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335. Finding Strength in Brotherhood: Jarrad Turner's Mission to Uplift Veterans

the daily helping podcast Nov 13, 2023

In today’s Veterans Day episode of The Daily Helping, our expert guest is Jarrad Turner, a combat veteran whose service to his country has transitioned into a service for his fellow veterans. Turner's military background is not just a testament to his courage but also to his commitment to camaraderie and brotherhood—a theme that defines both his personal struggles and his post-service mission.

Turner's story is one of valor and vulnerability. His return from combat was not just a physical journey back home but a mental and emotional odyssey. He candidly shares the yearning to return to the front lines, not driven by the adrenaline of war but by the bond with his brothers in arms. This profound sense of belonging and purpose often goes missing when service members trade their uniforms for civilian clothes, and Jarrad was no exception. His battle scars were not only the ones visible to the eye but also the cognitive and psychological challenges that followed him long after the battles ended.

Turner's insights offer actionable advice for veterans and civilians alike: healing is a communal effort. It requires the support of those who understand the unspoken language of shared experiences. For veterans, Turner's story is a beacon of hope, showing that the path to recovery, though winding, is lined with the support of fellow soldiers turned lifelong friends.


The Biggest Helping: Today’s Most Important Takeaway

“When you transitioned into the military, no matter what branch of service it was, you didn't do it by yourself. There was a multitude of people that helped you as you transitioned into service. So what we ask you is, don't try to do this by yourself. You had a team when you went into the military, you have a team when you're separated from the military. We are part of that team. So if you need help, if you have questions, all I ask you to do is reach out and give us a try. Call us, send us an email, send us a text message, but do not try to do this by yourself. Transition is hard at multiple levels. And even if you transition or separated from the military 20 years ago, it doesn't mean you had a successful transition. We are here to help you. Don't do this by yourself. You want to do it on a battlefield by yourself. Don't try to do it on this new, different arena. Don't try to do it by yourself.”




Thank you for joining us on The Daily Helping with Dr. Shuster. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts to download more food for the brain, knowledge from the experts, and tools to win at life.




Produced by NOVA Media 


Download Transcript Here

Jarrad Turner:

They don't understand how your heart yearns to be in combat, not because you have something to prove, but those are your soldiers, those are your brothers in arms. I want to be with my soldiers. I want to be with my team, even though I was at home receiving the medical treatment that I needed.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

Hello, and welcome to The Daily Helping with Dr. Richard Shuster, food for the brain, knowledge from the experts, tools to win at life. I'm your host, Dr. Richard. Whoever you are, wherever you're from, and whatever you do, this is the show that is going to help you become the best version of yourself. Each episode, you will hear from some of the most amazing, talented, and successful people on the planet who followed their passions and strived to help others. Join our movement to get a million people each day to commit acts of kindness for others. Together, we're going to make the world a better place. Are you ready? Because it's time for your Daily Helping.

Thanks for tuning into this episode of The Daily Helping. I'm your host, Dr. Richard. And I'm really grateful to bring this episode to you. This is a Veterans Day special, and when we do a Veterans Day special, for those of you who have heard previous episodes, we highlight an amazing veteran who has done incredible things and is doing even more incredible things to help other veterans with a nonprofit.

And we're going to talk today to Jarrad Turner. Jarrad Turner served as Staff Sergeant in the U. S. Army for eight years as a Health Care Specialist, 3rd Infantry Division. He has dedicated his post-Military service to improving the quality and access to resources for his fellow veterans. Since 2012, he has worked in various veteran service roles for the Atlanta VA Medical Center, the Atlanta VA Regional Office, and Senior National Officer for the Wounded Warrior Project, among others.

Jarrad is going to talk to us today about The Warrior Alliance. I can't wait for you all to learn about him and the great work he's doing there. Jarrad, welcome to The Daily Helping. It is awesome to have you with us today.

Jarrad Turner:

Thank you so much, Dr. Richard. I appreciate that. Yeah. Jarrad Turner, former Army Combat Medic. Actually served in the Army for ten years, but the first eight years was with the Third Infantry Division - rocking them on to all my dogface soldiers out there - and the last two years was down at Fort Sam Houston training fellow medics, if you will.

So, thank you so much, Dr. Richard. I appreciate it. I'm excited to be here.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

And thank you for your service. And I'm honored to have you with us. I know you just kind of glossed over your ten year Military career, but a lot of people don't really understand, and you were a medic, so talk to us about what it's like to be a medic in combat.

