I am a medically retired Major. I was last assigned to the Army National Guard Bureau where I served as a conduit for the Installations Division between the Department of Defense, the Army National Guard Bureau covering the 54, states, Territories and the District of Columbia. I married Susan, a fantastic and beautiful woman in 1996. We have two amazing boys named Ted and Brian who are 5 and 2 years old, respectively.
I was born in Marion, Ohio in 1964 and in 1969 my father (A former Bombardier) was killed in an auto accident and my mother was left alone in the late 60’s with two daughters (5 years and 6 months) and me at the age of 4. The best and most efficient way for me to describe the early years of my life is that it was complete chaos and it has taken me many years to right the boat. Education wasn’t high on the priority list when my mom was going through a series of failed relationships, physical abuse, and more deaths of people very close to me.
When I finished high school I had no plans for higher education. I truly wanted to serve in the Army but even though I was in exceptional shape and my ASVAB was good, I had a heart murmur that disqualified me just because I mentioned it. Well, my mother and step father had worked in factory their entire lives and they seemed to be doing well. It seemed like a good living and when I gradated I went to work in the factory. It was summer work but you would hope that you would be able to stay on in the fall. Well, summer time work is summer time work, it ended. I wound up packing bottles of Stanly Steemer Spot Remover into boxes for a living and I was glad I had a job. After that I cleaned carpets for a few years.
I had become a devout Southern Baptist and I was constantly searching to understand the true word of God. For me it was an overload because I was taking everything in the bible as literal and I wasn’t getting very good explanations for what I was asking. I needed to redirect and set a new path but I didn’t know how. One night after work I was relaxing at home and found a program on PBS where Bill Moyer was interviewing Mr. Joseph Campbell in a series covering the Power of Myth. Mr. Campbell’s interview helped me relax and it has sent me on a 25 year quest in trying to understand many different religions. I don’t swim in the deep side of the pond often but when I do it’s a fun time for all. I’ve come full circle and I am interested in what I have heard from Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church.
Well, I fixed one part of my problem with Mr. Campbell but I needed more direction. I was up late one night and caught one of Mr. Anthony Robbins motivational videos. I truly believed in what he was saying and the plan he had created in order to make that change. I had nothing to lose, I wasn’t happy with where I worked, I didn’t have a relationship, a home or a future. I became so intensely motivated that I religiously took every step he recommended that I take and I wrote everything down on paper. I set goals for myself that I truly did not believed that I could attain, but I set them anyway. If I were to come half as close to what I had written down I would be a very happy person. I achieved everything I put on that note pad and one of those goals was to enlist and got to basic training.
While in basic training I was given the honor of being recognized as the Soldier of the week at Ft. Jackson, SC. I did extremely well at AIT but when I returned home it felt as though the world had stopped. I worked on the armament systems on Apaches and when we showed up for drill we barely touched the equipment. I didn’t believe that the system was working right and I wanted to go to OCS and become an Officer who worked with his Solders to fix problems and not just leave them there.
Well I did, I attended Federal OCS at Ft. Benning, GA and earned my commission there. After that I went to Ft. Leonard Wood, MO and became an Army Engineer. I continued to be promoted, I went to Panama and after that I returned home to Ohio before I went to Iraq as a Battle Captain. This is where things started to go wrong. I was not blown up by an IED or hit by a sniper, I had been dealt a genetic blow that took years to manifest. While serving in Kuwait and Iraq I started experiencing severe pain and a loss of feeling in my upper extremities. There were times when I should have gone for help but I didn’t. I know we lost men on the battle field and I believed that he only way I was going to go to the TMC was if they carried me in.
Well, in 2010 I was operated on because my spinal cord was being crushed by the disk in my neck and there was another area in the Thoracic area of my spine. The head neurosurgeon (Dr. Rosner) at Walter Reed said that my condition may have been genetically predisposed to this type of injury but not until I was 70. The wear and tear of carrying the IBA and the wear and tear our bodies take in the Military beat our bodies down fast. The bottom line to me is if you feel pain, get it checked out. If they don’t find it keep asking. After three surgeries I ended up being paralyzed and sent to the National Rehabilitation Hospital to learn how to adapt to living in a wheelchair. I was lucky, I fought my way out and I can walk but from time to time I have to use the chair.
After years of struggling I can get up but not for long without support. A year post surgery Dr. Rosner stated to me that I’m lucky because I should be a quadriplegic. Well, be happy with what you have and make the most of your life with what you have.