When and why did you enlist?
I enlisted May 3, 2004, because my grandpa was in the Marine Corps and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. It was something I always wanted to do. I was infantry during my deployments. In Iraq, we did a lot of foot patrols to try and build up a bond between us and them and helped them rebuild their organization. I’ve got PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and a mild TBI (traumatic brain injury) from multiple rocket blasts during my second deployment. That happened in 2007, but I didn’t start getting help for my symptoms until 2012-2013 when it started getting real bad.
When did you first learn about the Semper Fi Fund?
When I was doing my recovery in Camp Lejeune, people were talking about stuff. They had a lady who was in charge of different events and organizations and she mentioned something about the Semper Fi Fund. They had horseman training in Virginia for a weekend. Me and another buddy of mine decided to go. That was our first experience getting involved with the Semper Fi Fund and learning more about being a farrier.
With help from the Semper Fi Fund, you completed training at a farrier school and served a year-long apprenticeship with a mentor farrier. What is a farrier, exactly?
As a farrier we take care of the horses’ feet either by trimming them or putting shoes on them if they need them. We also work with veterinarians — if the horse has a problem with something in their foot or leg. As a farrier, we will help out by applying what the veterinarian wants or help choose the correct path to make the horse feel better.
Have you always liked working with horses?
I grew up with horses, owned a couple, and I’d ride every now and then just for fun. When I got into the service, for 10 years roughly, I got out of the horse stuff, forgot all about it. But when I was recovering at Camp Lejeune, we asked if they had any horse therapy programs there on base because they had stables there. They told us that if we wanted to work and help out at the stables, we were more than welcome. So we started going there to help them out, so I got back into being around horses. I like being around them. It helps with my symptoms and working with them keeps me calm. It’s been beneficial for me.
Beyond the farrier school and mentorship, how did Semper Fi Fund help with your work with horses?
They helped get the tools that I needed to do my work. They helped me get a trailer to work out of, helped me get some of my bigger tools that I wasn’t able to afford myself. They’ve been really generous in helping me get my foot in the door as far as working more than I was able to. In a way, I kind of have my own business. I have about 15 clients and a total of about 30 horses that I work with on a regular basis. What they’ve done for me personally — not just with my business, but getting me out and helping with some of these experiences and the events I’ve been on — it’s really helped me connect with a few other veterans who are going through the same stuff that I’m going through. I can’t thank the Semper Fi Fund enough.
“Special thanks to the incredible generosity of one very special family for helping to provide funding for this important program in memory of their brother who wished to remember those who serve.”