Tom Spooner and Winston Bromley

Recorded June 16, 2021 Archived June 15, 2021 37:53 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000898


Tom Spooner (51) tells coworker Winston Bromley (49) about his long military career and civilian life.

Subject Log / Time Code

TS talks about why he wanted to enlist in the Army
TS talks about his first deployment to Iraq in the Gulf War
TS talks about getting medically retired and dealing with a TBI and civilian life
TS talks about post-military struggles
TS describes what was unexpected in his military service and emotional and spiritual turning points
TS describes what he's proud of


  • Tom Spooner
  • Winston Bromley

Recording Location

Virtual Recording



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00:05 My name is Winston Bromley. I'm 49 years old today is June 16th, 2021 and I'm recording from close to Toronto Canada. And I'm speaking with my friend, Tom Spooner.

00:17 My name is Tom Spooner. I'm 51 years old. Today is June 16th, 2021. I'm recording from Whispering Pines, North Carolina, and I'm speaking with my friend, Winston Bromley.

00:31 So, what were some of the reasons that you join the military?

00:37 Yeah, so for me, I've always wanted to join the military and one of the reasons for that is my family members. So my grandfather and my mom said, was a World War II veteran. And my uncle was a 3 tour, Vietnam veteran. So in my other grandfather was a law enforcement officer for 40-something years. So it was a service was a big thing. And Military was something that I just always wanted to be a part of. And how did you choose your branch of service? Do both of my uncle, and my grandfather were in the Army and then and then just my own personal thing was, is that I wanted to join the Army because I wanted to be a ranger like that's all that I ever wanted to do, was it want to be a ranger? And so that was, you know, what drove it into? As far as being into the army and

01:37 You know, when did you actually join the Army? Can I join the Army in the summer of 1990 just before the go for where I was at basic training when the Gulf War. I know big words are going on since, you know Vietnam. So it was yes, it got pretty intense at basic training and then, and then from there, when you first went over there.

02:15 I wear when I first I first went to all the different trainings, you know, that at Fort Benning and infantry and then I got assigned to the 82nd. And so then I came to Fort Bragg here in North Carolina for a couple of months and then and then deployed to Saudi Arabia in December of 1990. Do you remember? What do you remember?

02:48 About the day that I enlisted in there. So, the day that I remember about my military stuff actually began. I was in ROTC cuz my uncle said, well, you know, if you're good, they were enlisted guys. And they said, if you're going to join, you need to be an officer. So I just wanted to join right out of high school, but I did, but they told me to do and I did go to college for about a year-and-a-half and that didn't work out for me. But the day that I remember about enlisted was just a huge relief because I was, I was getting into a lot of trouble. Do you know where the military pulled me out of a lot of stuff and I rocked her and everything. So the day that I missed it. I was hugely relieved to be getting into something that I know that would help me out.

03:45 Yeah, they weren't they were proud. And you know, of course, that as far as seeing me go, but they knew that that's what I always wanted to do.

03:57 So the I left, you know, my first appointment, who I left in the end of 1990. And then I stayed for the goal for the ground portion, where the air campaign and then the ground portion of it. I was there and we first pushed into Iraq and then about six months later is when they, you know, the ground World Cup official the ended, you know, and then they redeployed us back to the States. So that was my first NFL went from basic training aait straight over to war, you know, and then six months later, came back to Fort Bragg in the 82nd during that time, and you also did time in America, right?

04:41 Yeah, so I spent from 9295. I was in the 82nd Fort Bragg and the first 250 4th and then I went to selection for special forces in 1995 and then made it over there to 7th group is at 18. Charlie an engineer on operational. Detachment Alpha 2 years. So yeah. West Central and South America for six years and absolutely loved it. It was all pretty 911. So, you know, it was just training deployments that I was part of but but I enjoyed every minute of it.

