We will over the next few weeks present full transcripts of all the presentations at the International Conference on Men’s Issues 2014. Here we bring you Terrence Popp of Second Class Citizen.org‘s speech. His was the fifth presentation from Day 2, Saturday, June 28, 2014. Our thanks once again to Rick Westlake for doing the bulk of the work of this transcription. —DE
(Attila Vinczer:) We have two books left, which we’d like to auction—not auction—we’re going to give them away. If you have number 119, you are the owner of this book, Bachelor Pad Economics by Aaron Cleary. You can retrieve it later.
Our next speaker, Terrence Popp: Green Beret, Airborne Ranger, paratrooper, infantry soldier; former professional fighter; college graduate; author, poet, warrior, comedian. Worked in the following professions: soldier, fighter, financial planner, investment banking, mortgage banker, real-estate agent, retail. Has received the following awards: two times, Purple Hearts; two times, Combat Infantry Badges; Airborne wings with Combat Jump star; Expert Infantryman Badge; Green Beret; Ranger Beret; FFKA North American Champion Belt, 1998.
Entered the army as an infantryman in 1986. After only five months, he was top .50-caliber gunner and top MK-19 gunner in his battalion, expert with M-16, expert with M-203 grenade launcher, expert with pistol, expert with M-60 MG, expert with the SAW, and took third in “Soldier of His Division” in 1987. One of three enlisted soldiers to be sent to Airborne School from a straight-leg infantry division since the closing of the Vietnam conflict. He was wounded in Panama while involved in an operation; he was run over by an enemy truck within 30 seconds of landing on the drop zone and still fought all night with a dislocated right hip, torn knee tendons, and a third-degree sprained ankle, not to mention the concussion sustained when struck by a vehicle moving at speed. Wounded by an IED in Iraq.
He was called “a murderer” and “assassin” in court, and his wounds were used as a basis to justify the loss of his children. In 2005, Popp was a man leading 159 soldiers in combat; by 2007, he was living out of his car, homeless. He was written off by his wife, his country, his family, and had to come to grips that, as a man, he was totally and completely expendable. He spent over $20,000 of his own money for rehabilitation equipment, and therapy to fix his mind.
He is the author of The Warrior’s Way and The Soldier’s Soul and runs www.Redonkulas.com, with over 52 videos posted, including the award-winning “Purple Heart’s Last Beat.” His story is not done yet, either. Not by a long shot.
Please put your hands together for Terrence Popp.
(Applause. Terrence Pop takes the podium.)
Am I on? Is my mic working? … All right. Well, that was a good introduction! … What are you going to do? All right.
Let me get started. First, I am honored to be here. I pulled some strings for this venue, to be at this location … Yeah, when I learned that it had been taken from the DoubleTree, I was … I don’t know, I got kinda pissed off. And I’m not the guy that you want to piss off, I guess … Hey, can you bring my bag up here? I left some stuff in there.
All right, and I was—what can I say? As a person, over the past 28 years, who has been in the military system, I’ve seen first-hand a lot of the carnage and waste that takes place during this fiasco—FIASCO—that we’re going to call family court. Stand by … (Retrieves notes from his bag.) Hey, mon, I guess we’re winging it—I can do that.
All right, so we’ve already gone through the introduction. I want to set the stage for the video we’re going to show here. As he covered, in ’07 when I wrote this, I was probably at the lowest I could possibly be in my life. I was, at that time, very disenfranchised; I had given my blood, my life, my soul to my country, under the false belief that if I were to ever enter the legal system, that I would be treated fairly; and the Constitution, which I had sworn a blood oath to defend, would apply to me … when nothing could be further from the truth.
I mean, we’re all here, I mean, it’s crazy—I’d like to start the video. Could I have everybody back there on your feet, to come forward and fill the seats up here? Because this is a small screen, and there’s a lot of detail that you’re going to miss out on.
