for now. I will say, however, that there have been some very dark days along the journey but not finishing that season with my junior high school football team is the only time I ever quit anything worthwhile.

I can’t change that, which is okay with me, because a valuable lesson was learned from that experience nearly three decades ago, and, today, I can unequivocally say that I am not a quitter.

I never give up.

There is, however, one thing I can change. I want a rematch with “Beefy.” I think I can take him.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,” said an emotional and cancer stricken Jim Valvano at the 1993 ESPY Awards on ESPN.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Punctuality Shows Respect

When I finally woke up that morning, it was a quarter after nine and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. I don’t think I took a shower and I’m pretty sure I gargled with milk while speeding toward the National Guard armory.

This traumatizing event took place in June of 2006. It was my first day in the Alabama National Guard. I was two hours late.

“Get here when you can,” said a smiling Lieutenant Colonel Gore when I walked through those doors.

If you don’t know, “Get here when you can” is not a term of endearment.

What a way to make a first impression!

In all my years in the Regular Army, I was never late, although I cut it close a few times, but close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and according to my Uncle Wayne, dancing.

Little Fulla and Uncle Wayne...a year or two ago.

Little Fulla and Uncle Wayne…a year or two ago.

To the best of my fleeting knowledge, that’s my only transgression regarding tardiness at my unit. There have been times I showed up and did nothing but at least I showed up and did nothing in a timely and punctual manner.

I tell every Soldier that the secret to success in the military is simple: be at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform, with the right attitude. Everything else takes care of itself.

I failed to follow my own advice that first day and have been ribbed about it ever since, in a joking manner, of course.

Punctuality is the character trait for the month of September in the city of Opelika. Punctuality, of course, means being on time or prompt with respect to meetings, appointments, or projects such as submissions of newspaper articles to the Opelika Observer.

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I recently created a project with a specified deadline where I requested birthday cards from around the country for a local World War II hero. Knowing that people in general have problems with punctuality, I fidgeted with the date to ensure the cards were received prior to his birthday. Although I appreciate each and every person who took the time to show their respect for this hero, the manipulation of the date turned out to be a good call on my part.

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Speaking of World War II heroes, I recently spent the day with one who was in town visiting his daughter, my 11th grade English teacher. I was told to be there at 3:00 and rest assured I was there well before the proposed time. The respect for my former teacher was enough to be punctual but the respect for her father was the proverbial icing on the cake.

The man makes some mean homemade peach ice cream!

The man makes some mean homemade peach ice cream!

Being late to this get-together was not an option and my punctuality was rewarded by incredibly inspiring and intriguing stories of his time in Europe during the war, not to mention the homemade peach ice cream that night.

As the newest member of the Opelika Character Council, I attended my first meeting last week and made sure I was there on time. In fact, I was the first person there.

My friend and fellow character council member, Jan Gunter, says it best: Punctuality shows your respect for others. People who make it a habit of showing up to meetings on time or handing in reports or projects on time are saying with their actions, “I respect you and understand that your time is just as valuable as mine.”

“If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late” is a rule of thumb and statement often heard in the military and is sound advice for us all in our daily lives.

There is, however, an exception to the rule when related to doctor’s appointments. In cases as such, just get there when you can, because you know the doctor will.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Wants vs Needs

Recently, a friend told me a story about a good deed by his Sunday school class in Shreveport and it got me to thinking.

I’ll get back to this shortly.

I have so many funny stories from working at Kroger Pharmacy.

Young Fulla at Kroger

Young Fulla at Kroger

A lady once asked for “Soybean Jr.” That’s called Absorbine Jr. to you and me.

One Christmas, a lady asked me where the ointments were. After taking her to the ointment section, she sighed and said, “No, your Christmas ointments.”

I’ll never forget one particular day when the power went out. Whenever this happened, we had to lock the doors to the store. One gentleman, wearing an Alabama hat, almost walked through the automatic door when it did not open. He then failed about three times in his attempt to open the door. Finally, he aggressively knocked on the door like he was running from a serial killer.

I mouthed to him through the window that the power was out. He looked confused (remember the hat) so I opened the door and told him the power was out and we couldn’t let anyone in. He then proceeded to ask me, “When’s it gonna come back on?”