05:25 As far as in Central and South America are apart from each other, with a more intense as you went along, or how was it? Well for the Gulf War. It was just the inner just that one deployment and then you know, ass after 9/11. I did 12 different deployments then do after I finish my time in 7th group from 96 to 2001, in September of 2001, I have, which is a selection for special Mission Unit. Got to sign there as an operator and I was there from 2001 to 2011 and there's where I did not wear your question with some other multiple deployments. I did one to Afghanistan or Iraq right now.

06:25 And it happened where you already? I know you were already in where you were what, like, what what position, where you were, what to, what the division where you were, what branch was. So in September of 2001 is whenever I went selection. So I was in Special Forces in that same month, you know, couple weeks after 9/11. I was already slotted to go to selection went to selection, made it out to the unit and then I

06:57 Was there for six months and then my first deployment was in 2002 and that was what? Special operation?

07:05 May I ask a question? I'm curious about your very first appointment in the Gulf War and you how long after you joined after you enlisted? Did you actually deploy?

07:19 So, when did I join? I think it was.

07:25 Because in June, you know, went to basic training, I went to advance, training came home on leave and got married and then I deployed to Iraq. So it's basically probably five months from the time. I so we'll call it six months, six months from the time I enlisted until I was in Iraq and help look for you. I was 20 years old and I turned 21 in Iraq. My birthday is in January. What was your how did you tell your new wife? How did you tell your family? What does that feel like for 20 year olds? I was at basic training, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, you know, and then they started to deploy in the first guys over to Saudi Arabia. And so, for me,

08:24 I was ecstatic. I mean, that's why I joined the military. You know what I mean? Once again, all all My Heroes Have Been to war, you know, so that was just, you know, the job description especially being in the Infantry, you know, and so it was, you know, I'm being super young. I mean, I was 20 years old, you know, with zero experience. So had no idea what that really meant and what we were getting into. So I was super excited about doing it, not in a in a negative way, but just in doing my job kind of way. And of course, my family was freaked out, you know, cuz no one had since Vietnam, none of the family had ever, you know, been in war.

09:09 Okay, great. That you served with that. You remember, before I go back to the difference in the deployments mm in a 2002 that was you know, not long as it's in the fall 2002. That's so it was still really, you know, new to everyone and that was and it was new to me cuz I was the last time I had done it I was 20 years old and now is 32, you know, going in and one level. So but if the deployment was really it was a good deployment, you know, in 911 had just happened, you know, and everything was right and everybody wanted us to be doing what we were doing.

10:09 How many events that happened and so, it was just really good. And then from there, that unit that I was assigned to, we got in 2003. Did we all the rest of our deployments were in Iraq? So they split up the two theaters between Afghanistan and Iraq. And we were assigned to Iraq and end up the deployment were generally the same when we were going after Saddam in the deck of cards, you know, all of his guys that went on and then every, you know, for a couple of years and then everything changed whenever they went from, you know, I was trying to get out the old regime listed on the saying to what they called it that time for in spiders. So, you know Al queda was the enemy and that was mainly the Taliban and everything is in Afghanistan, but then it all spilled over to the foreign fighters in Iraq, specifically in 2004. That's when everything.

11:09 Changed. It became much more violent. It became much more oranges.

11:19 And then a 2005-2006. You know, we took a whole lot of casualties, you know, that was that was really sick part of the war and then for me, everything switched in 2006 because it's at that point in time is like my, I don't know, fifth or sixth deployment. And and I'd been involved in three mass casualty events. And then I had a mortar round land, really close to me. That unbeknownst to me. I received a traumatic brain injury from. So from that moment for the next say, four or five, more deployments it shifted for me, where it was really, instead of just being professional, it became very personal. I'd lost a lot of friends, seeing a lot of guys died. And so it really got personal for me as far as you know, how much we wanted to get after the enemy. So,

12:15 That was kind of the changing of the enemy was always changing and adapting to our tactics so we would have to adapt also, but I was there the big change, you know, occurred and end of 2004 all the way to 2010 and that was my last appointment was 2010. I'm sure continued on, but just to your question that was kind of the differences.

