I fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. In 2009, fearing a heart attack, I was driven to the hospital with severe chest pain and a numb left arm. A feeling of death and adrenaline washed over me. The emergency room doctor delivered the news, my EKG was normal and my heart was fine.

Over the ensuing days it happened again and again. During my fifth visit to the ER, a nurse escorted me to the Operation Iraqi Freedom counseling department. I was angry and felt out of place. I’m an infantry Marine. Humans don’t come with a stronger mind and I didn’t need help with my mental health—or so I thought.

The next nine months are tough to remember. The medications given to me weren’t working. Still, I became seriously addicted to them. Not because of the feeling they gave me but because it was the only help that I was offered, I was scared to be without it. The heart attacks I thought I was having were diagnosed as panic attacks and these panic attacks became more frequent, occurring multiple times a day without warning. The future held no grace. I was trapped in a meaningless life of pain and I was dragging down those who were closest to me. Death soon became a viable option.

Eventually, I connected these pains to distinct combat experiences. Only then did I begin to understand them and make conscious efforts to regain my life. Stepping out of isolation, I learned that consistent physical activity and increased socialization was a return path to hope and happiness. I got off of the medications, set goals and moved forward.

After attending Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans at Purdue University, and learning the science behind my growth, I dedicated my life to growing this organization so that we can show other veterans a clear path to a successful, meaningful life.

I hope you will consider supporting 23rd Veteran as we continue to expand our programs to new areas. It is through the support of generous donors like you that we are able to help the men and women who bravely served our country. Please donate and help us to give veterans like me a second chance.

Thank you for supporting our country's military!

Mike Waldron | Executive Director