“A quarter after nine,” I said. We closed at nine.

I love this and so many other stories involving odd customers; however, not every story makes me smile.

One day, a guy threw a six-pack of beer on the counter along with just enough money to pay for it. He also laid a bottle of Kroger brand baby aspirin up there. Before ringing up either, he asked me if he could borrow (have) a couple of bucks to pay for the baby aspirin. I inquired about the beer and his reply has stuck with me for nearly a quarter of a century.

“Oh, I have enough money for the beer. I need money for the baby aspirin,” he said without blinking an eye.

So that brings me back to my friend’s friend from his church in Shreveport…

She was down on her luck and asked members of her Sunday school class to help her out with her monthly bills. Without hesitation, they helped their sister in need.

Two weeks later, she posted pictures on her Facebook page of her soaking up the sun on the beautiful shores of Panama City Beach, Florida.

Last year, Amanda Clayton, a Michigan resident, won the lottery. She was, however, receiving food stamps and other welfare benefits at the time, which created a national outrage among many.

I include myself among the many.

Ms. Clayton had enough disposable income to play the lottery, yet needed help from the American taxpayer to make ends meet.

My friend’s friend from church had enough money to go to the beach 580 miles from home, yet needed her friends from church to help her pay the bills.

The guy at Kroger had enough money for the beer but not enough to purchase the aspirin for his sick child.

All good hearted people want to help those who are truly in need. It’s the decent thing to do. The problem is that many, not all but many, of those who are down on their luck have enough money to make ends meet but choose to spend it on their wants and not their needs. Prioritizing does not seem to factor into the equation.

I’ve been poor through much of my life, so I know what it’s like to struggle.

There were times in my life that I was so broke that I considered Hamburger Helper to be a delicacy; a delicacy that lasted a few days.

One time, I was a couple of months late on my phone bill, so it had been disconnected. I went to pay the bill but after handing the clerk the check, she informed me that the phone had not been cut off; they were doing some work on the line. Naturally, I asked for my check back.

It was cut off a week later.

So, I know what it’s like to be broke, and I know what it’s like to go without.

I quickly learned the difference between wants and needs. I learned to prioritize.

Tough times build character; asking for handouts from good-hearted people does not.

Just imagine how much more efficient we could be in helping the needy if some of these folks could simply remove their head from their 4th point of contact. If you don’t know what that means, Google it.

For the record, I let the guy at Kroger have the money (have, not borrow, because no Kroger borrower ever paid me back a dime.) Kids shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of the father. Besides, it was only a couple of bucks.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide_prevention-DOD

Suicide Lifeline

Today (September 10) is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I wrote this on Sept 10, 2013, but it is as relevant today as it was back then, perhaps even more so…

I believe every suicide is preventable.

Most people who commit suicide want to live. They want help. They are looking for reasons to live but oftentimes we miss those signs. We need to listen and be more aware of what people are saying.

Just because someone is having a bad day or going through tough times doesn’t mean they are thinking about suicide but it’s still our obligation as friends, family, coworkers, and leaders to listen intently for that call for help if it exists.

It’s very difficult to ask, even in role play during the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) that  I’ve had, to ask if they are considering suicide, but it’s a question that MUST be asked. No euphemisms, either. No “are you thinking about hurting yourself?”  You can gently work yourself up to it, but eventually the question MUST be asked: Are you thinking about killing yourself? (or something along those lines)

If they say YES, it’s important to remember that it is not about you, so no matter how opposed you may be to suicide, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU! They, at least for the moment, see it as a viable option, so it’s important for you to step out of your comfort zone and understand their dilemma. Hear their story and understand their reasons for suicide because if you shut them out, they’ll shut you out and the conversation will go nowhere.

Understand their reasons but listen for their reasons to live because they may not be able to hear it themselves. Their mind is often so clouded that they are unable to see the good things in their life. When they mention their kids, their spouse, their dog, their whatever,  that’s your opportunity to pounce on that. Let them do most of the talking but support that turning point.

Oftentimes, that’s all they need. Again, their mind was so clouded that they couldn’t see all the positives in their life.