Jarrad Turner:

Great question. Well, I was 26 when I actually enlisted into the Army and that was in 2000. So, essentially, my first few years in the Army was, honestly, just doing what you would normally do, everything from the Troop Medical Center to just working in a hospital as an EMT, if you will. It wasn't until it was time to be deployed where things really changed.

Being a line medic, being part of a Mechanized Infantry Unit, that's when you get to see a lot of work, a lot of action, that's where you have to put your skills to the test, if you will. But you also have to, you know, start looking at that leadership aspect and understanding that the things that we have to do, the things that we were exposed to, I really only had what was in between my two hands, if you will, and what was in my aid bag, and really relying upon the team to stabilize and get those soldiers that needed the higher level of medical attention, getting them to the green zone, and that's when the teams would get them from the green zone to Landstuhl, Germany.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

Tell us this, so for those of us that aren't familiar with the combat terms, just what is the green zone?

Jarrad Turner:

The safe zone.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

Safe zone. Okay.

Jarrad Turner:

Yeah, safe zone. I'm a little old right now with all this gray hair and there you go, Dr. Richard, you got your lush hair there and I just got this little chrome done on top of my head, if you will. But I remember getting to Kuwait and I remember when the doors of the plane opened up and we could feel that heat wave. I think the first day we were there in Kuwait, it was, like, 146 degrees. So, you can imagine 146 degrees, you could barely see, the sun was so bright. You know, it was a wake up call. It was a very, very different wake up call.

And because I was older than a lot of my counterparts joining - again, I joined the army at 26. I enlisted at the age of 26 - it was just very, very different. For some, I was that senior enlisted non-commissioned officer. For others, I was that big brother figure. As a medic, you just don't know what you're going to be called to do. Because when that term medic goes screaming out, because of my brothers in arms, I know I can go run to whatever type of situation that I need to go into. But It's a very difficult situation, I can just put it to you like that. It's worthy but it's not always easy.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

And I omitted this intentionally when I read your bio because I wanted you to share the story. You were deployed twice to Iraq and wounded during an attack. Could you tell us about that?

Jarrad Turner:

Yeah. So, part of the initial push into Iraq, their first deployment was 15 months. Right now, that's actually illegal, you can't deploy for 15 months. Second deployment was 12 months. Subsequently, as a result of the attack that day in October - as a matter of fact, I just celebrated my live date, if you will - I got ejected out of a guard tower. And as a result of being ejected out the guard tower from the explosion, there was four shoulder surgeries, two elbow surgeries, two surgeries on my jaw, and just got filleted with like a 50 cent piece of shrapnel.

So, I had some challenges. I mean, I have two volumes of medical notes or medical records on my right arm. One of the reasons that I had to be medically retired is because I could no longer palpate a pulse. I'm right handed, unfortunately, due to the severity of the injuries on my arm, at one point in time I didn't have the dexterity to pick up and hold a pen or pencil, let alone feed myself. So, you know, it was a long road to recovery.


Dr. Richard Shuster:

How long were you like that?

Jarrad Turner:

Probably for nine months to a year. That's why I actually ended up going to Fort Sam Houston was because I could no longer operate and do the things that I was going to be called to do as a line medic. I still had the aptitude, still had all of the experience, still had all the knowledge, but when you got to think about pulling the trigger, when you got to think about can I palpate this pulse, when you have to think about can I, can I, can I, that's a problem. That is a problem.

If you notice what I said, you have to think about pulling the trigger, scene safety is the most important thing even for a medic. You don't do anything unless the scene is safe. So, sometimes you have to engage with the enemy before you can get to that brother or sister in arms that needs you so you can render the aid that is needed.

So, roughly nine months like that and then having to work through the neck injuries. Because, of course, with a 20 plus foot fall with roughly 100 pounds of gear on, full vest, weapon, Kevlar, what have you, I've got three bulging discs in my neck. So, between the bulging discs, between the vertigo, between the migraine headaches, between all the neurological damage, it took almost 18 months to two years just to get back into the fight, if you will.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

One of the things that so many people don't understand is so many veterans become suicidal not so much because of the injury itself, but because of the ability to continue to soldier and serve is taken away from them. What was it like emotionally for you during that time?

Jarrad Turner:

Oh, it was incredibly frustrating. I'm not a small person, so prior to getting injured, I prided myself on being able to do a lot of PT, physical training, if you will, not physical therapy. But I mean I could do push ups all day long. I couldn't necessarily run as fast as some, but I could definitely run. And sit ups, that was nothing. So, you go from being able to do that to having to learn now how to use your left hand for everything. That's hard.

