Indomitable Spirit; The Joy of Rebuilding a Life’s Purpose!

Former Army medic Chris Swift has shared several podcasts with us. You will find his experiences leading up to this Friday August 12 episode on the podcast episode page of our webpage.
Today we continue Chris’ transition experiences after his 55 month deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan serving as a combat medic. After years of punishing and unexpected reactions resulting in alcoholism, legal problems and other issues Chris acknowledged and sought out help for these reactions. Now participating in several veteran projects as a veteran or peer mentor Chris has found his life purpose as an official Veteran Peer Counselor in the VA Healthcare System. In this episode Chris shares the joy in life he has earned with indomitable spirit and courageous dedication to resolving  the
experiences of transition!
DISCLAIMER: The information and content shared in each episode of the Stigma Free Vet Zone are for informational purposes only. The Stigma Free Vet Zone hosts, Mike Orban and Bob Bach are not, nor claim to be, medical doctors, psychologists, or psychiatrists and should not be held responsible for any claims, medical advice, or therapy/treatment recommendations mentioned on this podcast. Any advice mentioned or shared by Mike Orban and Bob Bach or their guests is strictly for purposes of bringing awareness to the veteran community and the services available. Please speak with a medical professional before taking any advice or starting any therapy or treatment discussed or shared on this podcast.

Veteran Knows Wounds of the Body and Spirit


Veteran Brian Eisch of Luxemburg, WI, spent 20 years in the Army. He was wounded during an ambush in Afghanistan, which resulted in the amputation of one of his legs. Eisch is the subject of a documentary movie, “Father Soldier Son,” which was filmed over a 10-year period. While he laments the loss of his leg, he tells people that his leg is nowhere near the greatest loss in his life — a reality that has him on a mission to help others understand perspective and to be kind.

Facilitating Group Healing

Mary Haupt is a readjustment counseling therapist at the La Crosse Vet
Center in Wisconsin. She works with service members and veterans who have
experienced trauma and other adverse experiences while serving in the
military, including those who have experienced military sexual
trauma. Extensively trained in trauma-informed therapy, she is also an
EMDR therapist. Mary is the daughter of a Korean War veteran who
served in the US Air Force. Because she did not
serve in the military, is very grateful to be able to serve veterans in her
capacity as a counselor. Her father, Norbert Siolka, is still with us and
she thinks of him all the time!

Working to Understand Moral Injuries

Mike Gemignani is a U.S. Army veteran who spent two tours in Iraq as a 13F forward observer with the 1-502 Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. He completed a short stint in college before his enlistment in 2004 and, after exiting the military, returned to school to pursue a career in biomedical electronics. He works as a biomedical IT specialist at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Along the way, he’s grappled with moral injury that has resulted in anger and depression.

Companions on Four Legs

Lani Rethaber, executive director of Patriot K9s of Wisconsin, is a Marine Corps and Wisconsin Army National Guard Veteran. Lani has a passion for helping Veterans and in 2019 started as a volunteer at Patriot K9s. Patriot K9s, a Central Wisconsin-based nonprofit, raises and trains psychiatric service dogs for disabled veterans. He has since become the program development manager and now the executive director. The organization employs five full-time staff and has a whole host of volunteers.  Patriot K9s also has a prison program helping inmates gain a sense of charity by helping Patriot K9s raise future service dog candidates.

From Clearing Combat Zone Roads to Clearing the Mind


West-central Wisconsin veteran Amanda McCune Cassidy’s U.S. Army service included a deployment to Afghanistan 2009-2010 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. During her deployment, she was one of a few females to do route clearance — working with explosive ordinance disposal technicians from different service branches to clear roads of improvised explosive devices; she also was assigned to train Afghan Army personnel in IED clearing procedures. Her journey back into civilian life has included working on PTS issues, part of which has been controlling alcohol use. Amanda discusses her military-to-civilian transition in the debut of host Pam Graham — herself a U.S. Navy veteran who happens to be Amanda’s aunt.

‘Uncle Tony’ Seeks Personal Peace

Wisconsin Rapids-area veteran Cory Poast joined the U.S. Army when he was 34 years old. He served in Hawaii, and then deployed to Mosul, Iraq, in 2008, and served a year in-country. He works to find personal peace through humor, music, nature and sarcasm — working to keep toxicity out of his life. He notes, “IGY6.”

Telling the Military Sexual Trauma Story

Sarah Blum has experienced first-hand the traumas of war, having served as a surgical nurse in the Vietnam War. She also has experienced another form of trauma faced by many veterans: military sexual trauma. Sarah wrote about MST in her book, Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military, and continues to travel the nation advocating for MST survivors and for changes to stop MST.

Finding Peace Beneath Parachutes’ Canopies

Veteran Jim Osterman set out to make a difference in as many lives as he could. He embarked on a journey to do what he could to help prevent veteran suicide. He found an answer in the peace he knows beneath parachutes’ canopies and, as a result, founded the nonprofit Veterans Skydive 4 Life. He and others on the organization’s board have organized skydives for veterans throughout the nation.

The Art of Transition

Ashley Spangberg, a veteran from Strum, Wisconsin, found that making art has been important in her transition from military life, which for her included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. She sells her art through the Patriot Beads and Brass business that she developed. Besides making her own art, she often does art workshops for veterans’ groups.