The Protectors® Podcast

#470 | Colonel Gregory Gadson (Ret.) & Terese Schlachter | An Inspiring Tale of Resilience: A Deep Dive into 'Waypoints'

November 21, 2023 Dr. Jason Piccolo Episode 470
The Protectors® Podcast
#470 | Colonel Gregory Gadson (Ret.) & Terese Schlachter | An Inspiring Tale of Resilience: A Deep Dive into 'Waypoints'
The Protectors® Podcast +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Support
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What happens when a combat-wounded veteran meets a seasoned investigative reporter? A 16-year journey of resilience, transformation, and an inspiring book is born. Welcome to our gripping conversation with Greg Gadson and Terese Crutcher-Marin, authors of 'Waypoints'. There's a tale to tell here, a tale of Greg's heroic journey to overcome a debilitating injury. Their story, which began at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, revolves around the theme of perseverance and the power of a positive mindset.

FINDING WAYPOINTS
A Warrior’s Journey Towards Peace and Purpose

by Terese Schlachter and Colonel Gregory D. Gadson, (Ret.)

Support the show

Make sure to check out Jason on IG @drjasonpiccolo


Speaker 2:

They're record button. Hey, welcome to Protectors, incredible guests today, and I'm super excited to talk because I've been following Greg's career for a while now, but, Therese, I haven't been following yours until today. I appreciate you both coming on. We're going to talk about your book, but we're also going to be talking about a lot of different things, and one of them is Waypoints, and it seems like Waypoints brought you two together. Now, when did you first and you know, welcome to the show, by the way, and, believe me, we do a little pre a pre interview before this, we were just chatting so we hit record, but how did you guys link up together?

Speaker 3:

Well, I was working at the Pentagon Channel and I had just gotten there and one of the first stories that I covered was the opening of a new rehab center at Walter Reed. It was called the Matzi, the military advanced training center, and they, greg was there demonstrating some new equipment. He was learning to use his new prosthetic legs and he was kind of. He was in a harness and a harness was attached to the ceiling by a cable and a carabiner and he was walking past me and I was standing next to my camera person, steve Grysiger, and he walked by and he took a spill right in front of me and he was kind of hanging there, a little Pinocchio-like, and he looked up at me out of the corner of his eye and he said, hey, are you going to use that? And I said yeah, and he's kind of crumpled and got himself together and so I better do it again. And he stomped off in his prosthetics and that was the whole point, right, that people got to see him recover and keep walking.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, jason, I like to call that. You got me with the hello moment.

Speaker 3:

That was our meet, cute Jason.

Speaker 2:

Now you must, you know, if anybody I've seen your pictures, I've seen you and you have this intimidating look to you, very intimidating. But Therese, when you first saw him, was there more of a sense of you saw like a sense of humor behind the eyes, or how did this dynamic work? Were you intimidated as well, or were you just kind of like, uh, I didn't know enough to be intimidated.

Speaker 3:

I always tell people I didn't know much about the military and knew even less about football, and that was why I was the perfect person to write this book. I didn't know his rank. He was wearing probably shorts and a T-shirt and I wouldn't have understood the rank anyway At that point. I was so new to covering the Pentagon and no, but there was just something about him. It was he just had a presence and after we shot our story he left and I asked the PR person, pat Casemardis, who was that, cause I hadn't even gotten his full name or his rank and she said that's Greg Gatson. He's Lieutenant Colonel. I think you're gonna be seeing a lot of him. He didn't know how much.

Speaker 2:

A lot. Now, one thing I love about the story, too, is like I got the show notes beforehand and I'm like, oh, the Giants. Hey, that's what I'm talking about, cause you know, growing up in New Jersey, it's to me it's the New Jersey Giants. Okay, listen, if you play and practice and everything in Jersey, you're the Jersey Giants.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

Hey, you wanna get. You wanna get bankrolled from New York or whatever you're Jersey Giants.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, why does New York get credit for both teams that reside in New Jersey, right?

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm, absolutely Now. Did you ever have, besides having a friend there, did you have ties at Jersey before that?