And then, you have to watch your brothers go down range, and here it is, you look fine but that's because you can't see the scars. If my shirt is off, yeah, you can see the scars and everything. But the average person, they have no earthly idea what those scars look like. They don't know what the pain of multiple surgeries is. They don't understand how your heart yearns to be in combat, not because you have something to prove, but those are your soldiers, those are your brothers in arms. I want to be with my soldiers. I want to be with my team, even though I was at home receiving the medical treatment that I needed. The emotional pull on your heart, you know, we don't train to be peacemakers. We train to go to war and defend our nation. So, to look in the mirror and say okay, every day was a mental fight. It was hard.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

I want to just applaud you for being vulnerable and being open to talk about this because I think that these issues that veterans deal with, the average person doesn't have a frame of reference for that just because the uniqueness of Military training and what it actually means to be in combat. 

So, I want to flash forward, Jarrad, a little bit. You went to Fort Sam Houston and then you left the Military. And so, I want to spend a few minutes talking about what got us to The Warrior Alliance, because I want to give ample time to talk about all the amazing things that organization is doing, but talk about that transition out of the Military and what that was like.

Jarrad Turner:

That was an incredibly hard transition. And the reason I say it was so hard was, again, I never wanted to medically retire. Again, I look in the mirror, I look at myself, and I pride myself on being healthy, staying in shape, being able to do the things that a soldier is called to do. But when your shoulder keeps popping out or when you can't grasp things because you don't have the dexterity in your hands, you have to think about that.

You know, you have to think about what is that mortality.

And then, also, I was very fortunate to have some really good senior leaders who simply told me, "Hey, look. As good as you are and as much as we love and appreciate who you are, Sergeant Turner, A.K.A Doc, the Army will create more of you. Period. And we will create another Staff Sergeant Turner. We will create another Doc. That's just the nature of the beast." So, some of the emotions that I was dealing with is not just what happens when I separate, what happens when I take this uniform off, what happens to that identity, but it's fear of the unknown. You know, I was good at what I was doing. I was squared away, as we like to say in the Army. Now, what is it? Who am I going to be?

As well as when I was separating from the Army, one of the things that at that time, 2010, nobody was talking about traumatic brain injury, nobody was talking about vertigo and double vision and light sensitivity and headaches. And I spent a wedding anniversary laying on the floor, literally, eating with my ex-wife because I couldn't stand up, because every time I stood up, I would fall. So, there is a big shift. There was a big desire to try to understand what the heck am I going through. These are things that I had no explanation for. And then, at that time, there just wasn't enough Military medical doctoring to help people like myself say, "Hey, this is what's taking place."

Dr. Richard Shuster:

A lot of times when we experience that type of a transition, we have people in our lives that help us bridge that gap, emotionally, cognitively, otherwise, and get us to that next place. And I did this kind of intentionally, too, I left off some of your accolades out of the intro because I wanted you to talk about them. But you've been, for so many years, a shining force in helping veterans. How were you able to cross that chasm emotionally and get to a place where you then began in a different kind of a helping role, but still helping?

Jarrad Turner:

I think for me, it was all I wanted to do is be the best dad that I could be, the best version of whoever I am right now. I knew there was no way for me to get back. And at that time, when your older nerve has flattened out, I mean, it's just completely flat, the impulses aren't there. Yes, I have my arm. Yes, I have my hand. But the brain is saying do one thing and it's just not reacting, not in a timely manner. As well as when I started realizing the cognitive deficit that I was having, occasionally I still have a list or I'll stutter these days, but I just knew that I wanted to be the best version of me.

And being the best version of me, I didn't know how to find that.

I still, to this day, don't recall driving from Fort Sam Houston to ending up in Atlanta, Georgia. I have no recollection of that. There's big gaps in my memory that I just don't have anymore. So, mentally, it was incredibly hard. Physically, it was hard because when I started thinking about the migraine headaches and the light sensitivity, and, again, you look "normal," now we have to define what is normal. But am I going crazy? There was a multitude of questions.

For me, one of the community partners that The Warrior Alliance has now is called the Shepherd Center. It was at the Shepherd Center where they have what's called the SHARE Military Project - excuse me SHARE Military Initiative, that's where we kind of unraveled this piece called traumatic brain injury. After getting treatment there for roughly about 15 to 16 weeks, that's when my journey really started taking fold, taking shape, if you will. I started linking up with other veteran service organizations from Team Red, White and Blue, the Shepherd Center, Camp Twin Lakes, just a multitude of organizations here in the Greater Atlanta Metropolitan Area, because I knew that I needed to find my new North Star. I knew I needed to find that.

