‘Facing Stigma’ with Connor C.

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“When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to play football at the next level. One of those schools happened to be West Point which my grandfather attended. I joked I would never go there, but after visiting, something clicked and I knew I wanted to attend. After graduating West Point in 2006, I was selected to be a grad assistant coach for the football team so my first duty station was actually West Point. That place becomes infinitely better when you’re no longer a cadet. From there I went to Oklahoma for artillery school and then with my first platoon eventually deployed to Iraq for a year. I was a platoon leader just north of Baghdad. I was doing security within a 20 mile radius of the base so rather than doing what a typical artillery officer would do, I was doing infantry type duties. We were surveying the area for bad guys, weapons caches, and keeping busy. I eventually went to another base for a month to train an Iraqi battalion and then to a different unit to become their fire support officer, as well as their intelligence officer, along the border of Iran and Iraq. That was pretty dicey at times and got a little scary. I got back in 2009 and was promoted to Captain. I got put into a pilot program position with the Army at Ft. Hood. I was the Operations Officer for their newly minted Resiliency Campus. It was a place where soldiers could get help in any way that they needed. It was great to work with those guys and feel like I was making a difference, but at the time I didn’t realize I was ignoring my own issues. I had an episode myself in 2011 where I came close to taking my own life. Right as I was about to make that decision, I got a text from a friend asking how I was doing. I was so grateful for that text because I was able to step back from the situation and realize that was enough. I suppressed a lot of those thoughts surrounding that ordeal and later that year I transitioned out of the military.

I had 97 days of leave so that transition was a slow one as I soaked up the sun with my buddies back home on the beach. I wanted to give my brain a break and detach myself from the grind so that I could really enjoy that transition. After moving back home to New Jersey, I started going to a lot of the Barstool Sports events and I became friendly with Kevin who ran Barstool New York at the time. I started doing a reaction podcast with Clem & Big Cat for fun and in 2016 Chaps came on board and wanted to start a podcast that would be a virtual VFW for veterans. I made a feature on Zero Blog Thirty telling a funny story about my time in the Army and then that 15 minutes morphed into he and I talking for an hour. In the fifth episode, an individual heard me tell the story of my struggle in 2011 and told a former Army friend of mine, Everett Weston. He reached out and let me know he was helping in the mental health space with his own non-profit, Heal Our Heroes (HOH). He introduced the partnership that HOH had with Headstrong and when I learned about Headstrong’s mission, I realized it was something I could benefit from. I hadn’t realized that all the things I had dealt with were byproducts of PTS. I was having trouble sleeping and had all the other chronic symptoms. I just failed to realize what I was dealing with because I tried to tell myself that there was no way I could have it. After signing up for Headstrong, I found a place where I could speak about all these things I had buried inside and that was a tremendous help. I remember the first time walking out of the office and feeling this huge relief like this burden or weight was lifted from my shoulders. It’s awesome to be in a place now where we are able to champion organizations like Headstrong on Zero Blog Thirty. Nothing makes me happier than when people reach out and let us know that they were in a bad place and the podcast encouraged them to take the necessary steps to get help.”

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Healing the hidden wounds of war

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