Marine veteran Zachary Bell, better known as ‘Veteran with a Sign,’ started an online craze by floating veteran-savvy cardboard signs along roadways. Now he has launched his next venture: the After Action Podcast.
“My goal is to bridge the gap between people that are in the service of others and people that are not,” Bell said. “Show how we are different and how we are alike.”
Bell wants the podcast to serve as a place where people can share their “raw truths” by telling their stories in an open format. His first episode was heavy-hitting with guest Michael Collazo, a Marine veteran and police officer with the Metro Nashville Police Department.
True to Bell’s mission, the two dove into the raw details of Callazo’s experience responding to the tragic Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 23, 2023. Besides an initial press conference after the incident, this is the first time Collazo has spoken publicly.
“It’s hard to put that part into words; this is now where everything slowed down. You’ve just went through something that you never — like, you’ve trained, and trained, and trained for, in hopes that day never came, and it just happened,” Collazo said during the podcast. “So, now everything slows down.”
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The two discussed parallels and differences between life in the Marine Corps and the police department. Bell said he wants to create a podcast environment where no politics are involved, no knee-jerk reactions, but what he calls “radical candor.”
Collazo walked Bell through minute-by-minute detail up to confronting the shooter and the aftermath that followed.
“That adrenaline rush, that dump, it’s hitting, and your emotions just take over — it’s a feeling I never want to feel again,” Collazo recalled on the podcast. “I remember standing there with teammates and just trying to comprehend what just happened”
Bell felt there was a hole in mainstream media, and wanted to do something about it. He described the current media landscape as being hyperbolic and too focused on small portions of the veteran community, believing there is a lack of “good media representation of the veteran, military culture at large.”
“There’s not really people having a lot of conversations that I feel need to be had,” Bell said. “Like, it’s just, kind of a radical disconnect. That’s kind of all there is to it. I wanted to do something different.”
Bell plans to launch two episodes a month for the foreseeable future. He said to expect military, veteran, and first responder personalities in the podcast’s infancy but that he plans to expand to actors, songwriters, artists, and so many others to paint the whole picture of how people can be so alike and different at the same time, they just don’t know it yet.
When asked where he wants to see his podcast go, he responded with the same straightforward responses he’s known for on his cardboard signs.
“I mean, in five years, I’d like to be like the dumb version of Joe Rogan’s podcast — like the TBI version of Joe Rogan. I think the thing he does best is that he talks to anyone, but he started with the people he knows best and then expanded. That’s kind of where I’m pushing everything. I’m getting into areas I don’t know, trying to learn from other people and just make something that has value.”
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