CHRIS, United States Army
Rank: E5 Sergeant
Served In: Iraq (2 tours)
I was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas with my mom and younger brother. The military vein runs deep in my family. My grandpa served in Korea and my uncle was in the National Guard. In addition to my family history and a desire for a higher education, one other critical moment led to my decision to enlist in the Army my Junior year of High School. I was sitting in my first hour class on September 11th 2001, when my teacher received a call and abruptly left class. Shortly after we all learned of the attacks, and that my teacher was a part of the 1-90th and was called to patrol. I knew then I wanted to do be a part of the team that would find and hold those who caused this tragic incident accountable.
I spent the summer between my junior and senior year of high school at boot camp. At the end of my senior year I learned I would be deployed to Iraq (one of two eventual tours I would make). My first tour I assumed several roles. My job training was as a mechanic so I worked at a maintenance shop. I also tasked a gun truck, and worked recovery missions to retrieve vehicles and fallen soldiers. Additionally, I was assigned to mortuary affairs where I was a part of a team that would transport those lost in combat from the hospital and take them to the airport so they could be returned to their families. On the second tour I was assigned as a machine gunner the first half and a wrecker operator for the remainder of the tour.
In 2010, I retired from the Army Reserves. I was accepted to Kansas State for mechanical engineering, but was unable to complete my education. I couldn’t focus and the day-to-day seemed petty, weak, and devoid of meaning. I spent a lot of time alone and avoided going out. I didn’t want to be bothered by people. That might seem like an indication that something was wrong, but at the time, I though I was doing fine. I didn’t recognize the signs of PTSD for what they were—but my family did. I was reluctant to listen, but eventually I took what they said to heart, and started to take steps to learn how to better cope with PTSD.
I’ve made progress, but I’m ready for this next chapter with Nero. A large part of my life with PTSD is depression. I share custody with my son, so a large portion of my time is spent alone. I look forward to having someone there by my side at all times. I believe Nero will force me to get out and socialize better. As someone that has had dogs all his life I understand their protective nature and also their innate ability to detect when you are feeling down. Coaching my son’s football team I’m constantly plagued by paranoia, but with Nero watching my back I’ll be able to relax and focus on my son’s team—not the sidelines. For all that Nero will do for me, I hope that my part in this will be for people to understand that dogs serve a purpose outside of household pets—their amazing companionship among other skills has incredible healing powers.