Veterans Day 2014

veterans-day-2014-590x368Today we mark the annual apex of our nation’s reflective gratitude to our military veterans. With respect and reverence, grasped hands and full hearts, we take this moment to honor and remember.  During this day, the country will resound with the many ways we recognize their sacrifice and courage, with speeches, concerts and parades, monuments, theatre and all manner of social and digital conversations. Much will be said of their valor. But, what will they really hear? We hope they’ll hear the sound of a growing movement in the country, which SDI is proud to nurture, providing places of honor, remembrance, restored personal freedom, well-supported caregivers, strong mentors and career development. As we move beyond today and further from the Veterans Day spotlight, we hope they’ll continue to hear, “Thank you for your service, how can we help?”

Boo! What Scares You?

By Sam Burns and Jayne Davis, SDI
Public relations is not for the faint of heart. It can be a downright scary business, rewarding only the most stress-hardened and twilight-dwelling souls among us. Take our staff, they excel when it comes to slaying the beasts that roil clients’ souls and threaten to darken their doors. Dedicate a memorial just days after a hurricane AND earthquake? Not a problem. Escort Swedish royals through 17 cities in 17 days?  Nothing to it. Support a client whose founder was ducking enforcers intent on collecting gambling debts (this is PR?)? No biggie. There’s nothing that scares team Sisyphus Deity Incarnate. Or is there?
We asked, “Besides not working at SDI, what’s out there you’d liken to feeling a sudden, swoosh of moist breath in a dark, vacant room?  Whoa. Turns out, witches, goblins and ghosts aren’t what lurk in the shadows of our team’s minds. A banana? Now, that’s worth a cold sweat.
Adrienne  In college, making Easy Mac and having all the hollow noodles stand straight up thrilled me, but not because I was hungry. I’m afraid of holes. Don’t laugh, it’s an  actual diagnosis called trypophobia and it’s very common. Need proof? My sister has  it and she’s very common.  It runs in families. I wish it would just run away. It’s not  just holes but patterns of holes, like honeycomb, swiss cheese or porous bones.   Actually, the phobia has to do with evolutionary survival; lots of poisonous animals have patterns like that. Funny, people always seem to share a shudder with the Easy Mac example.  I wonder if there’s something similar related to ramen noodles.
Alfred Hitchcock ruined my naked ambitions to be an ornithologist. I got over the naked part, but I never got over my fear of birds. I saw the movie, “The Birds,” as a child, and ever since it’s been an immutable truth bore out in experience that birds band Lisatogether against me and plot my demise. An incident at Disneyworld (that’s an unfortunate reference) testifies to that . While I was there with my children, a bird flew out of nowhere straight at me, looked at me with devil eyes and dove for my face on its ghostly wings. “I’ve been hit!”I freaked along with bobbing and weaving, flailing my arms and lapsing into a rendition of a cat on a hot tin roof. (Note to self, get a cat.) Like heat lightning, Disneyland Security flashed before me, no small army of disbelievers, who spared me from the pokey only because my son assured them I acted like that all the time.  Ever since, I’ve been vigilant for rogue swoops and crow’s feet wherever I go.  Want to know something really scary? Part of my work involves tweeting. How’s that for a diabolical twist of fate?
NinaHalloween is really awkward. Weeks before, movie theaters and cable channels start showing every crypt-ridden, psycho-drama and slasher-chilling disasters imaginable. But, they’re not just movies, like we’ve been led to believe. Scary movies are portals that can either suck you into the unknown or deliver your worst fears to your couch, like date night with someone named Chucky, Jason or Freddy. Don’t try to get me in the same room with these guys, I can’t even watch the previews. It’s not just mean-spirited testosterone that creeps me out. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was no homage to accomplishments of the preppy upper class. I tried to exorcise all fright-night entertainment by screaming my way through Scream 1 when I was 13. 13! How unlucky was that?  Needless to say, it didn’t work. I just want to say, scary movies are scary. Hey … anybody hear a chain saw?
What I’m afraid of is transient and ubiquitous, rigid yet giving, quiet at rest but ear-piercing in motion. Ever since I was a kid this shape-shifting lightweight plagued my better senses, sending shivers through me in aching waves of repulsion. It burst into every birthday party, holiday gathering, summer excursion and water adventure. Like nails on a chalkboard, it raises the hair on your neck to where you might be mistaken for the missing evolutionary link. I loathe it in any form, but especially when it arrives in ghostly shapes and in ghastly numbers and jumps uninvited onto your skin or your clothes and rides you around. Styrofoam. It kills me.
I’m a fear multi-tasker. The thought of being locked inside a sauna makes me shiver. Furry flying rodents drive me batty. And frankly, I’m not bananas about bananas. Not only are they radioactive, but with people consuming 100 billion bananas every year, they’re hard to avoid. That’s a real problem when you’re allergic to bananas.



