I joined the military in 2000 and was in the delayed entry program for almost a full year. I signed up “and was promised” to do embassy duty, however I ended up landing in Bango, Washington. I had issues struggling staying busy up in Washington and often resorted to Underage Drinking. The same thing that 95% of Marines do. Long story short, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, too many times and it caught up with me. The Navy deemed me alcohol dependent causing me to lose my security clearance. From there, I had no reason to stay in Security Forces and was torn from my unit and sent to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (2/4). That was the first big mental knockdown I experienced in my time in the military. Shortly after, my new wife and I ended up moving to Camp Pendleton.

When I arrived at 2/4, I was a busted down PFC who was in the USMC for almost 2.5 years and everybody labeled me as a “dirt bag” right out of the gate. Other Marines saw me as a 2.5 year E-2 and thought I was a slacker, which was not the case at all. It didn’t take long to build up my rapport with the Marines in my new unit and once again, I had the feeling of being a part of a big family like I did up in Washington. It was not very long after arriving, I was told that we were being deployed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq. I was a mounted gunner on a Humvee manning an M249 saw when all of our Army counterparts had fully armored UP-Armor vehicles with A/C, new weapons, and new gear.

I managed to do quite well as a gunner with very little armor and a caliber weapon that was not intended to be mounted on a humvee. Was always able to provide suppressive fire and cover for my fellow Marines until I couldn’t. It got to the point where 2/4 oversaw the entire AO with our subpar weapons and gear. We did what we could with what we were issued, but once The Battle of Ramadi started, the protection we had was not enough and we started losing Marines. I lost a very close friend, Savage, who was also a gunner with subpar armor on it. I feel that had I kept telling him not to sit on the edge of the humvee with his ass hanging over the side a few more times than I did, he would still be with us today.

Long story short, the Army, in their Uparmor AC Humvees were across the Euphrates River and my Battalion was in the process of doing a huge cordon and search. I repeatedly told Savage not to sit on the edge of the Humvee because he was exposed more so than just standing in the bed. After being parked there for over 13 hours, an IED went off about 8 feet from his truck and a piece of shrapnel went up his back, under his flak jacket and pierced his lung. He passed on the way to Baghdad in the Black Hawk. Was I pissed that other branches and units had better equipment than us, sure, but why weren’t they the ones, completely surrounded by armor over here providing over watch for 2/4.

After that happened, the morale of the entire company was down, and most everybody just went from unhappy to be there to just flat out pissed off. When you first arrived in country the first time, in my experience, all I wanted to do was kill everybody. After your first firefight, you think it is your platoon (5 humvees and 25 Marines) versus the entire city. In actuality, it is your platoon, those same 5 humvees and 25 Marines, versus one or two people that made some bad decisions. You go back and start to think, those 1 or 2 people may have kids, or parents, or both. Something inside you wants to give them the benefit of the doubt. You go from wanting to kill everything around you that has a weapon to taking that one extra second before you pull the trigger to make sure that weapon passed the 45 degree plane required to take the shot. After Savage got killed, it was a roller coaster everytime we left base.

When I returned to the states, I jeopardized my marriage. I had trust issues that I had never experienced before for reasons I could not explain. My marriage didn’t last very long after my return. My wife ended up leaving me because she said I was a completely different person. I did not want to leave my house anymore, I was over protective, I had anxiety and depression, but I was the big bad Marine who didn’t need to get help. I had everything under control.

I didn’t end up going to the VA for over 11 years after I got out of the USMC. I spoke with my PCP and she asked if I was ever diagnosed with anxiety, depression or PTSD. Still being the big bad Marine, I walked out and didn’t go back until around 2022. I didn’t have those problems, “only crazy people have those problems.” At the end of the day, I was diagnosed with PTSD with anxiety and depression. I had two dogs that I feel would have been amazing Service Dogs and probably could have helped save my first marriage. I had no idea how much dogs help with PTSD and quite honestly would have never even looked into it if I didn’t go back to the VA for the 3rd time looking for help.

I currently have a Pug named Dudley that is around 1 year old. He gets all of my attention when I am not working. I actually leave my house and take him on walks without over analyzing everything before I leave. I have been able to bring him to the dog park so he can socialize, and in doing so, I have been able to talk to people that I would normally not talk to, helping me socialize as well. I am much calmer and do not feel as anxious as I do when I am not with him. I am not completely skilled in everything “Service Dogs”, but I would love the opportunity to go through the training, a big commitment, to learn about it and hopefully improve my life.