Also, this is a fictional representation of something that is going on 25 times a day, out there in the real world. Now, I’m not going to kill you with statistics; we’ve already gone over the, you know, a male is four times as likely to commit suicide as soon as he hits the age of 18, then it doubles into their twenties; and then the divorced male goes up to … the last studies I saw were 13 to 15 percent. So, it’s only a logical jump to assume that members of the military—especially veterans—fall into this bracket, this barber-pole, this range-fan, I’m going to call it.
Now imagine coming back from war and having your wife go—I’m trying to think of a good way for this, but I’m a comedian, so I’m just going to say it—you know: cuckoo for Cocoa Penis Puffs, crazy for some Rice Krispies treats, and a couple of Polish sausages thrown in it. I’m just saying the situation was unrecoverable. Tried to work with it but couldn’t … I mean, what are you going to do?
So I filed for divorce, she filed for divorce; mine got there twenty minutes before hers, so they had to use my paperwork. My paperwork was very amicable. I’m the grant—got it, you’re going off the deep end, whatever crisis you’re having; got it, cool, we’ll drive on, I’m going to have half my kids, you do what you do, and I do what I do. But no. She wanted The Check. Okay, she was willing to sacrifice all of that time for The Check.
So, the games ensued. I left on a three-week mission, since I was unemployed and I got put on short-term orders to go run a few machine-gun ranges for a military brigade. And when I returned, I walked in the door and was greeted by my two daughters, who were very young at the time. But my six-year-old chocolate Lab, Ranger, was missing. And when I inquired to where my dog was, I was greeted with a cold look and answer, “I told you I did not want you living here.” Needless to say, I never saw the dog again.
Okay, so we have the PTSD, the TBI issues; now I’m getting divorced; you took my dog, all my money, and my home, and left me in the lurch. Now if she had a dog, and that dog disappeared, I would go to jail. But that didn’t even come up. They wouldn’t even discuss it; it was just a piece of property. No matter what the dog meant to me. And I took that as a warning, that if this person, who I had known for a third of her life, could serve me up such a harsh and vicious betrayal, she could do anything.
So, to this date, I only communicate with her via text or e-mail. My policy is, you don’t get within thirty feet of me; you don’t enter my property. If it can’t be put on a printer or subpoena’ed into court, it does not happen. ’Cause the VAWA laws are real, and they are ending military people’s careers, law enforcement men’s careers, at alarming speed.
Okay – so, can we dim the lights and start the video?
(Cut to video.)
(The number of soldiers who have died in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan … 5,866 over the course of seven years, as of December 28, 2010.)
(The number of veterans who committed suicide after returning home … 6,256 in the year 2005 alone.)
I remember the letter I got from my wife while I was in Iraq. She said she wasn’t happy. Others came home to a hero’s welcome. I came home to the echo of an empty house.
I lived with my children for eight years. I raised them while my wife worked. I fought for joint custody. I was called “a murderer” and “an assassin” in front of the judge.
Why should I miss out on raising my children just because she isn’t “happy”?
I make $45,000 a year. She makes $40,000. After taxes, child support, child care, health care, I have $18,000 a year left to live on.
I followed the rules. I went to the so-called friend of the court for some relief. They just said, “It’s the law.” When I got laid off from work, I went there again … four times. Showed them the paperwork … and each time they told me, I was in skilled trades and it should be easy for me to find a job.
I guess they don’t live in the real world. I had to pay the child support with my 401K. Ten years, I saved for my retirement. She got half, and the rest got spent to keep me out of jail. Then the money ran out. She’s not happy. Now I live in poverty.
The court has no problem slapping me in jail when I can’t pay my child support. But she hasn’t let me see my kids for a year, and when I go in front of a judge six times, all she gets are warnings.
She’s not happy. Now I can’t see my children.
Because she’s not happy, I’m a felon.
Because she’s not happy, I must go to prison.
I got called up to go to war for my country.
I got sent 7000 miles away to bring freedom to those oppressed.
Now my country has stripped me of my children.
Now my country has forced me into poverty and servitude.
Now my country has turned me into a criminal, and has doomed me to prison.
All because she was not “happy.”
I don’t deserve this. (Gunshot—sounds of a man collapsing to the floor.)
