Our Founder, Mike Waldron, served in the initial invasion of Iraq in the Marine Corps Infantry. Five years after combat he began experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD, which lasted for years to come. During that time life became very difficult to live, the only thing he looked forward to was going to sleep. The VA published a study stating 22 veterans killed themselves every day during this time. Mike felt like he nearly became one of those 22 veterans. The next closest to this is the 23rd Veteran. Since 9/11 an estimated 3,321,125 veteran's have been in this position, planning or attempting their own suicide.
23rd Veteran now describes a veteran who has felt death was a viable option, they are still here and helping other veterans.
“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 I began to understand them and made 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 studying entrepreneurship 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!” - Mike Waldron | Executive DirectorSince the creation of 23rd Veteran, positive psychologists, psychotherapists, personal trainers, and veterans have joined to improve our 23V Recon program into a full--exposure life experience producing happier and healthier veterans.
The Science Behind 23rd Veteran
While studying the human brain we learned that there is a distinct science behind why traumatic memories are built so much stronger than "normal" memories. We also learned the science behind belonging on a team. Utilizing the works of:
- Harvard Professor Dr. John Ratey
- Harvard Professor Dr. Shawn Achor
- Psychologist, Dr. Al Reffetto
"Donating to 23rd Veteran is my chance to serve those who've sacrificed so much for me".- sustaining donor