I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. In 2007, I enlisted into the United States Army immediately after graduating high school. After completing basic training, I was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina with the 82nd Airborne. On my second deployment to Afghanistan, I was injured on a dismounted patrol by an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D). I was quickly sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to receive treatment and to start my long road to recovery. After countless surgeries, my right leg was amputated from the knee down. In late 2010, I was fitted with a prosthetic and never looked back. Since then, I have competed in many sporting and running events, from marathons to playing basketball at the local recreation center.
Since medically retiring from the United States Army in 2011, I started college at The Catholic University of America. I am currently in my final semester there, and this May, I will graduate with a Bachelors of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. I currently work full-time for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington D.C. and participate in various non-profit organizations, benefitting injured Veterans and Animal Shelters. Some of those organizations include Operation Enduring Warrior, Achilles Freedom Team, Soldier Undertaking Disabled Scuba, Vail Veterans Programs and most recently and probably my most enjoyable organization, Show Your Soft Side (benefitting animals).
With many Veterans suffering catastrophic injuries from amputations, Traumatic-Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after they return from combat, I thought it would be a good idea to focus on the positive impact these Veterans have on their community and personal life rather than focusing on the struggles they face. With being an injured Veteran myself and going through the struggles that many Veterans face everyday, I know the road can be very tough at times. With this Blog, I hope to inspire others to overcome their obstacles and struggles to make a positive impact on themselves and their community. The road might be tough, but hopefully hearing how other Veterans overcame their obstacles can be inspiring to you and to other Veterans.
You’re probably wondering why the “hell” I am combining Veterans and Animal Shelter Dogs in the same Blog. In 2013, I was suffering from depression, anxiety and anger problems. Instead of coping with these issues with medication and therapy, the so-called traditional way, I turned to alcohol. After countless nights of drinking myself to sleep and showing up to work and school intoxicated, I decided it was time for a change. Instead of going to the doctor and being prescribed numerous medications, or going to see a shrink, I decided to walk into a nearby Animal Shelter. That’s where I found my medication, that’s when I knew things where going to get better. That day, November 10, 2013, I adopted a 6-month-old Pit Bull mix named Keeley, which I later name named Nike, (due to my love for sports and sneakers.) Over the last two years, Nike has stuck by my side through the thick and thin, through the good days and through the bad days. No matter what has happened to me, no matter the circumstances we’ve been put in, Nike has been by my side to show her unconditional love and support towards me. From cuddling up in a ball next to me, to listening to me rant about nothing and looking at me like I’m crazy or to allowing me to walk her just so I can clear my mind has been helpful to me and my recovery.
Like many injured Veterans, animal shelter dogs share the same journey as we do. We fight to find our new identity and we fight to make a new and better life for our families and for ourself. Shelter dogs are in that same fight, they are fighting for a new life, for a second chance. When shelter dogs are adopted into loving families, the dogs are given a “Second Chance” at life, just like Veterans who have survived near-death experiences are. These days, many shelters are over crowded with dogs and cats. One of my visions for this Blog is to spread the positive impact that the rescued dogs has on their new families to hopefully encourage more people to go out and rescue dogs, rather than buying them from a breeder. Rescuing Nike has impacted my life in ways I never could have imagined; Nike has made me more trusting, more passionate, more loving and more caring towards my friends, family and peers. Instead of saving one life, lets save two lives, and adopt a dog or a cat.
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is nightmare.” Japanese Proverb