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Justin McQueary

It all started on a dark and cold January morning. A group of 37 new recruits for the regional police academy. We stood outside the building in the cold dark for what seemed like forever. Many expected to be greeted by Drill Instructors in Campaign Covers and pressed uniforms first thing. However, we were calmly greeted by a Recruit Training Officer whose job was to be a recourse and an asset to the new recruits.

We walked in and sat in a classroom for about 4 hours. We watched videos, listened to speeches and stories for other Officers, Deputies and Detectives. The Class Commander stood up and spoke to us about his career, his shooting and what is expected from a Law Enforcement Officer in the community. He asked if anyone wanted to leave. No one stood up, no one walked out and quit…….yet. Then he said the sentence that changed everything. I’ll never forget it, “let me introduce you to your Drill Instructors”. The back door flew open, a chair flew across the room putting a hole in the drywall and the feeding frenzy began. By the end of the day, only 33 were left.

Once out of the academy all LE goes through a Field Training Process. This is different for every agency. For me, it was 3.5 months. Learning to be a cop, learning the area, policy, dealing with people and most importantly learning to control your own emotions. On my 9th shift I was involved in a shooting. My Field Training Officer shot and I did not. At this point in my career, I was still learning how to use the computer. Little did I know how this incident would truly affect me in the future.

During field training I was involved in a shooting, high speed chases, some very intense domestic violence incidents, home invasions with shots fired, deceased children and other terrible events. But this didn’t stop after field training. My first 3 years were like this.

Around my 4 year mark there was another shooting. My then Lieutenant, Sergeant, and another Deputy went to take a violent warrant subject into custody. They did a soft surround and call out with the help of the Narcotics Task Force. The subject opened fire from inside the house through the front window pinning my Lieutenant down behind his vehicle. I remember his radio call for shots fired and back up needed like it was yesterday. Burned into my brain, hearing a friend in distress.

Luckily, 2 other Deputies and I were in the area looking for another warrant subject. We were able to arrive within 2 minutes. Moving vehicles, creating cover, working on an extraction plan. The local PD’s SWAT team arrived and took over soon using their Armored vehicle to make extracting the Deputies much easier and safer.

I left Law Enforcement in May of 2021 after over 5 years on the streets. I chose to better focus on the company I was building, TEN33 Industries. When you’re a LEO, Firefighter, Paramedic or any form of first responder, you wake up, put your gear on and go to work. You never really have the chance to process the feelings or emotions that come with the job. Your job is to be there for everyone else which makes it hard to ask for help. You’re supposed to be the cops, the attorney, the therapist, the mediator, the helper, the savior, the warrior and the friend. How do you ask for help when you’re supposed to be the help?

After being away from the badge and the streets for about 10 months, it all came back. The emotion, the fear, the sadness and every other emotion. I tried to control it, to “handle it” to fix myself, but I found myself falling into a sad and depressive state. I found myself experiencing strange mood swings and drinking more and more and more. My sleep was garbage, my workouts stopped, everything began to fall. Luckily, the agency I worked for was big into helping the public in the area of mental health. We worked closely with a crisis response team to help the public so I knew what the signs looked like. I was able to see myself going down and I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror.

I reached out to one of my close friends who started Disgruntled Veterans. DV is a nonprofit helping Vets and the uniform community with suicide prevention and mental health. My friend got me in touch with 22ZERO. He told me to keep an open mind because the process was not the “norm”.

So I reached out and filled out the paperwork. I set a time for a zoom-call with Bob. While it was hard to look in the mirror and realize I needed help. It was hard reaching out to set an appointment. But these were all relatively easy. The hardest part of the entire process was dialing that zoom call. I sat in my car and looked at my phone for what seemed like hours thinking to myself “is this real? Am I really here?”

I won’t discuss 22ZERO’s process much as they do a much better job of explaining it. But I will say, there is no need for you to relive your past, your trauma or the hard times. Bob even said “Don’t tell me I don’t want to know ”. That being said, Bob told me a bit about himself. He was a retired Law Enforcement Officer who also had a past like many in the uniform community. He had gone through the process and was skeptical but it changed his life.

Bob put me through the process and in all honesty, I was skeptical, but I did it. I even did a second session about an hour later after talking with Bob about something that was bothering me that was a bit different. We did the process a second time but in a different way. By the time we were done, I felt lethargic and tired. I had stuff I needed to do that day so I was unable to just sleep. But that night, I got the first full night’s sleep I had gotten in a long long time.

I woke up the next day and texted Bob. I said “I don’t know what kind of voo-doo magic you did on me but I feel pretty dang good!” He texted me back saying he was glad and if I needed anything else to text him. Bob followed up the next couple days. It was great to see I wasn’t just a number and someone actually cared.

It’s been about 8 months since I had my session with Bob and I can tell you, everyone around me says they see a difference. I have been told repeatedly I seem happier, my relationship is better than ever and business is growing well. My sleep continues to go from great to rough but it’s extremely better than it used to be. I’m sure this has more t o do with daily life than from my past PTS.

Anyone out there thinking they don’t want to relive their trauma, know you don’t have too. I never spoke one word of my incidents to Bob. If you’re worried your agency or boss will find out, they won’t. If you’re scared to ask for help, we all understand and we have all been there. There is nothing to be afraid of. If you are still skeptical I ask you this question, how are you going to be the best person you can be, for your family, your kids, your spouse and your co-workers if you’re not at your best. I am actually looking at getting back into Law Enforcement after this experience and knowing 22ZERO is there if I need their help again.

Don’t forget, a fit body makes for a strong mind. Many times PTS affects us in different ways. But generally our fitness takes the first hit. Keep moving, keep working out and keep your body strong. It will help ward off the stress life brings our way. Couple that with 22ZERO’s process and you have a recipe for success and personal excellence.

Back to TEN33 Industries, I started TEN33 in 2019. I saw a lot of holes and things lacking in the uniform community. Garbage gear, things made as cheaply as possible to make a sale and an overall lack in quality. Especially for the outlandish price we pay. So we set out to fill these gaps and create quality gear to fill the needs of the men and women serving the community. Starting with our Alpha Base Layer which was designed to work specifically with soft body armor in spring and fall weather conditions.. We believe in what 22ZERO and Disgruntled Veterans are doing so much, we donate 5% of our profits to these organizations and others like them.

Lastly, I’d like to say thank you to all the folks at 22ZERO, you have changed my life and the lives of my friend who you have also assisted. Keep up the hard work and to those who are skeptical, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.