SPECIAL FORCES LEGACY – A Memoir In Bits and Pieces
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Several diverse audiences will enjoy the fast paced action of a happily bizarre life. Engaging stories – Combat tales, plane crashes, child molesters, SWAT Teams, sailors, violent children and adults and far more – written in
‘factual fiction’ will thrill many and off-put some. Oh well.
[/fusion_text][fusion_text]Three excerpts from A Special Forces Legacy can be found under ‘buttons’ above: a combat experience, a private plane crash-landing and the story of a violent client who threw me head first into a white hot oven. A video of the treatment of an impossibly violent autistic client will be appended soon. The leftmost pics under the ‘Clients’ button are of him, one at the beginning of therapy and one half way through. The video begins with him hitting his helmet face mask with a knee. 500 times an hour. Seven years later his legs are no longer tied. His forehead is permanently concave from hitting door edges. He has injured many people, some hospitalized. The parents deserve medals.
A Special Forces Legacy is dedicated to Ed and Phinny – who were my closest friends – Green Beret lieutenants KIA in Nam. Ed has a son named after me I’ve never met. Was excruciating to return his dad’s motorcycle that I was maintaining. Phinny was fragged, supposedly by a local soldier his team had hired and trained. Happened late at night in camp as he stepped outside of, and was framed in, a tent light. I’m still suspicious. This memoir is also dedicated to the multitudes of unsung heroes, both military and civilian – especially caregivers who keep very disabled adult children at home despite overwhelming hardship and sometimes continuing danger.
Factual fiction is explicitly true essays written in engaging style while maintaining ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. Except names can be fictitious of course and some are. Space time may be compacted and a fiction format – setting, conflict and resolution – enables surprise endings, can enhance humor and allows bits and pieces to be ‘stand alone’ chapters.[/fusion_text][fusion_text][/fusion_text][title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”double solid” sep_color=”#e6e6e6″ margin_top=”40″ margin_bottom=”0″ class=”” id=””]About Michael Bedinger. PhD[/title][fusion_text]
Green Beret training and experience – a hard earned legacy – colored my life completely ever after. For instance it allowed me to work safely with very violent clients – many clients no one else would work with. PhD – ed psych – from the University of Florida. I taught at five colleges, was a ‘deputy director’ of Psychological Services for the Florida Department of Corrections, where I evaluated SWAT teams for psychologicals and tactics – did AR-15 demonstrations, and of course evaluated hundreds of violent offenders. Monitored the PhD psychology departments at dozens of prisons. Next I served as senior psychologist FL Department of Children and Families responsible for monitoring psychology in 15 counties – much of my work was with violent intellectually challenged and or psychotic individuals. Among too many duties to count, I sometimes served as child abuse expert witness and always as monitor for dozens of NGOs – then FL retirement enabling 10 years private practice specializing in therapy with violent people. Post doc behavior analysis certification (retired). Proud father, private pilot, scuba/sailboat certified. Published author, parachute jumpmaster, combat decorated. Former ACBL ‘national master’ contract bridge [card game], and lately twice to the national team (8-ball/9-ball) pool championships.
February, 1967 – General Walt, US Marine Corps, offered me a direct commission as a Captain in the US Marines Corps and placed a letter so stipulating in my military file.
August, 1967 – The commanding general of the US Army Special Warfare Center asked me to parachute with him (General’s requests are orders for the rest of us) – then he appointed me jumpmaster for the dozen jumpers on the manifesto. My last jump is one of the greatest honors a Green Beret can earn.
1982, A distinguished psychology professor said, “I wish my graduate students did research like you do.” Later I was a consulting editor for a top journal -Behavior Disorders – for five years.
January, 1991 – Certificate of Appreciation from the State of Florida, Human Rights Advocacy Committee. My favorite award ever.
1992 – Association for Retarded Citizens of Florida Professional of the Year. So many unsung heroes there…
1962 to present – It has been my great honor to have worked for dozens of years with some of America’s greatest (usually unsung) heroes both at home and abroad. This is the steel in my Special Forces legacy.
