Sept. 1, 2021

Project Refit – Changing the World with Hope and Healing – with James Corbett [Ep.87]

Project Refit – Changing the World with Hope and Healing – with James Corbett [Ep.87]

Military members, law enforcement officers, and first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect our safety and freedom. Brave heroes have given the ultimate sacrifice and others may experience injuries or trauma that negatively...


Military members, law enforcement officers, and first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect our safety and freedom. Brave heroes have given the ultimate sacrifice and others may experience injuries or trauma that negatively impact their lives. Many face depression, substance abuse, and suicide. How can we, as individuals or employers, help them to regain their mental health and ability to face life with renewed hope? In this episode, Linda interviews James Corbett, co-founder of Project Refit, a non-profit organization created to help “refit” hurting individuals and to assist them in building fulfilling and prosperous lives. Project Refit combines online technology and in-person support for those who are struggling. If you need help or want to provide support to your employees or others, listen today so you can also be a “refitter” who works to change the world with hope and healing.

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Transcript

Linda:

Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 - Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host, and the author of "Prosperity 101 - Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck", and the creator of the Breakroom Economics online course. The book, the course, and the entire podcast library can be found on Prosperity101.com.

Linda:

I seek to connect boardroom to break room, and policy to paycheck, by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement, and retention, and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit Prosperity101.com.

Linda:

Thank you so much for joining us today. We're recording this episode in late August of 2021. We're approaching the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on American soil. And just before this recording, we received news of lives lost at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. As we pause to honor the lives of those we lost, we salute the brave men and women who are fighting for freedom and the brave men and women who have been fighting for freedom for decades for our nation.

Linda:

My guest today is James Corbett. James has helped launch various nonprofit programs in the past before developing his own, Project Refit. He is also the co-founder of a real time AI-powered collaboration and information sharing platform for law enforcement. He studied at Stockton University for his undergraduate degree, and Columbia University for his masters.

Linda:

He eventually left Columbia University where he was studying negotiation and conflict resolution to pursue building businesses to creatively solve problems the world faces. Project Refit, the organization he co-founded, believes combating isolation by building the community of the future will reduce suicide rates among the military and first responder communities. James, thank you so much for joining us. I'm so glad you're on this episode to talk about Project Refit and how you try to support military members and law enforcement members. Tell us a little bit more about yourself, and what led you to help co-found Project Refit.

James Corbett:

Yeah, so thank you for having me on, first and foremost. I appreciate it.

Linda:

Pleasure.

James Corbett:

It's been a pleasure getting to know you, and some of your achievements that are just incredible, so it's an honor to be interviewed by you, actually.

Linda:

Aw. Thank you, thank you.

James Corbett:

Very welcome. Well deserved actually. So, we over here at Project Refit, I might've come up with some of the ideas in the initial, but we really just evolved as a team, and we're really just building great things as a team. It starts with one person, but it doesn't become anything until you have a few. So, Dan Lombard is the other guy. He's one of the co-founders. We have Chad and Wade, and Mo who's joining soon, Kiersten. We have a ton of good volunteers. One volunteer in particular whose been exceptional, Ron. He's actually a retired CPA and he's just been helping out with the books just a ton. And I'm an executer, so I hate doing that paperwork stuff. Oh, my God, it makes my soul cringe. So, I really like to get out there, do things, communicate with people and help them. So, let's prove and test these different ideas for helping, and that's what I'm good at.

Linda:

That's great. And Project Refit, it said in the paragraph on the website that it believes "combating isolation by building the community of the future will reduce suicide rates among the military and first responder communities." And I noticed the story, as Afghanistan is in the news right now, Project Refit's story began in the valleys of Afghanistan in 2014. You mentioned Daniel Lombard, the co-founder of Project Refit, and said he was involved in two IED explosions. The worst of his injuries were a TBI and PTSD, "but there was another story, one of leadership that had been unfolding for years before this." That paragraph just really gripped me. Would you be willing to share the story that is so moving, and helped inspire you and Daniel Lombard to form Project Refit?

James Corbett:

Absolutely. Going back to some of the talents, I mean, Dan, his real talent is his ability to be vulnerable, right? So, his vulnerability is what ended up allowing us to have this base point where it's a veteran that's saying, "Hey, I didn't even join the military just to serve our country. I joined the military so that I can get my stuff together." He wanted to get more organized, and learn discipline and things like that.

James Corbett:

So he went in, but he came out of warrior. He went in a kid and came out a warrior and injured and different for sure. Anyone that knew him previously before going that knows him now, he's a completely different person. And that's what happens to guys, to a lot of guys, they just completely change. The thing that's different for Dan, again, is his ability and his talent for being vulnerable, which is honestly a talent and a God given gift.

