A Warrior’s Voice is brought to you by Operation Enduring Warrior, an organization dedicated to honoring, empowering, and motivating wounded veterans.
I became involved with Operation Enduring Warrior a little over a year ago. In that short time, I never in a day would think, that OEW would have impacted as much as it has. Let’s back up to early 2012 where I had just returned from a 7-month deployment in the volatile Sangin Valley in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. My life was a wreck, to say the least, and having no purpose I thought about suicide. But I didn’t just think about it. Killing myself became a viable option. I began formulating a plan. It was the worst place I’ve ever been in my life by far. Luckily, the week when I was finishing up my plan to kill myself, I picked up my now service dog, Gunner. He gave me purpose. Though my life was still a wreck, I had a responsibility to take care of him. He truly saved my life.
Now fast forward to about two years ago. I had turned my life around. I had found full-time employment, gotten married to an amazing woman, and figured out how to “manage” my problems. On the surface, everything appeared great; however, deep down, I was still broken. I was still searching for the adrenaline rush and fear of death that I experienced in battle. I couldn’t find it anywhere. As a volunteer firefighter, I had gone into burning structures. As a police officer, I responded to calls where someone was reported to have a gun. I even bought a motorcycle and went hunting for a bear, all in hopes to get my fix. Nothing. Then I found Operation Enduring Warrior.
After first meeting Brian Lackey from OEW, I was quickly signed up for their SCUBA program as well as set to run an OCR (obstacle course race) a few months later. After my SCUBA class, I knew I had found something that was peaceful and good to calm me down. I still needed that adrenaline fix, however. While at the USMC Ultimate Mud Run Rick Kolberg, a member of OEW’s Masked Athlete Team (MAT), challenged me to go skydiving.
Jumping out of a plane was something I had always wanted to do, but, also, never wanted to do. With a new challenge to overcome, I couldn’t back down. Two months later, I found myself with Rick, heading up in a plane to 13,500 feet, with a parachute strapped to my back and more scared that I had been in some time. As I the door opened, my stomach sank and I wanted nothing more than to say in my seat and land with the plane. Doing that, however, would mean I let fear get the best of me. As I climbed out of the plane, I never thought I’d actually let go of the bar. Then I let go.
After the first three seconds of sheer terror, the feeling of flight set it and I realized something. THIS! This is what I had been searching for since returning home! I never thought I would find the answer 13,500 feet above the ground! I was instantly hooked. 40 jumps later, I am a proud member of OEW’s 4-Way Formation Skydive Team!
My story doesn’t end there however; more than giving me the opportunity to become certified in SCUBA, or gain my A license in skydiving, or even the opportunity to conquer an OCR, Operation Enduring Warrior has become my family. A family that, like Gunner did for me in 2012, saved my life. This past June, I had regressed to a dark place. I found my self dealing with demons that thought I had conquered. With my wife pregnant as well, I feared I would not be able to be a father, let alone a good one. I resorted to what I knew best; alcohol. Two of my brothers from OEW, Rick Kolberg and Jim Dukes, reached out and gave me guidance. They helped me from that dark corner, they helped calm my fears; and they gave me another challenge. To be a father. Right or wrong, good or bad, to just simply be a father. My son Jacob is now 5 months old and though I definitely do not know everything about being a parent, I am learning quickly! None of that would have happened had it not been for Rick and Jim.
OEW has done so much for me in the past year and I will eternally be grateful for it all. I continue to live my life and a large part of that is because of Operation Enduring Warrior and the men and women within the organization.