(70% of Iraq veterans return to divorce. Within five years of their return, 90% get divorced.)
(Only 1.5% get fair treatment from our court system.)
(Most will live the rest of their lives in poverty.)
(Most will be alienated from their children.)
(Countless veterans a month choose this option.)
(I love my country … but my country doesn’t love me.)
(“The country that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”—Calvin Coolidge)
(Return to Terrence Popp’s presentation.)
You see, this is dedicated to the memory of Major Lance Waldorf. So I’ll give you a brief history on this particular individual. When he was a first lieutenant, he was assigned Company F425, Airborne Infantry. He was my platoon leader and I his platoon sergeant. Now, if you are so fortunate enough, when you are a new lieutenant, to have a good platoon sergeant, he will make or break your career. He will teach you what is not in the books—the wisdom between the pages—and guide you through your successful command, which you will carry on for your military career. I was that man for him. He succeeded at his job. I spent 10 months to a year with him. We froze; we starved; we did airborne operations. We did everything soldiers do. I knew him, he knew me, he was a brother to me.
The truth behind this video that you see here—this was going to be my suicide. I had planned it out—I’m a follow-through kind of guy. I had written 138 letters to be disclosed to my daughters over their life, till the birth of their first child; and I had put two lawyers on retainer, one to fight for my life insurance and to administrate a trust and then the other to handle the letters. My punch-out date was June 6, 2008.
Major Lance Waldorf went to the Holly National Cemetery and shot himself on June 2. So my platoon leader took the bullet that was meant for me. That was eight years ago. I ran his funeral. I organized his Taps and twenty-one, his rifle squad, flag detail, watch at the crypt. I saw first-hand how devastating that this was, and it changed my course of action. I would not go down so easily; I would not pick the permanent solution to a temporary problem. I would persevere. And I moved on.
And that’s why … I did a few more videos on SecondClassCitizen.org, but I had a really hard time dealing in the negative. Since I suffered a TBI, I lost my ability to sleep. I said, Why not use my extra time that I have to do something positive?
(Cut to an Editorial Note from A Voice for Men.)
(After watching this presentation, Monica Hesse of The Washington Post referred to it in its entirety as follows: “One presenter, a military veteran speaking on the treatment of veterans returning from war, put up a PowerPoint slide alleging that 70 percent of men returning from war get divorced, and 90 percent do so within five years. When asked about the source of this statistic, he said, ‘That particular statistic is from my personal observations. I’m just speaking here as a dude.’ ”
(Monica Hesse goes on to describe Popp as follows: “One dude speaking to a roomful of like-minded dudes, who reinforce rather than challenge one another’s world views.”
(Terrence Popp used no PowerPoint slides. He only showed this film he was part of making, which was Winner of Best Short Film of the Year and Best Editing for the Mitten Movie Project 2010, Royal Oak, MI; an Official Selection of the 2010 Blue Water Film Festival; Official Selection of the 2011 Detroit Independent Film Festival; Central Florida Film Festival; Detroit Windsor International Film Festival; and the DC Shorts Film Festival.
(Later in this presentation, wherein no PowerPoint slides were used, Popp gives one statistic, and one statistic only, that he cites as personal observation based on his experiences as a combat veteran.
(The Washington Post apparently sees fit to describe this entire presentation as “One dude speaking to a roomful of like-minded dudes, who reinforce rather than challenge one another’s world views.
(… and they tell us misandry isn’t real.)
(Return to Terrence Popp’s presentation.)
… So I started Redonkulas.com. And all of the subjects that were talked about here today, I touch on, and I do so in a comedic light. They are my therapy. They make me feel better, number one. Number two, if they make somebody else feel better, or they learn something, it’s a win. And even if they’re entertaining, there’s another win—for win-win-win.
