General Tom Stapelton
Role in the Story: Second in command of Orion before Jane takes over.
General Tom Stapelton descended from a long line of prideful Marines. Nearly every male family member he knew had served his country. His own father, Eugene, crossed paths in his Marine Corps days with Howser, the President and Commander of Orion; saving his life. Which then led to a friendship, and Tom’s early entrance into the Orion program.
Tom’s mid-western, salt-of-the earth parents instilled in him a deep love not only for his country, but also for God and family. Deeply religious, Tom often struggles with an inner conflict between his duties as a Marine, compassion for humanity, and the watchful and judging eye of God. He is certain that God will eventually forgive him, as he prays often and resorts to rooting out scripture to justify the brutality of war and killing. He desperately clings to this hope. He had a large image of christ tattooed onto his chest as a reminder.
Tom sets the gold standard for leadership in Orion. He is balanced, intelligent, resourceful, funny, kind, logical, and extremely skilled and knowledgeable. Known as the quiet observer, as he assesses the situation as if it were a game of chess; calculating several moves out. He is passionately devoted to members of his team, and places extreme importance on their lives; more so on Jane’s. There is nothing he would not do for Jane. He absolutely proves time and again that he would die for her; and this relationship is mutual.
Through his father Eugene, Tom was sent to the Orion Military training school at 8-years-old, where he met Jane two years later. He began mentoring her, and quickly they became best friends, inseparable training partners; and Howser’s special projects. Howser treated them differently and special, Howser loved Tom like his own son, which, for Tom made leaving his own family somewhat easier.
Along with the great struggles Tom faces as he tries to hold hands with God while being a Marine elite Killer; Tom has the dual responsibility of simply developing as a very young man in an intensely mature position of leadership, and the burden of keeping his team (his brothers and Jane) alive.
“Although the world is a shit storm on some accounts, I like it that it’s becoming more open and progressive for guys to finally get some real help for all the mind fucking we are subject to in war. You bet we choose it, and for all the right reasons. I am going to protect this nation, every citizen, every constitutional right, every grain of sand, and I am going to fight for those beliefs. I will do my best to serve this country and go wherever I am required to go. But dammit, that is a brutal task on the mind, and so when I come home, can someone recognize what me and the thousands of soldiers and Marines do for this land, and wrap your arms around us and help us get our minds back to a safe place again? A place where we can actually process reasonable thoughts and ideas? Where it wouldn’t feel like a scent, or a bump in the road was going to trigger a horrific memory and the wrath of hell was swallowing us up whole and vomiting us back out over and over again like a rag doll?
I know guys so tough, strong and brave, that they have the courage to relentlessly storm bomb ridden buildings, face sniper fire 18 hours a day, carry off limbless brothers while rockets rip around them. They are beaten, bruised, shot, and have to kill others night after night after night. They go without food, without sleep, without decent weapons, and boots. We have marched until our backs blistered and the skin on our feet peeled off in layers. Yet, these same guys come home and can’t make it through a few months or a year trying to transition into society. They will eventually complete the act of suicide. Why does it have to be like that?
PTSD is real. It is so damn real and terrifying. It doesn’t just affect veterans and soldiers. It can affect anyone in a life threatening experience, or someone who feels their life is in extreme danger. Trauma and stress. I am a character in the book Orion One, yes, but I had to be based on something, someone real. I speak for the hundreds of veterans and soldiers who need a voice for recovery. What I do know, is that PTSD can be overcome, and you can take back your life, your thoughts, your health, your way of living. Americans, Australians, Brits, Canadians….no one is immune, and we can all help each other through research, programs, help centers, hotlines, community groups, and destigmatizing speaking about it.
Significant research and treatment has progressed in simply “Sitting with the trauma” with the help of trained professionals. The by nature response with PTSD is the “Flight” or (get the fuck away from it and burry it quick this sucks approach). However, doctors and scientists are learning that actually sitting and recognizing the traumatic event for long periods of time, will let you gain a witness perspective, and eventually ( severely) lessens the degree the trauma physically and emotionally effects you.
My teammate Screech, I call him the Professor, because he is so smart. Well, he uses a similar technique for all of us. He dabbles in a little quantum physics, and throws in some of this woo woo universe Soul stuff in the mix, and some religion; however, I relate to his theory his theory because I am a pretty religious guy. Here goes: Screech said to picture my soul as being created by this great mass of energy, call it God if I want to (which I do), and its out there with countless billions of other souls of energy waiting for a vehicle. That vehicle is a body. When a lady is about to give birth, the soul releases from this big mass, travels down, and enters a baby….sort of like climbing into the drivers seat of a car. Now the soul (me, my soul) will be born in a vehicle. The vehicle has an operating system: A windshield (eyes), wheels (legs and arms), a motor (brain), transmission (heart), carburetor (lungs) etc….but the soul is what is me and generating all the ideas, the initial power, the drive, the Intel chip for the computer. The soul (me) can choose, and then pass ideas to the brain to be filtered, stored , and managed. The brain is not only the motor that keeps the body operating, but it is a computer that stores and retrieves information.
Screech believes dealing with the trauma becomes easier when you understand the separateness of the mind and brain, the soul and the body. Separating yourself from trauma becomes easier. Then you can actually sit with it more peacefully, and almost visualize this “Soul minion” finding the “documentary of the trauma” that has been wrecking havoc in your brain, capturing it, finding a file folder for it, labeling it something like “Movies to never watch”, or “Confidential do not open”. Sometimes its even better to watch the trauma a few dozen times with the guys from Mystery Science 2000, and give commentary, until it becomes either ridiculous, or just ok that its there.
I have a lot of faith that the world is a progressive place, and that humankind IS kind. I believe that we don’t want veterans returning home after defending and serving our country, and then suffering and committing suicide.
If you are brave enough to rush the front lines, or clear a building, or sit through night after night of artillery rounds; then you are most assuredly strong enough to find the warrior within you and seek treatment. #SOULdiersSurvive #PTSDisreal
“A training tip from me would be to get your mind strong and your faith strong. I am pretty religious, I have to be. I really believe that God loves me no matter what, and that he has his eye on me. I have to respect myself and other people. But I have to get my mind strong. A strong mind can love yourself, your country, your wife, your sister, your daughter, your father, sons, God, and everything around you becomes easy. I wouldn’t be able to do my job without the courage I get from having a good strong core. So train yourself to respect yourself. Knock off the drugs and the alcohol and the crud that is going into your body. Put something good inside, and something great will resonate.”
Favorite food: “I am a fried chicken sort of guy, but I love it with sweet corn on the cob and a big glass of ice cold milk. I don’t really like chocolate or desert food, but I think watermelon on a hot July day is perfect.”
Favorite weapon: “Seriously? Jane is my favorite weapon! Just kidding. For like everyday stuff, probably my S&W 1911 .45 just because my dad gave it to me. It has good balance, nice sites, and a comfortable grip…and my dad gave it to me, that says all you need to know.
Favorite movies: “Anything with Jason Statham in it, he can seriously fight.”
Relaxation: “I read a lot. Doesn’t matter really what it is, even if its a tech manual. Reading is distracting. I like to swim laps, and run whenever I can because thats pretty solo and quiet as well.”
Favorite music: “It’s weird, but I like country music, but it has to be the old school George Strait stuff. I don’t know what has happened to country music since Garth brooks started shooting off fireworks on stage, but it’s not good.”
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