Written by Laurie Finlayson, David’s mom and Executive Director of the Lion Heart Heroes Foundation.

Created in honor of LCpl David Finlayson, the Lion Heart Heroes Foundation seeks to reduce the incidence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in the military by improving the cardiac screening process for military recruits.

David was our second-born son.  He was a delightful child from his earliest days, with a lively personality and an infectious sense of humor.  David’s imagination knew no bounds.  In preschool, he would lead the other kids on adventures during recess to find make-believe critters in the wooded playground.  In second grade he made a paper coliseum for different colonies of ants to fight each other.  Animals, both wild and tame, were drawn to him, and he was my best birdwatching buddy.

David had been interested in all things military since he discovered the movie “Victory at Sea” when he was four. He wanted to become a Blue Angel pilot in kindergarten and a Navy Seal in high school.  He joined the JROTC Armed Drill Team in High School and won Best Armed Drill Cadet in his sophomore year. Though he barely finished earning his Eagle Scout before turning 18, and he took four years to earn his AA degree, David had set his sights on joining the Marine Corps. He did so at age 23.

As his mom, I had worried about many things such as grades, college, girlfriends, drinking, and staying safe. But I never worried about his heart. When he went to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) for his medical evaluation, I assumed they would check everything thoroughly.  We didn’t know then that heart testing at MEPS consisted of listening with a stethoscope and asking a few questions. We know so much more now….  Two years later David succumbed to Sudden Cardiac Arrest while on a training run with his Marine battalion in Hawaii.

David was a great Marine.  As an assaultman, he never missed his target.  The Marines in his platoon called him “old man” because at 25 he was so much older than they were.  He is remembered as the best at telling stories, turning every difficult situation into a funny tale, with a great sense of timing and quick wit.  When Charlie Company had three days of idle time waiting for another group for training, David entertained them with a mock James Bond training session, where he narrated and his buddies demonstrated the moves from James Bond movies.  Who thinks of things like that?  One reason he wanted to join the Marines was so he could have his own stories to tell.

Now David is in heaven telling stories with his grandparents.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of non-traumatic death in the military. Yet, current screening protocols at MEPS do not include electrocardiograms (ECGs) to find hidden heart conditions that can lead to SCA.

The Lion Heart Heroes Foundation advocates for changes at the national legislative level by working with our congressional representatives and the House Armed Services Committee. So far, we have succeeded in adding language to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in three different fiscal years (FY). The NDAA is the massive Department of Defense budget and expenditure authorization that encompasses everything to do with our military.

  1. Section 733 of NDAA FY22 established a pilot program of ECG screening at covered military service academies.
  2. Section 547 of NDAA FY24 established a 3-year pilot program for ECG screening for military accessions (recruits).
  3. NDAA FY25 includes Directive Report Language regarding the availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) at physical training locations.

We also link military cardiologists with civilian experts in the field of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  We promote CPR training and donate AEDs to military posts to improve the chance of survival when someone experiences a cardiac event. Finally, we partner with the Nick of Time Foundation, near Seattle, by supporting ECG screening of JROTC students in high school.

We are currently working on donating three AEDs to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, Alaska. To support this effort and protect military hearts, please visit https://www.lionheartheroes.org/donate.html.

 

*SCA costs lives – it’s a human issue.
*SCA wastes resources – it’s a budget issue.
*SCA jeopardizes military missions – it’s a readiness issue.

#keepmilitaryheartsbeating

 

Laurie Finlayson
Executive Director
Bonney Lake, WA
www.lionheartheroes.org