Nine Miles of Memories

Just outside of the world famous city of Saratoga Springs, NY, known for the inventions of the club sandwich and potato chips, the oldest horse racing track in the United States, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), the mineral springs, and the famous mineral baths that used to attract royalty and celebrities alike, lies a stretch of road nine miles long.

If you drive this nine mile stretch of road, you’ll pass through fields, over and along streams, and through wooded areas that seem to come alive with a past two centuries old. You won’t pass any convenience stores, but you’ll certainly see your share of wildlife; rabbits and deer call this place “Home.”

When you finish your drive through this landscape, you will be able to say you have driven through nine miles of the most historic pieces of land in America. You’ll step on some of the same grounds that helped shape our nation, breathed life into our independence from Great Britain, and where the turning point of the American Revolution took place.

I am talking about the Saratoga National Historical Park and the Battles of Saratoga. It was here where American patriots fought the British, defeating them and bringing the largest military force in the world closer to surrender. It was here where Benedict Arnold fought and was wounded. Yes, it’s along this road, that I not only relive history from colonial America, but also memories from my youth.

These grounds are not only home to deer, rabbits, and other wildlife. They’re not only home to centuries old trees that speak to you as you walk amongst them. They’re not only the burial sites of thousands of Continental Army and British soldiers. These grounds are home to some of my greatest memories in life.

It was along this road that I remember bike riding as a child. It was always a treat for us growing up, to load the bikes into the car and head to “the battlefield,” as we call it around here.

It was along this road that we used to come for a quiet drive, windows down (no matter how hot it was), radio off, and driving below the 25 mph speed limit on the one-way tour road. Even when I drive it today, I still turn off the radio and roll the windows down. It’s a land that although once soiled with blood, now demands peace; a land that once echoed with cannon and musket fire, now demands quietness. A land which was once filled with the battle cries of freedom, now asks for only whispers.

It was along this road that I learned to drive. My Dad once had a Ford Bronco stick-shift, and it was along these nine miles that I stalled and jerked the engine over and over. It was along this road that I learned how to push in the clutch, shift, stop on a hill, and come to a stop. It was also here that I learned the patience of a father.

Along this road I learned how to cross country ski, how to approach a deer from upwind, downwind, and everywhere in between. Along this same road is where I began to train and condition my body before joining the Air Force; running and walking the miles of pavement on cold March days in 2001.

Along these roads is where I returned in 2017 when I retired from the military. No longer a boy on a BMX bicycle, no longer a teenager learning to drive, and no longer a young man seeing how fast he could run a couple miles. I returned as an older man, weathered and experienced from life and death, war and peace, joy and sorrow. I returned to these grounds for one simple reason, and it’s the reason I keep going back.

From the very first day I rode my bike there, to the days I learned to drive, to the days my feet pounded the pavement, until now, the grounds remain the same. I return and can go to the same exact spot I went three decades ago, and it remains untouched. I can tell stories, or I can remain silent and just remember a day from years past come alive in the moment.

Nine miles of road. History shaped. Memories made. A life transformed.

For more information about this area, visit the Town of Saratoga Historian’s blog.

Depression – After the Storm

A couple weeks ago when I wrote the first of this three part series, I never would have thought the world would be in the situation it is today. I could not have imagined that all across the world, families and individuals are being told to stay home. We have this whole “social distancing” thing going on, we are asked to stay six to ten feet from others, and not gather in groups of more than ten individuals. How many of you, like me, had to go and get two separate beds for you and your significant other at night? Not really!

But in all seriousness, life has drastically changed for a lot of us over the past few weeks. What your routine looks like today is probably much different than it was pre-coronavirus. Moments like these can wreak havoc on someone who battles depression, loneliness, and anxiety. In the previous segments, I wrote about being in a crowded room, surrounded by friends and loved ones, yet feeling isolated and alone. Now imagine, being isolated and alone at this time, and what it is doing to those people. The outcome isn’t good at all. I’ve read all over social media, and have seen in numerous people, the temperature going up. They’re more irritated than before, they’re starting to lash out, and people have stated how the level of hostility within their homes has increased. Some people are at a breaking point. They’re scared, alone, unsure of the future, and their routine has been greatly disrupted.

As previously stated, I am definitely not a mental health expert. When I was in the Air Force and instructed many different training classes, I often taught suicide prevention; consisting of recognizing stressors in your own life, warning signs in others, and ways to cope with those things. How to get help!Like any of you reading this, I am no stranger to stress and life experiences that bring about a heightened level of stress and emotion. But please also realize that not every kind of stress is bad. Sometimes it actually makes us fight to survive. Stress can sometimes bring about new ideas and help you recognize a new passion!


