For this Marine Veteran, A Winding Road Leads to New Highways and New Beginnings
For many service members returning home from war, not every battle scar is visible. Such was the case for 32-year-old Marine Corps veteran Chris Mellon.
After graduating from high school, then 17-year-old Mellon was trying to find his place in the world. Knowing college was not for him and wanting to see what horizons and opportunities lie beyond his hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, he joined the Marine Corps in 2006.
It was in the Marines that Chris found his calling.
Chris served in motor transport in 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, a perfect fit for him because he grew up loving all things trucks. While on deployment in Iraq, he traversed the entire Al Anbar Province transporting detainees and providing security for the Navy Seabees and Iraqi civilian convoys, among other missions.
After returning from Iraq in 2008, Mellon felt that something wasn’t right. However, he pushed those feelings away and carried on with life because he thought that is what a Marine is supposed to do.
Things became progressively more difficult when Chris retired from the military in 2010. Not only did he miss the strong bonds he had formed with his Marine Corps brothers, but wartime memories came rushing back. It took a tremendous toll on him both emotionally and physically.
For years, Chris carried on because “Marines don’t talk to a therapist and they certainly don’t share their feelings,” said Mellon looking back. It was a belief, he said, that “was engraved into my soul.” That mindset all changed in 2013 when, on the advice and urging of one of his best friends from his old unit, he decided to get help.
Chris was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He said that although the diagnosis helped him get financial assistance, he still felt “weak as both a man and a Marine.” It was this constant feeling of defeat that continued to weigh heavily on him, driving him deeper into depression, requiring years of additional treatment.
Then, in 2016, things took a different turn.
After connecting with Semper Fi & America’s Fund, Chris was given the opportunity to address his PTSD and move towards recovery. The therapy and support he needed was both life-changing and lifesaving for Mellon. “It helped me to accept what had happened and come to peace with it,” said Chris.
With a clear mind, he started on a new path forward.
Since leaving the military, he had dreamed of one day starting his own hot shot trucking company. After picking up the phone and telling his case manager, Beth, about this dream, she connected him right away with The Fund’s Apprenticeship Program, which helps service members transition into new careers and even start their own businesses after leaving the military.
Thanks to the Apprenticeship Program, Chris has taken the first step toward his new career. He’s currently in training to earn his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Chris credits The Fund for where he is today. “Thanks to The Fund, I am better now than I was five or six years ago. And they don’t take care of just me, they take care of my family. It’s truly overwhelming. I am living proof that this organization truly does care, and never gives up, even when some of us have given up on ourselves.” He calls his case manager, Beth, his “guardian angel.”
Having just celebrated his 13th wedding anniversary, Chris is enjoying life with his wife and two boys. Last year, he took them on a four-month trip from Kentucky to Arizona and back. When he finishes CDL training, he hopes to be back on the road again--this time hauling freight in his Silverado 3500 cab and flatbed trailer.
So, if you are traveling on the highway and see a truck that says “Semper Fi Hauling, LLC,” give Chris a wave!