During one of our campaigns leading up to Memorial Day, a veteran at home in Stockbridge, GA saw news coverage on TV of us running. The next day he drove himself to the Shepherd Center. He walked up to the main security desk and said, “I saw these guys running on TV for a military treatment program. I need help.” He was admitted to SHARE and at his graduation, he looked at me with tears streaming down his face and said, thank you, you saved my life.”
– Travis Ellis
We lost David on February 20, 2015. In the hours, days and weeks that followed, I pleaded with God to bring him back. I wished there was something I could have done to change the outcome. I saw the visible scars of war, but I didn’t realize the depth of the invisible scars. David deserved to return home to a life free of pain and suffering. We deserved an opportunity to build our lives together. I did not just lose him that day; I lost all the days we were supposed to have together. I still miss him so much it hurts.
After we lost David, I learned about the SHARE Military Initiative. This program provides the resources and tools to eliminate or reduce the symptoms of injuries such as PTSD and TBI and successfully returns veterans to their homes, families, and communities. I wish we had been aware of this life-saving initiative. If there were more services available like this, maybe David would still be with us today.”
– Lesley Lynn, fiancé of David Ricker
I was deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005 where I fought alongside my brothers in arms in countless firefights, while being exposed to many IED (roadside bombs), rocket and mortar attacks.
After getting out of the army, I moved back to central Minnesota to attend college where I met my wife and got married in 2007. Now, we have three sons, two dogs and a cat and live in southern Alabama. That all sounds good, but without the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA, I would not be where I am today, and most likely would be one of the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Before I entered the SHARE program in 2015, I was in so much physical and emotional pain I was ready to end that pain no matter what it meant: my wife would be a widow and my boys would grow up without a father. Luckily, we found SHARE which completely changed my life and my family’s lives.
I met the Shepherd’s Men at my graduation and was blown away by their commitment to veterans, to the SHARE program, and their runs across the U.S. to bring awareness and hope to thousands of veterans like me. They asked me if I wanted to run with them in the 2016 Shepherd’s Men journey and I said yes, hoping they would forget they asked me. They did not, and I ran from Boston to Atlanta. I also ran from Shanksville, PA to Atlanta to raise awareness about veteran suicides and to raise money for the SHARE program, which I know is an amazing life-saving program for veterans. Being part of the Shepherd’s Men team brings me great joy.”
– James Peterson, SHARE graduate & Shepherd’s Men team member
Spc. Matthew A. Gallagher enlisted in the United States Army in November of 2011. After completing basic training and Airborne School, Matt was assigned to the 82nd Airborne, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Alpha Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. In 2012, Matt and his team deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Just days into their deployment, Matt and his platoon were targeted by a Taliban ambush and continued heavy engagement with the enemy throughout their nearly year-long deployment. The constant firefights, ambushes, rocket attacks and near misses with IEDs took a toll on the men of Alpha Company. Throughout the horror, Matt always tried to make sure his team was taken care of, whether it was stepping out from cover to return fire so his men could make it to safety, or donning a combat diaper, M4 and night vision after an intense mission to make his team laugh.
When Matt returned stateside, he was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a hip injury he received during deployment. Although the doctors were able to fix Matt’s hip, the horrors of war left wounds that could not be seen on an x-ray – like so many brave men and women who served our country.
In 2014, he was medically discharged from the Army, addicted to the powerful narcotic OxyContin, and forced to readjust to civilian life without the support and help he truly needed. He buried the horrific things he had seen during war and suffered in silence.
Matt sought treatment with the VA, but like so many veterans his treatment consisted of superficial evaluations and filling prescriptions. As Matt continued to struggle with civilian life, his problems with drugs and alcohol intensified. With the urging of family and friends, he finally got serious about dealing with his PTSD and sought mental health treatment at the VA. Unfortunately, Matt’s help did not come in time. On June 9, 2015, he was found in his St. Louis apartment, dead from a lethal combination of alcohol and prescription drugs. Matt is more than a statistic; he is tragic proof that our system is broken and unable to help the heroes who need its services the most.
Maybe if we had learned about the SHARE program sooner, Matt might still be with us.”
– Jason Gallagher, brother of Spc. Matt Gallagher
My husband didn’t want to live anymore. And sometimes, I could hardly blame him. This was no way to live and I couldn’t find relief for him. Maybe the most heart wrenching part was not that we had three young sons watching EVERY move their beloved father made, the daily pain, the sadness, the confusion – but that our story is not an oddity. Our struggle is not new. I need my husband and my children need their father. We were on the verge of losing him.
I somehow ran across Shepherd’s Men and immediately felt a lump in my throat standing with amazement at the SHARE program. Do you know what that meant to me? It meant my marriage might have a shot; my partner, my helpmate, my husband, my best friend might have a shot at some semblance of LIVING again. My children could have a father again.
SHARE is making a huge difference. Not only do you teach skills to overcome and adapt, but you are securing the future of families and of America. As my sons grow up, each of them will know they have a responsibility to care for this nation, the welfare of its people, and will have learned to do what you can, no matter how small.”
– Kateri Peterson, wife of James Peterson, SHARE graduate