In 2011, I personally went through what some may classify as one of the biggest negative stressors a person can go through. A divorce. It was quick, sudden, and came out of no where (at least for me). For several weeks I felt stunned, lost, and confused. It wasn’t the fact I was getting divorced that really hurt, as it may be for some, but it was being forced to change and adapt to a new life. At the time, I wasn’t one who particularly embraced change. I didn’t like trying new things. I liked the thought of security and the illusion things wouldn’t change. But here I was being forced to completely change my life, my outlook, and adapt. Instead of playing offense, I was now in defense mode and forced to do what I needed to in order to protect myself and my family. In short, this life experience that could have been devastating, is probably one of the greatest things to impact my adult life. I found new ways to occupy empty time, I learned to enjoy those quiet moments alone, be content, and focus on me. I went out and bought my first “real” camera. I began taking pictures, traveling around the area I lived in, and seeing beauty in a new way.


Through divorce, separation from family, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, having my sixteen year career in the Air Force cut four years shy of retirement and pension eligibility, and having to pack up and move somewhere with an unknown future, I’ve had my share of stressors. A couple of those started sending me on a downward spiral that I didn’t want to travel again. People ask me often, when hearing my story, how I survived or bounced back so quickly. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard either. It came with some difficulty, but here is how.


First? A lot of prayer! A lot of time in self-reflection and thinking about who I wanted to be when I came out on the other end. What did I want the last page of the story to read like? Did I want my story to be one of defeat, or one of triumph and victory?

Secondly, I found something I loved and I dove head first into it! Picking up the camera, traveling around, or even just photographing a family, gave me an outlet to focus on. Patriot Images wasn’t founded upon the love for photography. Sure, I love taking photos and I love giving a family or person something that can be treasured for a lifetime and then some, but that’s not the driving factor. Photography was and continues to be an outlet in which I can focus and help make an impact. It was never about money. It was about connecting and healing.

Another area, although I’m not always that great with it, is exactly what I am doing right now. Writing. As a teenager and going through some of the tough challenges teens face, I learned that I could express myself through writing. Maybe someone would stumble across it and it could help them. If not, then at least I was putting my thoughts down on paper and sorting them out for myself.


Whatever you’re going through, there is something on the other side. The emptiness and loneliness that you’re feeling? It will not last forever. It can’t. I know what is happening around you doesn’t always match what’s going on inside you. I know that while you may be physically surrounded by love, you sometimes feel so deserted and alone inside. I do promise that it cannot and will not last forever. Every storm ends. Take these moments and decide how you want the last page of your book to read. Choose victory over defeat. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, how you want to feel, and what you think you could do to get you to that point. Maybe not immediately, but what are some steps you can take to move through the darkness?


Lastly, I am always available through email, FB Messenger, or by telephone. While I am no expert and I cannot promise to get you through those pits of despair in life, I will certainly walk with you through them and listen. It’s better than walking alone!

Depression – The Silent War

I have really debated the past couple of days on whether to write this or not. It’s personal and deep, and involves taking a journey down a road that although familiar, isn’t a pleasant one to travel. But I am a traveling man, and not all roads are easy to travel down.

Depression. Depending on who you speak to, you will get different responses regarding this word. Even within the last decade, my own personal thoughts and opinions regarding depression have changed.

Why am I writing this? Don’t I usually choose topics that are a little easier and pleasant to absorb? Yes, but I also dedicate this blog site to impacting those near and far and trying to positively influence those who read it.

This particular topic and blog entry has been on my mind constantly for the past two days. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2016, which led to my early retirement from the United States Air Force after sixteen years active duty. Part of having MS is trouble falling asleep. Because I have trouble sleeping, I was prescribed a sleeping medication recently. This particular medication has caused me to have extremely vivid dreams, none of which have been great dreams.

I will skip the details of the dream I had two mornings ago, but immediately upon waking, I took the contents and overall theme of the dream, as a prompt to write this and hopefully inspire others to share their own stories.

I’m not a doctor, a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional. I have zero textbook experience on the subject of depression. What I do have however, is years of hands-on practical knowledge, experience, and coping mechanisms used to deal with this silent killer.

I call depression a silent killer for many reasons. Almost more times than not, those who deal with depression will keep silent about it. For different reasons, they’re ashamed, and don’t want it to become evident to those around them, let alone themselves. These silent victims walk through their daily routines, wearing masks and hiding the pain they feel inside.

I am no stranger to wearing masks. For years, I became an expert at changing them often, and creating different ones for various occasions in life. I have never been one that is talented in the area of hiding facial expressions. Those around me could usually tell how I felt inside by the way I looked on the outside. So I created masks. I portrayed a smile on the outside while my heart and soul screamed on the inside.

