078 – Chad Johnson (ret. Army) Confronts PTSD With The Help Of Retrieving Freedom & His Oldest of Six Kids’ CHARGE Syndrome
On this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast, Host David Hirsch speaks with Chad Johnson. Chad is a father of six children and a military veteran with three tours of duty. Chad talks frankly to David Hirsch about dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, while raising 6 kids including Cameron who was diagnosed with CHARGE Syndrome. Chad is also heavily involved with Retrieving Freedom a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that pairs military veterans and youth with Autism with service dogs. Chad also has his own service dog, who has really helped Chad deal with his PTSD. To see more on Retrieving Freedom go to www.retrievingfreedom.org.
Dad to Dad 78 – Chad Johnson (ret. Army) Confronts PTSD With The Help Of Retrieving Freedom & His Oldest of Six Kids’ CHARGE Syndrome
Chad Johnson: And the biggest thing that I know, I keep on telling my wife and, you know, we’ve came to agreement, is that no matter what, we’re going to treat him like any other kid doesn’t matter that he has this disability. We are going to treat him just like any other, because we want him to have an actual good life, you know, growing up with this.
Tom Couch: That’s Chad Johnson. Our 78th father to be interviewed for the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. Chad is married to Arianna is the father of six children. And as a military veteran with three tours of duty, he talks frankly to David Hirsch. Dealing with post traumatic stress disorder while raising six kids, including camp Ren, who was diagnosed with charge syndrome.
Chad is also heavily involved with retrieving freedom, a 501 c3 organization that pairs military veterans with service dogs. It’s a jam packed dad to dad podcast. Here’s our host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad to dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group, please go to facebook.com, groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: And now let’s listen in on this enlightening conversation between special father Chad Johnson and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Chad Johnson of Waverly, Iowa, who is a father of six military veteran with three tours to his credit and a recipient liaison with retrieving freedom. Chad, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Chad Johnson: Absolutely. I really am honored to be on the podcast.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Arieanna had been married for 18 years and are the proud parents of sick children. Cameron 18, Zoe 15, Macy 12 Briley, 10 Haley six in Clayton, three. I’m out of breath saying all those names. I don’t know how you guys do it.
Chad Johnson: It’s a full house and very, very busy. I can only imagine. I want to change it for the world.
David Hirsch: Let’s start with a little background. Tell me something about your family and where you grew up.
Chad Johnson: So, yeah, I actually was born here in Waverly, Iowa, and I actually, um, it was around a lot from different States. Cause my mom divorced and remarried to my stepdad who is, or was in the Navy. So we moved around quite a bit different schools all the time.
Uh, always had to try and make new friends. So I was a little rough growing up. I mean, I had a lot of learning experiences growing up in different locations, but came back to Waverly and actually started to go through four years of high school all the way through and graduated, uh, from Waverly.
David Hirsch: Excellent.
So, uh, let’s go back a little bit. Your parents were divorced at what age were you then?
Chad Johnson: Uh, my biological dad, um, and my mom actually divorced when I was about three. Okay. Didn’t get to really know my dad very much. I don’t know how you say it the best. We didn’t really know each other. I mean, we tried to build that relationship.
David Hirsch: Okay. What does your dad do for a living?
Chad Johnson: My dad was actually, he kind of just had a multitude of different jobs. He actually worked at a disposition center. He also did taxi there. He also was into like archery had, are like an Archie shop are also raised here as well.
David Hirsch: Okay. So, uh, you’ve mentioned that you didn’t have a very close relationship with your dad, but you’ve been in contact with them on and off over the years.
Chad Johnson: Yeah. We’ve been kind of contacts went out, hunting, you know, a few times with each other. Kind of, uh, came out and helped online, maybe some of those tax return stuff, um, projects maybe helped out with some of the deer. It was more of a, yeah, I would say a four friend relationship. Okay.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, you were really young when your parents divorced, so it’s not uncommon that if you’re not in that close contact with your dad, that he might not have as big an influence.
Um, but, uh, you mentioned your stepdad. He was a Navy guy and you moved around a lot. I remember that from our previous conversation. Uh, did he have much of an influence in your life?
Chad Johnson: Not, not really. Um, it was really hard, um, because he was always gone. Either on Cruz’s deployments, he would take about six months, every so often on a cruise ship deployment.
Our relationship wasn’t the best, or it was always on the Rocky terms, especially the fact that, you know,
I was like physically and mentally abused from, um, to a point of that. I really didn’t have the best relationship with them. And it was really hard on my mom as well. Okay.
David Hirsch: Go. I’m sorry to hear that. Um, I know that, uh, There’s a lot of issues growing up. And if you’re growing up in a family with some dysfunctionality, like you’ve described, and I experienced myself, my parents divorced when I was six and my mom raised me and my younger brother as a Chicago public school teacher.
And a no, it’s not the way it’s supposed to be, but yeah, it’s reality. Right? That’s your own reality. So even though you weren’t very close to your biological dad, and it sounds like your stepdad was. Abusive. Um, are there some important lessons you can look back on and you’ve taken away to make you a better person?
Chad Johnson: Yeah. My biggest thing that I look back on, on my life as, you know, growing up and the father figures that I’ve had with my dad and my stepdad is that. To do the best that I can as a father, my kids, and to be there for them and to encourage them, to support them and just be there for them and their needs and really just.
Be that father figure that I never asked.
David Hirsch: I think that’s fabulous. You’re hitting on something that I have been talking and writing about a lot, which is the importance of being present. And I like to think about it in four different categories, um, being present physically, which is hard to do if you don’t live with your down being present emotionally, which is hard to do because most men are not emotional creatures.
Like women are. Being present financially, which is really all the state cares about is that you meet your financial obligations. And then if you could hit all four quadrants while also being the spiritual leader of being present spiritually, because if you’re not the spiritual leader in your family, then who is, so you hit the nail on the head.
Um, speaking of other father figure, though, uh, what type of a relationship, if any, did you have with your grandfather’s, uh, starting on your dad’s side and then on your mom’s side?
Chad Johnson: Why do I dad’s side, actually it was dad and my grandpa, uh, was they read for four years. And during the Rocky stages of, with my stepdad, I actually live with my, my grandparents on my dad’s side for two years of my high school, junior and senior year.
And he was pretty quiet, kept to himself. And the one thing that I really realized with my grandpa is that no matter what he was there and every aspect to talk to, to laugh with, to cry with. And I never did have that with any other of my biological dad or my stepdad.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Interestingly, it was my maternal not paternal grandfather.
