Vet-A-Thon’s second hour focuses on the stories of two FedEx Ground employees who served in the Army after September 11, 2001, Andrew Gordon and Donnie Wilson. Both give testimony to the benefits and burdens of military service.
Andrew Gordon served in the Army for just short of nine years as a Staff Sergeant and worked as a Patriot Missile Defense Operator and Maintainer (14T). He had a diverse deployment history, spending seven years overseas in places like Qatar, Japan, South Korea, and Amsterdam.
His military experience was different from that of his Marine family members, and he joined the Army to carve his own path, seeking a positive change in his life. Andrew highlights that his decision to join the military was influenced by personal struggles in his youth, including involvement with drugs and alcohol. A crucial turning point occurred when he was stopped by a police officer, prompting him to walk into a recruiter’s office the next day, ultimately changing his life for the better. Andrew emphasizes the importance of self-care during the transition from military to civilian life.
He says that veterans need to take the initiative in their transition and that FedEx offered internships as part of their hiring program. Andrew expresses gratitude for the support of the military community and civilians, acknowledging the positive impact that talking openly about experiences can have on veterans’ well-being. He shares personal experiences of friends who faced challenges post-military service and emphasized the significance of having a support system.
Overall, Andrew’s story highlights the transformative power of military service, the challenges of deployment, and the importance of support during and after transitioning to civilian life.
Donnie Wilson’s service experience in the Army spanned 13 years, during which he served as a Cavalry Scout and later switched to become a diesel mechanic. He had deployments to Bosnia, Egypt, Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq.
Most notably, he shared that he experienced combat during the invasion of Iraq, serving as a Cavalry Scout involved in frontline missions and kicking door. Upon transitioning to civilian life, Donnie faced significant struggles.
He highlights challenges such as hyper-vigilance, paranoia, and difficulty being in crowded places. He struggled with connecting to his family, experienced a divorce, and grappled with mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts.
Donnie acknowledges that he neglected seeking help initially and resorted to coping mechanisms like drinking and drugs. It took him seven years to actively seek help from the Veterans Affairs (VA) and undergo various therapies. He participated in a six-month program focused on coping with grief and combat-related issues.
Donnie emphasizes the importance of addressing mental health challenges, particularly among veterans, and the need to overcome pride and seek available resources. He shares his own struggles with suicidal thoughts and the importance of reaching out for help. Donnie’s message revolves around encouraging fellow veterans not to ignore mental health issues, to use available resources like the VA, and to be open about seeking help.
In the civilian world, Donnie found support at FedEx, where he appreciated programs like VetsNet, mental health support, and the overall patriotic and supportive environment. He highlights the significance of patience from those supporting individuals dealing with mental health issues and expresses gratitude for the understanding and support he received, especially from his fiancée. Ultimately, Donnie’s story serves as a powerful testimony to the challenges faced by veterans transitioning to civilian life, the importance of mental health support, and the need for understanding and patience from the community.
The Veterans Breakfast Club’s Veterans Day VET-A-THON is a 12-hour online program bringing veterans from around the nation together to share their stories of service with the public. You’ll hear from veterans from every walk of life and branch of service, from World War II to the present. Guest hosts from across the globe will help share Veterans’ stories, military history, GI humor, Armed Forces trivia, and information for veteran and military families.