Mark Flower enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduation from High School. He served, then lived life gaily until issues took hold, bringing him to homelessness and addiction. The hardest step – seeking help – started Mark on his journey in recovery. This recovery is maintained by giving back and by being of service to others who struggle with similar experiences. Giving back helps keep Mark on track in his recovery!
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Being a veteran and being hired, means you are a liability, right? Wrong. Michael Kirchner is the director of Military Student Services at Purdue University Fort Wayne and an Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership where he teaches courses in leadership, training and human resource development geared towards veterans entering the workforce and the challenges they face. Kirchner was the first director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Military and Veterans Resource Center (MAVRC) where he guided programming for the 1,500+ military-affiliated student population on campus. From 2013 to 2016, the campus built a nationally-recognized “military-college-career” framework focusing on supporting student veteran transitions.
Kirchner earned his Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and his research on veteran career transitions and applications of military leader development in non-military contexts has been published in numerous peer reviewed journals including Human Resource Development Quarterly, New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, Industrial and Commercial Training, Organization Management Journal and the Journal of Military Learning. Dr. Kirchner frequently provides consulting to small, medium and large organizations on military-friendly programing and new employee onboarding. He served a year in Baghdad, Iraq from 2004-2005 as part of the US Army National Guard.
Jim Hackbarth grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was drafted into the Army shortly after graduating from high school. Hackbarth was trained first as a helicopter maintenance specialist and later as the door gunner on a UH-1 (Huey) helicopter.
Hackbarth arrived in Vietnam in October of 1968 and served a one-year tour of duty as a member of the 1st Cavalry Division. Although not wounded physically, Jim suffered other forms of anguish. For example, pain and isolation stemming from his combat experiences interfered with his ability to make and keep close friends and relationships.
However, decades after returning home from the war, Jim sought counseling and started writing poetry. He re-connected with former comrades and sought to share his message of hope and reconciliation with other veterans. His mission of outreach continues today.
After a childhood with emotional and psychological challenges, Deeatra Kajfosz enlisted in the Idaho National Guard and found a home, but a move to Wisconsin, a change in military occupation and an unfamiliar culture unraveled her military experience.
Cycles of chronic major depression and anxiety and a near-fatal suicide attempt would follow and denial became her key to survival. She experienced suicide loss from a unique perspective and came to fully understand how little she knew about suicide. Kajfosz began a quest for answers.
Now, Kajfosz dedicates her life to raising awareness, providing education and supporting others affected by suicide ideation, attempt and loss. It is through her own life journey her story connects with her audience in highly personal and inspiring ways. Hers is an extraordinary tribute to the gift of adversity, the power to rise above it, and the ability to share a life-saving message of hope with others.
Deeatra Kajfosz is an award winning suicide awareness and prevention advocate, public speaker, and Founder of the LiFE OF HOPE organization, serving as a comprehensive approach to the prevention of suicide attempts and death.
Kenneth Lee immigrated to the United States with his family as a young boy. The son of a South Korean Army career soldier and Vietnam War Veteran, Lee developed a sense of duty to his new country. Completing medical school and determined to serve and “give back” he joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
There, as a commander of the Company Bravo of the 118th Area Support Medical Battalion, he suffered a traumatic brain injury during a suicide car bombing while on a combat tour to Iraq in 2003.
Years of physical and psychological challenges — and of the the haunting guilt of leaving his command post and company behind in Iraq — would strain Lee’s wife and children. They would be the real casualties of his war — suffering the effects of a husband and father emotionally detached from the family.
“You don’t smile anymore,” said Lee’s daughter — then he sought help.
After recognizing the need to take responsibility, he is determined to maintain the health of his family as the primary health care unit. His passion to help veterans is shown through his devotion to the adaptive sports community.
Heidi Carlson’s father was a Marine, her family had a history of substance abuse and addiction. Her marriage to a Vietnam War veteran — scarred by abuse — ended in divorce.
The loves of her life would be her two sons and her six grandchildren.
When her son David announced his decision to enlist in the US Army,
Heidi was frightened yet proud. David, an infantryman, returned from his first deployment to Iraq in good spirit and health.
When Meeting David at the airport returning from his second tour she immediately noticed, as a mother would, that his eyes were different and evasive.
While hugging her son he said to her, “your son did not come home this time.”
Heartbroken and afraid, what waited for them both were many years of suffering, substance abuse, severe mental health issues and prison punished them, but a mothers love would never surrender.
Jerry Witt was born and raised in southeastern Wisconsin and graduated from Milwaukee Custer High School in 1964. After earning an Associate Degree at a local community college, Witt was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to a scout dog training program. He served as a dog handler in Vietnam beginning in May of 1968.
n the finale of this three-part series, Mark Foreman reflects thirty years later. Now allergic to morphine, osteomyelitis has returned to Foreman’s hip. He has had three major surgeries, all performed without pain killers. The resulting agony caused Mark to desperately search for any instrument within reach to end his pain by ending his existence. That is until once more the power of love saves his life.
The pain of his wound — so severe — he wished only for another bullet to end his life.
In this episode, Mark Foreman’s greatest insight is recognizing his only success in life would come from taking responsibility for his actions and goals. No mental health professional, family member nor university — no one — but he would ever again build his vision of what his life is and his place in that life. This is profoundly courageous and significant thinking. When understood this is the most fulfilling path in life.
Eighty percent of his Marine company was killed in the first ten minutes of a battle that lasted six days. Foreman was wounded on the second day and sustained such intense pain he wished only for another bullet to end his life. He laid on the jungle floor for nearly a week with a shattered hip that prevented him from responding to the screams of wounded and dying Marines scattered around him. Foreman’s evacuation from the battlefield marked the end of one war and the beginning of another.