Our beneficiary is a medically discharged Marine who lives in Phoenixville. His story is a reminder that there are veterans who come home and struggle, maybe never getting that extra help or support that they need. I will not mention his name because even after 7 years of struggling through physical pain, nightmares, anxiety and too many hours trying to get the benefits he needs and deserves, he still didn't want to ask for help. The idea of remaining anonymous was a great comfort to him.
After graduating from Penn State with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, he enlisted with the Marines, with the goal of attending officer school and later, medical school to become a pediatric oncologist. After two deployments to Iraq in two years as a Combat Casualty Replacement (CCR) he was a squad leader, could speak Arabic and was meritoriously promoted to Corporal. However, back and ankle injuries led to his medical discharge from the Marines. He had his lower spine fused because his nerves were being crushed and without treatment he would suffer permanent nerve damage. He still needs to have his left hip and ankle fused, as well as hernia surgery. Returning home, doctor continually tried medications to help him, topping off at 21 pills a day. In addition to his physical pain, he lived on 30% disability for years. He returned to school to earn a degree in clinical psychology, but a backlog of the GI Bill and anxiety from his PTSD prevented him from completing the program.
After getting accepted to UC Davis for the Master Brewers Program, he once again attempted to secure a certification so that he could work and support himself. But, the Vocational Rehabilitation Office denied his Chapter 31 GI money based on an orthopaedic’s recommendation that he never lift anything. Despite all of his setbacks and frustration, he helps other veterans as a VFW Service Officer.
Meeting and getting to know him has been a very overwhelming experience. I am able to get a sense of who he was and who he wanted to be before he entered the Marines, but it is also clear that the frustration of years of paperwork, rejections, pain, nightmares and his anxiety have taken a great toll on his quality of life. At the same time, I can see that he has a plan, and that he can see a way to live a more independent and happy life, but financially he can't get there without help. I am hopeful that the support he will get from our community and the financial support we can provide for him, will help him get on a better path.
Our aim is to raise enough money for our beneficiary to open his own home brewery. He is a certified beer judge and currently brews beer in his home, entering local competitions. But, he does not yet have the financial capabilities to bottle and sell his beer. We want to give him the money he needs to be an entrepreneur, doing something he is passionate about and supporting himself financially.
The Run for Freedom is a cross-country inspired 5k and 1 mile. The race is run on the grounds of Monument Park, the Paoli Battlefield and the adjacent woods.