That was my father figure growing up. And I actually, uh, live with him a little bit when I was a super young guy and we developed a really good longterm relationship. In fact, he died when I was 40. He was actually 93. So I got to know him, uh, not only as a young guy, but as an adult. And, uh, I’m wondering, is your grandpa still alive?
Chad Johnson: Uh, he actually passed away. It’s been about, I want to say four years now.
David Hirsch: Okay. So he was probably the family member that had the most influence on you then as far as a good role model.
Chad Johnson: Absolutely. And as so far as my oldest son, it was really hard on him and Ashley is still hard on him because I feel, even though I am still there for him, he.
Really had a good relationship with, uh, his grades.
David Hirsch: Yeah. That’s fabulous. How about on your mom’s side, did your grandfather on your mom’s side play a
Chad Johnson: role on my mom’s side, my grandpa, I didn’t really get to know because my mom’s mom actually, uh, remarried and the one that I do know as a grandpa, he actually was.
Really good jokester. Um, he always would, uh, try to, you know, give me a pinch or something like that and gonna get you Sonny. And I always tried to get her back and snap the suspenders, and he always wore suspenders and he’s no longer with us anymore. He passed away as well. I remember at the funeral talk with grandma and we’re sitting there and kind of saying.
Our goodbyes. And I mentioned something to her. I says, is this suspenders? And sure enough, she, before we had the Cassatt clause, she got us on her run to get his suspenders from home and report it in there with him.
David Hirsch: So his pants don’t fall down in the afterlife.
Chad Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. And, uh, I actually, uh, him one, one last snap too.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. So I’m wondering if there’s any other men that have served as father figures either when you were growing up as a young guy, a coach, a pastor, a neighbor uncle, or maybe as a young adult yourself. Yeah, since you’ve become a dad, uh,
Chad Johnson: through growing up, uh, really didn’t have many, but as a young adult, I did going through a kind of a hard time through my, uh, discharge process as a service member.
I’m the Iowa national guard. And, uh, working for hall and through retrieving freedom, the, uh, cofounder Scott Dewey, he was a really good influence of able to talk to you. And I would say a great role model of who I would like to be
David Hirsch: excellent. Well, my recollection was that, um, You went from high school and you were married shortly thereafter.
Chad Johnson: yeah, so I actually wife hit me really hard, um, quick and fast. So during my junior and senior year, I actually did basic. For the army after basic training came back proposed to my wife and we were engaged. She was already graduated. Um, I was still in school and we have set plans to, you know, get married down the road.
As life would know it, my son was actually being expected to be born. So we moved their wedding date. Um, so I graduated early January of 2000 and. One then shortly after that next month, February of 2001 got married and then March of 2001, I went to my special schooling for the army. And when returning in June of 2001, my son was born on the same day I returned.
David Hirsch: Wow. He hit you pretty hard and fast there. Uh, you’re a pretty young guy.
Chad Johnson: Yeah. And again, I wouldn’t change the world.
David Hirsch: So, uh, how did your, uh, career transpire from there? You’re in the army?
Chad Johnson: Yeah, so I was in the army for 14 years, from 2000 to 2014, and I was really, really enjoyed it. I loved it. So I, my whole goal was to become a career and, uh, army national guard.
And finally, after my second deployment, I actually pursued him, got a job with Iowa national guard and was stationed in Mason city at FMS five. And was a full time technician fellow employee during my other deployment, uh, came about was, uh, 2010 or 2011, uh, was Afghanistan. Uh, come back from Afghanistan.
It was really hard on me. There is a lot of traumatic events that have happened during my deployment that had a wrong. Scarring effect on me that I was really hard to cope with when I returned home and it was hard on my family. It was hard on me on all my loved ones. I, uh, developed a really bad drinking problem.
That uh, affected me were because the fact that I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t wanna go anywhere and I would try to fix everything in the house and then come later I would break things just so I can fix it. So I don’t didn’t leave. And, uh, marriage was really Rocky, um, at that time. And there was a lot of things that I started seeing my kids not really look at me as that father figure and that’s where it really hurt me.
So I looked into. An organization called Richard and freedom to see if I could get some help. And I see about pursuing a of stock.
David Hirsch: Let me know, let me interrupt you because I want to go back a little bit into more detail. What I really admire about you, dad, and this is a little bit deeper than our conversation went previously is your, um, transparency and your authenticity, you know, talking about your situation.
Um, I can’t even imagine what it’s like. Um, but it’s got it. It must be very difficult. Previously, it must be even more difficult to just acknowledge that there was a problem. So. You were deployed three times from what I remember first to Egypt. Oh, three Oh four, then Iraq. Oh, five Oh seven and then Afghanistan, 2010, 2011.
And if my math is correct, uh, when you were deployed to Egypt, you had your first child. Cameron was already on the scene.
Chad Johnson: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. He was already born. He would have been right around two years of age. And, you know, going back, it was really hard, you know, to leave him and then coming back and then try to be that father, father again.
So, yeah, leaving, uh, my two year old home with my wife and which before that we were actually really, really trying really hard to have another child, then it just wasn’t happening. Because we wanted a girl and come to find out two weeks after being gone, I had a phone call with my wife and gave me the news that she was
David Hirsch: expecting, I guess.
That’s good news. So, um, my recollection while, uh, you. Went to Egypt, you came back and then you were deployed the following year to Iraq. At that point in time, you would have had two kids, uh, when you got deployed for Iraq.
Chad Johnson: Yeah. Correct.
David Hirsch: And what was the difference between your experience in Egypt and experience in Iraq?
If you could briefly describe what you were doing in both locations.
Chad Johnson: So with Egypt, that was actually, it was a multi forest observers. We were a task force to is a peacekeeping mission. And we would look over certain areas between the Jordan border and Egypt. And we would do a lot of different missions out on the border.
Um, we had an outpost that we would have to be there as well and observe other aircraft and report. It was a short deployment. Egypt was lot of good experiences. Some that were not so good. We were really busy. The last two weeks of our deployment, where we actually had a civilian aircraft that actually, uh, crashed and there was no suppliers and it crashed right in the golf right outside our base.
And we had a lot of, uh, busy aircraft. Rescuing, um, the debris and there was no survivors and we actually had a lot of the, um, ones that were actually on the aircraft, um, full on to our shore.
David Hirsch: Wow. That sounds like a pretty overwhelming situation. And with only two weeks to go before your deployment, supposed to be up as well.
