One Marine's Journey Back From Despair
Upon my honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps in August 2006, I was a changed man. I returned to my hometown of Medford, NJ anticipating a bright future after a long year of combat operations in the Al-Anbar Province of Iraq. I felt proud and happy to be home at first, ready to take on the civilian world as a hard-charging Infantry Marine. Surprisingly enough, the civilian world wasn't the place for me. Needless to say, I had an extremely hard time adjusting back to civilian life after my tours of duty with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan 2004 & Iraq 2006.
I turned to the VA for help where after extensive interviews, testing, Cat-scans, MRIs, etc., I was diagnosed with PTSD & TBI. Next, I was prescribed several medications for pain management, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. As time went on I began to drift further and further away from myself. I found it very difficult to find employment, maintain relationships and become a "normal" person. In fact, I was just the opposite. I was in a downward spiral fueled by prescription medication & alcohol, relying on them to be my solution to deal with my PTSD. Over the next couple of years I was able to maintain a decent job, get a girlfriend and have a beautiful little baby girl. You would think this was enough to get me on track, but it was not. As time went on things got worse, my relationships were crumbling, my gainful employment was coming to an end and my behavior was becoming chaotic. My medications were altered or increased and I was seeking refuge in all the wrong places. It got so sever at times, I found myself at the end of the barrel of my Glock 17 contemplating pulling the trigger. I felt like I had been a burden to everyone around me.
Shortly thereafter, I was at rock bottom sitting in a jail cell not knowing how I had even gotten there. I was bailed out a week later where I was blessed with a lady who wanted to help me. She got me out to Hollywood, California where I agreed to do an episode on the Dr. Phil Show in return for treatment to get me off the meds and hopefully on the right track. I was sent to a place called Origins in South Padre Island, Texas for 90 days. This place and the people there were able to "reset my compass", get me on a road to recovery and regain a sense of spirituality which was crushed during my combat tour in Iraq and the years thereafter.
I returned home again, feeling much better but still incomplete. Immediately upon my return, I was contacted by James Moran, who was my Executive Officer (XO) in Afghanistan back in 2004 with 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment. He was aware of my issues and invited me on a trip to Montana with some other wounded warriors & Marines having difficulties. I was immediately excited, knowing I would be with brothers again. We met and began our journey out from the Philadelphia airport, stopping in St. Paul, Minn., meeting with more Marines and flying the final leg together to Billings, Montana. A gentleman named Rob Lowe and the rest of the Marines invited on the trip greeted us at the airport. It was the first time since 2006, leaving the gates of Camp Lejeune that I felt great again. I felt comfortable and myself.
We arrived at the Bar X ranch and got to know each other. Over the next few days we fished, shared stories, drank beer, and ate like Kings. We felt appreciated. Mr. Lowe, Rob Lowe, our Guide Nick Pentas and many others volunteered their time and efforts to help us Marines get some much needed "therapy", if you will. It was the best time I had in a long time. We were able to realize we weren't the only ones dealing with combat-related issues. This trip was a life-saver. Every Marine returning from combat should have this opportunity. It was a time to reflect and grow together. A time to motivate each other and counsel each other over the course of a few days in Gods Country, Big Sky country... Montana.
After my second trip out, I found myself moving forward in life. Packing positivity into the stream of life. Gainfully employed, helping other Marines and soldiers back at home. I am proud to report that today I am off ALL the medications & in the best shape of my life. I was able to start a successful side business with one of the other Marines on the trip & gain an apprenticeship with the Ironworkers Union in NJ. This trip has successfully been able to get my Mind, Body & Spirit in touch with each other so I can be beneficial to others and get outside of myself.