When I was 14, I was given an Apple IIe computer, within days I began programming. I then began dismantling and rebuilding discarded computers. While in college, I found I was very good at troubleshooting and repairing anything computer related. I also discovered an ability to identify and maximize others' skills. At 17, I co-run a very successful donation-based help desk with other volunteer students. I soon launched two businesses, one tackling cybersecurity and the other hosting professional LAN parties.
Deeply moved by the events of 9/11, I decided I wanted to do more than just give blood to the Red Cross. After my emotions of disbelief and helplessness had subsided, I felt a deep desire to be part of something greater than any of my seemingly insignificant goals or accomplishments. After tying up loose ends and dissolving my company, on September 11, 2002, I joined the Navy and never looked back!
During my first enlistment, I was rapidly promoted from E1 to E6, and selected for the STA-21 Commissioning Program. Jumping into Electrical Engineering Technology at Old Dominion University, I had a 3.8 GPA and was well on my way to graduating.
During my senior year, an SUV rear-ended me. My airbag didn’t deploy, and I hit the steering wheel with enough force to break the wheel. My car was totaled. I was taken to Navy Urgent Care, where I was told to go home and rest for a few days. No treatment or diagnosis was performed.
I began experiencing increasingly severe symptoms including whole body pain, insomnia, vision problems, foggy thinking, and continuous migraines. I lost thirty pounds. As a result, I was unable to finish my degree, I lost my commission which also ended additional promotions. However, I continued to serve in the Navy despite my pain and dysfunction and was transferred to USS Elrod where I completed two more deployments followed by shore duty.
I loved being in the Navy, and even with ongoing medical problems, I wanted to continue serving as long as possible. I sought help from a multitude of military medical specialists and providers, but none of my symptoms were actually relieved by their care. I worked with my chain of command to accommodate work and medical appointments, always seeking to improve my ability and restore my health.
Unfortunately, due to medical complications, secondary to numerous undiagnosed brain injuries, I was forced to separate from the Navy in March 2018, despite never being placed on limited duty and never being evaluated by any medical or physical boards. My doctor refused to help me find answers, and when I persisted, I was treated horribly. So, after 15 years of exemplary service, I was dismissed with no income, no medical retirement, no disability, no insurance, and no hope of help.
Three months later, in June 2018, the VA granted service-related disability for several conditions, including TBI, after the Navy said nothing was wrong. With my family's help and support, I continue tirelessly seeking anything to help me return to “normal” life. Although I still struggle every single day to keep my head up and my heart hopeful.