So. Uh, huh. How does that compare with your experience in Iraq?
Chad Johnson: I was stationed on Alcide air base. I was a mechanic, so I did a lot of, uh, maintenance and working on the vehicles with the infantry. So I worked on all the infantry’s, uh, vehicles. We supported the one 33 during that time know, I didn’t really get the chance to go outside of liar.
But there was a lot of other traumatic things that happened, that it was really hard to grasp of every time a vehicle come in on my first appointment, uh, back up a little bit on my first deployment, I got to, I got a task force, uh, one of the units, the line units, and I got to know a lot of the guys in the line unit, like really close, um, especially going through a hard time, being a dad first deployment.
Being away from my youngest boy and also having a new one coming on the way. And during the Iraq deployment, it was really hard, hard to see a lot of the vehicles come in. That were hit. A lot of IADs were hitting our vehicles, Lao, small arms lager guys would take. And I always contemplate and worry of, you know, did this guy bank it back or did this guy make it back during my, at the, and I got really no, a little bit more with one of the, uh, sorry.
And he was, it was kind of a really big help. During the time of my first deployment and, and Iraq has vehicle came back in and I was really overwhelmed to get the notice and verification that he did not make it back for mission.
David Hirsch: Oh, my,
Chad Johnson: you have a shot and killed. And it was really hard on me because his vehicle was the one that came into my area, um, to be worked on and, and to go through the vehicle and see the aftermath was really hard.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, um, it’s the real deal, right? It’s not just going through a bunch of exercises, you know, as far as the experience that you and so many others. Had, so that was your Egypt experience. You had mentioned that, uh, you were within the wire for the most part on your Iraq deployment and when witnessed a lot of things more secondhand, vis-a-vis the vehicles that you were repaired.
And I’m wondering when you were or deployed to Afghanistan, I think you had four kids at home run. What were their Afghanistan deployment all about?
Chad Johnson: Yeah. So I was, I was still maintenance at that time. I actually, uh, went up and rank between my AraC and Afghanistan deployment, and I had a really bad experience on one of the missions that we had to go out and get some supplies.
There’s some black top there. Um, we were on one of the roads and it just had a real light rain, uh, that afternoon morning. And we had one of our vehicles actually rolled over and we had to go back over gather thing up. A matter of fact, the driver and a TC out get the medical attention. Then we had to recover the vehicle and get back to the base.
And we weren’t that far from the base. One, once we got back, we had to go back on mission still and on our way to the other base to get some gears supplies, we had a vehicle that was weaving in inside of our Conway. All the evidence, uh, suspected that it was, uh, David, um, basically a vehicle IED and the vehicle actually was about parallel to us and was watching it at that moment.
Everything like went into slow motion. To where I had to watch and little boy get hit by that vehicle. And to this day, I still have some kind of survivor guilt, I would say yes that, why did it not go off in front of our vehicle, but yet this little boy, um, Got hit and stopped the vehicle from hurting event anywhere guys, but also I didn’t get hurt or injured.
And I still this day, because I have little ones, kids from some odd reason and every time I see that back in my, in my mind and a re we’ll go back and replay every time I imagine one of my kids being that little boy.
David Hirsch: Wow. It sounds pretty heavy, Chad. Um, it sounds like that was one of those experiences that, you know, you just can’t erase from your mind.
That’s part of the challenge. And, um, it sounds very profound, especially as a dad of a bunch of young kids that you were then, and even more kids subsequently. I’m sorry to hear that. That was the experience, but maybe the silver lining is that. Sadly, this young guy lost his life, but you know, who’s to say what the outcome would have been.
Had he not been there and the convoy hadn’t stopped as a result of what was going on.
Chad Johnson: Yeah. And it’s, I still do. I do counseling, um, still, and you know, I still have times that I still have it come back and replay in my mind at night. Um, certain nightmares to where I would, I would wake up, um, or I’ll be.
Kicking and swinging my arms more to kind of like I’m running to go save a little light. Um, but when I was in a convoy, I really felt like my hands were tied and I couldn’t do anything to help or assessed.
David Hirsch: Well, well, let me switch gears, I guess, on what you’ve been describing and talk about post traumatic stress disorder.
Looking back on your situation. W when did you realize that there was something going on that were beyond what you could understand or put in perspective?
Chad Johnson: Yeah. So when I got home and all there was that. Real high of being home and being with the family and, you know, and just, ah, just glad to be back here in the United States, once a I’m going through the process of getting a, we call it like, um, kind of a yellow ribbon, uh, that to where we would go through a process of see how things are going, give you all the different resources you need, you know, just coming back home.
And one of the, uh, medics that I knew from a previous deployment just seen my, my screen and pulled me aside and, and always says he noticed that something was different about me and how that. I really would like you to go to talk to the docs of the major and, uh, see what we can do. So from there, they got me to talk with, and that’s the health providers on base.
And once I started talking to them, they prescribed me some medication. And then, uh, from there on, uh, things started, you know, rare pairing. Hmm. And they finally said that. And I’ll own diagnosed me with PTSD, um, and uh, major depression disorder. And the process started for the discharge. And that time I was still in denial.
Like I can’t have PTSD, there’s no way, you know, there’s, there’s gotta be other people who are, um, other veterans out there, or, uh, service members that have it worse than me then, you know, there’s no way once going through their discharge. It was really hard on me as a father because I’m the provider for my family.
And I actually, by getting discharged medically, I was going to lose my job, my dream job as a full time technician, I actually wanted to go to warrant officer school, become a warrant and someday have my own shop. You know, I’ll be in charge of that dream. When crashing down and I went to a downward spiral in my life of, I don’t know if I can.
Move on and keep living. That’s where a lot of that drinking and Santa at home, and didn’t want him doing anything. Couldn’t go out and social events and public couldn’t really trust about anybody. Couldn’t be close to anybody. Uh, the reason for that is we really didn’t couldn’t trust the Afghan army.
Afghan police are always corrupt and I had to work with them, you know, hand in hand with them. And coming back, there was really hard to accept. You know, the diagnosis and it took a little while. And once going through the process of receiving, um, a service dog, I finally accepted it and as changed my life because of that,
David Hirsch: well, it sounds like your life went from being in place, doing all the things that you’ve been doing, serving the country, raising that young family of yours, you know, with your eye on this dream job.
