Words of Devotion

At the beginning of my first long weekend at @erwwpr, I decided I would take the weekend off from social media, email and pretty much everything outside of actual human contact. Nothing against social media, but as it becomes an increasingly important part of my job, I like to maintain a balance between the real and evaluations of the real. I decided it was time for a little break. Ironically, I left my phone at the first bar I went to on Friday night, so I ended up not having a choice in the matter.

Normally over such a holiday weekend, I would have been focused on typical summer kickoff behavior. But thanks to a moving article by Marian Salzman on the Huffington Post about Memorial Day, what was on my mind all weekend was one of my absolute nearest and dearest friends.

My friend (who by request shall remain nameless) graduated from the University of Dayton this spring and simultaneously from the ROTC program (first in her class, I might proudly add). She received placement orders and found out her deployment information: Afghanistan in March. As everyone who was home for the weekend basked in the sun and hit the town, my friend worked out, brushed up on the history of military intelligence and prepared to take a computer science class all summer.

Memorial Day has never really meant more to me than a day off from school and extra family time. But this year, in the 90-degree heat and against the backdrop of freshly graduated friends, I finally began to understand the sentiment of the holiday and all the ways that the day fails to capture and acknowledge the incomprehensible sacrifice that soldiers and their families have given.

To best describe what I mean is to explain my friend, who is a truly wonderful person. She is set apart—not by her drive, ambition or skill, but by her mentality. Those who contribute to something truly special often share her mentality, an overwhelming devotion to the success of the group or the effort, as opposed to that of personal and individual success.

And honestly, it’s the driving force behind the One Young World (OYW) summit.

OYW delegates, all highly accomplished individuals, aren’t there for a line to add to a résumé or to build personal networks. They are there because, like my friend, they want to understand what is necessary for the success and well-being of their respective countries and groups, and they want to be the people to execute those ideas.

Both OYW delegates and military veterans realize that despite often being disinclined to be a leader, they recognize that this quality is the reason they must continue. These people not only understand the idea of leadership in a democracy, but they also actively live it every day. As we prepare for the One Young World summit, we must recognize that it is a chance to address important issues without having to sacrifice people’s lives. OYW is a chance for our young leaders to come together and collectively agree that our institutions and values hang on by fragile threads, while trying to correct and stabilize them.

And so, especially this weekend, but hopefully more frequently in our lives, we can dedicate our barbecues, fireworks, long morning runs, free and lively debates, and apple pies to the people who understand the fragility of the world’s institutions and values and literally give their lives to protect and preserve them.

[photo: Stock Exchange]

Our American War Hero

[Originally posted in the Danbury (Conn.) News-Times.]

Very near to Danbury there lived a true American war hero. His name was Rob J. Lytle Jr., and you may have heard of him when his obituary turned up in local newspapers in 2010.

His widow, Lori-Ann Lytle, who lives in New Milford, broke away from custom when she included her husband’s cause of death in his obit, and in the very first sentence: suicide.

She did so with intent—not to tarnish her husband’s memory but to give his death meaning. He died after a long battle with PTS, post-traumatic stress, a sad fact that Lori-Ann included as well.

Though Lori-Ann bravely gave a name to Rob’s demon—the one that for 20 years woke him, screaming, several times a month; sidelined him with anxiety, depression and alcoholism; and ultimately led him to take his life—that newsprint paragraph wasn’t room enough to tell the real story.

The real story is about a decorated war veteran who proudly served our country in the Army as an MP in Panama for Operation Just Cause and then in the Middle East for Operation Desert Storm, among other places.

He went on to work with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which brought him back to Connecticut when he transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury. He worked hard and was promoted to lieutenant.

The real story is that Rob left behind a son, Alex, now 12.

He also left behind a paper trail, one that Lori-Ann discovered in a file folder after his death.

Unbeknownst to her, Rob had reached out to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to try and get help—requesting disability status due to PTS. He was denied, as was his subsequent appeal detailing the horrific things he saw and did in battle.

The disability status would have entitled him to free mental healthcare that might have saved his life.

Why are we bringing this to your attention?