Many times over the past years, I’ve talked about silent warriors fighting silent battles, and the battlefield being hidden within the four walls of their home or within their minds. They’re fighting these silent battles in a silent war, and if they make it through the night and into the next day, they’re winning. I’ve talked about this often and it’s so true.

When I was in the military, depression wasn’t something people talked about very much. The perception was there, especially in my career field and carrying a weapon, that any sort of mental or emotional health problem was a career killer. So you ended up having so many kill themselves on the inside to save their careers. With a rise in mental health awareness programs to combat Post Traumatic Stress and Suicide, the stigma has started to be shunned out of most units. Those who were in positions that did nothing but support the stigma mentioned above, have found themselves either getting with the program and following suit with other leaders, or being hidden in places where they will have minimal influence and impact on others. Good!

It’s a hard place to be when you’re standing in a room full of people, only to feel completely and utterly alone. For those who have never been surrounded but feel an intense loneliness and emptiness, it’s hard to fathom. To be surrounded by happiness and light, but feel as though you’re standing in a dark corner, is excruciating. To want nothing more than to break and scream at the top of your lungs, but thinking you can’t because they’re depending on you to be the happy person you always present yourself to be, is nothing short of painful. It’s like being stung over and over by the same bee.

Many think that someone who is depressed is suicidal. Not true at all. Someone could be in such a state of loneliness, sadness, and emotional despair, they don’t want to continue. They lay down at night praying they won’t wake up, unable to fathom another day in pain. But they’re not suicidal. They just want their pain to go away. Imagine the most excruciating toothache. Everything you tried to do to make the pain go away, failed and you’re left walking around with this pain that no one can see but only you can feel. Wouldn’t you do anything, including the removal of the tooth, to make the pain subside?

If you’re reading this and can relate, I’m here to tell you there is hope. I can also tell you that you can think all the happy and positive thoughts in the world, and it isn’t going to work. Why? Because that’s not you and that’s not how you were wired. And you know what else? That is okay!

I started this post by telling you I am not a doctor and have zero professional experience in the case of mental and emotional health. But I have experience, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here writing this for you today. I’m going to talk about things I’ve done to help in my next entry. It might just save you hundreds of dollars or another long period of pain and darkness. Maybe you won’t have to wear that mask so much. If none of the above, at least you will know that there’s another person fighting alongside you and cheering for your victory.

Who Am I? Part 2

Wow! What a week in world news it has been. Once again, as I have written in other blog entries, we are a nation divided and one doesn’t have to look very far to see it. Open up your Facebook newsfeed, and if you have a diverse mixture of friends, you’ll see the debating back and forth over the bombing and killing of an Iranian general.

I’m not here to talk about that however. I want to continue and conclude on a top I started at the very end of 2019. I want to answer the question that I and so many are faced with at different times in our lives. Who are we? Who am I? How do I want to start this new year? Who do I want to be in 2020?

Like I wrote in the first part of this discussion, I am not big into New Year’s resolutions. I think they tend to fizzle out after a couple of weeks when we realize they just aren’t fun anymore. The beginning of a new year is good though because it sometimes forces us to recognize areas within ourselves that need improvement. Some people create goals for health reasons, while others create goals to try and better themselves in another way. Some just use January 1st as a benchmark for something. For example, I shaved what facial hair I had left on December 31st, and started growing my beard fresh the following morning. It’s a benchmark for me to look back on and see growth over time. There are other things I am using January 1st as a benchmark for however, to see growth over time.

While I don’t have a resolution for 2020, I do have a goal in mind. Overall, I want to be a better me than I was in 2019. I want to look back at the end of this year, and besides having a glorious beard to gaze upon in the mirror, I want to see personal growth. I want to take more time this year to reflect on life, to spend time with family and friends, grow as a person, and take the time be by myself and rejuvenate personally. As a photographer, and it’s probably weird to read this, but I want to hold the camera less. I want to see less through the lens and more through my eyes at the moment. I want to embrace each moment of 2020, whatever it brings, and use those moments as stepping stones to a better me.

For all of you reading this, and myself as well, 2020 will bring many things. There will be victories and defeat, life and death, happiness and sadness, as well as laughter and sorrow. It’s inevitable these things will exist, just as it is inevitable that we will look back on the last day of this year and reflect once again. So who am I? I am not the version of myself I would like to tomorrow, but I am grateful I am not the same person I was yesterday. I am who I am today, striving each day to be a better version.

Happy New Year to all those who read this, and may this year bring many lessons and blessings to each of you!