James Corbett:

So, the story that's unfolding before us actually is Command Sargent Major Martin "Gunny" Barreras. So, Command Sargent Major Barreras was, I mean, he's the same guy. You remember Jessica Lynch?

Linda:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.

James Corbett:

He was the ranger that helped plan and execute that mission, and he's actually the guy that handed Jessica Lynch over to the helicopter after grabbing her. And then he went back in to grab his brothers and pulled them out, even those that were dead. Literally, the guy was a living legend. He is bigger than he even would ever imagine himself, especially in the eyes of the men that served under him. But here's the thing that's amazing about him. Obviously we're describing him as a very humble individual because he was, but also the story is one of our favorite stories and this is the one that literally encapsulates Project Refit and really all of our goals and our missions and how we operate in general.

James Corbett:

This is the story. So, Command Sargent Major's over in Afghanistan. He's with actually Mo, I mentioned Mo a little bit ago, and Mo's in the fire flight, by the way, where Gunny was hit where he ended up passing away. But this story is the one that shows the leadership style. So he's 400 meters away from the unit, they're beyond the wire. What that means is they're out of the base and they're going and they're patrolling. Command Sargent Major is about 400 meters away from the unit itself, and units like, "Hey man, you need to come back. You're really far away from us." And he was like, "All right, I'm coming back." And you came back and he said to everyone, he stopped everything. He's like, "Listen, when we're out here, you're leading me, right? I'm not leading you."

James Corbett:

And to give you more power behind that statement so you understand, Command Sargent Majors are the top of all the enlisted. They are the generals of the enlisted, right? They are the highest rank you can be. And he's saying to his men, his privates and everyone else, "You're leading me out here. We are equal. In fact, you're stronger than I am out here. You're just telling me what I have to do and where I got to go." That's amazing, right? So he's giving power to every single person's voice that's around him and serving under him while he's out in the middle of the combat zone. That's amazing.

James Corbett:

So, that's literally what we're trying to do at Project Refit is show the community that they can help each other, that their voices matter, and they can genuinely be the ones that get their brothers the resources that they need, or get their brothers to the hospital and therapists, whoever it may be, if they need it, or they can just be there for each other in general.

Linda:

Well, and when you talk about building the community of the future, you're talking about this community of law enforcement veterans or military veterans, right, that may be struggling after or during their service, correct?

James Corbett:

So, it's not just of individuals struggling. The community of the future actually is really everybody together, good or not good, or in between. And why it's the future is because instead of being a holed up in a building, we're building these community centers on wheels where we actually show up to the veteran directly, or the first responder directly, or we go to a concert, we go to a sports stadium, or we go to a local town fair.

James Corbett:

And eventually, what we're trying to do is create an infrastructure... We already have the infrastructure technically, but we want to have an infrastructure where we partner with hospitals, or we hire our own mental health professionals internally, and we partner with different police stations and fire departments and such. And when they get called out to a mental health call, we can show up with them and be a mobile mental health crisis unit as well, so that we can show up directly to help the guy in person, a veteran or a first responder in person. So it's just like the suicide hotline. When you call the hotline you have to press 1 for veterans, we want to be the press 1, but in person.

Linda:

That's really beautiful and so unique to be able to be there onsite. And what a beautiful goal that you have to be able to go meet these people where they are on location. And I'm sure that that is something, as you look at that big vision, being able to do that for all the people who need you, I'm sure that running a nonprofit like this and hoping to scale it, you need help. So I'm sure if people are listening and are interested, we'll be giving the website afterwards so you can find out how to donate and what your money will be used for. But this is such a worthy cause. Can you share some stories of people that have been helped through your organization?

James Corbett:

Yeah. There's a few. I'm going to give you a quick one and then I'm going to give- She's actually, and it's such a powerful thing because she was actually a civilian that came into one of our checks before, because she just needed to talk to people and she saw us live streaming our vulnerability, really, I guess. And she was like, "Hey, can I join?" And she joined in and then she talked to us and told us about how she was raped twice in two years. So once per year for two years in a row. What? Two different people. And her dad actually ended up messaging us and was like, "Hey, I have not seen my daughter smiling as much in a long time. Thank you so much for her support you gave her. She's going to therapy," and blah, blah, blah.

