“I grew up in Memphis and had kind of a chaotic childhood. We had a single mom and would switch schools every year. I was in 8th grade when 9/11 happened. I turned on the TV and watched the second plane go into the tower. Until that moment New York was a place I had only known in movies, and now it was the center of a terrorist attack and the world became small. I wanted to get out of Memphis and serve my country so I signed up for the Marines. I didn’t want to miss the war. I enlisted in February 2007 and went to Afghanistan a year late. I deployed a few days after my first daughter was born and was gone for a total of seven months. We were always leading in the battle space and being proactive rather than reactive. We lived outside for seven months and saw combat the whole time, but we were always in control. I came home in October 2008 before deploying again a year later. That deployment was highly dynamic because we were fighting every single day. We lost someone from my platoon and had a lot of casualties. I ended up becoming a squad leader for the last three months. I was trying to do the best I could and make sure everybody made it through the deployment. I didn’t have time to deal with my feelings and experiences when I came home. I was working construction, going to school, and trying to take care of my family. I kept putting stuff away because I didn’t have time to deal with it, but slowly yet surely I got to the point where I realized I wasn’t doing well and neither were my friends.
In November 2011 someone I served with took his own life. That was a hard reset in a lot of ways because I wondered how close I was to doing the same. I continued to lose friends to suicide so after I got my masters degree, I started to look into counseling to address all the issues I had run from for so long. I had run out of things to keep me busy so I started with Headstrong. I also discovered a passion for helping others. I started Veteran With A Sign because I really wanted to help our community and begin a conversation around these difficult topics. I’m trying to be a good shepherd and steward of the community, so that people can learn about resources and try to get better. I receive messages from people about how it’s helped them get better. It has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve been able to do. I don’t think there’s just one solution when it comes to health; there’s multiple solutions. The triangle of overall health is the mental, spiritual, and physical and if you don’t have one, it collapses. You just have to take the time to take care of yourself and really work at it, but it’s incredibly rewarding when you do.”