Speaker 1:

Well, other than no, no significant ties. I'll tell you, as a high school football player I idolized Lawrence Taylor and so that was sort of my first connection to the Giants and you know part sales, that whole linebacking core back in the day. You know, lawrence Taylor is also from Virginia, from the Wysburg area of Virginia, and so that was again another sort of personal, you know internal connection. I was also my first duty station. I enlisted in the Army as well. First I went to the West Point Prep School at the Fort Mamma, new Jersey.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 1:

So not very far from well, I don't know. I wanna say not very far from the Netherlands, but not super far.

Speaker 2:

Well as Jersey, everything's fairly close yeah.

Speaker 1:

So that was my physical connection to New Jersey. It was my first duty station in the Army. My first experience in the Army was Fort Dixon, Fort Mamma.

Speaker 2:

Now LT man. Lt was the, you know, anybody that knows the Giants back in the day. Lt was the man, yeah, and what position was he in?

Speaker 1:

He still is he's still the metric that all outside linebackers are measured against you know, we're talking about this Parsons guy from Dallas the next potential, but he is the benchmark for that position.

Speaker 2:

And you know, growing up I always wanted to be a linebacker, but even though I was playing line because I was big back then. But yeah, what positions did you play?

Speaker 1:

In high school I was an inside linebacker and at the prep school I was, and you know, I got moved outside at West Point. But I was tops 5'11", 195 pounds. I wasn't very big at all.

Speaker 2:

You know, a lot of dynamics come from my son's 15 now and he loves football but there's so much leadership, dynamic and so much drive that goes beyond it. Now you growing up being in a team environment and then getting into the military, you have the building blocks of it, but then when you have to pivot, when you get a devastating injury that you think is gonna take everything from you you know, on face value it looks like you did a clean pivot like right away. You transitioned right away into I'm not gonna let this destroy me, but there was I'm sure there had to be dark times.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. You know what I would say is for the first, you know, initial months, I just had such kind of overwhelming external support that I would say it almost kind of cushioned the blow emotionally, mentally, physically, until you know, things started to normalize and so, you know, I had more time with kind of those thoughts and what my future had. And there was a point where I just said this is just not the life that I want to live. Not, I don't want to be a burden on my family. And I would say that I got to a point where I mentally wanted to give up. I mentally tried to quit, emotionally I tried to quit. And that sense of quitting, jason, was just absolutely foreign to me. It was like, I mean, imagine being at practice and you faked an injury so you could get out of a drill. It just was not. I couldn't do it. In fact, that's a great example of what I was trying to do. I was trying to fake an injury to get out of a drill, to not to live, to not to push on, despite. You know, we don't know when, you know, think about you're doing a drill, or when is the coach going to blow the whistle for the end of practice, right, you don't know, but you keep going and that's what I, that's what was an aid to me, that was, that was part of my character that formed to a, to a degree that maybe I was not even truly aware of, because, in this low moment when I wanted to say no more, that wasn't me.

Speaker 2:

You know this, these wars are so different than, like the, the wars that, like, maybe, our parents or their generations fought, and that there has been so many people that have been injured but so many people that have lived. And Therese, you're visiting I mean coming from your background yes, tv, you've seen it, you've reported on it. But experiencing it and getting there and you meet someone like Greg, who's who's? You know there's a darkness behind the eyes. He's know there's pain, but the outward face is that leadership value. It's the. They're not going to see me quit. My guys even though they're not my guys, they're my peers are not going to see me quit because they may be looking at him for inspiration. These had to have hit you because, yeah, the civilian world's a little bit different but there's a lot of experiences in the military that we have and veterans have and those who have served had and those who have served with them, like IE families and everything. See, how was this experience for you to? You know, be around this and how did that make you pivot into like a different? You know, like huh, this is interesting.

Speaker 3:

It was life changing. I walked in that day and I met Greg and I met a number of wounded military who were demonstrating all this different equipment and what was so astounding was their attitude. They, they were not, they weren't going to quit. I mean, Greg had an exceptional presence, but they all were very strong and very present and it drew, it drew me in.

Speaker 2:

Now, when did you guys first start collaborating? When did the thought of you know finding waypoints come?

