Fort Benning: Ex-NBA ref Bob Delaney talks about coping with PTSD
By BEN WRIGHT— firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 10:07pm on May 31, 2012;Modified: 10:18pm on May 31, 2012
BEN WRIGHT email@example.com Bob Delaney, former NBA referee and New Jersey State Trooper speaks to soldiers at McGinnis-Wickam Hall Thursday. 05.31.12 BEN WRIGHT — Ben Wright
Bob Delaney, a former New Jersey State Trooper and NBA referee, gave about 300 non-commissioned officers Thursday a suggestion for coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"When you're going through tough times, find your inner peace, find your balance," Delaney said to members of the NCO Academy at Fort Benning's McGinnis-Wickam Hall.
Delaney was on post as part of the NBA Cares program, serving as an ambassador. He talked about the stress he experienced after working nearly three years as an undercover detective to nab members of a mob family on the New Jersey waterfront. The sting ended in 1979 but Delaney's diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder didn't come until 1981.
"We locked up mob members of the Genovese family throughout the United States," Delaney said. "After that experience, what I went on was an emotional roller coaster. I went into denial. People were trying to point things out to me."
The author of two books, "Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-Traumatic Stress" and "Covert, My Years Infiltrating the Mob," Delaney said he doesn't believe stress is a mental illness.
"It's a normal reaction to abnormal situations," he said.
Those who serve as firefighters and police officers see things the rest of the world doesn't encounter. It's the same for soldiers serving in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Delaney finally realized he had a problem.
"When I finally was accepting of what was going on, basketball became my therapy," he said. "That became somewhere I could go that gave me an inner peace."
Studies show that 37 percent of veterans have mental health issues, with 22 percent suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Everyone is susceptible to stress, Delaney said. He has seen it during travels to Iraq and Afghanistan. People experienced it after Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti.
"This is a human condition and the more we can have an understanding of a human condition, that is important," he said. "I go back to the men and women in the service. We put them in spots in the world the rest of the world does not see. They are in a higher risk group but we all are susceptible."
When he stopped serving as a state trooper, Delaney said he didn't feel like he was living until he found something to give him an inner balance. For him, it was sports. He could no longer play basketball but he started working as a referee for local games.
He didn't dream of becoming an NBA referee but got a break when he was asked to call a basketball game for a youth summer program on the Jersey Shore. The chief of officiating for the NBA was watching and Delaney was invited to Los Angeles where he was offered a job. He retired last year after working 25 years with superstar athletes.
Staff Sgt. Garrie Gordon, a drill sergeant at Fort Benning, said the former referee offered some points to pass along to other soldiers.
"It's cool how he shares his experience," Gordon said. "He doesn't hide anything."
Staff Sgt. Robert Curry, who has served in Bosnia and Iraq, said he believes stress is an injury and is curable. "It's something you need to mitigate the risk and kind of deal with in a way," he said. "It's something that's always going to be there."
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