You’re being a nightmare, right? A very dark period of time in your life. And it’s remarkable that you’ve been able to somehow plateau, um, no doubt, what will help, uh, Ariana, your wife, you know, standing by your side and, you know, being not only the mom, do your fix kids, but helping you navigate this unknown path that you were on.
And, uh, I admire. You because of your transparent, seeing your authenticity to be able to talk about your situation and put it in perspective. And I’m hoping for the benefit of others, others that, you know, might have served like you have, or others that are going through traumatic situations who might just be listeners.
You know, it’s not a PTSD is something that’s melt associated with serving in the military and being through horrific situations. But I’m pretty confident that. PTSD, as we know, it affects people in a general population just as much, and we just don’t understand it. And like you said, you went through this long period of denial and that’s just one of the stages of going through grief and the shorter, that period of denial can last.
Hopefully it just means you’re on the road to recovery and, you know, getting to a better place. Not only for yourself. But more importantly for your wife and your kids.
Chad Johnson: Yeah. Uh, I wouldn’t have to say that, um, through all the struggles and trials that we’ve had, my wife is been a huge supporter and I would say that.
Without having her, um, basically she was kind of like the glue, keeping the family together during that time. And she was a base to support and trying to figure out any way that I can get the help that I needed. So I can be that father.
David Hirsch: Well, let’s switch gears. I’d love to talk about special needs first on a personal level, and then beyond. So before Cameron’s diagnosis, did you or Ariana have any experience with special needs?
Chad Johnson: No, we actually never did. Uh, we had no recollection of special needs except, you know, what we have seen, you know, from, you know, maybe TV or the media and, you know, once our son was born, It was really hard on us because firstborn, he actually had to be admitted to the ICU, um, his oxygen level, wasn’t the greatest.
And it was really hard that I couldn’t be there a certain time too. Cause I actually had just gotten back and I had a report in to the unit. And once I told the unit and they were like, yeah, go home, come back to what your family and I was there and just support either as much as I could, six miles down the road is when we started well through the six months, we started seeing a little bit different things with our son, with his eyes.
They would move around a lot. And they said, Oh, you know, doctor says, you know, accreditation is like, you know, grow out of it. He’ll grow out of it. And it wasn’t, it was getting a little bit more worse. And then once they said that we needed to go to Iowa city to the children’s hospital. And that’s when, uh, about six months is when they told us that he was going to be diagnosed with a portion.
It was called coloboma, which was his eyesight. And they said that. There’s a good chance, likelihood that he may have Charles syndrome. And from there, we started going through all the genetic testing. So
David Hirsch: my understanding is that charge the H a R G E charges, an acronym that stands for several different features of this condition.
And you mentioned that the C was the coloboma, which affects the eyes. The H is heart defects. Hey, is. The trees you choanae, which I understand has to do with the nasal passages. The R stands for reading , which is something we don’t use the R word very much anymore. The G stands for genital area normalities and the E stands for ear abnormalities.
So once that diagnosis was made, it just seems like, Oh my gosh, it’s not one or two things. It’s like all these different things wrapped up into one. Uh, what, what was your reaction? To that situation?
Chad Johnson: Uh, it was, it was really hard on me and my wife, uh, because it was our first firstborn and we didn’t really know what to do or where to go for help.
Or what we could do for a summer. And the biggest thing that I don’t know, Oh, I keep on telling my wife and, you know, we’ve came to agreement, is that no matter what, we’re going to trade him, like any other kid doesn’t mean matter that he has this disability. We are going to treat him just like any other, because we want him to have an actual good life, you know, growing up with this and.
Once he started getting older, there was a lot of problems with schools, not understanding it. Um, it’s something that with charge syndrome, wasn’t really known. It was something really in the beginning, especially down the road, we start finding out there is other parents out there that had children with, uh, charter syndrome that actually were.
Got to talk with it a little bit. And it’s very rare because, you know, again, the schools districts, they didn’t really know how to go about approaching it and, you know, teaching or whatever accommodations to give him to accommodate for this disability.
David Hirsch: Well, from what I remember, it’s something that was discovered more recently, like as recently as like, 1979 or 1980.
So it’s not like it’s been around for 50, a hundred or, you know, a long time. And the incidence is something on the order of like one out of 150,000 births worldwide, or an estimated 25 per year in the U S so it’s relatively new and it’s not very common. So it’s not unreasonable to think that schools wouldn’t have an understanding about how to deal with something like this because of its rare nature.
Is that what your experience was?
Chad Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’re still me and our son is 18 now, senior in high school. So last year, and we’ve been finding out we’re still dealing with the teachers and having to, you know, advocate for our son of the different things and what needs that he needs. And I’m trying to see it, to have them understand a little bit about him.
Um, so that way his education is going to be benefited and all learning wise. So we’ve been like his biggest advocators of helping him through the school years, as much as possible.
David Hirsch: There’s some meaningful advice you got early on. That’s helped you and Arianna sort of put all this in perspective and. Be those advocates to be the best advocates for your son.
Chad Johnson: I would say at this, in the time of him growing up throughout the different years of schools where you really didn’t have anything, um, it was just me and my wife and with my position at retrain of freedom. Now I have come to talk with a lot of different, uh, parents that have children with special needs.
And they have gave me a lot of good advice and really good able to talk with them and find out some common ground of different things. And the one is the never really backed down and keep advocating for your child no matter what. I think that was some of the best advice that I’ve gotten from other parents.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I don’t want to focus on the negative, but I’m wondering when you look back over the last 17 years or so, since Cameron was diagnosed, what have been some of the biggest challenges, either trying to help him things that he has experienced or just your overall family? What’s what have been some of the bigger challenges?
Chad Johnson: Um, what’s having a multitude of other kids. You know, equally give them the amount of pension so that we’re not always giving Cameron, you know, more attention because of his, a guy gnosis, uh, but able to give them the same amount of love and attention. So
David Hirsch: trying to find a balance. Right. And your family,
Chad Johnson: absolutely trying to find that balance because, you know, we don’t want our kids to feel neglected because of Cameron and his diagnosis.
And I would say that was be a lot of the struggle and other struggle was actually getting to know the diagnosis and doing a lot of research and really figure it out sometimes we’ve we think we’ve figured it out. And sometimes we, we were totally lost.
David Hirsch: There’s different aspects to this syndrome. Part of it’s with the eyes, part of it’s with the heart part of it’s with the nasal passage, part of it’s with learning, right.
Learning ability, disability, and then what the ears and genitals for that matter. Is there one that was particularly more challenging than the other? Just because of how his situation has transpired.
