“My son is the main reason why I try to get out of the house. I do not want him secluded in the house like me. Every chance I get, I take him out and I let him get some sunlight—let him go out and play with other folks.”
A year into his football scholarship at the University of Iowa, Martell broke his ankle and was unable to continue playing. He decided to enlist in the Army and two weeks later was shipped off to basic training. Martell served in Korea for a year and in Afghanistan for 10 months as a chaplain assistant. He says his experience was rewarding but often traumatic, and he found himself not wanting to leave his house when he returned. He realized isolation and the ability to transition back into civilian life was a problem that other veterans were facing. Martell now serves as the volunteer management specialist at Operation Stand Down Tennessee, a nonprofit that provides support such as counseling, employment services and transitional housing to veterans and their families. He says the best thing our community can do to support veterans is to be open—to create a space for them. “We have the same heart as everyone else. You may have to peel back some layers just to get to us, but we want to be treated just like everybody else.”

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