James Corbett:

So, we were able to be her testing ground for basically a part of her therapy. And her therapist told her, "You have to open up and just own that, that happened to you. It's going to help you out so much." So she decided to come to us, it's a bunch of men inside of this room talking to each other, open up to a bunch of men, combat veterans most of them, and tell them about this instance that happened to her. And there was nothing but an outpouring of love and support for her, and it was awesome.

James Corbett:

So the second one, this one's intense. It's a great example, however, of what we do for you guys. So we got a call from this individual, he's out in Washington and long story short, dude's drunk and high. Whatever. He's got some pills on him and he's drinking, so obviously he's drunk and high. It was actually based off his medication that he's taken for everything that he was going through. And we had to calm him down. And then we had to get him the resources. And we were trying to get to his location where he was and his address and such so we could call the hospital and get somebody to show up.

James Corbett:

Again, long story short, we did detective work. We zeroed in where he was. We called him. We found a phone number for where his roommate worked, and we called his job and his job gave us a cell phone number and we woke that dude up by calling him a bunch of times, because his roommate, who's a veteran, the guy that we woke up, is dying in the next room, right? Overdosing and everything.

James Corbett:

And we get him awake, and that guy- We're on the phone the whole time. We calm the other guy down enough, the veteran, down enough so that he wouldn't kill himself. And we got the guy to help his roommate to wake up and get the help to get him to a hospital. So, it was super intense, but we set ourselves in a position where we don't care who you are, where you're at; if you want to talk, talk to us, and if you need help, we're going to tell you, you need help.

James Corbett:

We've called the suicide hotline with guys before. We've called again, hospitals. We've gotten guys into resources where we've been on the phone with them while they're walking into a resource center so they're not alone, so they can do things. Because anxiety is a crazy thing. Anxiety is going to stop you from doing things. But if you have somebody with you, it helps you through your anxiety significantly.

Linda:

Yes, definitely. And it's great, I think it's a great, the stories that you shared, it's not just for men, it's for women too. It's for anybody. And you shared the story of "Gunny" Barreras, and he died of wounds, May 13th, 2014, you said, and it was really tough on all his men and that, fast forward to 2017 when you and Dan talked about a new solution to help these military personnel, first responders, law enforcement people stay connected with one another.

Linda:

And then you said, "After a couple of years of testing, research, and modification, Project Refit landed on its new strategy of the hybrid model, combining technology and in-person support to meet the modern military member and family where they are, both online and off." I think it's great that you're combining the technology solution as well as the personal, even the mobile response teams that you have to go. It's amazing. And tell us how you use the technology to really help you. You just shared a couple of little stories about it in that you were able to pinpoint locations or find the help needed with relatives and friends. But, tell us more about how you use the technology to minister to these men and women.

James Corbett:

So we really focus, for the online, we have an app actually that we launch out called Project Refit's Blue Skies. We developed it as a tool, to be used as a buddy check in tool. So guys can actually just tap a button and they'll be able to check in on their top five best friends and just literally send them a message, seem how they are, and we're going to evolve that and make it better as time goes.

James Corbett:

and we have zoom that we use right now for these regular buddy check-ins every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Monday, Fridays are live streamed, Wednesdays are private. And then the in-person stuff is the mobile base solutions where we show up and that's what we're... I'm actually going to buy, after this podcast, I'm going to go to Lowe's and we're actually going to buy a bunch of materials for it because we got some donations secured yesterday and over the weekend that are going to help us purchase.

James Corbett:

And we have volunteers that are coming down and they're going to help us build. Hopefully we'll have it finished in the next few weeks, the whole base. And it'll be our first one to test with the world. We already have the truck for the base, and we've already traveled 10,000 miles with the base to help out veterans and first responders. Two of our biggest stories recently was we rebuilt a roof for a police officer down in Louisiana, and then we drove out to Colorado Springs and we had a retreat reunion out there and we actually helped the guy lose over 130 pounds and we finished his mission with a Spartan Race in a retreat out in Colorado Springs. So, and we drove 1700 miles actually for both.

Linda:

Yeah, that is incredible, and what a way to show support. I was thinking about how you're traveling all around and obviously you need to have the financial support to do so, and it seems like you're growing your team. When we were speaking, when we first got to know each other, you were telling me about how you work sometimes with employers. And this podcast, I speak a lot to employers and talk to them about how they can educate their employees about different issues, policies, educating employees about different things that can help them with their own lives. Could you share a little bit more about what you do with businesses and employers?

James Corbett:

Yeah. So, something that we're very, very excited about, especially for larger employers, because they have a huge base sometimes of veterans, right? So, we're actually trying to partner with larger companies to host what's called retreats for their veterans specifically, and their family members, where we host these. We go to a location somewhere in the country. We get their veteran employees to come out to that location. The business pays for their veterans to get out there, know, get food and camping and things like that with each other, bring out their family members, we recommend family members come out as well.