There’s a few other things I want to go over here. I know I have videos, and people are very upset, and that’s what’s going down every single day. I would like to go over the Soldier Sailor Relief Act, in regards to that … I’m glad it was passed, but there are some things that we need to know, that that particular law has no teeth. There are no punitive measures mentioned within that law, either it be directly or indirectly, and it is violated by the family court system on a regular basis. A lot of times, these judges will say, “I did not know anything about it.” Well, if you go into a court and you say, “I did not know about the law,” I recall some words: Ignorance of the law is no defense. And I think that should apply to the people who administrate; they should be up to speed on that.
Whew … I dissect things using math, since I worked in that field for a while. If you have a child, and you fight for custody, you’ll probably lose; we’ve already gone over a lot of the stats. I think it’s an 85/15 split, what’s going on right now, and they don’t take into effect that, of that 15 percent of the time that custody’s awarded to the male, 5 to 7 percent of that time he is awarded that because it is uncontested. So in reality, when you really look at the numbers, it’s 93/7. Now in any other field, or any other area, in this country, if you were to pull out those statistics, you would get crucified. Flat out!
It is what it is. It is discrimination. You walk into court with a Peg D between your legs and a couple of seed-pumps, and you’re a loser … am I wrong? I don’t have a Ph.D., I don’t have a master’s degree, I just have a bachelor’s degree in public administration. I do explain things a little more colorfully than the average person.
Okay, now, in regards to the veterans out there, I’ve been looking at the statistics, and the lowest statistic I can find for male homelessness is 57 percent. That’s a little … that’s above 50 percent, but that’s a little light in my books. And, a similar statistic … I got this one from a credible study, I believe it was done by the VFW and the American Vets … of that male population, 32 to 40 percent, at one point of another, served in the military.
Okay—now what is going on? We have to ask these questions. We have to raise the flag and ask why, have it studied—I want to know what’s going on. There’s a failure somewhere, and it needs to be corrected.
I want to bring to your attention to Matthew Hindes, who is stationed somewhere in the Pacific on a submarine. This is going around in Facebook; I got this two days before I came out here. And apparently, a Judge Margaret Noe has put a bench warrant out for his arrest, to come to his custody battle for his little girl, who he had custody of before he was deployed to sea. And the mother of the child had lost custody for unfit parenting—good words, I was going to use something more subtle.
And—I want to be the first to tell you this, the navy is not going to surface a nuclear sub to bring him to port, so one of the soldiers can make it to court, because Judge Noe has failed to read the Soldiers and Sailors Act, and needs to be held accountable.
Well, Matthew Hindes … I have put all of the fish in the water and all guns to bear on this situation. And hopefully, we’ll see some resolution on this. I’m not a politician, I’m just a dude that suffers from EGS, and a little bit of early onset OCD—and that would be Evil Genius Syndrome and early onset of Old Creepy Dude.
Okay—and I want to also mention, this one I found particularly disturbing to me. It also helped to nail home the fact that my original course of action was wrong. It would have meant nothing but heartbreak and misery to my children, and my immediate family and friends.
I want to bring your attention to a Thomas James Ball; born February 21, 1953; and he died on June 15, 2011. Mr. Ball was drafted and sent to Vietnam, where he served honorably; he was discharged with full honors and benefits. He decided to make the ultimate sacrifice, and committed suicide by self-immolation on the steps of the very system that was oppressing him as well. And in the end, he was called … “a terrorist! How dare he?” How dare he set himself on fire, and try to make the statement that something is radically, radically imbalanced here?
This whole journey that I’ve been on has helped me to see that in any system—be it your individual life, be it your club, the military, government, the world—you have Yin, and you have Yang; and there needs to be a balance. And right now, we’re not.
The questions and the answers are all before us. We have the largest prison population on the Earth. And there’s a lot of information you can get from them because they’re not going anywhere. The answers are there—just ask them! And people have, but nobody has listened. I’ve seen the studies, and … they’re not pretty.
My final point here is a statement made thousands of years ago, during ancient Greece, by a man called Heracles. And back then, when you hit the age of … some areas, 15, some 16 … they would put you together in lots of 100. In his youth, this was done to him; and when he reached the age of 30, he was expected to train his share of lots. That whole military worked off as a phalanx. These are his words, and I’ve actually seen them come true when it was my turn to train soldiers. “Out of every 100 men, 10 of you shouldn’t even be there. Eighty of you – you’re just targets. Nine of you, you’re the real fighters, and we are lucky to have you. But one … one … will be a Warrior, and it will be his job to bring you home alive. And I am that Warrior.”