12:38 And when did you leave the military?

12:42 I left the military in 2011. And what was the process like coming out of it?

12:49 For me, it was a a little bit different than your average guy is kind of process and out. I ended up getting medically retired just because of the amount of the traumatic brain injury, you do multiple injuries back surgeries, broken back and then ptso ended up getting a medical board it out. So my transition with Norm wasn't really a normal, and I had a, you know, is going to best David or therapy, cognitive therapy, psychological therapy. So I spent a good amount of time. I just get everything back, right? So the transition out for me was I had a lot of people helping take care of me because I needed at that time. I would get lost and, you know, basically had to have someone carry hand-carry me around going to different appointments for probably about 4 months. Not a good thing.

13:48 And so I sent it up getting better. And then I transitioned once I finished up all the medical evaluation and board stuff, you know, they're not then I truly transition, you know who regularly out of the military.

14:05 Okay, great. Thank you for that. And then going back to the very beginning of when you first went into the military. And before you got deployed you came back and you got married at that time. So we talked a little bit about your wife. Yeah, sure. I like the relationship, obviously, with with war and everything that's going on like that. The beginning one will start at the beginning there. Okay, so I met her. And I've met my wife in 1990 when I was a senior in high school. She was a junior and I got my wife at the time. And then and then before I deployed to the Gulf War II, we got married, because you know, that's what you do in the movies. You know, you're getting ready to go off of Ward, get killed. So got to get married before you go so well and we got married that young. You know, what I was 20, she was 19 and but then, you know, we're still together today. So we've

15:04 I got it for over 30 years. So we've been through been through everything together.

15:11 And what was the other party question?

15:15 Oh, well, that was those part of it just from the start and then where you guys are now, obviously it was a relationship super hard and then just because you're gone all the time and it takes a super-strong spouse to be able to just deal with. Basically, you know, at least six months out of the year. If not more, specially my time in Special Forces. I mean, I was gone 8 to 9 months out of the Year even before 9:11 cuz he had to be super strong because they're basically a single mom for a login. I mean that many months out of here and I have two sons, you know, and, and so it's really hard, but one of the two key things that kept us together was number one that the level of commitment that we had for one another just as partners, you know, and then

16:15 To the most important thing is communication, always communicating and being honest, you know, and we know we had several times along the way they were extremely difficult, you know, and and the only thing that kept us together was our communication and our willingness and commitment to one another. But you know, that that goes both ways, you know, we know there's several times whenever I needed to change for a relationship and then the same time, there's along the way, there were several things that she needed to change for a relationship. So it was, you know, it was if it was a, it was a lot but obviously, well worth it to children that you have. Are they one of them is just gone into the military.

17:09 Yep.

17:12 Well, he's yeah, he'll be leaving this August to go into the military and go to the same route. You know that I as my younger son and my older son. He's currently finishing up college and eventually is going to, you know, serving law enforcement and some some capacity directly hundred percent hundred percent. Keep your relationship alive while you were deployed. How do you keep in touch with her and with your son's?

17:55 ESO for me, it was. I was because I was in Special Operations, Tier 1 Unit. A. We also had the ability to have phones a lot of time. So I communicated in a regularly throughout the week on deployment, you know, so I would be able to communicate via phone calls. It was before 2010. So there wasn't the really video telecommunications weren't really, you know, Common outside of the military. So but we had the ability to to be on the phone and then so that was the primary means of communication. Was that an email? And then the biggest thing about whenever I wasn't deployed, I was, I was home, you know, and grow in those relationships with my children and with my wife, very focused on taking care of my family, whenever I wasn't the pool later at work, so I was either at

18:55 Work and are deployed where I was at home. So I put we all put a lot of effort into keeping our family strong and together.