Para 3 Bronze Star narrative: When the camp and outpost were attacked on 24 June 1966, with extremely heavy mortar fire, Captain Bedinger directed fire so effectively that the bleeding enemy retreated leaving numerous dead and wounded in their wake. All this was done in the midst of an extremely heavy enemy bombardment from an extremely dangerous and vulnerable position manned only by himself.
Click on the Bronze Star to the top right for additional combat bonafides.
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mortar pit – me front right, supporting ground ops – people dying. I was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for a med-evac in close combat. Additionally, among others, the US Bronze Star, and from a US Marine general – the Joint Service Commendation Medal.
Excerpt from A Special Forces Legacy:
[…middle of Chapter__ …]
The next morning an O1E over-powered Cessna lands right on schedule. I climb in and brief the pilot as we take off. Earlier my exec departed camp with a company of locals and one other roundeye. He’s a couple of klicks (2K meters) out on search and destroy. We’re attempting to enlarge our sphere of influence. Quang Nam (largest province area-wise in Nam) has been owned by Charlie since WWII – local governments, police forces, social agencies, etc.
I refresh myself on the mission by scrutinizing the checkpoints I’ve given my exec. He’ll take his company point to point while I’ll watch our troops from above. We keep in touch by hand radios. I usually see the enemy first, except when they are well camouflaged.
“Zero Six, Zero Five, over”, a call from my executive officer.
Simultaneously, I see Viet Cong appear out of camouflaged trenches on a tree line and my troops throwing themselves down into a rice paddy filled with about three inches of water. Not much cover but I can see my guys are laying down a good base of fire. Good troops do this- poorly trained troops have their cheeks beside their rifle stocks instead of over them. Eyes above the stock keeps barrels level. Green troops usually fire high at their opponents while better trained troops fire accurately. We hire and train our own troops.
Almost before my exec finishes his hail, I bark, “05, ’06, We see ‘em and we’re doin’ our thing. Out!” I know he’ll keep Charlies’ heads down as best he can while we wrench toward the direct line of the sun to the VC.
Since the instant at my bark – Out – not a single nanosecond has transpired – the pilot simultaneously shoved the throttle to the firewall and made an almost right angle left turn at the sun. We quickly hit the sun-target line, the pilot yanks the stick hard right, kicks full right rudder, and we wheel head first – the spin would make Disney envious – to thrusting like a missile straight at Charlie. The sun now directly behind us, concealing us. We hope.
Our descent feels like insanely accelerating down a parking garage ramp – a crash is absolutely inevitable – at fifteen hundred feet the ground begins blurring, runs towards us – the plane suddenly stands absolutely still, the ground looms exploding at us growing gigantic fast – filling the windshield, features barely recognizable.
The pilot, an Air Force controller who is on a radio with jet aircraft upstairs, intercom to me, “Pulling out left. Fire the right wing rocket on my command – if you’re comfy back there.”
Comfy?, “Wilco,” I answer calmly. The hills we’re diving at look like a wedge. A high hill on our right’s crest is slanted east. A half dozen smaller hills with tops each a little lower than the next, all leading towards Da Nang on the coast like a huge door stop. We pull out towards the low side and fire from the opposite side of the plane – no surprise here, we don’t want to shoot ourselves down – I open the window on my right and hold it open in the hurricane prop blast with my elbow, my M-16 barrel outside up to the rear sight. My left hand moves over my head to above my right shoulder to the rocket’s one inch silver switch. i stare down the wing, perpendicular to the dive, the view is more clear.
We know VC mass their fire by lying side by side and pointing their weapons up parallel to each other and firing their AK 47’s on full automatic at the sun, so we have to fly through their volley of machine gun fire.
I sit on my flak jacket.
We’re on a 70 degree trajectory diving full power right out of the sun at the approximately 40 VC who are shooting in unison at us – we’re a target they can’t see directly, so they shoot at the sun. My adrenalin is rushing.
The pilot, “Now!”
I flip the switch forward and slam my hand down to my rifle pistol grip. The plane shudders as the rocket spits off from under the wing. While the plane is finishing the shutter – way less than a second – the pilot wrenches us hard left and up, and three or four g’s throw and hold me against the window.
Despite being crushed – moving is virtually impossible – I raise the window a little with my right forearm so I can see my front and rear sights aligned together clearly, through the glass rim. I shoot at anything that looks human lying prone. Full automatic. Left-handed. I’ve been here before.
