What motivated you to enlist?
I got my degree in mechanical engineering technology. I was working on a pretty nice contract with a government contractor, designing all of the pneumatic and hydraulic closing doors on the space station. The contract ended, I hadn’t anything else planned, and the military was something I always wanted to do. I was single, I thought, “I’ve got one of my goals down, I went to college and got a degree. I’m going to fulfill another goal and go serve my country.”
How were you injured?
I have a traumatic brain injury and I have PTSD. My TBI, I remember every bit of it. I was in a Humvee and the Humvee in front of us hit an IED. We were far enough back that it blew us back into the roadway and blew me out of the turret. Years later, in 2009, I woke up one Saturday and made myself a cup of coffee. I walked across the linoleum kitchen floor and stepped onto the carpeted living room to sit in my chair and I dropped my coffee cup and went down on one knee. It was like somebody had driven a nail into the side of my head. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t see, tears were coming out of my eyes. They did an MRI and they said it looked like a golf ball-sized scar that was on the top of my brain. They said it’s a traumatic brain injury.
What has the Semper Fi Fund meant to you?
Before I got involved with the Semper Fi Fund, it was kind of just me and my family. The Semper Fi Fund has given me a whole new group of people that I can confide in, that I can call on a semi-regular basis. These guys know my story. We have that bond. You don’t build those relationships without having some kind of the same history. And the Semper Fi Fund has allowed me to meet these people.
You’re in the Semper Fi Fund Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. How is that going?
They do an eight-day outing to where you’re driving cattle and you go to a roping clinic. I did that last year. I’ve done their horsemanship cattle drives, where you spend three or four days driving cattle and the next two days branding and things of that nature. It’s a real good program that lets you see a different side of things.
What’s your relationship with the horses like?
When I first started, I was scared to death of horses. They just made me nervous, because they’re so big. They act like they know what’s going on. And until I realized that they do know what’s going on — I’m actually the predator and they’re the prey — when I realized that, that’s what started my whole transition of being scared of them to trying to understand them. For me, it took me trying to understand what their needs were before I could actually determine what I needed. I needed for you to let me ride you and for me to ride you, I need to know what you want. And once you reach that level of understanding, you’ve opened the door to a human-animal relationship that’s just amazing in so many ways — it’s a kind of mutual unconditional love that is very therapeutic.