“Master Sergeant, It’s Time To Put Your Ruck Down” — Part 1 of 14
My life from tortured child to Green Beret, fall to darkness due to pain and Complex PTSD, and healing through vulnerability.
This story is to honor my family and friends for standing by me when I should have been discarded, for loving me when I should have been hated, and for seeing a glimmer of hope when they could have easily looked away.
Why Am I Sharing This Story?
The greatest lessons are shared through stories. Sincere narratives help us heal, anecdotes help us understand ourselves and others, and meaningful chronicles heighten compassion for one another.
Vulnerability has always been difficult for me. For decades, I used the experiences as an abused child, bullied immigrant & homeless teenager to erect a deep moat of meanness and arrogance. I did not realize it then, but I separated my internal weakness from the strength of love that I thought was missing in the world.
With this enveloping story, I am unwrapping myself to finally let in light, love, and lucidity. More importantly, with the power of words I am re-phrasing the allegory of precious life previously ignored.
As the result of being bullied, tortured, and shamed — I felt that the best defense was to become offensive — because I did not feel that I deserved to be loved.
My goal is to show that — you and I — have more strength in reserve. You and I can bounce back from the abyss. Back into the game of life, we can jump in.
My aim is to show that shame is not natural. After atonement, prolonged shame is contrived cultural craftsmanship made constitutional. My intention is for you to know that there are people eager to know your inner soul — not to punish — but to wholeheartedly love you. No strings attached…so from drama you can detach. No tit-for-tat…so you don’t have to feel like a door mat. No quid pro quo…to save you from wallowing in woe.
Eyes and Writing.
It took many days, months, years, hours, seconds, and moments of unraveling tightly stringed excuses to jot down the very first sentence.
I wrote snippets and phrases but always found comfort in excessive stalling.
As a child, I felt that I didn’t have a voice so I turned to writing and to doodling so I wouldn’t have to lock eyes with another — as my preferred choice. Staring into people’s eyes would expose that my pupils were without sparkle. I felt that I invited trouble and became laughable — if I showed natural skills deemed remarkable.
Peering up would show that my pupils had been widened — eroded by the rivers of salty tears — that made the top and the lower eyelids broaden.
Standing up for myself meant being struck with instruments wooden — that were never meant to be broken. Writing and doodling kept my head tactically low. No abuse could come — my way — if about many things, I pretended I didn’t know.
The gems embedded within the words, the spacing and the pace, strict adherence to proper punctuation, reckless defiance of grammatical etiquette, italics as emotion, fonts as tonality, and the…deafening sound of words left unsaid…gently help unfold the tightly crumpled and discarded paper of consciousness — to expose the spotless beauty of the blemished self.
Each unfurling releases rigidity. Each unraveling discharges dejection.
Painful, painful progress (that often seems like failure) finally letting in light, love, and lucidity.
When I made mistakes and when I wanted to quit, the universe goaded me, “Go on, write about it.”
The Ego in Shock.
My pen said: “Hey ego, beware.”
Ego replied: “How dare you. With you, I want war.”
Soul chimed in: “Ego, it’s 8 inches from head to heart. But for you, that’s always too far.”
I finally found organic relief by re-crafting the straightforward prose of pent-up pain. Today, the un-stifled energy of life can begin again.
The Pain of Releasing
It’s painful to recall hurtful memories, but it’s cathartic to finally write them out. Pinning visible tangibility to the miserable memories, piecing together the pain points, connecting the deleted dots — while wiping away tears from the keyboard — finally gave me a tear-filled map that guided my jump beyond the restrictive and rigid grid lines of abuse.
Pain steered me away from the attractive and magnetic energy of debased thoughts...and helped me navigate towards my True Uncompromising North.
Strength and Honor
This story is how I will pay it forward as an honorific recognition to those who hugged me softly with all their loving might.
I Honor My Parents.
The greatest tribute I can bestow on my father & mother is to continue to live — the best version of me — a man full of compassion and empathy.
I Honor My Family and Friends.
I honor my family and friends who stood by me when I should have been discarded.
I Honor the Shame.
I exhale the pain. I set it down. I free myself of shame’s anchor — so I can strive for that elusive crown. Keeping shame to seethe — is like ordering the lungs to not breathe. I must exhale the air of shame — so old. Then with fresh air, I can be bold.
The carbon dioxide of shame that I exhale…is the body waste — recycled into life-sustaining gale. The shame that I share…is my pain repurposed into — a spark of care.
I honor the perpetual re-purposing of — the spent and the used — by shedding shame.
Now, that I have shed much trauma…I can help guide those who may still be mired in drama.
I Honor Self-Awareness.
In my state of concentrated awareness, I can finally be of help to humankind — women, children, young adults, men, and veterans — to propagate love, compassion, and mindfulness.
I have been blessed with life complete. I am not at liberty to let life deplete.
I Honor My Tribe
The following amazing friends helped me and my family: Michael Vaulx, my Brother and Teammate who was the only person to appear in court to show support for my family; Jake Clark& Save A Warrior; Brad Hubbard & Mission 22; Dave Towe & Wave Academy; Ronnie Medina & the Green Beret Foundation; my Brother Steven Maldonado; Special Operations Care Coalition; Screenwriting with Anthony A. LoBue and Darryl Vickers; Brian Anderson & Veterans Alternative; Rabbi Michael Samuel, Steve Goldkrantz and Temple Beth Shalom; Anna Shen for encouraging me to write this story; Charlie Inot, Bill Nelson & Chapter 75, Special Forces Association; All Eagles Oscar; Rabbi Mendy Begun and Chabad of Chula Vista; Emergency surgeons and Psychiatry staff at the Naval Medical Center San Diego; Surgeons and staff at Scripps Green Hospital; Mark Noble andSharp Physical Therapy; Marti Colwell & Bichon Fur Kids; Brain Treatment Center of San Diego; Franco Loza, Bri, Kersten & Exos of Carlsbad; Doug Freeman and American Corporate Partners; Wendy DeCesare and Hire Heroes USA; the Veterans Affairs; and most of all, my wife, kids, my sister’s and brother-in-law’s family.
During my lowest points, they encouraged me to lean in. Their affection rebuilt me into a wellspring of love and compassion.
Continue to Part 2
All Rights Reserved (January 2022).