I’m flattened against the window frame as the dive bottoms out, and I fire the last of my rounds. I don’t think we’re hit. Who knows? We’re still flying. We’ll inspect the plane on the ground later. My troops downstairs continue firing, their sounds quietly punctuate the overwhelming silence that comes after the deafening roar of my M16 quits blasting in my face.
I struggle to change my magazine. The moving image of the enemy drops below my horizon out of sight as we roll farther left and up. The g’s ease up and I can move again. I look farther right and see a Phantom jet diving at the target – two 100 pound bombs land right on our rocket smoke. Followed by another jet and another and another. People dying.[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”http://michaelbedinger.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/A-2nd-F4-Phantom-releasing-ordinance-after-the-1st.png” style_type=”none” hover_type=”zoomin” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][fusion_text]
I signal the pilot and he calls off the jets.
After a very deep breath I mumble into the intercom,”You’re way too damn comfy up here.”
My team leader was shot down – both he and the pilot survived. There are hundreds of Green Berets and forward air controllers who made flights like the one described above.
Monsoon Before and After
Four of several types of air support that SF Camp Thuong Duc received from DaNang, twenty-five miles east of us on the coast. Two of ours were shot down and one ditched nearby in Charlie territory during my tour, 1966-7.
A Special Forces Legacy
I was in three really tough airplane incidents – two as a pilot and one as a passenger on a commercial DC-7 like the one pictured below.
The water off the coast of Alaska will kill in minutes in October. I was a US Army Private E2 on a commercial DC-7 that crash landed there – we hit the water a dozen times one after the other like the ‘skipping stone’ we were – ditched – the plane hit, bounced back into the air again and again, each one a little shorter and a quicker splash than the last. I climbed out on a wing after insuring no one was left in the plane (unless someone was underwater, perhaps seat-belted). Everyone survived. The cabin had one foot of water from the latrines right away. I floated people – head first torpedoes – out a window to a stewardess standing on a submerged wing.
The chapters describing this and two additional ‘so close to lethal’ private pilot incidents are harrowing.
Below is the story of a crash landing that happened in the middle of a most wonderful flight.
Flying is hours of fascination punctuated by moments of stark terror. (paraphrase anonymous)
Two herds of wild horses are squatters on an island a half mile off the Atlantic coast of south Georgia. Spanish conquistador leftovers. Horses with history, waves, sky, sand and us, same time same place – a nice equation to consider and easily doable by Cessna.
Predicting which would be more visually compelling – viewing wild horses sprinkled on an island or seeing an iridescent isle made stark naked – didn’t have to be academic.
I rented a Cessna Skyhawk four-seater in Gainesville, Florida. Up we went, and in an hour we buzzed Cumberland Island National Seashore Park from the waves, and gawked.
We were low and slow at twenty-five feet, cruising by in a northerly direction about a hundred fifty yards out – identifying colors, colts’n fillies, biggest and oldest, and we couldn’t tell which was the stallion. A close friend was riding shotgun, another and his significant other in back.
A herd walked by single file directly towards, then beside us, heading to the south end of the half mile wide elongated strip of bright green vegetation. This gives way reluctantly to shimmering yellow sand north. Their destination a fresh water pond. 100 degree day, direct sunlight. The animals paid absolutely no attention to our noisy flyby. Undoubtedly not their first.
If studs outlawed by the stallions were in the bush we didn’t see them, but they might have hidden along the islands S-curved spine. We didn’t fly directly over and scatter hooves in all directions.
The near sea level ridge line is a ‘lazy S’ of trees between two emerald ovals – small fresh water jewels at each lands’ end – trees and grass south married to sunlit sands north. And a slightly curving creek on the ocean side connecting the fresh water pools.
People pollution noted on the mainland. As if we’re not.
FAA Regs required flying the lee side near the coastline at a minimum of 1000 feet because of the high rise hotels, people. I didn’t fly there since it wouldn’t be close enough for horse or other detail. Fortunately big brother didn’t care how low and lazily we were slow air-swimming the other side, close to the waves.
A second herd, a little smaller, surrounded another forty foot water hole at the far northern end – fifteen necks rainbowing majestically to the water, and about a dozen lolly-gagging, nibbling at sparse grass near the beach. Again, the colors, colt’s and fillies, old and young and which’s the stallion? Awesome…
Equine and isle equally compelling!
