Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"I just tried to be there,” Chaplain Ron Link explains life as responding to responders

Always on call: Meet the chaplains who assist sheriff's office during crises

Dawson County News
Jessica Taylor
Feb. 26, 2019
Each year they receive 40 hours of training from the Georgia Sheriffs' Association to maintain their certification, which they said reinvigorates and motivates them to keep answering the calls from dispatch.

Dawson County Sheriff's Office Chaplains Ron Link and Dr. Charles Blackstock. - photo by Jessica Taylor 
"I just tried to be there,” Ron Link said as he recounted his first call from dispatch. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do but it turns out I was doing what I was supposed to,"

Link became a chaplain for the Dawson County Sheriff's Office three years ago, and vividly remembers his first call to a scene: a devastating house fire.

Dr. Charles Blackstock, the lead chaplain who has served in the role for 10 years, was in Atlanta, leaving Link with the responsibility of responding to the call alone.

"I had no formal sheriff’s office training. I just went out there to try to be a help," Link said. "It was kind of overwhelming. It was a really bad scene."

It was a house fire, and someone’s significant other was inside. All Link could do was stand outside with the husband, comforting him as authorities conducted their investigation.

"I didn’t know what the procedures and processes were. I didn’t know who to talk to. All I knew was there was somebody there that was in real, emotional crisis and so I went over and stayed with him until his family arrived," Link said.

It was his first taste of what his new role as a chaplain entailed.

For Blackstock, a pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, stepping into the role was a little bit easier. With his ministerial background, he was rather comfortable with providing faith-based support to the sheriff's office staff and the community.
As chaplains, Blackstock and Link voluntarily assist the sheriff's office by delivering death notices, consoling emotional victims at crime scenes and emergencies and supporting the sheriff's office staff through counseling and helping officers cope with traumatic events.

How they go about providing assistance from scene to scene varies with every call.

"You never know what you’re going to get called on to do," Blackstock said.
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Why is this important?

In 2008, I became a Chaplain with the IFOC and received Certification in Crisis Intervention, among other things, plus an award for my work focusing on PTSD prevention for first responders. For the next two years, I trained in many more programs to help avoid the worst results of their service from taking hold. While I no longer wear the badge, I carry the valuable lessons I learned with me everyday.

Why would I do that?
I am a ten time survivor of facing death during traumatic events, including when my ex-husband decided he wanted to kill me, and almost did.

Throughout my life, my family was doing the intervention without knowing it. Sure, I had nightmares, flashbacks, and all the other symptoms of PTSD, but it did not have a chance to take hold because it was addressed right away.

Through the research I had done for a couple of decades, I learned that there is a 30 golden window to battle trauma and take back control of my life. The symptoms had started to go away within the first month, and I was on the road to recovery.

Every now and then, things pop into my mind, but the memories no longer control my life. 

The worst one was when my ex stalked me, ignored the restraining order and every time I heard a muscle car engine rev, it sent a electrical charge through my body and I wanted to run. That went on, even after moving to Florida, far from where he lived, and long after I married my current husband.

When my cousin sent me a copy of his obituary, I stopped freaking out from the sound and began to enjoy the noise again. That comes in handy considering what I do on PTSD Patrol with car shows...although I still do not like my first reaction when I come across a Cutlass. I take a deep breath and move on to interesting pictures to take.

Knowing what all those times did to me, it was easy to understand what it was like for all the veterans and responders were dealing with, and being a family member of a Vietnam veteran, I also understood what it was like on this side of the trauma.

All of this goes into what I have done with my life since 1982, and what I do everyday. So if you find some comfort on this page, gain some knowledge, or decide that you can just copy it, now you know what is behind all of it.

Healing requires what Chaplains do because they are trusted with being able to listen without judging, comfort when needed and let you know that minute you start to address what happened, that is the minute you begin to heal as a survivor of it. 

First I listen. Most of the time, it is over a cup of coffee or at an event when someone sees what I am wearing. A shirt with PTSD Patrol or my Point Man vest, lets them know I am someone willing to listen.

Then I guide them to understanding what PTSD is and let them know how to kick it out of their new normal as a survivor. And is time to work on the spiritual side of healing so they can come out on the other side even better than they were before. You know, like me! 

None of what I do would have worked had I not had the life I had...or learned to become a leader to healing those who risk their lives to save people like me all the time. 

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