Chad Johnson: Mora would be actually his. His eyesight, his coloboma and also I will be his learning disability as well.
He is the most heart warming kid that I know literally, if he doesn’t know who you are and he starts to getting to know you, he wants to give you a hug. He wants to. He’s great. He’s an awesome kid. He loves music. I mean he’s nonstop ear buds and his ears listen to music. And with his eyesight has been a little challenging with us.
Um, where there anything you’ve just recently had two surgeries on one of his eyes because of the retinol, uh, via attached detachment is more likelihood with a coloboma. And they try to fix it, uh, twice. And now they’re telling us that. They will not do another surgery because so some of the scar tissue are how it’s vessels are growing into the I solve and it will do more harm than good to go back in there and do the surgery.
And it was really hard when we were sitting there, I’m in the doctor’s office and my son gets a flashlight shine right in his eye. And they asked if he could see the light. And he said, no,
David Hirsch: Oh my
Chad Johnson: gosh. And that, that was really hard, hard on me to recollect that in the beginning, it was really hard to understand what he had for eyesight.
We were, we were wondering, it was like, Oh, this is no big deal right now. You know, he, we don’t know what he’s going to see, what he’ll you won’t see. And then when he started getting older, you really started seeing some of that where he’ll run into things. I remember one time that he, we got him into tee ball and he wasn’t really big in the sports because of his eye condition.
And I threw a ball towards him to try to catch it and he totally missed it and it hit him right on the nose. And I felt so bad. It was just a light talk us and I felt so bad. And. That was another thing that kinda hit me too, is like, you know, you really can’t see that well, um, where the thing’s coming that fast at him or moving.
So we gotta really kinda tell him to slow down a little bit, so that way he can focus. So it’s been, it’s been a struggle through him growing up and really learning those things. And you know, sometimes, you know, when parents, you know, they’re talking to you. Their children or their kids. And they said, you know what got me when you’re, when I’m talking to you.
So some times those, one of those things that we say as people, and it was really hard. And sometimes I would say that to him and I’m like, okay, And I, I beat myself up. I’m like, why didn’t I just say that? Because he really probably is looking at me, but he’s not, no, that’s just how it is. I eyesight is so growing up, Cameron has, you know, devolved to being a good and wanting young man, I would say today.
And he will continue to try on about anything you want him to do. And that’s what I want for my kids is at least try and experience new things.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I’m wondering from a schooling standpoint, has he been mainstreamed or has he been in a special classes?
Chad Johnson: He’s been to some special classes and it has gone to where he’s in regular classes as well, but he’s also got a para and they do everything to accommodate them.
Like now these days they actually have these Chromebooks and iPads, so things can be, you know, enlarger for him. So that way he can see better. That’s when the best things that I think that has developed in the school system, especially for him. The one thing that I wouldn’t have to say is I was not really good of history or ruin in like history myself in school, but my son absolutely can tell me about every day.
Time stamp of history. I mean, he’s a history guru. He loves history. That’s the one thing he absolutely
David Hirsch: loves. Well, it sounds like he might have some challenges in certain areas, but, uh, what he might lack there, he more than makes up with his memory, right? His ability to recall dates times places. So that’s a gift.
Chad Johnson: Oh, yeah, absolutely. He has a gift for that.
David Hirsch: So I’m wondering what impact Cameron situations had on his four younger sisters, as well as the rest of your family?
Chad Johnson: Uh, it’s been a little difficult on them because. I rely on probably more my oldest daughter, more than anything. Uh, I rely a lot on her. She has been really good in school.
Good grades, two jobs right now working and high school. She has been a huge support of doing anything she can do to help around the house. And a lot of times I feel it’s hard on them because what, especially her as a teenager, not having that teenage life sometimes, cause she would have to help me in my life, especially with some of the younger ones, uh, Clayton, you know, our three year old and also our oldest son.
So it’s a little bit, a little bit hard on her.
David Hirsch: Okay. You mentioned Clayton. He’s three. He’s the youngest. And I think they’re not recent conversation. You mentioned that, uh, he’s nonverbal, he’s experienced some seizures and you’re having them tested. So that’s like a, another challenging situation developing.
Chad Johnson: Yeah, Clayton has developed about, I would say probably about nine or 10 seizures, uh, over a period of probably four or five months we’ve had tested to where they can’t tell us what is causing them. They’ve had some kind of, uh, you know, educated guests, but each time they do that, it’s a different one, a different situation.
And through that, that’s where, and with him not talking, they’re actually looking at possible a diagnosis. I’m going through testing for autism. And this has just happened just for you. And I didn’t talk to her last time we talked. That my wife kept on telling me that he, he, he makes, sounds, um, we’ve been working on him with, uh, some sign language.
My wife’s been doing a really good showing him different things for sign language. And he actually has been saying data and I’m like, no, no, he hasn’t. No, I haven’t heard him talk at all. I said, I haven’t heard a single word from him. Just, just sounds. So the other day she actually recorded it. And so you have told ya, and then as soon as you start recording it, then I started hearing him over and the next room are coming in goddamn.
I was like my, I was so I don’t know, I was really happy, but also one of those things rubbing my life and say that he said, dad, dad, Saul. But being my youngest, how. I would say a great, great relationship to where, because I’m so much have looked into getting help by my, myself of my PTSD and that I’m in a good spot in place.
And. What I would do is that anytime I see, right. And then something happened like what’s really good or something like that, you have them give me 10. And then after the 10, we’ll give them double knuckles and then blow it up. And, and just, and it just been so awesome to do that with him. And he loves to do that.
Especially got, um, involved in watching hockey and hockey stick. And he really likes doing that. So as does my older son, he likes watching the hockey game, going to that with us. Uh, I got pretty involved in the sport myself. I actually played a lot of that when I was a kid and doing it now as a young adult and has helped me in my mental health and also to do something that my kids really enjoy, that I can do with them.
David Hirsch: I want to get a little clarification when you say, give me 10. Getting down and giving you 10 pushups or is he giving you two high fives?
Chad Johnson: Two high five.
David Hirsch: I just wanted some clarification military background.
Well, uh, let’s switch gears and talk about special needs beyond. Your own family, because you’ve made reference in passing to retrieving freedom, this amazing organization they’re in Waverley, Iowa. And I’m wondering, you’re involved with retrieving freedom as a recipient and as a recipient liaison, what is retrieving freedom and who does it serve?