When our cropduster-like passes stopped yielding new thrills we headed to Cedar Key for dinner. We flew back to G’ville, directly on our flight path to the other Florida coast.
Being safety-minded to a fault, I landed and topped off the gas tanks to replace the couple of hour’s fuel we’d used. Pilot ritual before taking off and landing is always a yahoo challenge, like the exciting focus of slow love making while anticipating the imminent, brain blasting liftoff.
An aside: During a visit to San Francisco a friend and I touristed from up high. We circled over a naval yard, the north bay and side-by-side coastal buildings everywhere. Looked like I could walk from one end of California to the other without leaving the hallway. My favorite picture is one my friend took of a fast moving, incoming fog bank – shot through the shadow of our prop – as we swooped down towards the Golden Gate from over Alcatraz. Well before I could turn around, all below disappeared. We quickly 180’d, or would have been stuck above the fog blanket.
One Half of the Golden Gate Bridge, middle left, seen through the propeller’s shadow.
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A giant paint roller – oblivion sweeping everything out of sight.
We got to Cedar Key in less than an hour and I circled over a house near town. Cedar Key is where several planes have had fatal accidents. My instructor had insisted I fly an overpowered six-seater out at night, with him, to make sure I could fly a plane in an ink bottle (his words). On cloudy nights the lighting from houses along the strip orients the runway on takeoff but immediately after liftoff there is no outside reference whatsoever. There is no feel for out there, up, down or sideways. Blackout. Ink bottle.
Assured that the taxi lady in the house below had heard me circling – and would come get us – we arced to a west downwind, leveling at 800 feet. I set up for landing heading towards the bay, on the short, narrow island. Twenty degrees of flaps. I turned final about a half mile out over the Gulf. I aimed a dollop above a stark white-bright, four foot high seawall sprouting from the waterline of the tiny island runway. Identical sea walls at gulf and bay side. Made the strip look like an aircraft carrier. Those babies turn into the wind for pilots – we had a rough crosswind. Cedar Key always has a rough crosswind.
We were holding a good glide slope. Suddenly the altimeter plummeted. I straightened up, startled.
“Aren’t we going down quicker than usual?” my co-pilot asked calmly. She has about a hundred hours as my navigator.
Simultaneously, I shoved the throttle full to the wall. Usual procedure is halfway but I’m safety minded to a fault. And I heaved the nose downwards to gain speed. The descent dial – altimeter – showed we were dropping 1000 feet per minute and I expected 400.
Nothing to do except keep the wings level, watch the water, watch the airspeed and wait.
“Ground effect” is compressed air near land or water, produced primarily by the plane’s wings pushing air downward during descent, and is a little more supportive than surrounding air. I gained a “touch” of yoke back pressure and teased the nose up with the wheels only three feet above the water, about 100 yards from the seawall. Five feet from the seawall I flicked the yoke. The plane hiccuped – jumped two feet up, two feet down. The wheels cleared the seawall by inches. The front wheel hit the twenty foot asphalt up-angled (wedge like) berm in front of the runway straight-on hard.
Full power crash landing – the front wheel – and nose – and us – were knocked straight up. The tail followed and dug an inch deep, two inch wide ten foot furrow in the asphalt.
Our plane was instantly hurled thirty feet vertical (picture three stories), full throttle, falling off left. In this attitude the prop stops and the plane rotates. “Pull throttle, yoke to the wall, hard right aileron and rudder, and hold.” Fly the plane, my instructor had ‘ad nauseated’ into me. The Cessna pitched forward to a perfectly smooth landing. No one made a sound as I taxied.
Green Beret experience prevailed. Emergency procedures calmly executed twice, once in the flat stall coming down, and again in the crash landing. I gave the plane a thorough inspection. [I didn’t sweat until much later when we were safe at home.]
After a usual really famous Cedar Key dinner we met the taxi driver at the appointed time. She’d been busy all evening hustling back and forth to the airfield. I got in the front seat.
She turned to the back seat and began, “You won’t believe the idiot out there a couple of hours ago!” And continued an accurate description of me and our plane for the next twenty minutes to the runway. Me slumped in my seat. Uncontrollable chuckling from the back seat.