James Corbett:

And one of the things that we want to do is have the C-suite of those companies be there so they can serve food to their veteran employees. Because something that happens even in the military and it actually works- When it's a guy like Gunny, like the guy I was mentioning before Command Sargent Major, when someone like Gunny steps up and is serving you food, it shows that same mentality and that respect of, "Hey, I see you. I respect you." And that gives the guy who's now working for you more likelihood to actually want to work for you and with you, because they see, "Oh, you're a leader that cares and you're sucking it up and you're serving me and you're serving my family food. Thank you."

James Corbett:

So, we want to do that with employers. And then when they pay, obviously we're going to make money on that so that we can host retreats and reunions for the everyday veteran that isn't a part of their umbrella. So, it's a way for us to actually generate revenue as well. And of course, if they do pay us and we do that with companies, we're going to take their logos and put it on our bases and things like that, so they can also get some exposure that way too, because we recognize this is not just a, "Oh, we're doing this for feeling good." There's also a part of it that is a business thing too, in terms of marketing and exposure. That's what we're really focused on too for businesses.

Linda:

Right. Well, and it's not even just marketing and exposure, which is nice and it's great that you would do that, but businesses that invest in the mental health and emotional wellbeing of their employees and their families will have more loyal and engaged employees. And that's what I'm always trying to do with Prosperity 101 is help employers create a better communication with employees to be able to talk about all sorts of issues. Not just policy issues, but things like this. If they always say all politics is local, there's nothing more local than where you live or where you go to work every day and you really become a team and a family, and being able to support one another in a professional and appropriate way is great. So, thank you for what you're doing and what your organization's doing to empower employers to serve employees, which in turn builds another generation of leaders like Gunny.

James Corbett:

That's right.

Linda:

We get servant leaders. Servant leaders are the ones that we remember and the ones who really help change the world. There's a couple of other things that Project Refit does that I'd like to just bring attention to for our listeners, and one is the Blue Light. Could you explain about the Blue Light.

James Corbett:

Yeah. That's just a fun- So we're not really an awareness nonprofit. We're actually sick of all that kind of stuff, but we're very much about direct action, and we think that nonprofits that raise awareness are wasting money. And that's just being blunt, right? One of our things we started on was, we're actually anti-pushups, right? Back in 2017, we said F the pushups, they're not doing anything. You're literally not doing anything by doing push ups. What are you doing? You're promoting yourself online is what you're doing, and you're making yourself feel good. You're peacocking. So, we're challenging people to actually step up. I want you to call your buddies. Why don't you step up and actually step in the ring? So, be the man in the ring, the one that's actually helping out and listening to your friends, right?

James Corbett:

But we did have to think of something for getting the word out more about Project Refit as well. So we have a blue line in our flag, in our logo. It is not the thin blue line. It's not the police one. It's actually a teal blue, and also "Blue sky, boys", which is something that Gunny, and Gunny was all about using that terminology, which is actually from a saying in the infantry, which is, "Why does God love the infantry? Because the skies are blue." So that's why we have the blue line in our logo.

James Corbett:

Actually, our logo is so intricate, by the way, in terms of all the little different, there's a lot of attention to detail in this logo. We can go through it some other times. But had to come up with something for a little bit more marketing, and getting people more involved with us. So the Blue Light Monday is every Monday, you illuminate a blue light, one blue light in your window to represent that you stand up and with and for the people who are also struggling silently, and you're not afraid to be the person that can also ask the question of, "I'm here for you."

James Corbett:

So yeah, that actually ended up getting played all over Philadelphia radio stations and things like that. So, one of my buddies actually told me, he's like, "Oh, you were on Preston & Steve this morning." And Preston & Steve is a really big, well-known radio show in the Philadelphia area, 93.3 WMMR. And I had no idea. And he was like, "Dude, yeah, I heard your name and your nonprofit and somebody called in to," and I was like, wow, that's cool. So it was working, in terms of getting a name out.

Linda:

Right.

James Corbett:

So yeah, that's what that was about is just raising awareness.

Linda:

Yeah. You have to do that. You have to raise awareness in order to help people become engaged. It's a mix, it's a balance beam that nonprofits and others have to walk because we have to educate people on what the mission is, but then also be able to help them know what they can do to help. Yeah. The blue light is a great idea for raising awareness. And I know you're trying to gain new supporters, and monthly donors are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations to help us budget and plan for a future growth. So, what do you do with your monthly donors? How do you encourage and help and communicate with monthly donors?