Goodness snakes! My fear is the oldest evil in the book. It’s primal, repugnant. Charmers revere it, but most folks find it repulsive. And unfortunate jokesters like my dad fall prey to the line it’s used forever.`. ‘Take a bite,’ it said to my dad.  He did, and then it bit him back. Think it’s funny to scare your wife with rubber snakes? Think again.
AlizaAllow me to rhapsodize, if only because I’m better at rhapsodizing than rapping. If not for fear, there would be no fear. Fear is what fear does, makes us afraid, no more, no less. The thought of fear unwinds self and encourages a matrix mentality. Are we afraid, or are we afraid of being afraid? Avoiding fear disappoints and cowers the id. Fear is a reduction of will. It’s instinctual, repressed, aggressive.  Fear not, for fear is not, when in conflict with ego.  Of what do I fear? Altering my behavior to feed fear’s lust. And fried twinkies. Because that’s just wrong.


BrittanyI scream, you scream, we all scream at … roaches. Personally, I can’t believe that the universe bestowed on this malignant creature the capacity to out-survive every other living species on, under or above earth. I mean, what do roaches have that golden retrievers don’t? Why can’t the universe do that for my favorite jeans?  The first time I saw a roach fly I thought I was going to die.  Is there no privilege of access they don’t have? Roaches … you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em or outnumber ‘em. Only thing you can do is insult them.  You dirty roach.



I can’t remember when I was first aware of being afraid of not remembering. What was the question?



SusanExtinction. Not mine. Chocolate. I fear malevolent winds will bring a new type of cyber terror that will upset the global balance of power and lead to the ultimate end game: she who controls the cocoa bean, controls the world. A world without chocolate is just vanilla. That scares me to death. On the other hand, what a great PR opportunity to frame the message:  Save the chocolate, save your life.


Jayne   More blog posts like this one.



SamMy biggest fear? Caves. I’m terrified of getting stuck between rocks or having the entrance collapse, trapping me inside. I wasn’t always afraid of them though. Once my grandfather taught me that the proper term for cave exploration was spelunking, I associated caves with the laughter I got from thinking of that ridiculous word. But then I saw the Descent … and spelunking was ruined for me forever. I thought I could be strong, but then I caved.
JudyBroken street lights. It’s not the dark that scares me, it’s the infiltration of darkness into spaces that should be lit. A broken street light invites unwelcome darkness, violates symmetry.  It steals my sense of comfort and security. The power of the darkness offends me, and invites thoughts of unwelcome consequences. Maybe I AM afraid of the dark. Darn those broken street lights.


KristenAnything and everything that’s stereotypically scary scares me . Haunted houses, ghouls, goblins, witches and ghosts are all terrifying; but, haunted hayrides are the worst. Knowing I’d be scared, I went on one once and it was absolutely awful. Hideous farm animals and menacing scarecrows actually came up and TOUCHED me. How scary is that!? And I thought I could handle it; didn’t even have my mom or blanket with me for protection – I was just so naïve in 2013.  Now, I’m dreading all the haunted hayrides I’m going to take in the future. Believe me, if someone is actively trying to scare me, they will succeed.  I can’t wait.

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Things that don’t go bump in the night. We all get used to hearing things that go bump in the night, and if they don’t actually do you in, after a while you figure they’re harmless. But the things that don’t go bump in the night can lie there silently, waiting, biding, plotting, licking their thick thing-like lips …

July 4th on the National Mall: Tradition For Many, Proud History For SDI

Fourth Of July Fireworks Celebration In The Nation's Capital

By Judy Whittlesey, SDI Executive Vice President

There can’t be a better place to celebrate the Fourth of July than right here in our home town and the nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C.  On this important day for the United States, we share our city with visitors from across the nation and around the world.

The preparation begins weeks in advance as special vantage points are prepared for the throngs and thousands who will converge on the National Mall.  The Potomac River is dotted with kayaks, canoes, and larger boats filled with celebrating citizens.  The Capitol lawn is a patchwork quilt of blankets staking out picnic spots well in advance of the National Symphony’s annual concert.  All the museums on the National Mall below are open, and one person always stays behind, the designated place holder, while the rest of the group takes advantage of the rich array of free museums – ready to be explored.  [Read more…]

Chairman Susan Davis at Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards

Vital Voices - Susan Davis

The 13th annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards was held at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on June 17, 2014, in Washington, D.C.  Hillary Clinton, who founded Vital Voices Global Partnership in 1997, gave a special award to Razan Zatounieh, the Syrian human rights activists who was abducted in December 2013 and is still missing. [Read more…]