It’s a mild comparison, but when I worked at Kroger, I’d have 499 awesome customers but that one jerk would mess up my whole day. I should’ve been focused on the 499; instead, I was focused on the one.

It’s also important to find out what their plan was and to disable that plan. If it was to use a gun, we need to take that gun and ammunition. If it was to drive a motorcycle into a tree, we need to take those keys.

We need to put that person in contact with someone he or she trusts to talk to about such a sensitive matter, if it’s not you, and then get the professional help they so sorely need.

It’s important that the individual knows the safety plan that you’ve agreed upon and can tell you the plan before you continue, whether you accompany him/her to the next step or (if you have a warm and fuzzy) send them on their way.

This is just the down and dirty, the Reader’s Digest version as we say in the Army.

I typed it up with the quickness so if there are mistakes, I apologize.

The important thing is that in most cases suicide is preventable and in most cases that starts with us, not the person at risk.

You don’t have to be an expert. I’m certainly not. You just have to care.

Thank you!

Jody

PS: We need to keep working to eliminate the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He continues to serve in the Alabama National Guard and is a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visithttp://www.jodyfuller.com.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I spent time with great friends, ate great food, and Auburn won its season opener against Washington State. It wasn’t pretty, but after last season, a win is a win.

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Aug 31, 2013, Auburn vs Washington State

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Aug 31, 2013, Auburn vs Washington State

My friend, Tony from Shreveport, was in town and it was my pleasure to show him around Opelika and Auburn. One of my lifelong friends generously provided two tickets for us to attend the game. Tony, an LSU fan, had never been to an Auburn game but he enjoyed every minute of it while wearing one of my Auburn shirts no less.

He was in town for a reason. Better yet, he was not in Shreveport for a reason.

Two years ago, over Labor Day weekend, Tori, Tony’s daughter, took her own life. She was just 27 years old.

My heart still aches for my friend.

My mom’s co-worker committed suicide when I was a kid. One of my friends committed suicide in high school. A cousin I never met committed suicide last year.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on September 10 each year to promote worldwide action to prevent suicides. Various events and activities are held during this occasion to raise awareness that suicide is a preventable cause of premature death.

World Suicide Prevention Day gives organizations, government agencies and individuals a chance to promote awareness about suicide, mental illnesses associated with suicide, as well as suicide prevention.

I’ve been in Birmingham this week teaching Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) to a group of my fellow soldiers from the Alabama National Guard.

Per the Living Works website, ASIST is a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first-aid. It is suitable for all types of caregivers including health workers, teachers, community workers, youth workers, volunteers, and people responding to family, friends and co-workers.

Most people thinking about suicide signal and share their pain and offer us opportunities to respond.

Suicide intervention training can help all of us see, hear and respond to these invitations. It can also increase our confidence to ask about suicide when someone’s safety may be in the balance.

If someone is at risk, suicide first aid prepares us to work with them to increase their immediate safety and get further help.

If suicide is a problem among the general population, then it is an epidemic among our current military and veterans.

In 2010, with respect to the general US population, 13 per 100K people committed suicide. During that same time period, with respect to those in the US Army, 28 per 100K did the same, which is clearly more than double the rate of their civilian counterparts.

My old boss, Major General (Ret.) Mark Graham, lost a son to suicide and is now a strong advocate for suicide prevention.

My old boss, Major General (Ret.) Mark Graham, lost a son to suicide and is now a strong advocate for suicide prevention.

These numbers do not take into account unreported suicides which might include drug overdoses, single vehicle accidents, and other reported accidents.

A member of the Alabama National Guard committed suicide Monday night.

Another guy I served with took his own life last week.

On my first tour in Iraq, a young soldier from my brigade walked into a portalet with his M16 and never walked out.

On my second tour, a sergeant from my battalion did the deed on the porch of his company’s headquarters.

On my 3rd tour, a fellow captain and company commander attempted suicide but failed to complete the act. He has permanent brain damage and will never be the same.

Even more alarming, veterans, spanning all generations, commit suicide every 80 minutes.

Faced with the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder, unemployment, and a loss of military camaraderie, many veterans feel they have no purpose upon returning home and feel a real sense of hopelessness.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has made great strides in countering this epidemic, but, sadly, it’s too late for many.

