The Fallen Heroes

Fallen Heroes
When an emergency 911 call comes in to the dispatcher, it is in most cases alarming, but our police and firefighters take it all in stride, as first responders, always getting the job done. The call can come any hour of the day or night, and within minutes, the police or firefighters are at the location of incident protecting their communities—always able, always willing, always ready to serve. We take it for granted that they will be there, on time, standing tall to protect us.

We may not always remember that the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protect us place themselves in jeopardy almost daily. They are the law enforcement officers or firefighters, realizing in reality that they themselves could possibly be in danger, could possibly die in the line of duty on any given day—each incident cutting the odds closer.

Technology, intense training, stringent requirements and state of the art equipment, in most cases, has cut the number of deaths of officers and firefighters to the lowest in history, except for incidents of multiple losses in high-profile tragedies. In reality, about one hundred firefighters die annually in the nation in the line of duty; many die in accidents getting to and from fires, helicopter crashes and the most ominous of all, heart attacks. We mourn their deaths but may often forget those who are left behind. They are the families; mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses and children—and yes, there are many children. They are the ones who get the call—the knock on the door, that their loved-one has died—the police officer or firefighter who gave their life in the line of duty; bravely, selflessly as a hero.

We can only imagine the day, when on March 21, 2009, four Oakland police officers answering a disturbance, were gunned down by a parolee. We can only imagine the dread when breaking news hit the airways that four of Oakland’s finest were down, shocking the sensibilities of Bay Area residents. We can only imagine when their families heard the news, heard that Oakland PD officers were down—then hearing it was their own husbands, their relatives and their fathers who were dead. The fallen heroes who met their deaths in the line of duty on that fateful spring day were: Officer John Hege, and Sergeants Ervin Romans, Mark Dunakin and Dan Sakai.

The horrific incident shocked Bay Area residents and sparked retired firefighter Tom Gallinatti to get involved, to add his efforts to other organizations that support families of Fallen Heroes and founded the organization Police and Fire: The Fallen Heroes that assists families in their hour of deepest need.

To honor and assist families of California Fallen Heroes, especially their children, Gallinatti founded Police and Fire: The Fallen Heroes, a 501 c (3) non-profit corporation;, their slogan “Serving Those Who Served.”

Gallinatti is a retired 30-year veteran of the Oakland Fire Department, who rose to the rank of Battalion Chief, assigned to the position of Director of Training and currently an adjunct instructor at the College of Siskiyous. The Fallen Heroes is committed to honoring the families of those law enforcement and fire service personnel who, in the performance of their duties, serving in a battleground workplace, paid the ultimate sacrifice while providing a secure environment for the community.

Their kick-off fundraiser this last April was very successful, The Fallen Heroes Celebrity Golf Tournament at Diablo Country Club attracted many golfers, among the celebrities; Eddie Money and Johnny Gunn who entertained guests, members of Tower of Power, Gregg Allman Band and Jefferson Starship. Ron Masak on Murder, She Wrote, Kathy Garver, ‘Cissy’ on “Family Affair, Jim Plunkett, Vida Blue, and Gary Plummer, the voice of the 49ers, added their celebrity status to the event. Tom Gallinatti also cinched a fundraising partnership with the Oakland Raiders, who gave a portion of their November 7th game to Police and Fire: The Fallen Heroes organization. In addition, Kinder’s Meats and Deli has partnered with the organization by providing food on many events and is a generous leading sponsor. Danville’s own Miss Teen California, 18-year old Ari Eastman and Captain Sully Sullenberger also give generously of their time and talent to this cause.

The celebrity golf tournament may not have been as successful if it were not for the many generous donors who provided for the event auction. Among the auction prizes was a Sicilian-style crab feed for twelve by Bay Area’s own leading chef Russ Belleci of Forli’s Ristorante in Alamo, and a Lunch for Four with Tony La Russa. The hot music items were Sammy Hagar’s guitar—‘the red rocker’ from the band “Chicken Foot” and Eddie Money’s signed Memphis strat electric guitar of “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” fame. Danvillian Randy Winn of the SF Giants donated his signed play bat and Talkin’ Baseball donated a Pete Rose autographed bat. For eager women bidders, Amy Davazante donated a “Pamper My Party” Home Spa event for six.