Next morning I went to the rental agency and arranged to talk with the chief mechanic. He had already read my report and agreed there was no airframe/nose wheel damage. He did note the paint gouge on the back half of the belly. He snorted, “You were overweight. Pilot error. You’re damn lucky to be alive.”
I spent the next hour reading the plane’s maintenance manual. It was privately owned locally for a half dozen years and very recently placed out for rent. Four inches into the massive six inch record I found a hand-written entry, “oversize fuel tanks installed, tested operational.” I had fifty percent more fuel – major weight – than I had calculated!
When I regained my composure I walked over to the senior mechanic, “Look at this. You’re right, I was overloaded. I didn’t know I had extra fuel.”
He replied, “There’s a placard on the dash. Oversize Fuel Tanks.”
We went over to the plane and opened the cockpit door.
No placard.[/fusion_text][fusion_text][/fusion_text][title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”double solid” sep_color=”#e6e6e6″ margin_top=”40″ margin_bottom=”0″ class=”” id=””]Prison[/title][fusion_text]
This section of A Special Forces Legacy details histories and “treatment” for violent sex offenders (including child molesters), murderers, drug addicts, burglars, white collar criminals, the whole gamut.
The chapters are guaranteed to surprise even the knowledgeable reader: They demonstrate the arcane criminal mind and its methods, statistics, violence, sexual predation, all the things most of us find repulsive and interesting.
Surprise: the vast majority of child molesters are cured just by being outed. Sure, big jail time is usually in order. But once discovered – they are ‘cured’ – meaning never again. However, a small minority – called ‘fixated pedophiles’ – practice mental pedophilia in bed every night to ejaculation…
The author taught and then was employed at youthful offender and adult prisons, designed and evaluated programs and conducted in person treatment. In 1989 he designed the psychological protocol for Florida State Prison, among others, and for a new inmate evaluation center in Orange County. He is credited in the Tampa Bay Times magazine with eliciting a confession from a child rapist who killed and mutilated a six year old. He was involved in Ted Bundy getting his just results. Mean stuff: the reader will learn from the stories as did the author.
Following is an excerpt from an interview of an inmate with an exceptionally long record of strong arm robbery:
Psychologist: “What do you see when you look at me?”
Inmate: “I see my money in your wallet.”
Psyc: “What do you do?”
He replied that he just walks right up in front of whoever, looks him dead in the eye and says, “I’ve got a big knife. Give me your money. You can’t get away. I’ll stab you if I have to.” Then he holds one hand out, one hidden.
Psyc, “You have no record of stabbing anyone.”
Inmate, “Oh hell, I never even have a knife. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Psyc, a little pleased that at least the guy is nonviolent, “I’m glad you don’t want to physically hurt your victims.”
Inmate, “Strong arm robbery only gets a police report. Violence, they look for you. I’ve only had to hurt a few and they knew better than to report it.”
BTW, when the author was assigned to a problematic reception center he jumped out of his usual mellow character. The endemic violence – inmate to inmate and officers to inmates – surprised even him and he transferred or had terminated about two dozen staff.
Correctional officers are the unsung heroes of sworn law enforcement – the vast majority are exemplary people. The profession does attract a few who aren’t. One chapter describes SWAT teams – others are humorous – or not – all tell it like it is.[/fusion_text][fusion_text][/fusion_text][title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”double solid” sep_color=”#e6e6e6″ margin_top=”40″ margin_bottom=”0″ class=”” id=””]Tentative Chapter Contents[/title][fusion_text][/fusion_text][title size=”1″ content_align=”left” style_type=”double solid” sep_color=”#e6e6e6″ margin_top=”40″ margin_bottom=”0″ class=”” id=””]Clients[/title][fusion_text]
A SPECIAL FORCES LEGACY
Live each day like you want others to live theirs.
Chapter __: Ambush
My phone rings quietly, it’s muted. I hate loud phones. Somehow a ringing phone controls me – I simply can’t ignore one. Maybe because it most always means money my way. I press the answer button by the white handset.
The speaker phone springs to life with a frightened female shout, “Dr-Mike-this-is-an-emergency-I-need-you-here right-now!”