September is a time for us to shine a light on suicide prevention and awareness but keeping our eyes and ears open for our friends, families, and co-workers should be a year-round obligation.

Though the warning signs can be subtle, they are there. By recognizing these signs, knowing how to start a conversation and where to turn for help, you have the power to make a difference – the power to save a life.

Suicide_prevention-DOD

Suicide Risk Factors

Suicide Risk Factors

Suicide Lifeline

Writer’s note: I do not claim to be an expert on anything related to suicide. I just care.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He continues to serve in the Alabama National Guard and is a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Make it happen

“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” ~ Unknown

My alarm went off at 5:15 a.m., but I was already awake. I had a plane to catch.

The flight was at 6:45, but I was only five minutes from Lawton / Ft. Sill Regional Airport. The size of the airport is comparable to the produce section at the Piggly Wiggly, so I had plenty of time.

I’d fly from Lawton to Dallas and then onto Atlanta from there. I was scheduled to arrive in Atlanta at 11:40 a.m., fast time, and would be home in plenty of time to perform at Auburn Arena for the Youth for Christ Characters of Character event featuring Si and Alan Robertson from Duck Dynasty.

YFC Event

At 6:00, I walked through the automatic doors at the far end of the building and dropped my rental car keys in the designated slot at the Enterprise counter. It was Saturday, so there’d be nobody there until 9:30.

I then walked toward the ticket counter to print off my boarding pass and to check my bag, but there was no one there.

Apparently that person also scans boarding passes at the gate, and likely cleans restrooms and maintains the airplanes, as well.

Figuring I could check my bag at the gate, I printed off a boarding pass from the kiosk and proceeded to security, but before I could even remove a flip flop, I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to check my bag at the gate.

I travel a lot and this was a first for me, as it was the other two would be travelers who were in the same predicament.

I wasn’t overly concerned because there were six other flights leaving Lawton that day, all for Dallas, and I was certain I’d be on the next flight out.

When that person, who turned out to be a she, returned to the counter, she informed us that the next available flight was at 6:55 p.m. Usually, there are plenty of vacant seats, but since there was a basic training graduation at Ft. Sill the previous day, all flights up to that final flight were booked.

I just had to get to Dallas. I knew there’d be a flight from there. Getting there would be the problem, but I wasn’t about to give up. I had a show to get to!

Since I couldn’t rent a car until 9:30, I decided to reacquire the key’s I’d turned in an hour earlier, which would be no easy task.

After inventorying my belongings, I removed the wire from my spiral notebook and made a hook out of it. Using the flashlight from my iPhone, I was able to “MacGuyver” my keys from the black hole and was Dallas bound within minutes with one passenger in tow.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Sometimes, you’ve just go to make it happen.

Half way there, I called Enterprise to let them know my plans had changed. The guy, Pete, told me because of the changes, my rates would change. In addition to $300 more dollars, I’d also be charged $0.35 a mile.

That didn’t sound right, so at 9:30 I called the Enterprise agent in Lawton. She was very nice and said there’d only be a $50 drop-off fee. I was relieved.

When I turned in my rental at Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) International Airport, they waived the $50 drop-off fee altogether. I was ecstatic.

A previous version of me would’ve accepted the first option, but life has taught me to always explore other options, because there’s usually a better way.

My airplane departed DFW at 12:50, slow time, and I was in Atlanta by 4:00, fast time. By 4:30, I was headed south on Interstate 85, and by 5:00, slow time, I was home.

After a quick shower and shave, I put on my Army Service Uniform, my “dress blues,” and was rubbing elbows with Si and Alan Robertson by 5:30.

Si Robertson

Alan Robertson

Although I was just a small fish in a large duck pond, by 7:30 I’d performed in front of my largest crowd to date and left the stage on an on an all-time high.

Had I not been proactive, I would’ve been approaching Dallas about the time I was leaving the stage and would’ve missed out on an incredible opportunity.

There was a time in my life when I would’ve just sat at that airport on stand-by waiting patiently on the next available flight.

The expression “good things come to those who wait” is about patience, which is a wonderful virtue, but sometimes waiting is not in our best interest.

So don’t just sit there; get up, do something, and make it happen!

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.