Chad Johnson: Yeah. So Richard, your freedoms are nonprofit organization. If I want to say three. We train service dogs for veterans with PTSD, TBI. You’re just going to miss the authorities as well. Well, with, uh, children with autism. And through the placement and training of service dogs for these individuals, our mission is to change lives.
David Hirsch: Let’s talk about the service dogs first. What’s the process to train a dog. I know that there’s a, um, pretty involved process from the time the dogs are about eight weeks old.
Chad Johnson: I remember you saying back that we have to use all the diff those four quadrants so far is looking at being a father and daughter training.
We have to use all the four quadrants of opera conditioning. To train the surf star. And one of those things that I’ve learned through training and service stars, it’s helped me just in life itself. And it’s a big, huge process. I mean, we started from eight weeks all the way to nine, 10 months in a foster home.
Uh, we hope and guide the fosters to classes and education of how to get him socialized and go through basic training. Of the sit down, um, healing, once that’s all, uh, accomplished, they come back to return to freedom, run that 10 months and they go through other, uh, programs and other programs. We have our reading programs with elementary schools or libraries where the dogs can get read from kids may not like to read out loud and.
Don’t like to read at all. And once they start reading to a dog, they are reading more and they want to keep continuing reading. So that kind of helps them with their comprehension. And we’re permitted. We also have elementary schools. I don’t take a dog into the classroom and have like a. We reward incentive of doing things of maybe helping out what they’re training, the service dog that’s in training and those dogs we’re hopefully looking towards to gear for autism in a more socialized in a classroom environment around kids.
So that way they’re ready to go to serve for children, autism. We also have a prison program, as well as a warper college program. The prison program really helps a lot of the inmates to give back. All they would have ever done has been just taking and now they can give back one in particular, a inmate was actually a army veteran.
Uh, deployed two times Afghanistan. He would not talk or come out of his shell. And so our program got there and him started working with some of the dogs. He has been come more of a mentor for other inmates, and it has helped him to where to cope with things that he’s been dealing with.
David Hirsch: Wow. That’s amazing.
So I’m wondering what the dogs go to that. Basic training, you know, home foster care, and then they come out and they do this other training, whether it’s in libraries or schools or prisons. I’m wondering, how did the process where the match are actually being placed work? How does that process work?
Chad Johnson: Yeah, so that’s our next stage and that’s where I come in.
Um, as the recipient liaison, I started working with families. Um, with the dogs that are a little bit older, right around maybe about 15, 18 months and start seeing which dog is typically going to be the best, um, for these families or a veteran. I get to know them a little bit more. And it’s, we have about a hundred hours of training that we have to do a minimum of before we could place a sort of star with them.
But through that process, you know, I’m getting to know the family and get to know the, the child autism, the veteran, and. Is there a lifestyle and what dog is gonna be the best match. And once we find that dog, then I start training the dog one-on-one with myself, um, getting that dog ready to go for them.
And then training the parents, the teachers, the para, uh, how did they handle the dog or how to use the dog to assist in mitigating the discipline with chiller autism and the veterans the same way of talking about the family of how a service dog can benefit. Um, their veteran, their spouse, their mom, or their dad, and also going to their work and implementing the dog into their work environment as well.
David Hirsch: For sure. So I’m sort of curious to know what’s the process for applying for a dog, not looking at it from the organization’s perspective, but if there’s a listener out there, her in, or a family that’s raising a child with autism. What does it look like from their perspective?
Chad Johnson: Yeah. So on our website, if you go to retreat and freedom.org, we actually have a link on there that how to get support you click on there.
And if, once you scroll down after you clicked there there’s three applications. One applications for our veterans, another applications for our children and autism. And then we have a release dog application for the children, autism and veterans. Once they fill their application out, um, there’s some documentation that we need them to forward with us.
Uh, so that way we know what we’re looking at and covering to Tramadol for, and then a letter of recommendation from either a psychiatrist or provider of some sort. That thing that a service dog would benefit them, uh, children or autism, we’re looking for the three letters. Major one would be also the diagnosis that they’ve been diagnosed with autism.
So that way we know that we are still providing a service for those individuals. We accept, uh, our children autism at age five. Um, cause early, as they get diagnosed, a lot of times we’ve been two and a half, three. A lot of times and through their growing up. And once they get to that five age and they’re starting school a little bit, uh, an IEP has been, um, implemented for their education and we want the service star to try to help with that as well.
So we need to know that. So we won’t accept them and start trying to tell her five. And once those come in the applications where they go through a. A phone interview, uh, more informal to get a little bit of know about them and their family and how a dog is going to benefit them. Once we go through that.
And then we go ahead and have them do a in-person. Um, informal consultation to where with him to sit down and really get to meet them face to face, and either have him work with some of the dogs, see how they re, um, interact with the dogs, see how they are as a individual and their personalities. And then once we do that, we go through as a team and see if we can actually, um, a sort dog would benefit that individual.
And once we feel that is we sent them a substance agreement. Once they’re accepted into our program, we go ahead and start the training process. And that’s when I start reaching out to the families and scheduling and training opportunities to come out to our facility.
David Hirsch: So, if you had to put a timeframe to what you’ve just outlined from the time that somebody fills out an application documents, that they would be qualified, whether they’re a veteran or a family with a child with autism, and then they go through the in person interviews.
Um, they do the site visit or in person consultation. There’s a team decision that, you know, says thumbs up or thumbs down. And then there’s a, an agreement that gets send out like this is the contract. If you will, what timeframe is that usually spam over short timeframe to no longer than if you will.
Chad Johnson: So we try to keep that short as possible.
It varies on the individual schedule trying to get that in-person done or the phone interview. So once we can get that down, It could be from two weeks, uh, three weeks, depending on their, their timeframe of their schedules, more than anything. And we try to accommodate them more than anything. Once they’re accepted into our program, then it will take about a year and a half to two years before placing him with a beginning place with a service dog.
And the reason for that is that we have those hundred hours of training that we have to go through. Here with a actual trainer, but also with a hundred hours of unsupervised visits at their home location to see how it’s going in the home. Once we get that accomplished and we start working at, you know, we find that match with our dog.
Then we started working in town on that dock. We’ve had some individuals that have probably gone through, maybe met one dog. Yeah. And that was the dog. We have had some that I’ve met. Two or three or maybe nine dogs, um, before finding the right dog and get him numb place with a sort of start that Ashley’s going to help them.
