“The reason I went into the Marine Corps was because there are seven kids in my family and I didn’t want my mom to have to pay for college. I was a good Marine and was assigned to HMX-1, which was the Presidential Helicopter squadron in Quantico, VA. It was an amazing group of Marines, and we worked hard and had instant camaraderie. I grew up in a small town and we didn’t travel, so I loved going overseas and seeing new cultures.
“After several years, I went back to ‘why did I join the Marine Corps?’ and my answer was still to pay for school. So I got out and was a 24 year old freshman. From there I was hired as a contractor and spent about 70% of my time in the war-zones of Iraq and Afghanistan – I was just constantly back and forth. Your fight or flight doesn’t disengage when you’re home, and I needed something to calm down when I was back.
“I was 28 when I took the first vacation of my life. I went to Bali on a yoga retreat, and it ripped my heart right open. I finally found that everything I needed was already inside of me, and I was able to connect spiritually with it all. To go from the pace of the war-zones to be comfortable being still was huge. It was helping me so much, that I wanted to share with others.
“My passion is helping veterans, so I founded a non-profit, VETOGA. Our mission is to provide yoga, meditation, and healing arts to active-duty military, veterans, their families, and communities. I’m certified now to teach those suffering from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Veterans are 4x more likely to commit suicide if they have PTSD and a TBI, and I wanted to create a safe place for people to be able to come and release. I’m not a counselor, and I know that, but I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Sometimes people just need to know they’re not alone, and that they still have that camaraderie. VETOGA gives them that.”
To learn more about VETOGA or attend their August 6 gala in DC, visit http://www.vetoga.org or get your tickets online: donate.vetoga.org/vetogala