James Corbett:

So, monthly donors are very, very important for us, and because of our size, we actually have a couple of creative ways that we like to also reward our monthly donors. And one of them is, we're going to be putting up nameplates of our monthly donors inside of our mobile base. We'll actually be inscribing their names directly in. For our first 300, we're actually going to get these plates, and we're going to put it on the back of our truck, and then we're also going to put it again inside of the wall of the mobile base itself and actually have their names right there. So, that's for the first 300.

James Corbett:

We might actually just expand that out to every base that we get and we just put your name up and one of the bases, but for right now, that's what it is. And we're also, we're auctioning off a Harley Davidson in another couple of months, or a couple of weeks, I should say. We're going to start auctioning off of Harley Davidson is customized to Project Refit, where we can hopefully get some more monthly donors through that as well.

Linda:

Right, right. Great ideas. And, if you could sum up in a short statement, why should someone support your organization?

James Corbett:

We're changing the world.

Linda:

That's a great answer.

James Corbett:

It's the truth.

Linda:

That's a great answer.

James Corbett:

We're super aggressive and we're aggressively changing the world. That's what we're doing.

Linda:

I love that, and when you and I first talked and met, I told you was so impressed. I love to promote young people, especially, who are doing just that. Working to change the world, make a positive difference in the world, taking the gifts that they've been given, learning from the lessons that they've maybe struggled through or watched others struggle through, and being able to actually make the world a better place for others. And especially as we're looking what's happening in Afghanistan right now, and we think of the lives lost and the people who have fought so long and hard for freedom and freedom for our nation, since the founding of our nation. Freedom is never free, and those who fight for it fight hard and they sacrifice on our behalf.

Linda:

Not everyone gives the ultimate sacrifice of their life, but their lives are forever affected. Whether they're physically injured or their mental health is injured because of the trauma that they've received. So, I thank you so much for what you're doing and trying to change the world, you're changing the world to make it a better place and helping all of these people. So if people want to reach out to you and getting contact to either support or get support from, maybe someone's listening who needs the support of Project Refit, how would they find you?

James Corbett:

You can just type in Project Refit into Google and it will pop up everywhere, but you can also get a ProjectRefit.us is our website. @projectrefit, every social media platform, pretty much, out there. And that's it. And you just contact us by messaging us directly through those platforms. There's also my email, which is a letter of my first name, j@projectrefit.us.

Linda:

Okay, perfect. So if you are someone listening, maybe you're a business owner or an individual who would like to help support this organization, or maybe you are someone who's struggling. If you are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out to Project Refit. They want to support you and get you the help that you need. Before we close, I do want to just revisit your mobile app that you mentioned. Could you please give the name of that too, and tell us how that works, in terms of the people that you serve?

James Corbett:

So, it's called Blue Skies, it's Project Refit Blue Skies on Apple and Android stores. And you have to be a veteran or a first responder to get in, and you'd have to message our page. You have to get in contact with us to get an access code so you can actually create an account.

Linda:

I think that it's great that you have that in a way for people to check in, and that you are making sure that it is really for the people who need it and it creates that community. Like you mentioned before, creating a community, building a community online and in person.

James Corbett:

That's right.

Linda:

So, that that's really great. Do you have any other closing comments before we close this episode?

James Corbett:

It's really easy to become a Refitter When you begin to ask your friends and your family how they're doing, and actually meaning it. Become a listener, listen more than you speak, and you'll be a Refitter.

Linda:

That's a great comment, being a Refitter. Yesterday when we were speaking, you were talking about being a change maker too, and we can all be a change maker. We can all be a Refitter, we can all help to make the world a better place by really serving other people. So thank you, James, for what you're doing. Thank everyone in the organization. And we're just really grateful that there's people like you out there serving our military members and our law enforcement first responders, who are putting their lives on the line every day for all of us. So, thank you.

James Corbett:

Not a problem. My pleasure.

Linda:

Okay. Thank you for being here.

Linda:

Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit Prosperity101.com to access the entire podcast library, to order my newest book, "Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck", or to enroll you or your employees in the Breakroom Economics online course. You can also receive the free ebook, "10 Tips for Helping Employees Understand How Public Policy Affects Your Paychecks".

Linda:

Freedom is never free. Understanding the foundations of prosperity and the policies of prosperity will help you to protect prosperity as you become informed, involved, and impactful. I give special thanks to our sponsors, Mathews Archery Incorporated, and Wisconsin Stamping & Manufacturing. Please contact us today at Prosperity101.com to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.