The voice is recognizable despite the almost incoherent run-on words.
“What’s happening?”, I ask in my practiced 911 operator voice.
I hear her heave a loud deep breath, and she says with a touch more control, “He’s limp and stopped yelping. She won’t put him down. We’re in the backyard. Oh-my-god-please-come-right-now!”
My data says violence is preceded by intransigence. “Call 911, I’m going to need help. I’m-on-the-way-Bye.” I hang up without waiting for a reply, grab my camera, run to my sports car, fire it up and take off – tires squealing.
It takes twenty minutes to reach the home, normally a hard thirty minutes away. I drive some of the way on the berm on the wrong side of the street. I leapfrog traffic at every signal – hoping a cop will see me so I can get an escort, siren screaming. Good chance a parent will get hurt badly. Maybe both of ’em.
Camera in hand, I slide to a stop in the front yard, all but fall out of my car, hitting the ground running around the house, the camera coming to my face – and badly blocking my vision. Jane hears me coming and I see her drop the dog before I can snap a pic. The dog lands on its back – all four feet splayed out, limp. I fumble the camera into its case. Damn! A picture would’ve been a great document in court, where I’ve been sure this case is going to end up since day one six months ago. She needs treatment, not the usual warehousing she’s always gotten.
I saw mom in wrenching tears when she asked when she would be a grandmother, and I told her she should never be a grandmother, and then described her adult child’s future as I see it. Prognosis – a debilitating mental illness trap – she’s hogtied to hell for her forever. Dad says he’s retiring soon, and the three plan on living a never ending odyssey wandering across the country in a big Ford van.
Pointing at the dog, I say to Jane, “You may not do that!” This in my practiced voice, intoned with a slightly raised gruff-edge, my words clipped. “You’ve really hurt your dog. Besides that, it’s against the law, and the police are on the way.”
Jane looks at me blankly, obviously not caring. I take a deep breath, “Let’s go inside and talk.”
She is a 170 pound, five foot ten inch twenty-seven year old. Strong and unpredictable. History of serious violence – has hurt many people every year for a decade, usually spontaneously but sometimes well planned, malice aforethought.
I stare down at the limp animal. Jane runs in the backdoor.
“Huh!” I gasp as the little black dog’s small chest heaves and all four legs spasm. He regains consciousness and rolls over, jumps up, and silently streaks away.
Mom and dad, standing beside me, are obviously just as surprised. Mom says, “I’ll have the dog (their 10-year family pet) put down this afternoon. We can’t prevent her from doing this or something worse to the dog tomorrow.
The male in me tries to lighten things up a bit. I joke to myself that it’s hard for a man to think of anything worse than being held upside down by his balls. The joke sours as the thought sinks in – the dog will be dead by this evening.
Mom looks over at me and says, “I didn’t call 911, and I’m not going to.”
I shrug my shoulders, walk a few steps to the backdoor and wonder how I’m going to handle this. Although I’ve been in these situations many times, it’s always different. And always the same. Depressing. And exciting. I try the door knob and it’s locked.
Dad says, “She locks us out all the time. I have a key hidden out here.”
He walks to my right, to a hiding spot behind a loose house brick. He hands me the key. I unlock the door and step up the one step into the doorway. I throw myself to my knees as a broom handle hits crack! across the doorframe, at my face level. I must have seen a flash of movement and my training kicked in.
Jane’s grip at the straw end breaks loose as the broom ricochets from the solid wood frame. It falls noisily at my feet. “Wow! The handle almost hit me right in the face,” I scream to myself. More soberly I recall the CSU (Crisis Stabilization Unit) manager telling me I’m a fool to work with her – this after reading her file and talking with staff who have experience with her. She’d hit about all the staff there at least once. However, when she’s out in the community her violence is sporadic and unpredictable. I’ve now worked with her for six months, and her community violence has dropped from weekly to none for these last three months. I and her parents are really pleased at this point.
I’m constantly amazed at what I’ll do for money. No one else will work with the people I work with. My Green Beret training has saved me too many times to count. So I make double what my contemporaries make. And it sure ain’t boring.
Jane runs past me into the kitchen on my left. I walk to the right into the dining room, mom and dad following closely. We see her through a large pass-through, dining room to kitchen.
