SgtMaj Brian F: “A lot of people need help but just don’t know what to do”

“I always said I wanted to be a Marine, from the time I was a little kid. Even before I can remember, my parents were telling me that I said I was going to be a Marine. I literally felt it was my calling, and I didn’t hesitate.”

No, he didn’t. Brian enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1991, during his junior year in high school. He attended boot camp in September 1992, three months after high school graduation.

As a combat engineer, the Pennsylvania native saw a good piece of the world: He deployed to Kosovo in 1999, to Iraq in 2008, and to Afghanistan in 2009. “My responsibilities were demolition, landmine warfare and improvised explosive device detection,” Brian says. “We did fortification construction. We were jacks of all trades that blew things up.”

After nearly 26 years of “blowing things up,” Brian was more fortunate than many when he left active service . He did, however, come away with what is commonly known as “the invisible injury,” post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). “I had to go to inpatient treatment referred to as OASIS [Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support],” Brian explains. “From there, they recommended that I go to Wounded Warrior Battalion (WWBN) for follow-up treatment. While I at WWBN, I decided to retire – April 30, 2018, was my last day in the Marine Corps.

SgtMaj Brian F. and Service Dog.

Brian first learned about the Semper Fi Fund while at OASIS.

“I remember I was walking to lunch and I got a phone call,” he recalls. “It was a lady from the Semper Fi Fund and she started to ask me questions and told me all these different things. I didn’t even know how to take it at the time, but I said, ‘Okay, I can see that maybe helping me down the road.’

“Then, I went to my first event, everything was focused not only on doing the event, whether it was skiing or fishing or bicycling, it was about taking that time for you and just trying to put everything else behind and enjoy yourself. They do a phenomenal job.”

As Brian was speaking with us for this story, in June 2018, he was one day away from beginning work as a counselor. Brian will be bringing a depth of firsthand experience and wisdom to his work as a counselor that will undoubtedly serve him well.

“One of the things I’ve learned, especially during the time that I’ve served as a casualty care officer, when you inform families that their son, husband or father has just died, when you tell someone you’re going to be there for them in that capacity, that’s just not words coming off your lips. You have to make a commitment. Those who are hurting will sometimes call you at the oddest times, with the oddest requests, and you have to pick up the phone. You made a commitment not just to them, but to honor their loved one that they lost.”

SgtMaj Brian F. and Service Dog.

“Well, Semper Fi Fund has been there for me – and most of the time, they’re offering help before it’s even been asked for. I’ve worked with multiple charitable organizations, they’re all great and they all serve a phenomenal purpose, but I can honestly tell you that I have not experienced anything like I have with the Semper Fi Fund.”

“I don’t think I’ve told anybody this yet, but Semper Fi Fund has impacted me so much that I’ve actually put them into my will,” he adds. “I can’t help them financially right now, because of transitioning out of the Marine Corps and a lot of other things I’ve got going on, but you know what? I know I can help them when I’m not here anymore because I won’t need it.”

While Brian has generously shared the details of his story for readers to understand the impact that the Fund has had on his life, he’s quick to add that he doesn’t want people to focus on him.

“I want to bring attention to the Fund and the many other organizations out there that don’t get the credit they deserve,” he says, “People need to be aware of those programs. A lot of people need help, but just don’t know what to do.”