19:05 Thank you. Welcome. Having been in the military service. What what would you wish civilians understood about your military service? Is there anything that you'd want them to know? There's really nothing they can do about serving cuz you know me without doing there's nothing really, I'd want him to know about that. It'd be kind of like, my wife wanted me to know about childbirth, you know, she can talk and talk and I can have empathy and everything but you know, it's a different life experience. The only thing that I would like is that is just if they could understand just to honor that service not to be beholding to it or less than by any means but just understanding that. Wow, you know, someone that serves like that. That's a very important deal, you know, for our country and our on our freedoms and our way of life, that only thing that I

20:05 Hope that they understood just how big of a deal that it was.

20:10 And what are some habits that you developed in service that you that you like reading stories today? But the number one is just hard work. You know, the biggest thing is is that is that hey just you know, that work ethic.

20:34 Give an example of when that has.

20:39 Apply to your life or if it's something you've instilled in your children and kind of how you've done that still go back to. The first thing is hard work and it sounds really simple bed.

20:54 It's not you know, what as far as instilling in my in my children that cuz there's no cost to working hard. You know, you can, you know, that that's an initial initial. I mean, that's an initiative on the individual and and work ethic, you know, and and that was a thing that I learned in the military is like, no one should be at work in me. Whether it was physical fitness, whether it was on the Range, weather was my job description, you know, if I'm putting into work, then I'm going to get the results, you know, and then that's what I really instill into my children, you know, not doing child labor, or anything like that. But is like the idea that you can get whatever you want to go out of life. Within reason by just working super-hard for. In the other thing would be a how to recover quick.

21:47 At meaning like a. When you make a mistake, you own that mistake and then you immediately get back to like correcting it and and doing things the right way. If you've done it the wrong way, so you do not dwell in and things not how you know, going over and over and we thinking it's like a Own It, understand it, you know and move on. Does that answer your question? Yeah. Thank you.

22:14 Since then, I'm coming out of the military. You want to just talk a little bit about what you've done since then, to help the military class and, you know, all around. Yeah, whenever I first got out of the military.

22:29 You know, that cuz that was about a question about the transition and stuff to do at a lot of a lot of folks struggle with that transition because they don't embrace the fact that the military their military career is over ever. You know, you're no longer a service member you're a civilian, you know, so a lot of folks really have struggles as well. I'll just put it on me. You know, I had to really is that question that I had to answer for myself, is who am I now, obviously, I still have all the attributes and everything that I that I came with out of the military but that portion of my life is now over so and it was a huge part of my identity. You know, they what am I going to do? And what is my purpose and clean? So it's been a lot of time for me. My initial work. When I get out of the military was I was trained in law enforcement and doing

23:29 My resume said I was good at which was shooting, you know, and act acts. So I did that to pay the bills and continue growing and finding out who and what I am. Other thing that I that I had a super passion for was helping folks out. You know, I got sober back in 92 struggle with alcoholism, the chemical dependency majority of my service, you know, I wish I was sober doing it and that was a big passion of mine was helping other guys out. So that was it. That was a huge peace. As far as whenever I got out. You know, I no longer was deploying a no longer was carrying a gun for a live-in, you know, I was and in trying to help out to get really involved in a military veteran suicide and how to help out with that. And then I was really involved in, you know, the chemical dependency aspect of it and helping guys out with that. And so I did the train.

24:29 Sing and everything for a while and then I got to what I found to be my real passion and my real Mission. Again, once I got nowt and that's with Warriors heart. You know, what, a great. Thank you. I'm where I'm at the end of this. So I just have two last questions for you. Unless you might have a question would be

24:53 Okay.

25:01 What's today?

25:09 So what are some fun things that you and your friends have done that did together while you were deployed?