I say curtly but nicely, “Tell me when you’re ready, and I’ll come in and we’ll talk.” She scurries sideways out of my sight, going farther down the narrow, elongated kitchen.
A couple of minutes pass as mom reiterates that she has done this to the dog before, but never for more than a couple of seconds until now. She says, “Please don’t call the sheriff.”
No real surprise this. My experience with law enforcement vis a vis mentally ill people has almost always been negative. They expect people to do what they say. Mom and dad have had bad experiences too. Dad rides with deputy sheriffs on weekends. He has ten years experience in real time learning about people like his daughter.
Dad is a university professor and weekend uniformed volunteer on patrol. I have five years full time employee forensic experience. We know calling the cops is likely to make matters far worse. I don’t call the sheriff although I know I really should.
I ask dad, “Give me a quick rundown about what happened just before she grabbed the dog.”
Jane chimes in, “I’m ready to talk, Dr. Mike.”
I walk into the kitchen and lean backwards against the oven directly across from Jane who is backed up against the refrigerator. I note she’s frowning apprehensively. She’s about three feet away – she looks a lot like a snorting, nine foot polar bear teeth-bared-head-hanging-over-my-head. She’s breathing heavily for no obvious reason.
I put on my best non-judgmental voice, passive posture, no emotion showing, “Were you really, really mad at your parents?”
Mom and dad are Florida natives, farm life born and raised. Good solid people with a decent moneyed background. Paying me privately, and I should add, very nicely. They treat me with almost childlike deference since in only six months I have very clearly helped vastly improve their daughter’s overall attitude and her behavior. This includes more happy compliance with their wishes, and she’s even started to play the piano as a reward, earning minutes at the keyboard for appropriate behavior.
However, they always lock themselves in their bedroom at night with a smoke alarm and a hand gun .
I don’t think I could live like this. Nam, yes. But never again. Oops – Unless ‘they’ invade Daytona Beech…
I lean back. I’ve been in these kinds of verbal confrontations many times, so I’m good at defusing crazies. Surprise! Jane contorts her face, grits her teeth, eyes flash to wild and she jumps right at me, arms straight out. Hits and grabs both my shoulders and pushes hard. She’s bigger than me and is in great physical shape from hyperactivity. In effect she works out much of the time. Her thighs are each almost as big as my sixty-four year old waist.
“Gasp,” I explode with a harsh blast of breath. My hands jump together at my waist, then both my arms wheel across my face like they aren’t even mine. She’s shoving me over backwards.
My butt pushes mightily against the oven, and my back muscles strain, screaming, resisting the pressure. My combined palms hit hard on her right wrist, knocking it away. My arms and whole body continue rotating. Simultaneously, my leg muscles shift my weight and sweep us both to my right. Her left arm is knocked off my shoulder.
A clasped-hands sweep is a completely automatic move I learned during long martial arts sessions – Green Beret motivation. It will break a strong strangle hold if done fast and hard with the leading hand as a hammer, and the second shoving the first – even against a much larger person. One’s weight is shifted at midpoint while the behind foot shoves mightily against the floor. Everyone oughta know this move.
I follow through with all my strength – I rotate to my right and down. So now I’m looking at the stove top. “Jesus!!!”, My brain shouts at me.
All four burners are red-white hot.
Instantly, right in the middle of my paralyzing shock, Jane grabs me by the back of my neck with one hand, yanks the oven door open with the other and shoves me down and right into it.
I throw my elbows out and barely stop my inward plunge with the outer side of my elbows, but with my head and neck completely inside. I see the bottom unit glowing red hot just before my eyes snap shut by themselves. I feel searing hot from the broiler burner on the back of my neck. I instantly smell burning hair, that horrible odor. Jane’s muscular thighs are pressing hard against my butt. She’s walking me further in. I’m holding back with incredible difficulty and slipping. I slightly bend my knees – suddenly going with the pressure for an inch or two. She’s off balance for a microsecond – I straighten my knees and force myself backwards and upwards with all the power I have in my legs.
I’m out and up!
The first thing I see is the open oven door near the floor, a tripping hazard for the fight I know I’m in. I karate kick the door underneath really fast and hard. Bam! it slams closed. I reach for Jane as my kick follows through. She screams – “Eyyooooowww!!!” – far louder than I’ve heard except in combat.