With that—are there any questions of me?
(Question:) Okay, your stats on custody granted fathers. That includes all awards of sole custody to the father. My question is—and I can never seem to find this one—after a full custody trial only, what are the stats on granting custody to the father after a full family court custody trial? And I can’t find that stat anywhere.
(Terrence Popp:) I can answer that question—most of the time, you will never get to a full trial in a divorce hearing. When you do, I don’t think anybody’s tracking that. I do have a friend of mine, I will not mention his name, who went through a—I think it was a four-year battle for the custody of a daughter that he had discovered was born out of wedlock. He eventually got custody, but it cost him—I think we put the numbers together—somewhere over $130,000 in legal fees. The average person doesn’t have that kind of money, to go to trial. I certainly do not.
I’ll have to look into that. I don’t know, I can’t find it either. That’s a good question.
Anyone else? (Points to audience.)
(Paul Elam:) I don’t have a question. I just wanted to say, thank you.
(Question:) First, thank you for your service. Secondly, the statistic that 70 percent of those who are deployed are divorced by the time they return, and 90 percent within five years—where did you find that statistic?
(Terrence Popp:) Well, first of all, that particular statistic is from my personal observation. Maybe it’s different for the military in general, but combat troops—men that are up in the front lines or subject to high deployment rate—very close to that number. Again, these are—I’m just speaking as a dude, and these are my observations and my opinion.
(Question:) Once again, I just want to say thank you for your service. I spent six years in the military as well, and that’s how I got into this movement. It’s because I’ve noticed a lot of military fathers … the very system that they were sworn to protect screws them in the end, when they come back home. So I want to say that—once again, thank you for your service; but my question is that— I’m sure you’ve heard the term UCMJ. My question is, how is the UCMJ different from—when it comes to family court, how is it different from civilian court? Meaning that in a sense of child custody. Because from what I understand that soldiers have an even harder time in family court than civilians.
(Terrence Popp:) Correct. I actually talk about this in “Administrative Violence I” on Redonkulas.com, on how to handle situations. Now from my observation, in my time, it usually did not go well for the service member when they were involved or embroiled in a bitter divorce or custody battle. So, let me just set the record straight. I’ve been a team leader, four different teams; squad leader, for about six squads; platoon sergeant for five different platoons; a first sergeant for four companies, one of which was in Abu Ghraib Prison in 2004, in the Sunni Triangle belly of the Beast. I have seen, over and over and over again, the same patterns. If you are in the service, and you have children, and you go through divorce, a large portion of these service members will opt to get out of the service to follow their children. Okay, and now I have to go find a new person to replace him; and he might have a bunch of other experience that is irreplaceable, and I cannot put a dollar amount to it.
I have one individual I speak with on a regular basis who, after 12 years, went through a bitter divorce with some false allegations. He was barred from re-enlistment; his career came to an end. Now this particular individual was a SIGINT intelligence guy, with the highest level of access, who could read and write four different—four—Asian dialects, and speak an additional eight. And it meant nothing. Can’t replace a guy like that.
Now, I’ve also seen … I was privy to some of the soldiers’ chain-of-command making unreasonable requests and demands, which fell out of the scope of their command. Now, fortunately for most of these individuals, I was within earshot, and I raised a hand and said, “Wait a minute. We’re not going to have him give all kinds of money and do all kinds of things unless there’s a court order. We follow the law; if there’s a court order, we’ll do it. If not, there’s a JAG, and there’s other avenues, civilian avenues, that need to be addressed first.” But there are times when the service members’ chain of command doesn’t have knowledge of what’s going on, and makes unreasonable demands of the service members. It does get much harsher. That’s another reason they get out, they just … it’s very devastating. Anybody else?
(Carnell Smith:) Have you seen any instances of paternity fraud in the military?
