On Worthiness: My Journey From Recluse to Family Man

I spent many years not feeling worthy of even being called a disabled Veteran.

I was told when applying for my VA Benefits that I wasn’t a “combat-injured veteran,” so I wasn’t as important as those coming back from the war zone. I would have to wait.

My injuries include, but are not limited to: a closed head injury, an incomplete spinal cord injury, partial paralysis, autonomic insufficiency, and damage to my vision, hearing, and bladder and bowels. Not to mention the mental component to my injuries. My injuries stem from my whole body being crushed between two Humvees, during a training exercise.

I shied away from Veterans Organizations and programs they offered. I didn’t want to be told again that I didn’t matter because I didn’t serve in combat.

I spent my time alone, struggling and suffering with my injuries and disabilities. I would choose to go out of my apartment only to get coffee, food, or go to the doctor. I didn’t feel worthy. I felt insignificant. I was depressed and felt like I didn’t deserve to be alive. I didn’t want to live with disabilities and pain anymore. I was done.

With help from several individuals, who I now call friends, I got back to living. I wanted to be athletic like I was before the Humvee trauma. I started training and working hard. At first, it was just to be able to move more than a slow walk. Then I found I was moving better and even started to run again. It eventually led to racing in para-cycling and paratriathlons, but even then I limited the contact I had with other people.

I really didn’t start to open up until I completed the first training session with No Barriers and Warriors to Summits, in our preparation for Mission: Mt. Whitney.

My team members were like me. We all had different injuries. Our injuries were mental, physical or both and we all struggled to talk about them. Sitting around the campfire with the staff from No Barriers and Warriors to Summits and my team members, I felt safe. After so many years, I had finally found a place where I could speak freely.

The journey with No Barriers not only took me out of the house and into nature, it helped me open up in my personal life. I found my voice. I use to just stay quiet and suffer. I use to make things easy for other people when around me, so they weren’t uncomfortable.

Now I can tell people what I need and what is going on with me, so they can understand and help if needed.

The entire experience changed me. From the time of the first training session to the climb, I got engaged and right before the climb, married to Brittany. I became the proud father of two boys: Eli and Gabe.

I didn’t think I would ever have a life, especially a life with a family, after my accident. But here I am.

Spending that much time outside and without my family made me want to be home more. It’s not that I don’t want to be out in nature and in the mountains. I love it there.

It’s that I would rather be with my family.