Lorenzo Araujo, MD

Infinite Victories:  How did you get into psychiatry?

Dr. Lorenzo Araujo:  I’ve been a psychiatrist for approximately 35 years.  The last 10 years have been with the VA, taking care of Veterans.  I knew I was going to be a psychiatrist by the time I entered medical school.  I was initially an art student.  I went to school for acting in the Dominican Republic.  I was drawn to painting, sculptures, and languages.  Coming from the countryside, my family did not approve of these for a career.  They wanted me to have a traditional career.  When they pushed me to be a doctor, the only kind of doctor I believe I could do was a psychiatrist.  In my country, psychiatrists had a more liberal attitude, more of a social involvement.  I knew if I’m not going to be an artist, I could be a psychiatrist.

Infinite Victories:  What’s something challenging about being a psychiatrist?

Dr. Araujo:  Coming from the feelings of being an artist, the most challenging part has been the style of living.  As an artist, I was set to go travelling, to be abroad, to be in different places all the time.  As a psychiatrist or physician, you have to be in one place.  You have to be in an office every day.  You have to learn to do the same thing every day.  That was not my life plan originally.  On the other hand, seeing different aspects of humanity has become rewarding and I enjoy getting to work with and understand both healthy and sick persons.  I have the opportunity to see people at different levels of their conditions, to do psychotherapy with them.   Underneath those presenting with different or difficult behaviors are very sophisticated human beings with deep sensitivities and capacities for multidimensional emotions.  It’s an extremely rewarding field of work.

Infinite Victories:  Two years ago, you lost one of your children, Laura Araujo, to a murderer.  Burying one’s child defies the sequence of life events that we expect to happen.  What has it been like for you to live with this tragedy?  (For readers:  One of Dr. Lorenzo Araujo’s children, Laura Araujo, was only 23 years old when she was beaten and strangled by a resident in the building she had just moved into.)

Dr. Araujo:  Being a physician for 35 years and helping people to deal with and calm their pains, I felt it was kind of a test.  I’ve been helping others for this many years and giving them consolation or ideas on how to deal with their pain and now if I collapse on my own, was I being truthful with others?  Was I a fake, a charlatan?  I was telling people I did not feel, so this test brought me to a simplified place, to take a spoon of my own remedy, to take the remedy I’ve been telling others to take for many years in the moments of pain and sorrow.  In a way, I’ve been trained in pain, to face the unexpected reality of the pain from the death of my child, her memory, her disappearance.

I wrote a collection of poems to help me deal with Laura’s murder.  I dedicated this book of poems to both Laura and her murderer.  When I think of her dying, of course it’s natural and risky for me to get distracted, distracted in the way of feeling that I want revenge, punishment, menacing, etc.  It has been the greatest challenge to not to fall into the trap of wishing for those things on my daughter’s murderer or to have any feelings that are very common to appear, to emerge in this type of situation.  It has been my path to hold, in terms of maintaining, and not deviating from what we belief are natural in life.  This affords me the responsibility to maintain emotions in its shape and to follow the commitment for love, serenity, and acceptance.

Infinite Victories:  What kinds of things do you hope for?

Dr. Araujo:  Growing up religious and as a Christian, what I conceptualized was talking with Laura and talking with Jesus.  With Jesus, I’d tell him, if you offered me the opportunity to ask you for one wish, to bring her back to life, it would not be asked.  I would not ask him to bring her back to life.  I would ask him to leave her exactly where she is.  What I wish I could ask Jesus is to help her murderer, to change him.  My most fantastic wish will be that the murderer had her heart placed in his chest.  That would be his punishment, to feel what she used to feel and that he deeds the things she had wanted to do and now cannot.  Ultimately, I wish him not be jailed, but on the contrary, that he becomes a dove, fly freely in the air.  I wouldn’t ask for anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Kristen Thompson, USAF

Infinite Victories: Tell me a bit about the Vikings?

Lt Col Kristen Thompson: The 960th AACS Vikings are one of the newest operation squadrons in the 552 Air Control Wing, certainly one of the squadrons that go out and fly the AWACS more as a combat line squadron. We’re completely geared towards combat operations. Everything we do in the squadron is geared towards training and being a better operator so when we go into combat, we go there and kick tail.

Infinite Victories: What’s an experience that has influenced your approach to leadership today?

Lt Col Kristen Thompson: Towards the end of a deployment at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in the Middle East, I got a call from my mom about my dad’s brain cancer relapsing, except this time, it was terminal. I had not been home in 3 years due to living overseas and on the deployment. I’m the junior to my dad. He and I were very, very close. It was very hard for me to go through that.

This is a sad story, but it has made me more empathetic as a leader. I had senior leaders take very good care of me. I feel like I personally owe them for life for what they did to help me to make it home, to make sure I saw my dad before he died. I feel forever indebted to them for it. After that experience, I’m now so much more empathetic towards people’s lives in general. Specifically, in my job now, I don’t just run things from an ops perspective. My chief concern is health, morale, and welfare of my Airmen and my Vikings’ family members.

Being a squadron commander is the best job in the Air Force. I’m at a level now where I get to fly, but I also get to take really good care of people I supervise. This is a critical time where I can really make a difference in people’s lives because I have so many daily interactions on a personal level with folks. That part for me is the pinnacle of everything, to be able to help and influence so many people. That’s something I take great pride in.

Infinite Victories: Tell me about an unusual experience.

Lt Col Kristen Thompson: I got to fly and land the first NATO E-3 in Afghanistan. What was actually great about it was all the different nations all contributing to one mission. We were all from diverse cultures, training, backgrounds, and approaches to problems. I had 9 different nationalities on board with me, all devoted to flying a command and control mission in Afghanistan, and all under the spirit of NATO fighting in Afghanistan. It really celebrates how far we’ve come with NATO.