The Celebrity Golf Tournament, with 150 golfers and the kind assistance of Diablo Country Club’s Manager Larry Marx, resulted in the donation of $40,000 to the four Oakland Police Officers’ families. Hopefully, the future Celebrity Golf Tournament planned for June 13, 2011 will pay tribute to the fallen heroes and top off this year’s efforts by “Serving Those Who Served.”

Police and Fire: The Fallen Heroes organization is recruiting volunteers to assist in this worthwhile cause and is seeking the use of donated storefront or office space in Danville, San Ramon or Alamo, suitable for administrative offices, fundraising and volunteer coordination.

As the Police and Fire: The Fallen Heroes organization is in its infancy, there is a need for volunteers to lend their talents in marketing and computer skills to assist in making this non-profit successful to support the families of California’s finest; the Police and the Firefighters.

When I asked Tom Gallinnatti what he envisions for the organization he explained; “After an incident, when a police officer or firefighter loses a life, the investigation period is hardest on the children. I visualize getting the children to a change of scenery, a serene place—away from the glare of investigators and the media…”

“So, you foresee an emissary, an advocate—someone to comfort the children at the most difficult time?” I asked.

“I feel that this is where our organization can be effective, supporting the family, caring for the children in their difficult time…we are still working on how and where we are most needed…we must provide security for the loved ones, the ones left behind.”

Considering the scope and landscape of this massive country, and all fifty states—there are only about one hundred in-line-of-duty firefighter deaths annually, many dying in accidents to and from an incident, helicopter crashes and fire-related injuries—but 60% of deaths are from stress-related heart attacks. Among police officers who perish in the line-of-duty, the national numbers are also relatively small, considering the danger of the calls; 24 so far this year 2010 to October—Texas in the lead, followed by Florida and California. National statistics for 2009 show 124 police officers in line-of-duty deaths; four in Oakland and four in Lakewood, Washington when officers were gunned down in a coffee shop. A startling statistic is that 23% of police perish while answering domestic disturbances. Among police officers, the leading cause of death is by gunfire followed by motorcycle accidents. In actuality, considering the danger of the profession, research statistics show that there were 1,216 police deaths in California during the past century—for an average of 12 a year.

The nation’s deadliest, blackest day came on September 11, 2001 when we lost 60 members of the NYPD and Port Authority personnel, and 341 NYFD, 10 medics and EMTs—all fallen heroes who died doing their job and saving others. It is up to us, members of the community, to honor those brave men and women who have given their precious lives in the line of duty—the greatest tribute we can pay to their memory is to care for their children.

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The Front Lines of Caring

Troops Direct Troops Direct is the vision made reality of Aaron Negherbon, a Danville resident of 20 years. His answering of the call to support our Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan has been heralded by military leaders, corporations and the public alike as truly unprecedented.

We asked Aaron about and its origins. “It began when one of my long time friends, fellow USC Trojan and Marine Corps Captain deployed to Afghanistan. Through the years, I have seen him off on multiple tours to Iraq and other theatres across the globe. What started off as a basic albeit 45 pound care package to my buddy resulted in his email of thanks that not only expressed his gratitude but also his intent to share the contents of my package with the other 200 Marines under his command.”

Unsure as to why his friend was distributing his supplies to his men in the field, Aaron did some digging and the news that he received from returning soldiers was shocking. “I was shocked to learn that soldiers are not provided with the necessary basic supplies such as body wash, toothpaste, energy drink powder (and much more) to keep them healthy and effective on the front lines. I had always thought that our military provided everything to our soldiers. It was then that I decided that I was going to change that.” Aaron does this not by serving the individual soldier but rather entire the Company or Battalion exclusively. For the uninitiated, that’s upwards of one thousand soldiers that TroopsDirect supplies at a time.