SSgt Edward L. (Pooch) Davis

In Memoriam

We knew all about the thousand yard stare long before we ever heard the term.  When those cold blue eyes did focus, being the object of his attention could be very uncomfortable. He was quick to laugh, and quick to anger, and the journey between the two did not take much time. He sang Irish lullabies while gently cradling his children, his beautiful tenor voice dripping with emotion.  When they drifted off to sleep, his mind drifted to another world, and he endured an endless succession of sleep deprived nights punctuated by the darkest of dreams. [Read more…]

Nina Foster: My First Meeting with LCDR Sullivan


LCDR Jean Marie Sullivan is the first military person that I’ve ever actually met. I was quick to define anyone in a uniform. Feeling uncomfortable and intimidated, I thought to myself, they must be very stuffy. After meeting her, everything changed.

Jean Marie heads the production of the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium for the Sea Service Leadership Association and was a longstanding client of SDI’s. I vividly remember meeting her for the first time.

Three years ago, a petite, bubbly,  5’1” curly haired blonde walked through the offices of SDI as if she was in her own apartment. She helped herself to the office drinks in the fridge and sat down in the conference room. She welcomed me and Lisa Miller into the conference room as if she was hosting us. Jean Marie kicked off the meeting by talking a bit about her personal life and made a few jokes about some dates she had been on – I felt immediately at ease and I knew that nothing was going to be as I originally expected.

As we switched topics to the one at hand I could tell how much the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium meant to her, and the importance of making sure that it happened each and every year. This was a gathering that impacted women’s lives and the only one of its kind. I don’t think I realized at the time what an honor it was to be a part of something so vital.

Her energy filled the room as we discussed possible themes.   I scribbled on a giant note pad as the ideas gushed out. What did we want to accomplish? What taboo topics needed to be discussed? What sessions would provide support for those who feel like they had none? I was worried about chiming in – I wasn’t in the military, what would I know about having to keep quiet or feeling like a subordinate? But I did know about these things that all of us go through, and I realized that the conference was first and foremost about women, and I could relate even though our lives might be very different.

This year is her last year overseeing the conference after orders came through for her move to Italy. Her passion behind producing this conference and making it as meaningful as possible is clear to every attendee.  Through all the hard work, long hours, and conversations in between, I consider Jean Marie not just a client but a dear friend.

In May, for National Military Appreciation Month, I would like to thank Jean Marie Sullivan for her service, all the work she has done for the Sea Service Leadership Association, and all that she has taught me in the few years I’ve known her.

Tom Davis: Remembering Memorial Day

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We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Moina Michael 

In a small town, the kind of town where doors were never locked, seen through the eyes of the children, Memorial Day was an exciting experience. The usually predictable, measured pace of life abruptly changed. The quiet of the early morning hours quickly gave way to the stirring of a community coming to life. Far off came the sound of a single trombone, soon to be joined by all of its neighbors in the brass section of the high school band, tuning up before marching across town to the steady beat of the bass drum. [Read more…]

Dan Honors Our Nation’s Military Past By Helping Preserve It

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In the winters of the Revolutionary War, early Americans could track the movements of the Continental Army by the trail of blood the Soldiers’ chapped, uncovered feet left in the snow.

General George Washington’s urgent supply requests during the war were not for tactical material to give him the edge over the British, they were for survival: food, blankets, clothes. He once wrote that the Army was nearing the inevitable choice to dissolve, disperse, or starve.

These were the disparities of a young nation that by most measures had no business taking on the British with any expectation of winning.   [Read more…]

David Remembers His Grandfather as More Than Just a Good American

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My grandfather, Jerome “Jerry” Bahr, was, by profession, a fiction writer. His first book of short stories, All Good Americans, published by Scribner’s and Sons, had the honor of receiving a preface by a rather well-known colleague of his, Ernest Hemingway.  (This was the only preface Hemingway wrote for an American short story writer.)

[Read more…]

Diana Moon Remembers Her Grandfather’s WWII Service


Every Memorial Day, my mom proudly hangs an American flag outside of her house. It floats in the breeze with the other flags her neighbors display to celebrate the holiday, but she tells me it holds a different meaning to her. It is the flag she received on behalf of the U.S. Navy when her father passed away in 1996. I always knew growing up that my grandfather, Henry “Hank” Haligowski, served in the Navy during World War II, and was stationed in the Pacific during the war  with  Japan. But I never fully understood his story until I began my own work with the military, service members and military organizations.

World War II was a tumultuous time not only for the United States but for the world: atrocities committed in Europe, families displaced facing uncertainty, and troops heading out to the open seas of the Pacific. [Read more…]