David Hirsch: they all Labrador retrievers or are there different breeds?
Chad Johnson: Yeah, so we use a multitude of retrievers, um, retreating freedom. Of course we use retrievers golden retriever, uh, labs, and we also use a cross of golden retriever and lab, you know, fall asleep, do golden doodles as well. Um, the reason for these is a lot of the golden achievers and golden girls.
And Lamb’s work really good too, which are in autism, but a lot of the, uh, that texture of the golden retriever or the golden doodles, they really liked that century. A lot of times. So, and they have the natural retrievability, uh, to do the last of those physical disabilities for our veterans as well.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s interesting.
Um, I may have I mentioned this, maybe not in a previous conversation, but sadly we put our, a yellow lab Riley down after 11 and a half years earlier this year, and that dog never retrieved anything in the 11 and a half years. We had them. In fact, there was a point in time when our kids were quite a bit younger.
I remember telling one of my daughters, he’s a Labrador, not a Labrador retriever. And I remember overhearing her, tell one of her little friends, Oh, Riley’s a laboratory is not a Labrador retriever and the other. No child was like, Oh no, no, that can’t be sorry. I had to like correct her and say, dad was joking.
He has a Labrador retriever, even though he didn’t go to retrieving school, he didn’t get that gene. So I think your point was that naturally these dogs, like most dogs, I think. You know, it just innate that they retrieve things. Right. And I’m going to take some credit for not maybe properly training the dog because we just gave up after a couple of years and just said, Oh, it’s just not worth it.
Chad Johnson: Yeah. There’s a lot of training that goes in just in the retrieve itself so they can retrieve different items. You know, I had one, uh, particular dog. I was training on the retrieve and I had to get it down, especially with a cane. I had a veteran Vietnam veteran that walked with a cane, a lot of balance issues, and he absolutely did not want to retrieve the cane.
And I was either not want to do, but through their training, our training process, you know, we got it accomplished and absolutely. That dog would do anything and retrieve anything for his individual, his background, and to see that, and then see the happiness on his face. When he tells me that is. Rewarding.
And so happy to me that I’m actually providing a service and I’ve found my purpose. Um, and from being discharged from the military or losing my purpose and not serving now I can serve in a whole different way.
but Chad is not only helped others find and train their service dogs. He also has his own dog. Who’s made a huge difference in Chad’s life. This is audio from a video of Chad talking about the importance of his dog bender. I would probably still be on medication. I would probably would be more, um, very heavily drinking or not wanting to get out of the public and stay at home and not, and not building that relationship with my family at all.
I’m just glad to have him and gone the route was having him as my service dog.
David Hirsch: So Chad, what’s your dog’s name?
Chad Johnson: Um, my service dog’s names actually is
David Hirsch: where’d that come from,
Chad Johnson: I don’t know who actually raised bender was a field trial trainer. Uh, Bender’s career kind of changed to where he couldn’t make it ended up field trial anymore.
And. He actually, uh, then came to retreat and freedom was donated and hopefully be my service dog. She is very into baseball and Charles Albert Bender was a native American, uh, baseball player. Who actually developed a nickel pitch, um, which we know as the slider pitch and his dad’s name, benders his slider.
David Hirsch: very interesting. So, um, bender is actually a male Labrador.
Chad Johnson: Yup. Uh, he’s actually will be seven. Yeah. And he’s a male black lab. He got a little bit, yeah. Have Greg gone now on his, uh, lower jaw there. Uh, and he’s got a nice little white spot on his front chest. Um, that actually, uh, we’ve kinda been thinking of it there.
Lucky, lucky white street.
David Hirsch: Got it. So, uh, how long have you had bender?
Chad Johnson: I’ve had bender for almost about five and a half years.
David Hirsch: Excellent. What does bender do for you?
Chad Johnson: Fender is a godsend. Of what he does and his home, me with my flashbacks that I have that are triggered when in public, he will give me a pause up into my lap and give me a kiss to ground me, to think about, you know, him and not those flashbacks or those triggers.
I was thinking about that. I replay in my mind. Uh, same thing so far as I, when I have a nightmare and I have a kicking motion with my feet, he’ll lay on my feet and stop me from kicking and give me that pressure to where I can just, and I’ll go back to sleep. Uh, in the beginning he actually would, uh, my had a nightmare.
He would. Go to a, a light switch, turn the light on, and then come back to me and give me a kiss though, RA me back to the room. So we’re now he’s just laying on top of me and just give me that deep pressure, which helped me a lot. He does a lot of also we call a positional committee to where he’ll actually, uh, position himself between.
Uh, in front of me or behind me, they gave me that little extra space and large crowds, especially when I talk back last that, you know, it was really hard to trust the Afghan, um, police and army, because a lot of times they were corrupt and, you know, we really don’t like close talkers or people who in our face or really in that tight area with a lot of people.
So it gives me a little bit of extra space, so I don’t go into like a, a panic, um, or flashback.
David Hirsch: Wow. Pretty amazing. And I’m so I’m curious, Noah, my biggest vendor
Chad Johnson: vendor is. Some people ask me if he’s mixed with a great Dane. Cause he’s a good sized star. Um, he’s actually about 86 pounds.
David Hirsch: Oh my. So if he was laying on top of you, you know it.
Chad Johnson: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Fact, I do a lot of different things with bender. Um, besides him just being my service dog he’ll actually does a lot. Demonstration of what we can train service dogs to perform a lot of different tasks that you know, for their children, autism for veterans that, that I don’t even use, um, as my service, um, tasks, but I’ve trained them in everything so that we can show what we train dogs to perform.
As well as that, he has been able to do a lot of outdoor activities with me. Like, we’ll go, uh, find deer antlers, sheds, and outdoors. He does dock dogs where he’ll jump off a dock. See how far he’ll jump. He’s actually got a, uh, hunt test, test title. Um, yeah, actually he’ll go, uh, duck hunting pheasant, hon. He was hung in with me.
David Hirsch: Sounds like a great all round dog.
Chad Johnson: That he’s, he is part of the family too, my oldest, um, and my, my youngest absolutely adore vendor. Uh, matter of fact, my, my oldest actually wanted to take senior pictures with, uh, what vendor.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous.
So, uh, I remember reading someplace that, um, retrieving freedom has a queen challenge. What’s that about?
Chad Johnson: Yeah. So we have a coding challenge. Uh, our coding challenge is, uh, kind of like a sponsorship where you can sponsor a coin and you can do it in memory of selling online. And there’s a code that will be put on the bottom of that coin.
