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
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