25:17 Like in between obviously the gunfights and stuff like that. Had you guys like him Friday. I'll get back down to normal levels and you know me to never knew in the in 1990-91. We ended up making a chess board out of in the MREs. They have these little Tabasco bottles, these little miniature baby bottles of Tabasco and wait, we made a chess board. Yeah, you know chess pieces out of it. So we would do that and then later on, you know, post 9/11 global war on terrorism was there wasn't a lot of a Down time that we had that wasn't consumed with you. No more training and more physical fitness and everything, but for for fun, we watch movies. And one of my personal favorites was playing video games.

26:09 And I said that's that's kind of what we did for, for fun.

26:14 I'm curious. What was

26:20 Acted you had military family, but when you join the military, was there anything that really caught you by surprise? So you weren't expecting and your service.

26:30 In which aspect?

26:33 Any aspect, you know, some lesson you learned about yourself or even some logistical saying that was just a surprise to you.

26:46 That's a good question. I had the biggest thing that was a surprise to me was unexpected was number one, the whole experience of, you know, that much time at War cuz I have a totally total of 40 months time and combat in the injuries. Were unexpected. The other things that were unexpected was not having the tools that I needed to handle the emotions of war and everything that occurred during that. During that time, that, that was a bit unexpected. Another unexpected thing was, I didn't expect to get brain injury or, you know, all the injuries that I had. So that's answer your question. I would say that, that was the biggest thing that was unexpected to me, was just the injuries and actually how much more I needed to know and have tools for dealing with my mom.

27:46 Friends and being physically and not physically, spiritually, strong.

27:57 Spiritual journey.

27:58 I had bad turning point or good Turning Point.

28:02 Either both said there was a it was a bad turning point for me. In 2006 is where I mentioned that it became personal for me. So that was my third mass casualty event mass casualty defined as like, there's way more wounded people and people than there are folks to fix them and I was in three of those. And so the third one that I was part of, it really broke my heart, cuz it seems so many US service members. Died in Iraq. And so many get wounded in that time. A lot of eighteen-year-olds, you know, I was old enough to be their dad. So I'd see them so that, you know what, I mean between that event. And then whenever I got the undiagnosed traumatic brain injury, which affects the, you know, decision-making part of the brain, you know, so of my heart was broken and then my head was broken. And then so the negative down turn way.

29:02 That it became very personal to me instead of just being professional and do my job like it was up until that moment is a very defining moment. I can go all the way back to how I was up until that moment and then after but then after the the good things about it was as you know, still didn't continue to do incredible things, even though I was taking it all kind of personal, you know, I still did my job and exactly the way it was supposed to. And then that the next that was the kind of the down turning point. And again, not from a military perspective cuz I was doing a great job, but from an emotional and lack of better words that Humanity's perspective, you know, that much war and that much being a part of death, you know, and in Chile, you know, is get it took a real big toll on me and I didn't know at that time until it came time to get out and that's why I mentioned, you know, the hell why family was so important to

30:02 That was a key thing in me, instead of going, you know, turn the downward turn. Now, the upward turn is having my family to support me, but also utilizing all the tools with that were there available to me, you know, from doctors the psychologist, to all the help that was out there who, you know, and, and threw that then it was another turning point of back like, okay, getting focus create a new mission in my life and I'm taking care of the guys cuz I was an NCO, you know, in the military. So, you know, submission and Health and Welfare of the troops, you know, so I dealt with the the war overseas and now, you know, my purpose is helping them the war at home specifically to Veteran's suicide.

30:46 Is there any one person you've worked with since then that has stuck with you? Do you want to talk about? You don't have to name names,. There's several whenever I was in the military, you know, I had, I was just so fortunate along the way to have, all these mentors, you know, any examples of who I wanted to be as a soldier along the way. And then whenever I got out, the greatest impact of people that I have my life is as far as on the professional. So obviously not tell my family cuz there's a number one, my wife being the number one and then my boys being two and three and then four and five would be Josh and Lisa Landon who I'm now a part of Warriors heart with, you know, where the co founder founder and co-founders of Warriors heart and they just, you know, support me and I support them, you know, him.