And that coin is going to be as in the history or some of our coin challenges. We all know is that. We get a, a coin presented to us as a reward or some sort of doing a good job in the military. And we can have that coin in someone’s, you know, there recline out and challenge you. If you have, who has the highest coin.
Now, if you came, I have one from a general or Lieutenant Colonel. So the only challenge is actually to challenge the, see where that coin can travel to and I’ll, and then challenge someone. So Ashley rays and. Funds towards your tree and freedom. And then we can track that coin and see how far that coin can travel through the United States.
Or maybe even with the world. Hopefully.
David Hirsch: I love the idea. Um, and this is relatively new. It’s just happening or has it been around for awhile?
Chad Johnson: Um, this is actually something really new for return and freedom. We just started developing this, um, a little while ago. Hopefully this is going to branch out and really Natchez raised funds for retrain and freedom.
Um, cause we are a nonprofit, but if you look at it as. Anything that is touching more lives and changing more lives through the process of this challenge coin and let them know what we’re chamber is all about.
David Hirsch: Do you know anything about the great dad coin?
Chad Johnson: Um, matter of fact, uh, John has mentioned that to me, um, and showed me
David Hirsch: his.
Okay, well, we’re going to have to make sure that you get your own one of these days, optimally in a face to face presentation, as opposed to, I’m just going to mail that to you. So, uh, more to come on your end, switching gears a little bit. I’m wondering what role has spirituality played in your lives
Chad Johnson: back when I was growing up, we had to go to church every Sunday and go through a confirmation and confirmed.
That was a tradition in our family. And through
David Hirsch: my
Chad Johnson: different roles claimants, my spiritual outlook has changed some for the good and that something bad after all my deployments and being medically discharged. And then going through the process with receiving a service staff who were training to freedom, um, it has grown tremendously to where I have been going to church more often.
On my own with my service star to a, also a men’s group, I’m at a local church, a Crosspoint church, and through Crosspoint, I have got to meet other men and, and learned more about myself, um, in a spiritual
David Hirsch: way. Okay.
Chad Johnson: Or matter of fact, had Ashley was baptized at cross point as an adult, maybe about four years ago or so.
And it was a real joy to go through that knowing to wash away. The things that have happened in my past and to have God come back into my life, um, where I have, um, casting them out in the past.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I know that, uh, at least when I was younger, one of the things that I was taught was don’t talk about politics and religion.
And I think. That probably works in this bedding, but if you’re not talking about things that were important in your life and of spirituality as important in your life, I think we don’t develop a vocabulary or comfort about talking about things. So I appreciate you sharing your journey as it relates to your spirituality.
So I’m thinking about advice and I’m wondering if there’s any important takeaways that come to mind when raising a child with differences.
Chad Johnson: Ah, yeah, a child with different disabilities. It is really hard to give really advice when you know, you can use it yourself. But the one thing that I can always say.
And I’ve kind of come up with a, uh, saying, um, and kind of goes along with retrain and frame a little bit fitting one puzzle piece at a time. You, you can’t everything at once and you got to just piece by piece, work at it and be there for them. Be present. And every way, um, and give them every opportunity that they deserve.
David Hirsch: Well, you didn’t say it, but, um, uh, the keypad, it strikes me as being patient. Right.
Chad Johnson: Absolutely. So one of the things said about being a dog trainer, as I was talking earlier, that what I have learned, um, through life lessons, I have learned everything through job training, for one thing, as a dog trainer, you have to be patient, um, what the dog, when you’re training and working with them, um, you have to keep your emotions in check.
Um, at certain times, Um, when working with the what’s the dog and you’re working with an animal that has pretty much no verbal skills at all, when you’re working with them, you can’t tell them the just sit, cause they don’t know how to sit yet. So working through that of how to get them to do that and having the patience and reading the Dawn’s by language.
Oh, how do I go about and problem solve? This, you know, task at hand or command or, um, the skills they need to be as a service dog and patients is one of the biggest virtues. I think we all take for granted. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well said, thank you. I’m wondering if there’s any advice that you would share to other dads who are raising a child with disabilities.
Chad Johnson: I would say at certain times in our life as men, that we feel we have to be the strong one as men and be that leader be that one that holds our family together so far as supporting them and being that provider. But there’s times that we need to swallow our pride and when we need to help, we need to ask for it.
And I think that’s really hard. I’m speaking from past experience myself that we need to ask for help and reach out and ask for it.
David Hirsch: Yeah, very well said. So why is it that you agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Chad Johnson: I feel that, uh, we all need them or of some sort in our life, especially for having, uh, children with special needs, even as a veteran.
With a disability with PTSD and having a service start. We still need that mentor and not ask back as a veteran too, but also as regular men that have children with disabilities. I think you need to have that mentorship of helping each other and that brotherhood of dealing with it together. Cause if we don’t come together and help each other, then I feel that we should be letting our children down.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. We’re thrilled to have you as part of the network, let’s give a special shout out to our brand. John fellow Geller fellow Special Fathers Network mentor, father, and a podcast ad. A number of 65, I think was the number for connecting us.
Chad Johnson: Absolutely. Thank you.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Chad Johnson: I would say thank you. And I’m very honored to be on the podcast. Thank you for reaching out and wanting to know a little more about Richard, your freedom. I really look forward to helping out in any way I can.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you. If somebody wants to learn more about retrieving freedom. The coin challenge or to contact you, what’s the best way about going to do that?
Chad Johnson: You can get ahold of me personally, uh, through my email, Chad, at retrain and freedom.org, or you can go onto our website and learn more about our program, our nonprofit at returnerfreedom.org. And you can reach me at my office, a number. (319) 505-5949.
David Hirsch: Great, Chad, thank you for taking the time and many insights.
As a reminder, Chad is just one of the dads. Who’s agreed to be a mentor father as part of our Special Fathers Network and mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are taking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation, your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network, dad to dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know. The 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501 c3, not for profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free.
To all concerned, please consider making a tax deductable donation today. I would really appreciate your support. Please also post a review on iTunes, share the podcast with friends and family. As well as subscribe. So you’ll get a reminder when each episode is produced. Chad, thanks again.
Chad Johnson: Thank you.
Tom Couch: Thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network.
The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for. Fathers to support fathers go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: If you enjoyed this podcast, please be sure to like us on Facebook and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen.
The dad to dad podcast is produced by Couch Audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks for listening.