“Facing Stigma” with Rich H.

“My one grandfather was a Marine in WWII and the other was in the Army and always told a handful of stories that became family favorites. In coming from that lineage of service, I knew I wanted to serve as well. I originally wanted to be a Marine after seeing that commercial where the guy pulled a sword out of a rock, but my dad said anything but the Marines. My sister happened to be in the Army and she was able to help me navigate some of the typical recruiter shenanigans and get me into basic in 2005. When I got to my unit, I raised my hand and asked if I’d be deploying. Everyone laughed and the Major giving the briefing told me they’d make sure they got me in. I deployed two weeks after getting back and my first tour was for fourteen months to Kirkuk in the northern province of Iraq. I had a good buddy get hit with an IED the first day he landed on base. He was okay from a physical standpoint, but it really changed him emotionally. His personality changed after that and he became less happy and engaging. I was in a civil affairs psychological operations unit so we were out every day with ODA teams doing key leader engagements. We were trying to build the relationship between the United States military and the Iraqi people so we could show them the Iraqi government was stable enough to trust. The more they were able to trust their own government, the more they were able to trust us and we could push ISIS out. We were really trying to win the long war and the minds and loyalty of the Iraqi people. When we returned home, they tried to explain to us that it’s a change to come back and reintegrate; that it could be a real shock or difficult. I remember being in that briefing and thinking it wouldn’t be me, but my relationship with my family changed significantly when I got home because I didn’t take care of myself mentally. My father and grandfather got it and knew it would be awhile before I calmed down, so they were really my support in that regard.

The second deployment was a lot different and less kinetic than the first. I ended up taking over an intel gathering team that lasted about a year. After I came home from that deployment, I immediately asked to talk to a therapist because I didn’t want to go through what I did after my first deployment. I use a lot of the tools they gave me even to this day to pull myself up by my boot straps when I go through a depressive episode which are more infrequent. I talk to my therapist quarterly and it’s more to just check in and for mental health maintenance. I also try and tell every young person that they need to get help and that it’s the best thing we can do for awareness purposes. When I got home from that second tour, I also started doing standup and improv comedy more regularly when I wasn’t working my day job as a cop. I idolized Jim Carey and Robin Williams as a kid. I was known as the funny guy in my units so I guess the transition made sense. I started doing more characters and putting content on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Now three years later, I’m about to hit a million subscribers on YouTube. It all really happened just because I liked doing that stuff and not because I wanted to make a ton of money. I’m still a cop and in the National Guard, but now I have this hobby that I really like to do on the side and gives me another outlet and the ability to help others.”