Put Down the Game Controller
This third article in a series of blogs related to the new Walton’s Warriors Peer Mentor Program is written by guest blogger James Hollon. James Hollon is a proud husband and father of seven. He served 14 years in the US Navy as an Aviation Electronic Technician aboard the USS Midway and the USS Ranger. James deployed during Desert Shield/Storm to the Persian Gulf. He also served 12 years with the US Army in the Signal Corp and Military Police. During his first deployment to Iraq, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star during his second tour. James is currently the Chaplain for American Legion Post 179 in New Braunfels, Texas.
I fought in three wars with two tours in Iraq. You could say I picked up a little PTSD. And, after 26 years of serving my country, I had some adjustment issues. If you add in my physical disabilities and limitations, I’m a mess. I became tired of sitting around the house playing combat video games for hours, isolating, not sleeping well, and gaining weight. With both my mental and physical health declining, I knew had to do something, or I wouldn’t be around much longer. I needed a change. I started reaching out to different veteran’s organizations and nonprofits. Project Sanctuary was one of the first to come to my rescue and the rescue of my family. I wasn’t a very nice person back then. I knew if I lost my family, I would lose myself.
Project Sanctuary provided an opportunity for my family and me to get away from all the daily stressors and distractions. It was an opportunity to reconnect to my family. An opportunity to show my children that I’m not a monster and that they shouldn’t fear me. Meeting other veterans and their families was also a big help. Just knowing that I wasn’t the only one struggling was a big help. The recreational activities made me realize the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors and exercising. This was the change I needed.
Upon returning home I purchased a bicycle and started riding. I soon found out that my physical disabilities and limitations would not allow me to use a standard bicycle. The hunched over position and lack of back support aggravated my injuries and was causing more pain than gain. I thought, “What to do?” That year I attended a Soldier Ride and discovered recumbents, an expensive solution. With the assistance of several nonprofits and the Veteran Administration, I acquired a recumbent tadpole trike. I was back on the road again.
Cycling has provided me with the opportunity to accomplish challenges, both mental and physical. It has given me a healthy coping mechanism with a sense of peace and well being. This was an opportunity to develop my relationship with my children, who now often ride with me. I not only get outdoors, but I also meet people and make new friends. There’s almost always fellow veterans or veterans support organizations at cycling events. I enjoy their camaraderie and fellowship. Having a shared interest (cycling) makes for a good support group. As the miles go by, you really get to know the person and share your struggles and accomplishments. Walton’s Warriors has helped me gain the confidence and given me the tools to be a peer mentor to some of my fellow cycling veterans.
In closing, I would like to encourage my fellow veterans to put down the game controller, open the curtains, and get outdoors. There are many veteran recreational organizations out there and available to you. Whether your thing is hunting and fishing, golfing, kayaking, running, cycling or any other outdoor recreational activity, there’s an organization that can help you get started and to get involved. Don’t make excuses, just do it. You’ll thank me for it.