I grab a flailing wrist with both my hands and yank her towards me. She’s anchored like a solid fence post.
I’m confused for a second. I see her other arm disappear at the wrist behind the closed oven door. She’s trapped in the door.
My brain explodes with jubilation. “I’ve got her!”
Oh my God! Who knew an oven door could close and lock on a wrist with the hand inside?
I hold the not-in-the oven wrist I have as tight as I can with my left hand, yank my belt off with the other, shove the belt into my armpit – she’s trying mightily to break my grip. I loop the belt over my straining arm and run the end through the buckle making a large loop around my bicep. I quickly slide the loop down my arm over my grip and onto her wrist, yank it tight, and then turn her loose to flail at the other end of my belt. I spring the oven door open and closed with my free hand, releasing hers. Immediately I karate kick the back of her lower legs in a sweep with everything I have left.
Her head comes downward and her legs fly upward together. We look at each other eye to eye. I’m bent halfway over – as she is suspended in midair for what seems like seconds. One arm is stretched out on my belt leash. Her body rotates counter-clockwise from looking directly at my hunched brow to facing directly at the floor. Her forehead hits first and bounces four times, each bounce not quite as high as the preceding one, and her body flattens behind it. I jump on her thighs, grab her now oven-free wrist, bend it behind her and wrap the belt end around it twice and yank the belt tight. Now I run it a couple of times between her bound wrists and around itself.
“Can I get her a pillow?” asks mom calmly, almost before Jane’s head quits bouncing.
“Yes”, I mutter breathlessly.
I marvel that my voice also sounds calm. I watch mom put a couch pillow under Jane’s head. She lies there smiling, happy.
Dad adds, “Would you like to use my handcuffs?”
“Please.” I take a deep breath and shudder inside, “And call 911.”
The professional in me: “She must have serious consequences outside of the home for this.”
Mom turns off the burners and then the oven. “She’ll just go back to the Crisis Unit and get into trouble again. You know day treatment there is just sitting hour after hour in the mental health cafeteria watching CPR videos and some such all day. She gets bored and does something to a staff member. I won’t have it.”
[Mental health treatment has improved immensely these last ten years but is still clearly inadequate.]
My voice stern, “I can swear out a warrant for attempted maiming and murder.”
Mom, “You won’t do that. You know jail’d be even worse for her than the CSU. Anyway, they’d transfer her to the CSU in the morning and to the halfway house by noon.”
I know she’s right. Jane won’t make the necessary association that she’s being punished for serious violence. She’ll think I’m mad at her and just doing it because I can. She’ll be lost in our personalities, not caring about right from wrong. Perhaps if she were violent in the community much more often and sent away every time she might learn. I note that it’s just damn hard to work with low frequency inappropriate behavior. Anyway I say, “She goes to the CSU right now!”
Rivers of tears begin running down mom’s face. She straightens up. “No”, she says firmly and quietly.
“I quit if she stays here without outside punishment.”
Mom stops sobbing, but her breath keeps catching as she’s talking. “Please don’t quit Dr. Mike. She’s doing better now than since she was a child. This is her first real violence since they threw her out of the halfway house.”
I have an image of Jane yanking a telephone off the wall and beating a counselor with it several times at the halfway house. I reviewed all her records, and the senior counselor told me I’m crazy if I try to work with her.
I consider the big picture, “It won’t be good for her treatment if she gets away with this.”
I turn and say to dad: “You’ve told me you keep a loaded pistol by your bed and the bedroom door locked. You know she’s hurt you both seriously in the past. I know you all need me. Put the handcuffs on her. Give me my belt back.”
He does the handcuffs, and then removes my belt from her wrists, and says, “Yes, we need you. But my wife has to live with her every day while I work. What she says goes. Please stay.” The look on his face says it even better than he did. He holds my belt out towards me.
“No.” I put my belt back on.
They look at me defiantly. I turn and walk quietly out the door without looking back. I write in my notes forty-five minutes later when I get home that these parents, like so many parents of the disabled, deserve medals for lovingly keeping their difficult adult children at home and also for saving society the very significant expense of keeping them and us safe.
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