31:46 The mission that we have now is what, is where my identity lies is where my task my purpose. My motivation. Yes, or that. That would be currently here.

31:59 Think you're welcome. And when did you first find out about your brain trauma? Like his favorite was undiagnosed for a little bit. First found out about it. Cuz I had all these different symptoms of a huge emotional mood swings. I would get lost driving down the road. I couldn't figure out how to get home, you know, so I said like Heather's their stuff really going on in my head. So they put me through all the tests that definitively Define. What do you have traumatic brain injury or not, you know, and that's and when it came to find out was that cuz I just thought I was losing my mind and going crazy and that took all those tests and they said my brain was working at 50% processing speed and 50% of verbal memory, which was very relieving to me. Because I thought I just had some psychological stuff going on, but it was no actual cognitive issues, you know, which was very relieving.

32:59 Because you know, you can work on that stuff. You can't fix crazy, you know, and so that was very relieving to know that I wasn't crazy. I was just at had some injuries, which I was very familiar with. So, you know, there's stair piece for those injuries and and they were, you know, so they was a 2010, you know, during that Med medical evaluation board is what they found out about that, but it actually happened in 2006. So that was, you know, a good almost 5 years and then that you were saying, you had 50% capacity and birbal in 50% of memory and stuff like that. How is it changed to me? How has it changed since then? It's changed a lot since then do to cognitive therapy. And in Braintree, meant would they call it TMS? Which I use, I've tried everything from hyperbaric chambers to all these different.

33:59 Things. There's a bunch of a bunch of wonderful things out there. That worked at the biggest thing that has helped me is that the TMS specifically emerts, you know, which is a really big deal and I still continue to do that today.

34:15 What does that stand for? TMS transcranial, magnetic synchronization. And then the other one, then we are teeth and magnetic resonance, you know, therapy. So it's it's sold all approved. You know, the meaning of practices is not some kind of voodoo. It's the new Tricare and V8 and all that stuff. So it's but it really, that's the number one thing for me is staying on everything that I need to do support my brain and, you know, cuz it's the whole Mind Body Spirit. That's where a lot of guys get into trouble is they, they don't address one of those three aspects of their lives and you knowing that it ends up coming apart, you know, at some point in time.

35:07 Excellent. Thank you. I'm really curious. I guess it's a two-part question. What are you the proudest of in your military service? And what are you proud of in your life?

35:23 Good questions of the proudest of my military service.

35:28 Just I mean, it's just all of it. I mean, I'm super proud of everything that I did. I mean I made mistakes don't give me wrong along the way but I'm just, I mean, I'm proud of everything that I did while I was in the military. I have no regrets about the military. The only thing I regret is I wish I could have done more, you know, and not get boarded up. Personally. My family is number one. Number one, having my family, you know, again, cuz equally as hard on my end and and then being of being a good husband and being a good dad, number another one and two and then number three is Warriors heart, you know, because I'm being able to provide for super proud of that cuz I'm now providing for hundreds, you know, many of others and given them the opportunities that I was given and then it's up to them, you know, to

36:24 To put in the work, you know how and what does that's the things that I'm proud of?

36:32 The great question as well. So what message do you have for future Generations? That might be hearing this future generation. Number one, is an honor, you know what I mean? And it is a great way of life to serve in the US military. It's a hard life, very difficult life, but it is. It's a good one, you know, if you're into it, I mean, it's, it's the thing to do and then I, and then I would also say that just understand that along the way that you're going to need help, you know, whether it's in shooting, whether it's in tactics, whether it's an emotional and, you know, emotional tools are spiritual tools. Just know that, you know, that's what makes a complete Warrior, his mind body and spirit, not just on the battlefield, but also at home

37:30 Awesome. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me here. I really appreciate everything that you do and all the service that you provided to our country. Yeah, so I thank you very much for taking the time to speak to me, or you're welcome. And thanks for interviewing me Winston.

37:48 I was surprised, right.