So Negherbon’s quest began with the goal of giving the Marines and the other branches of service anything and everything he could possibly muster. Negherbon reached out not only to friends and neighbors but also to the corporate contacts he had made through his 15 years as a business executive. In a matter of days, support for his mission was received with the energy of a tsunami, and TroopsDirect was born.

A look into Aaron Negherbon’s operation proves that TroopsDirect lives up to its tagline of ‘Support, Supply, Logistics’. “We communicate directly and only with Company Commanders at the smaller and more remote FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) on a daily basis. It’s often around midnight our time that I’ll log in to our email servers and receive updates on needed items and to confirm delivery of outbound parcels. We ask that the Captains plan their requests two to three weeks in advance to allow for transit times. We then prioritize items based on need. For example, where 200 units foot powder, 500 pairs of socks or 4,000 servings of Gatorade might go out on one of our normal weekly shipments, urgent items such as first aid items will go out as quick as the same day.”

“First aid items?” we asked. Negherbon recounted an urgent dispatch he received one night in July from a Medic serving in Afghanistan. “He sent me an email explaining that his unit was in a firefight that day which resulted in his stethoscopes being damaged and his supply of gauze, hydrocortisone and other items being severely depleted. The Medic continued to explain that military supply lines couldn’t guarantee an immediate resupply so he was reaching out to TroopsDirect. We started building a priority load out that evening which included everything the medic requested and then some. I later found out that our shipment arrived two weeks before the military supply lines delivered the same items.”

Aaron continued to explain how TroopsDirect functions. “I’ve established many trusted relationships and carry accounts with commonly needed suppliers. They arrange a rush delivery of the requested items by the pallet load directly to my home where we pack it, assign it our proprietary tracking code to ensure delivery and then the USPS truck comes by weekly to pick it up. We’ve done our research and with the exception of sending our packages directly via military cargo planes, the Postal Service is the fastest way to ship.” And TroopsDirect most certainly does ship. In only three and a half months a single Battalion received over one and one half tons of needed support with the average 24”x24” box weighing in at over fifty pounds.

How does TroopsDirect amass such a supply for our soldiers? “We rely solely on the financial and ‘in-kind’ support of individuals and corporations. I am on the phone constantly with Gatorade, Danner Boot Company, CVS Pharmacy and others, enlisting their support with merchandise. Furthermore, I receive calls and emails from individuals asking how they can help. I tell them to check out the site for the most updated needs list. We have an exclusive relationship with U.S. Bank where people can go online and donate as well. We had one local gentleman donate $5,000.00 to us recently which was a blessing, but went all too fast. Every penny goes to serving our soldiers and TroopsDirect is a registered 501(c)(3).”

So what does Aaron get out of this endeavor? “Nothing but knowing I’m doing my part to help our soldiers. It makes it all worthwhile when I receive a message of thanks from a soldier’s parent who heard about what we do, or a correspondence from a Colonel that states that TroopsDirect’s efforts are singlehandedly changing the manner in which his men are able to operate on the front lines of battle. In the end it boils down to this: If that one energy bar we provided makes a Marine Corporal more alert as he faces a threat or the sprinkle of our foot powder in the boots of an Army Private makes him run that much faster, then we are also increasing the likelihood that he will safely return home to his friends, family and especially his parents.”

Contact TroopsDirect via or at 877-97-TROOPS.

She’s All That

She's All That She's All That
She's All That She's all That

The San Ramon Valley chapter of Soroptimist International will host its seventh annual She’s All That one day conference on February 11th at San Ramon Valley High School. Soroptimist International is a global society of professional women devoted to the advancement and enrichment of girls and women through local service projects. She’s All That has become a highly anticipated event for “tween” girls in our area. “Teaming up with organizations such as Discovery Center, Impact Bay Area and Teen Esteem, the upcoming conference will have an expanded line-up of breakout sessions and classes” says Robyn Forman, Marketing Chairperson for 2011’s She’s All That conference.

