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.

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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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National Stuttering Awareness Week

National Stuttering Awareness Week is May 12-18, 2014.

This is my blog from last year. Hope you enjoy. Hope you learn something. Hope you become more aware. Thanks for reading.

May 13-19 is Stuttering Awareness Week and is intended to bring attention to the challenges of stuttering.

For the first decade or so of my life, my older brother and I were the only two kids I knew who suffered from the speech disorder known as stuttering. Miraculously, around the age of 12, my brother’s stutter ceased to exist. I was very happy for him and equally as excited for my future. I was thinking “two more years.” Thirty years later, my stutter is still going strong and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

We BOTH stuttered way back then…

We BOTH stuttered way back then…

If I had a nickel for every time I was made fun of, I could have potentially retired at 12. It’s not easy being a kid, and it’s especially difficult when you’re different. The biggest fear for most Americans is public speaking, so imagine being a stuttering child having to read aloud a paragraph from “Charlotte’s Web” as the whole class looks, listens, and laughs. It’s not easy. Imagine sitting at your desk with your palms sweating, pulse racing, and heart pounding like you’re about to testify against the mafia, when, in fact, you’re simply sitting there in anticipation of having to read a paragraph from “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Again, it’s not easy.

That all changed for me in the 8th grade when I decided to ease the anxiety by volunteering to read each and every time. My hand was always the first to go up and stayed up for most of the class. I chose to be in complete control of what and when to read. If kids laughed, they laughed. I’d usually have a witty one liner to shoot back at them which would ultimately shut them up. From that point on, I never again looked at my stuttering as a significant challenge.

Fast forward to 2012 and I’m a comic, a speaker, and a soldier with 3 tours of duty in Iraq. I currently hold the rank of Captain in the Alabama National Guard. (Update, I’m now a Major in the IRR/Reserves)

Somewhere above the Atlantic en route to Iraq…

Somewhere above the Atlantic en route to Iraq…

When I initially started out in comedy, my goal was to simply make the audience laugh and nothing else. After each show or online video, I’d get feedback on how my comedy helped educate them with respect to their family and friends who also suffered from this speech disorder. I was blown away by this. Until seeing my routine, they’d never considered the challenges a person who stutters faces on a daily basis. Imagine the fear of talking on a telephone. Imagine the fear of ordering food at a restaurant. Imagine the fear of not being able to say your child’s name.

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

I also get random messages from young men and women who aspire to serve in the military but feel they are disqualified due to their speech disorder. Being able to inspire them to follow their dreams might be the highlight of what I do. Stuttering is no joke but having the ability to inspire and bring awareness to stuttering through humor has truly been a gift from God.

Stuttering is still one of the great unknowns. I’ve been stuttering for 40 years and still can’t explain it. I can probably do a better job of explaining the Pythagorean Theorem. I do know, however, that 4 out of 5 people who stutter are male and that only around 1% of the world’s population will ever know what it’s like to get “stuck” on the simplest of sounds. I, just like any person who stutters, have my good days and bad days and everything in between. Additionally, we don’t always get hung up on the same sounds, words, or sentences. And finally, the number one pet peeve for most of us is having people finish our words or sentences. We have something to say, so let us say it.

I’ve had the great fortune of attending the last two National Stuttering Association (NSA) annual conventions. The convention is not a pity party. It’s a fun and inspiring celebration filled with education, awareness, acceptance & empowerment. Because of my upbringing and military service, I’ve always been and adapt and overcome kind of guy but attending the NSA convention has even opened up my eyes to the difficulty many of my fellow stutterers face each and every day. I’ve even met people who do indeed stutter when they sing.

(Update, I’ve now been to the last three conferences and even have the extreme honor of giving the keynote at this year’s conference.)

The NSA convention is a four day conference but would likely be a two day conference for any other group; however, since they are usually held in very nice locations such as Florida and Arizona, four days work out just fine. In 2011, we had the writer for the Academy Award winning film “The King’s Speech” as the keynote speaker. I may be the only person who stutters who has not seen the film. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of a 40 year old guy from the south not having seen “Smokey and the Bandit.” I understand it’s a great film. (Update: My wife bought be “The King’s Speech” on DVD just last week. I still haven’t watched it…but I will.)