Because though we’re partners with disparate career paths—CEO of a public relations agency and a criminal defense attorney who once defended a criminal case for Rob—we have in common a profound desire to help and to honor veterans by unmasking the hidden injuries of war, specifically the ones that impair the brain.

Together we attended the wake in July 2010 for Sgt. Lytle, and together we were stirred by an email Jim received from Lori-Ann earlier this month.

In it, Lori-Ann not only detailed her frustration with the government’s failure to help Rob but also expressed her resolve to make his death meaningful to other veterans who suffer PTS.

This clicked with the two of us.

Not only is Marian a champion of brain health, having survived the removal of a brain tumor at Massachusetts General, but we just recently hosted a party at our house in Stamford to raise money for the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which was founded after news reporter Bob Woodruff recovered from a brain injury sustained from an IED when he was covering the Iraq War.

Marian works, too, to promote the Home Base Program, a collaboration between the Red Sox Foundation and Mass General to assist veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who have traumatic brain injuries and PTS.

Lori-Ann herself has donated money on Rob’s behalf to Disabled American Veterans (DAV). And when she heard of our work with the Woodruff Foundation, she asked if we could help her tell Rob’s story.

Yes, we can. And we hope you’re listening.

Through our work with these platforms, we’ve met a lot of veterans who have been terribly hurt, but Rob’s story has resonated most with us because it’s personal.

Rob Lytle’s death reminds us exactly why we, and the organizations we work with, are working to get assistance to those suffering traumatic brain injuries or PTS.

Each day more Americans understand the psychological impact of war, and more of us are giving money and time to the cause, but we need more—more money, more time, more ears for the cause.

As Memorial Day approaches, we ask you to consider war veterans like Rob Lytle whose injuries were suffered unseen. Some are lucky enough to get help, others not so lucky.

We need the VA system to change now so that other veterans don’t hurt themselves because they aren’t getting the help they need.

There’s one more part of Rob’s story that we want to tell.

Remarkably, in her email, Lori-Ann wrote that Rob remained, in spite of it all, “so proud to be an American and believed 100 percent in the goodness of our government.”

Let’s not prove him wrong, and let’s show Lori-Ann and Alex that his death was not in vain.

Please help us honor this true American war hero.

Donations can be sent in Rob Lytle’s honor and memory to the Woodruff Foundation (ReMIND.org or mail a check to: Bob Woodruff Foundation 100 Wall St. 2nd Floor NY, NY 10005), the Home Base Program (homebaseprogram.org) or the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust (cst.dav.org), a nonprofit that provides services to veterans with PTS.

Jim Diamond is an attorney in Danbury and a former assistant state’s attorney. Marian Salzman is the CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America.

[photo: Lori-Ann Lytle]

Luck Was a Lady Last Night

The women in black at table 18 had a great time last night at the PRWeek Awards. You would think that torrential downpours and a lackluster Oscars show last month would have tempered our excitement for an awards show dinner. But you’d be wrong—because our fearless leader, Marian Salzman, won PR Professional of the Year last night.

Marian was gracious and humbled and acknowledged that we’re playing a team sport. I’m not sure she realized what her win meant to us. Last night reminded all of us at Euro RSCG PR that we have a leader committed to innovation, social responsibility and our futures. In a time of economic, political and social uncertainty, leaders mean a lot—and great ones mean even more. We were lucky last night, and our lady was Marian Salzman.

The Intern Diaries, Part II

It’s going on one month since the start of my internship, and already I’ve learned so much. I haven’t been seeing too much of my soul mate, Cision Point, because I’ve been too busy helping with SMTs, RMTs, OMTs…O-M-G!

I’m learning the ins of working for an external agency, several of which allow room for so many creative ideas to flow, as we have a diverse range of clients. Before coming to ERWW PR, I felt somewhat of a creative restraint. Working for an agency such as Euro RSCG, however, allows the mind to wander freely in hopes that once it returns, it will bring back a variety of perspectives from the mental yellow brick road. From an agency’s point of view, the land of Oz would be the final product, with the client being the Wizard. ERWW PR challenges its employees and interns by providing a venue to exercise our creativity and allowing our ideas to come into fruition by any means necessary. The opportunity affords us just the right amount of eustress.

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