The She’s All That conference started six years ago as a way to help middle school girls address issues most affecting their lives. Robyn says roughly 70% of the attendees were girls searching for answers or support. The other 30% were encouraged to attend by their mothers, but everyone gets something meaningful from the day’s event. 2011’s symposium will feature a new ice breaking exercise designed to make new friends chaired by Chris Howard, Talent Management Advisor for Chevron.

At She’s All That I learned skills for everyday life and I had a lot of fun too. It was like “cool school!” Nicole N, age 12

The first couple of years, moms had a hard time letting go of their daughters as they dropped them off for the full day experience. Organizers of She’s All That eventually offered classes for parents (primarily mothers) such as Who’s The parent, Teen Talk and What’s Eating You? The core outline introduces subject matter such as Self Confidence, Body Image, Straight Talk on Boys, Mean Girls and Cliques and Self Defense. Many of these sessions will be taught by professional counselors, psychologist and therapists. However, there will also be fun segments including hip hop dance, cheerleading, age appropriate make- up tips and making healthy snack choices lead by Soroptimist members and local community leaders. After constantly selling out the last several events, the upcoming She’s All That has expanded the attendance capacity from 300 to 450 participants.

She’s All That was an empowering and motivational event and I would really recommend all preteen and teen girls to attend it. Andrea B. 15
I had a really great time learning a lot of useful skills, like self-defense, cooking and laundry. It was even more fun because I got to attend with my friends!’….Hailey M., age 12

Robyn Forman, a Business to Business marketing consultant who owns her own company, says she truly believes this event makes a difference in the lives of young girls. “If we can’t reach these girls before they get to high school, it’s too late,” Robyn states. “They need to feel comfortable in their own skin and maybe one of our sessions will help them get there”.

“It was really fun and I liked the classes. I actually learned skills. It wasn’t boring like school. The classes also allowed us to do physical activities instead of just sitting in a chair listening to lectures all day. I especially enjoyed the self-defense class.” Kendall B., Age 12

Tickets for the 2011 She’s All That conference are $30.00, however free tickets are available for anyone who might need financial assistance. Information can be found at The full day program includes lunch for all participants. There is also a raffle sponsored by local businesses. Any net profits go directly to the host school and local non-profit organizations. As the father of daughters ages 11 and 13, I am encouraged by the material and content of the She’s All That forum and am overjoyed that both my girls are looking forward to attending the big event in February.

Is Passivity Holding You Hostage?

Is Passivity Holding You Hostage?Wisdom and life lessons are often delivered to us in unexpected ways…via various messengers. And, sometimes we feel sideswiped by a life lesson. Can you relate? I sure can.

During other times in our lives, we may receive messages that are delivered in the form of “gentle nudges.” The question is…do you stop and listen to life’s subtle messages and gentle nudges? Or, are you like many of us who frantically try to keep up with the crazy “outer demands” of life—while ignoring many of our “inner demands?”
Earlier this year I received a referral from a local medical doctor. His referral, Jan, was a thirty-five year old woman struggling with stress-related muscle tension (resulting in body aches) and emotional eating (resulting in excess weight).

During our initial sessions, it became apparent that Jan had a passive behavioral style. This soft-spoken woman smiled a lot although I sensed sadness behind her pale blue eyes. Growing up, Jan was the youngest child with a brother who often bullied her. She shared that even though she’s an adult now, she still feels overwhelmed by people who have aggressive personality styles. My heart went out to her. When I teach Assertiveness Training to clients I describe passivity in the following way:
Passive behavior focuses on others’ desires and needs, rather than one’s own desires and needs. “People Pleasers” who engage in passive behavior often find that their passivity can eventually lead to resentments due to unmet needs. People who behave passively often suppress their emotions. Emotional suppression can lead to anxiety, depression, as well as somatic (body) symptoms.

