The why behind our mission.

A note from Forest:

 

In 1976 my world looked great, but it quickly went off course. After high school and a couple of unsuccessful college majors, my father was seriously injured and at 19 I had to drop out to support the family. I had previously become a Florida EMT just to have something for a resume. I came back to Jacksonville and worked at ED’s and private ambulance. A hard charger, I was one of the first group of paramedics in the State.

During paramedic class I would go out with seasoned firefighters to the bar. The fire chiefs and captains said “ Son, if you want to be successful in EMS and the Fire service you have to learn to drink well”. I took that advice to heart and became a secret and social drinker. This defied my Christian upbringing and call to ministry, causing further guilt.
I rocketed up the chain for paramedic jobs, first being part of a research grant on efficacy of EMS, then becoming the first director of a hospital ambulance at 21. In 1980 I married a woman with chronic health issues who had a long-term terminal diagnosis. I also worked for a program in Central Florida to help rural counties develop paramedics services. My social drinking became more prominent.

After other fire departments and EMS jobs, I landed in a department where off-duty drinking was the norm of the day: with the Chief usually found at the local bar. I was hired by a large rural county to expand Fire and EMS Services. I had developed a pornography addiction and my “secret drinking” increased with responsibility and memories from “bad calls”.
At my age I was respected for my knowledge and people skills, but I was not skilled in dealing with unethical elected officials and a crooked County Sheriff who ran most of the county’s drug ring. My life spiraled out of control, my wife was threatened to leave me because of the alcohol, stress, and low pay. We were also getting threatening phone calls because I knew too much about the county dealings in a variety of areas. I ended up leaving the best profession I had to save my marriage and protect the family.

My wife eventually died in 2009. I had started drinking and using pornography again. With her death I seriously considered suicide. However, God came back in my life and put me back on the right track.

Forrest and therapy dog trainee, Commander (a red and white dog).In those early years in Emergency Services, we did not have chaplains or mental health access; even in the Coast Guard services were available but the stigma kept most people from using it. In those days you were told “suck it up butter cup” or “There are hundreds of others that want your job”. If services had been available possibly the outcome for me would be different but I believe God had his hand on me the entire time and walked with me in good and bad.

Fast forward I became a Director of Safety and Wellness for a large county-wide utility, overseeing 3,000 employees and up to 6 thousand contractors: in addition to facility Fire Protection. I was recalled to active duty again after 9-11 and stayed with the government. In had become a U.S. Coast Guard Reservist, and after 38 years of federal duty, and over 50 years total emergency management, I retired from the government.

 

I have since become an Emergency Services Chaplain, an ordained minister, and completed a second master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling; as part of the training, I have worked with several hundred First Responders, Veterans, Flight personnel, and even airline pilots with substance abuse and PTSD.

 

Eagles Response is the culmination of a dream for many years where spirituality and mental health meet and provides a “non-Profit”, safe space for First Responders, Veterans, military, and families.

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