‘Facing Stigma’ with Matt D.

“I had a fascination with the military growing up because my grandfather served and always told us stories. After 9/11, this naive, romantic idea of what war would be like really manifested in me. The thing that really enticed me to join more than anything though was my friend, Matt. He was older than I was and we had grown up together, so when I saw the way he transformed once he went to boot camp, I was sold. Like Matt, I ended up joining the Marine Corps because I wanted to test and challenge myself the way he had. I enlisted as infantry because if I was going to join, I really wanted to serve my country. Oddly enough, I only ended up deploying to Africa for a short time. There were a few threats while I was there, but nothing ever came to fruition. My biggest take away from that deployment was seeing what true poverty is. More than anything, it gave me a much deeper sense of why the US is the greatest country in the world. After transitioning out of the military shortly after that deployment, I definitely experienced some depression and anxiety. However, my transition out was relatively normal compared to some of my friends. I’ve dealt with suicidal friends and those who really struggled coming back from the war, so I realize the benefit of prioritizing your mental health and finding a purpose. I contribute a lot of my successful transition to putting my focus into a business idea I had while deployed. I tucked the idea away and never set out with the intention of “Condition One” being this lucrative thing, I just knew it was something I enjoyed doing. In Phase 1, I was baking bars in my kitchen and sending them to my friends in Afghanistan. Once I was able to perfect the recipe with a nutritionist, I took the concept to market. After ABC did a story on us, I started selling to the Chicago Bears and now online. The military really helped prep me to run my own business and I’m proud to look back and see the progress that I’ve made whether it’s professional or personal — it’s all positive progress.”

To provide mental health treatment to veterans like Matt, please consider donating to the Headstrong Project at http://getheadstrong.org/donate/