I just happened to be very fortunate that in the process of trying to find my North Star that there were men and women from some nonprofits, some for-profit organizations that I could connect to. And that was probably the most impactful piece because I was able to bring my kids to many of these organizations. I was able to kind of just be my true self. You know, as dads, as men, as adults, if you will, sometimes this is hard because you think of how people are going to view you. For me, I lost 11 men that I have served with in combat. So, in total, I've lost 17 to suicide, veterans that I have known. I didn't want to be one of those. I've seen the after effects and, selfishly, I was doing all this because I needed to hold on to something. I needed to hold on to something. I just kept believing that if I kept persevering, if I kept pushing myself, if I kept taking a step forward, that I would get on the other side of this.


Dr. Richard Shuster:

And you did get on the other side of this and it led to you, among other places, to The Warrior Alliance where you are now. And so, I want to give you space to tell everybody what The Warrior Alliance does and why it's so unique and important.

Jarrad Turner:

So, The Warrior Alliance, we opened up our doors in 2018, December of 2018, if you will. The CEO is Scott Johnson, and Scott and I kind of became friends along this journey after a few years of meeting with him. His organization at the time, they had provided funding for the Family Warrior Weekend, which is a program that I brought my family to, and that's when I met and started understanding that there's more ways that I need to give back.

So, when you think about The Warrior Alliance, when you think about my journey, when you think about I was able to connect with a multitude of organizations, but maybe our fellow brothers and sisters are not, so how do we have battle buddies for them? How do we create a network?

How do we find the best in class organizations and make sure that no service member, no veteran has to do this by themselves?

Because we know statistically speaking, if you think that you're the only one in a fight, at some point in time, you're going to get tired. And by the time you get tired and weary, that's when you're going to potentially have some negative thoughts, face some challenges, and you don't get to see what's on the other side of that door or what's on the other side of that wall, because you're just tired.

So, when you start thinking about The Warrior Alliance, think about a convener, think about one organization that will go out and work with you. You know, when you pick up the phone and say, "Hey, I've connected to The Warrior Alliance, what do you have?" The first thing that we say to is, first and foremost, "How can we help you?" We're here for you and it's not cookie cutter. Every single person that comes through our doors, whether it's virtually or in-person, is going to receive what we call a Warrior Care Plan. That Warrior Care Plan is specific to the goals of that warrior.

And the reason that I say service member, we really have a lot of interaction with our national guardsmen. Again, that fighting force, when you start thinking about it, they've done so much, but yet they receive so little. When I got injured, my injury allowed me to come home or come stateside a lot slower than the average person comes home. When we were deployed the first time, you know, three days you're back at home and you have some down time, you have some time to release the pressure, but you don't feel "normal". How do you feel normal? What does that feel like? You can't even describe the emotions of all of that, let alone the physical pains that you're definitely going to go through.

For anybody that says that they've served in the Military, whether it be the Army, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, the Navy, or even the Air Force, and they tell you that they have no injuries, they are lying to themselves and they are lying to you. Especially if they are a soldier or a Marine, our jobs are physical. We just know how to suck it up and embrace it but you carry that for such a long time.

So, when it comes to coming to The Warrior Alliance, when it comes to seeking resources or seeking information, the biggest thing you need to know is that you're not alone. You're not alone. And you know that not only are we going to check to make sure that we're connecting you to the right organizations and we're going to hold those organizations accountable, we're always going to check back in with you. At a minimum of twice a month, you're going to get a phone call or an email from our team just asking you how are you. And that's a simple question, but that's also a very loaded question as you know.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

What I really think is cool about this is the uniqueness of a customized plan for every veteran that works with you. Because there are a lot of veterans who receive care, but it's just this cookie cutter approach to treatment and it's not a one size fits all. Trauma affects people very differently. It presents itself very differently. It's triggered by different things for different people. And so, I just really love that you've taken this custom approach.

And what I also love that I heard you say is that you guys work with a ton of organizations, hence the term alliance, but you hold the organizations accountable, meaning that you vet these organizations. And what is disappointing is that there are so many organizations, some just because they don't know how to effectively manage themselves and help people in the most efficient way, but some, unfortunately, because there is money to be made and people take advantage of veterans all too often. So, I love that you guys fully vet very resource that you would refer a veteran to. I think that's fantastic.