Another great film featuring a person who stutters is “Star Wars.” James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, endured severe stuttering during his childhood but has gone on to have one of the greatest voices of our time. He truly beat the odds. Of course he did have one slight advantage; he was a Jedi.

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

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Life isn’t Burger King…You don’t always get it your way.

When I was in junior high school, all my buddies had name brand BMX bicycles such as Haro, Mongoose, and Diamond Back. Many of these were purchased at The Bike Shop in Auburn.

I wanted nothing more than to get one of those “high dolla” bikes for Christmas.

When I walked into the living room on Christmas morning of 1984 and saw a red dirt bike from Sears next to the tree, I was less than enthused.

I was a good kid and deserved better, or so I thought.

I remember removing every Sears and Roebuck sticker I could find from the bicycle itself.

When school reconvened in early January, I proudly rode my bike to school and chained it up at the bike rack. I recall telling my buddies that it came from The Bike Shop in Auburn.

One of my more snobby acquaintances decided to inspect my ride, and in doing so, found an isolated Sears sticker that had somehow eluded me. I played it off and told them it indeed came from The Bike Shop, the bike shop at Sears in Auburn.

That dude moved a year or so later. No one liked him anyway.

Sometimes, we simply do not get what we want and that is a part of life. Life is not always fair. We have to adapt and overcome, which is oftentimes easier said than done.

A few weeks ago, I was passed over at my first look at being promoted to Major in the Alabama National Guard.

I'll have put this patrol cap away for another year...

I’ll have to put this patrol cap away for another year…

We’ve all had that feeling of getting kicked in the gut. Well, I felt as if I was kicked in my gut, head, shin, and hind side, followed by multiple slaps to the face and another kick to the gut.

I won’t go into detail because the last thing I want to do is burn any bridges. I’ve never been a bridge burner, but I always keep a can of kerosene in my garage just in case I need to do so at some point in the future.

During the War on Terror, our military was promoting soldiers, officer and enlisted, at unprecedented rates. In the National Guard, there were two officer promotion boards a year, but that was scaled back to just one a couple of years ago.

Unlike the Active and Reserve components of the US Army, there are only so many slots within the ranks of a state’s guard.

There were approximately 50 of us vying for less than a dozen of those slots, and I know that those selected were highly qualified and deserving.

Be that as it may, I’ll put my qualifications up against any of them. I was not a happy camper.

It appeared to me that most of those selected were able to do more push-ups and sit ups than me. They could run faster, too. Yes, that’s what I look for in a leader. Too bad there’s not a sarcasm font.

I contemplated transferring to the Reserves or to the Georgia National Guard. In a brief lapse of sanity, I even contemplated getting out. I didn’t feel they deserved me.

I speak to thousands of people a year and often talk about the great honor of serving in the Alabama National Guard. It doesn’t take a marketing major to see this as great marketing for the guard. By the way, I did major in marketing in college.

I was upset, disappointed, frustrated and hurt.

During many of my speeches, I harp on adapting to and overcoming the challenges we all face in life.

Many of us are very good at giving solid, sound advice to others but sometimes find it difficult to apply that advice to our own lives.

In the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to several high ranking officers, active and retired, who were also passed over at some point in their career but went on to get picked up at subsequent boards.

As we say in the Army, “This isn’t Burger King, so you don’t always get it your way.”

No matter how hard we work and no matter how deserving we may think we are, we don’t and won’t always get our way, but that doesn’t mean we should quit or give up. It means we keep fighting; we keep doing the right thing.

When Uniroyal was hiring in the late nineties, I put in my application. I was incredibly disappointed when they never called, but I didn’t give up on life because of that setback. I continued to work at Kroger and continued to go to school.

A few years later, Uniroyal was closed, while I was a college graduate and an officer in the United States Army.

I often thank God for unanswered prayers.

I’m not planning on leaving the Alabama National Guard anytime soon, because I take no greater pride than wearing our nation’s uniform and will continue to do so for the next three years, eight months, and nine days. But, who’s counting….

PS. Thank you for the bike, mama. I know how hard you worked to pay for it, and I can’t thank you enough.

UPDATE: Two months after writing this, I was picked up for Major by the Department of the Army, which opens the door to many opportunities, but for now, I’ll remain a Captain in the National Guard.

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