Speaker 1:

Well, so, and I think this is a great point to make, jason, but this is Teresa's first book. So, but you know, not to say a novel, she's been, you know, part of an industry of communication, you know her professional life, but still a first book. And so it was something that she, a goal that Therese wanted to pursue, the right. And so she was. While she was working, she was taking some courses on writing, and she'll fill in where I miss out. But essentially, she approached me one day and said you know, I would like to use your story, as you know, something to write about, something to write about that's real. And I said, yes, I agreed, I, you know, I trusted her and you know it was very, you know, early, you know, less than probably six or seven months into us knowing each other. But, and so from my, you know, from my bench point, because I trusted her and I was willing to talk and share with her, I knew there was sort of a, there was a cathartic piece to this for me and I didn't mind sharing it with her. But I made this one specific request or edict was look, because I felt this was very personal, was that I look? I'm not doing this because I want to publish a book. I was really pretty adamant and not for the idea that this would become a book and I'm going to pass it on to Teresa so she can when.

Speaker 3:

I started writing and I took it to a workshop he had made me. He had allowed me to write the book but required that I call him Harry. He called me to be called Harry, so I used the name Harry and I took it into this workshop and you know, everyone reads your work and you exchange critique and one woman in the workshop just went ballistic saying I've heard this story before. This guy's name isn't Harry, his name is Greg Gatson and you're plagiarizing this story, oh my gosh. I had to really talk the instructor into understanding that. No, I was in fact writing about Greg Gatson, but I was just using the name Harry at his request, and it wasn't too long after that that Greg allowed me to use his real name.

Speaker 2:

Now there's one thing like with the you know the pre-show notes I get here. This is this one hit me because it's you know, I kind of have a personal look at it too. After months at Walter Reed, involving multiple surgeries, including both leg amputations and repair of a broken arm, he hit a low point, almost gave up, but a vision gave him what he felt was salvation from hell. As Saris recounts, he knew now the Lord had been drawing back the curtain on hell because he, a mere man, had questioned him, he had doubted the path ahead, but God himself had presented an epiphany. He had handed him hope. Greg knew that now that he was to put his trust in the Lord and God would provide the waypoints. Now that you know God comes and you know this isn't a particularly religious show we are. You know, I don't shy away from religion. But the lowest points. How many people in a military you know like when they get the basic training, they get the little mini Bible I still have mine over there and you remember about God and you remember your low points or whatever your higher being is, you reach out to it. Now you guys are collaborating, but you're seeing a different part. You're seeing both of your. You're seeing a different part of yourselves and I'd imagine the experience of writing this book has made you both kind of enlightened to different worlds, if that makes any sense Not like in a religious world, but just a different perspective being a combat wounded veteran and being a journalist and then coming together and trying to tell this story so other people may be able to read this and understand that it's. You can reach out to higher beings. You can reach out to whatever is going to get you through these hard times.

Speaker 1:

Well, jason, I will say, in this journey with Therese, the questions, you know, I say the repeated questions, the communication, it actually is profoundly allowed me to I say profoundly consistently share my message. I mean, you know, it's one thing to sort of think about these questions and even answer them to yourself, but it's another to communicate these answers to someone to work through. How do you explain something, how do you explain that? And you know again, you know, as we live here and talk and you ask that profound question again, it's another way of me kind of thinking about well, you know, this is what was happening, I mean in real time, you know, 15 years ago. She's asking me these questions and I'm talking about it as I'm living it, and later I am communicating it, you know, and in many different ways.

Speaker 3:

This perspective. I mean, I started this 16 years ago. Right, we started this 16 years ago and I probably really finished it two years ago. You know, publishing process takes a while and his perspective changed so much from when we first started talking until the most recent contributions because he was able to, you know, sit back and see the bigger picture. It's fascinating and it made it made a better book.

Speaker 2:

Well, you know, the books are great. I love books and, but a lot of them, you know you, people write a book and it's just, it's there for profit and everything and boom. But a 16 year journey is different. And what, teresa, is one thing I love about you not having a background in and military and the functions and forms and everything, is because you were an investigator. It's just like me, you know, working as a special agent for a billion years before I retired. I always assume that everybody knows what I'm knowing. So when I'm talking to Greg, you know, as a veteran, I assume we both know acronyms, we both know this and that. But you, as an investigative reporter now essentially investigating this book, you're drawing on his experiences and his background and those around him to build a story so everybody can listen to it. Not everybody has this dynamic of being in a military, not everybody could understand these waypoints. But I believe a book like this needs to be read by people who don't have that military background, because the devastation that Greg felt and lives with needs to be understood by others, because they may be feeling with you, know, and thousands of thousands.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, jason, you nailed that with the investor because you know, when you, when you read about the night, I that's like I have no memory. So she, she built that, she constructed it in an amazing way. I mean, that was obviously her background and you were. That was a tremendous investigative. It's like a report. I mean it's really, and again, and I had no way, that was a great, that was great for me, it was tough for me, but it was it's. It's something that many people like me that experience. What we have don't have. There's ACE in the background. I see ACE.

