We lost David on February 20, 2015.  In the hours, days and weeks that followed, I pled with God to bring him back. I wished there was something that I could have done to change the outcome. I saw the visible scars of war, however, I did not realize the depth of the invisible scars. David deserved to return home and live 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 were 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

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 while living in a combat outpost 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 him donning a combat diaper, M4 and night vision after an intense mission to make his team laugh.

When Matt arrived stateside, he was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a hip injury he received during his 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 of the brave men and women who served our country.

Post-9-11, Matt buried all of the horrific things he had seen during war and suffered in silence. In 2014, Matt 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. Matt sought treatment with the Veteran’s Administration, but like so many of the veterans who came before him, 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 his family and friends, Matt 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, Matt 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 that need its services the most.”

– Jason Gallagher, brother of Spc. Matt Gallagher

My husband didn’t want to live anymore. And sometimes, I hardly blamed him. This was no way to live. And I couldn’t find relief for him, I couldn’t give it to him, I couldn’t make it for him. The most heart wrenching part of that is not the fact that we have three young sons watching EVERY move their beloved father makes, the pain he deals with daily, the isolation, the sadness, the confusion – rather that our story is not an oddity, our struggle is not new. I need my husband. My children need their father. We were on the verge of losing him.

I somehow ran across Shepherd’s Men and immediately felt that lump in the throat; standing with my jaw agape in amazement at the SHARE program. Do you know what that meant to me? That meant that my marriage might have a shot, that my partner, my helpmate, my husband, my best friend, might have a shot at some semblance of LIVING again. That my children have a shot at a father who is not just going to end this battle on his own volition, but take a shot wholeheartedly at living.

You are making a difference with every foot put in front of the other. Not only are you affording a life together, skills to overcome and adapt, but you are securing the future of America. As my little men grow, and when they are released into the world, each one of them will know that they have a duty and responsibility to care for the state of this nation, the welfare of its people, and will have learned (as they are learning even now) that you must do what you can do, no matter how small.”

– Kateri Peterson, wife of James Peterson

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 I got out of the Army I moved back to central Minnesota to attend college. I met my wife while in college and we got married in 2007. We have three sons, two dogs and a cat, and we now live in southern Alabama. It seems all should be well, but without the SHARE Military Initiative at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia I would not be where I am today and more than likely I would be dead and another statistic of 22 veterans who commit suicide every day. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury and before I entered the SHARE program in February 2015 I was in so much physical and emotional pain that I was ready to end that pain no matter what it meant. That means that my wife would be a widow and my boys would grow up without a father. But luckily, we found the SHARE program, which completely changed my life and my life with family.

I met the Shepherd’s Men at my graduation in May of 2015, I was blown away by their commitment to veterans and the SHARE program, and that they run across the United States to bring awareness to the thousands and thousands of veterans like myself. I was asked if I wanted to run 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. Being part of the Shepherds Men team brings me great joy. This year I will run from Shanksville, PA to Atlanta, GA to raise awareness about veterans suicide and to raise money for the SHARE program, which I know is a life-saving program for veterans.”

– James Peterson, SHARE graduate & member of Shepherd’s Men