Jarrad Turner:

So, there are 7,000 organizations and we can't expect the average person, let alone a veteran who is trying to manage a new life, trying to manage work, trying to manage a family to go through all 7,000 of those organizations. That's why we only have 37 community partners with an MOU that we have as well as service level agreements. We might go up to maybe 45 community partners, it just depends on the needs. And the data that we're receiving from our veterans, it guides how we're going to engage with our community partners.

Again, trust is everything. Our warriors come to us and they trust that we are going to work with them, that we're going to walk with them, and that we're going to connect them to the best opportunities. We have to trust our community partners. But as we know, it's always better not just to have words, but actions behind that trust. And that's what our community partners have with our MOUs and our service level agreements.

Dr. Richard Shuster:

Perfect. And because you've created this type of a model, it's pretty easy to use your imagination and see you could replicate this model everywhere in this country to do the same thing.

Jarrad Turner:

Yeah. We're very fortunate. At this time, two years ago, the Atlanta Braves adopted us and they saw the good work that we were doing, so they gave us a beautiful 5,000 square foot facility here. And next year, we are definitely going to continue focusing on Georgia, but we are going to start expanding.

And the reason we're going to start expanding, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas, when you start looking at that area, that's called VISN 7. VISN meaning the VA Integrated Service Network. The VA does good work, but the VA is an aircraft carrier. It can't respond quickly to the needs of its population. That's where The Warrior Alliance along with our community partners, we stand in a gap to ensure when those phone calls come in that we can respond in a timely manner and make sure that our warriors are stabilized. Yes, they're going to connect with the VA because that's what they should do. And, yes, we have to hold the VA accountable. But we're not going to sit or rest. When a warrior needs help, that's where The Warrior Alliance comes into play.


Dr. Richard Shuster:

Beautiful. Jarrad, again, I want to thank you for your service, for all of the good work that you continue to do with The Warrior Alliance. As you know, I wrap up every episode by asking my guests a single question, and that is, what is your biggest helping? That one most important piece of information you'd like somebody to walk away with after hearing our conversation today.

Jarrad Turner:

Dr. Richard, first, let me thank you. Speaking on the behalf of my fellow brothers and sisters in arms is something that I'm very honored to do and I'm very thankful to do. I did not get here by myself. And the one thing that I would ask my fellow brothers and sisters in arms is don't try to do this by yourself. When you transitioned into the Military, no matter what branch of service it was, you didn't do it by yourself. There was a multitude of people that helped you as you transition into service.

So, what we ask you is don't try to do this by yourself. You had a team when you went into the Military. You have a team when you're separated from the Military. We are part of that team. So, if you need help, if you have questions, all I ask you to do is reach out and give us a try, call us, send us an email, send us a text message. But do not try to do this by yourself. Transition is hard at multiple levels. And even if you transition or separated from the military 20 years ago, it doesn't mean you had a successful transition. We are here to help you. Don't do this by yourself. You want to do it on the battlefield by yourself, on this new different arena, don't try to do it by yourself.


Dr. Richard Shuster:

Perfect. Tell us where people can learn more about The Warrior Alliance and contribute to this organization.

Jarrad Turner:

All right. To learn more about The Warrior Alliance, you can simply go to You can find us on all the social media platforms. And to make donations or contributions to the organization, again, just go to our website,, and we gladly appreciate the donations that you would make to our cause of supporting our fellow brothers and sisters in arms.


Dr. Richard Shuster:

And we are going to link to everything Warrior Alliance at and the show notes so that you can make a difference today or contribute today. But Daily Helping listeners, we're going to have something coming up that we will let you know about, which is going to be a special fundraising initiative that I'm going to be involved in to really help this organization because it's so important the work that they do.

Jarrad, I'm so grateful that you came on and told us everything that you're doing today. Again, thank you from all of us for all of the good work that you're doing in the world.

Jarrad Turner:

Thank you so much. I'm honored to be here and I can't wait to work with you in the future.


Dr. Richard Shuster:

Me, too. Me, too. I also want to thank each and every one of you for taking time out of your day to listen to this. And I do encourage you to go to so you can find those links and contribute to The Warrior Alliance. But most importantly, go out there today and do something nice for somebody else, even if you don't know who they are, and post in your social media feeds using the hashtag #MyDailyHelping because the happiest people are those that help others.


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