Speaker 2:

I love it, you know. The other thing too is nobody wants to read an AAR and lessons learned are great, but there needs to be a story there, there needs to be passion, there needs to be like a vested interest in learning. So Therese putting together these stories and learning how to write in a different perspective, because you know investigative reporting and reporting and being in that world, it's really it's kind of dry. I mean, you know you're going to get the, you're going to get the point across, but but bringing Greg's story to life, let's go through that process. Because you know someone who loves writing and loves talking to authors and stuff. It's really interesting to talk to someone putting this together for the first time.

Speaker 3:

Hi, I was just a dog with a bone. And I meet a person who's lost both of his legs in a war and he goes on to coach the New York Giants to a Super Bowl victory. Duh, you know. Pretty good story. Probably someone should tell that story. And but, putting it together, finding all of these guys even though not all, I never found all of them, but a number of people who were at the scene that night of the explosion, unearthing them because they had gotten out of the military, gone on with their lives. So that was, that was a bit of investigative work. I the the Brad Bandy who was in the vehicle when it exploded and who suddenly realized, when he realized that Greg was hurt oh my goodness, I'm in charge. Here I'm, I could run the scene and I couldn't find him anywhere. I was asked my friends who were in the Army to look through the directories. I found people who knew him and they said to me you're never going to find that guy. And one day I was just going back on the Google for the millionth time Probably had been about a year looking for him and I found a document with someone with the last name Bandy and there was an email and I'm like you know whatever. I just sent an email. It was on the off chance and figured I'd never hear anything from that and a couple of weeks later my cell phone rang and I didn't recognize the number I normally wouldn't have picked up for some reason. I did and said hello and he said is this Therese? And I said yeah, and he says hey, my name is Brad Bandy. I hear you've been looking for me and he provided the forensics. You know, I have the documents and the and much of the story. And Eric Brown, the medic who tied the tourniquets. He was super helpful. He wasn't as difficult to find. He was still in the military. Frederick Johnson, who gave him mouth to mouth for cessation. Greg was actually able to put me in touch with with him. He was super helpful. So it really was just a matter of you know, finding, finding those guys. And once I found them, I said Greg Ganson's name. They filled their guts. They were just so happy to help. They just wanted to talk about Greg's story.

Speaker 2:

Greg. I love it. Greg. What's what's one thing you want people to get from this book?

Speaker 1:

I would say, really, just that you know, we're not in control of the vast majority of things that happen in life, but we are in control of ourselves, we own, we own our energy and and what we do with it. And do we, do we give it away to things that we can't control, or do we focus it on the things that we can and and and then that life is, life isn't, is part of life is that it's tough, and and tough is okay, it's all right, it's all right to struggle.

Speaker 2:

I do love how he closed the book, my glasses half full, because in my mind I did not lose my legs. I gave my legs and service to my country. That is a sacrifice I and my family made in a reason we are free. We did not lose anything, we gave something. This has been our journey and you know I love that. I think people you know now that the GWAT is kind of, you know we're not going to say we're winding down. I don't think it's ever going to be over, but the main conflicts are winding down. We don't have as many troops deployed but there's still sacrifice and there's still people serving and there's still always going to be someone that's going to raise their hand and potentially sacrifice for their country, and I like that. We still have people out there that are willing to take this oath. So I do appreciate that. Well, I appreciate you both coming on today and everybody. Make sure you pick up the book finding waypoints at warrior's journey towards peace and purpose. Welcome to have one. Oh, there it is. I'm picking up my copy. I'm going to pick it up.

Conversation With Greg and Therese
Collaborating on a 16-Year Journey
Life's Tough, but We're in Control