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“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. …

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Headstrong Project

Healing the hidden wounds of war

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