Now, back to Jan. After a few sessions, Jan received an opportunity to acquire wisdom from a “gentle nudge” in her life…in the form of a dream. Knowing that dreams often provide rich insights into what’s percolating in the unconscious, Jan brought the highlights of her dream to our next hypnotherapy session. Here’s how she described the dream:
I was meeting with a nutritionist. [Jan had actually worked with this professional a few months prior to this dream.] I felt happy that I was taking care of myself by getting input and developing a healthy food plan. The meeting was going great. Strangely though, I soon realized that my dog Winston was with me in the nutritionist’s office. [Winston, Jan’s dog, had passed away ten years ago.] In my dream, Winston wasn’t leashed, and he kept hijacking my attention by bolting out of the open office door. Each time Winston bolted and ran down the hall, he aggressively attacked a shy dog that belonged to one of the practitioners. I felt embarrassed trying to contain and reel-in my “out of control” dog—while in the midst of my “self-care” appointment.
When she was ready, I invited Jan to recline on my office couch so that we could begin exploring this colorful dream. After Jan was in a relaxed state, she visited her “Special Place”: a lounge chair on a warm beach. She’d relaxed in this nurturing setting a couple of times before during our previous hypnotherapy sessions (and loved it).

Next, I asked Jan if she would be comfortable telling her dream from the point of view of another character. She chose Winston. I suggested that she envision Winston joining her. A few moments later, Jan said that Winston was with her. I asked if she would be willing to give Winston a voice and to let him tell the dream from “first person.” I told Jan that I’d ask “Winston” some questions from time to time [my interactions are shown in brackets]. She was open to the process. Here’s Winston’s version of the dream:
Jan is meeting with some lady. After a few minutes, I let Jan know that I’m here. [And who are you?] I’m Jan’s dog. [Would you describe yourself?] I’m fuzzy and cute on the outside—but angry on the inside. I’m high-energy, sometimes playful—but very frustrated right now. And, since the door is open, I run out of the office and pick a fight with a “wimpy dog” that’s down the hall. Jan looks appalled and tries desperately to contain me. She is unsuccessful. I win!
[I acknowledge hearing Winston’s satisfaction and then ask him what his intention is.] My intention is to wake Jan up. Frankly, I’m pissed. She’s too nice, always trying to please everyone. It drives me crazy! I’m expressive and free—she’s not. I have “teeth”—she doesn’t.
[What are you afraid of?] I’m afraid that Jan will continue to ignore me. If I have to, I’ll get louder—otherwise Jan will keep getting hurt by others! [I thank Winston for showing up as a messenger and tell him that I think he is offering important information. Then I ask him, if you could make a request of Jan, what would it be?] I’m just trying to protect Jan. And, I’d ask that she pay more attention to me. Let the energies that I carry, come out to play and be expressed more often. I think Jan would be happier if I were allowed to come out more. Plus, I could let some of the bullies in her life today know that she has teeth.

Can you see how Jan’s dream is FILLED with vitally important information that mirrors the various power struggles that are clamoring within her? My subsequent sessions with Jan consisted of her exploring and integrating various characters in her dream—including her “inner nutritionist” and the “shy dog” down the hall. Then, Jan blossomed during the Assertiveness Training that I offered her. As a result of all her rich work, Jan’s stress levels (and body aches) decreased dramatically. Shortly thereafter, her unhealthy eating habits began to transform…along with the shape of her body.

In closing, you might ask yourself if there is an area in your life that is currently being held hostage by passivity? If so, call me. Together, we can explore ways…for you to enjoy more “inner and outer” balance in your life.
(Name and client details changed to protect confidentiality)

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a certified clinical hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author of the 2-CD Set, Weight Loss: Powerful & Easy-to-Use Tools for Releasing Excess Weight. She is also the author of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Her CDs and her book are available from John Muir Women’s Health Center online store:
Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or To receive her free newsletter, “Trina’s Transformational Tips for Mindful Living,” sign-up at her site: (Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.)
Photo by Susan Wood,