(Terrence Popp:) All right, first of all, this is a—put a little comedy in this, okay? When I was 17 to 22, I was slingin’ seed like an ol’ bird feeder. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s just what it is, okay? Have I specifically seen anyone have to pay for a child that’s not theirs? Yes, and no. I have never seen it go down like you, but I’ve seen service members who got married, adopted children that weren’t theirs, and then had to pay child support on those children. And I believe I covered that in “Dupe the Next Dude;” and in your particular instance, I covered it in “DNA Getaway.”
Well, I’m glad I’m able to bring some cheeriness to you, after this crazy video … Redonkulas.com is R-E-D-O-N-K-U-L-A-S dot com; and SecondClassCitizen.org. And also, in a lot of these videos, I wrote the scripts, and I make up a lot of the material; but none of it would be possible without my producer, who could not be here today—because, ironically, he films weddings! And we are in wedding season! All right—that guy is my other half, and he’s really good at what he does. He’s just as passionate as I am. But it is what it is, you’ve got to make a buck. Anybody else?
(Question:) First of all, thanks for being funny, it’s nice to see. Suicide in the military in both Canada and the United States, probably in the UK as well, is actually a pretty major issue. I was wondering if you could perhaps shed some light on possible services, or ability to get counseling or go for any support on that?
(Terrence Popp:) Well, first of all, from my observation, they are doing all that they can within their power to try to curb this horrible thing that’s going on. But at the end of the day, what they do is they enforce the last 300 meters of our foreign policy. What is going on with these suicides is not military-related; it’s a sick society. When you build a situation, or you put together an institution that could take an intangible away from you—like love, and hope, and all, and everything else—it’s evil!
I mean, to be honest with you, I’ve seen the programs, and really, they’re doing a fantastic job with what they have. I think it would be much worse if they weren’t. So, all being said, it is what it is … Yeah?
(Paul Elam:) This is an actual question. I’m a veteran. My experience in the military was that as men were stripped by family court—and I did see paternity fraud cases in the military—the military command turned their backs on the soldiers. That’s what I saw. I’m not speaking to the services that are provided for soldiers after they come back from combat, and the support that they’re getting. The part of the problem I saw—but I was in the military many years ago; and I’m hoping you can tell me that it is changed. Because the way it was when I was in, was that if you got any kind of an accusation, or a paternity allegation, or a bitter divorce, you were pretty much on your own.
(Terrence Popp:) That’s pretty much how it goes … well, now listen, they are in the business of enforcing the last 300 meters of foreign policy. They are not in the business of what needs to happen. Okay, it does happen a lot, I’m not going to lie to you, but as a former first sergeant, I’ve had to deal with these issues. I myself did not turn my back on these soldiers; I told them where to go … a couple of times, I’d take out the Yellow Pages and say, Hey, man, you’re going to call this guy here, and we’re going to talk to him. How about, find out what his retainer is, and we’ll put an allotment so your pay can go pay for what needs to be done. And it … you just have to care.
Obviously, there’s some stuff that went on when you were there that … you didn’t have that. So … I mean, at the end of the day, I always tried to be the sergeant that one day, all of you here, okay, are going to have to box up a child or a grandchild and you’re going to have to send them to war. Maybe it’ll be a niece or nephew. But it’s going to happen because war is not going to go away. It’s been here since the beginning of time, and it will be the end of us. Now, this is the sergeant I tried to be—that when and if that day comes, you’ll get on your knees and you will pray to the Great Maker to protect your loved one. And then you will pray for your loved one to fall on the books of a sergeant such as I. It’s just that simple.
(Applause. Attila Vinczer comes to the podium.)
(Terrence Popp:) Watch the videos.
(Attila Vinczer:) I think we should work very, very hard to ensure that this kind of injustice, to the people that put their lives at risk—that this sort of nonsense stops. We should be treating these people with the utmost care. It is appalling to me that we’re not doing everything we can to give them the type of support that these people deserve. It is unacceptable to me to watch this video, and to know that this is happening today, it happened yesterday, and it’s going to happen tomorrow. It has to change.