So I guess for any of this to make sense, I should start with an introduction. My name is Donnie and I am a retired Marine. I’m a father of 4, 3 girls and 1 boy. The two oldest girls are my step kids but nobody could tell the difference in how I treat them. I’m a recovering alcoholic and a veteran of both Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In my 18 years of service I deployed 7 times. Twice to the Western Pacific before the war started with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, twice to Iraq with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and after I went to the drill field, I deployed again to Afghanistan with 3rd LAR and then to the Republic of Georgia where I trained with the Batumi Georgian Light Infantry Battalion and subsequently deployed with them to Afghanistan for my last trip overseas. I finished up my career at 5th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton where I was a Company Gunny, (acting) Company First Sergeant and Water Survival Training Tank SNCOIC.
Just before I retired, my wife and I came home on humanitarian orders to handle some nasty custody issues, the like that no parent wants to go through. While I moved my family back and forth from Oregon to California and multiple court hearings I spent all of my savings and even had to resort to a GoFundMe campaign to stay above water. At one point I made a desperate attempt at being an artist to pay bills and started my company Dollar Mountain Woodworks. I named the company after a little piece of wilderness where my best friend and I grew up. He commited suicide when we were 21 years old, and naming the company after him was my way of keeping him alive with me.
I was blessed to fill my first 20 or so orders to friends that saw something in what I was trying to do and have since built a pretty successful business out of virtually nothing. I’m not getting rich but I am becoming extremely wealthy in the connections I’ve made with other veterans and first responders across America. My plan with this blog is to create a platform to share my strength, experience and hope with other veterans that find themselves conflicted with similar problems and patterns of behavior.
On top of my business and raising my children, I have also found work guiding for a white water rafting company and a zip line park. I am an avid hunter, which is a hobby I am blessed to share a passion for with my wife and kids. We met in high school and got together just after my 5th deployment. The custody issues I wrote about earlier have obviously put us both through the ringer and the stress of it, coupled with my seperation anxiety of no longer being the man I used to be in the service, has brought me an incredible amount of adversity and torment.
In the last 2 decades, I have lost dozens of close friends as a result of training mishaps, contact with the enemy and, most regrettably, suicide. Alcohol and substance abuse have and continue to play a very significant part in the latter, and while I am no stranger to it, I feel like I have made a lot of significant changes in my life that I want to share with our community.
We have a 4 acre parcel of land that we are working on starting a farm. We are in the process of raising chickens, ducks, rabbits, hogs, and soon will be adding a few head of beef. We’ve also got some goats but they’re just smart enough to stay alive and not end up on the table. It’s going to take a tremendous amount of work and dedication to get our land to work for us, but it is definitely a challenge we are up for. As if that weren’t enough, in a year or so we will be breeding our German Rottweiler and training the pups in rudimentary protection behavior before we find homes for them. The idea is that by sharing our experiences in the trials and errors we are sure to undergo, we can reach others in need that might be able to relate to the issues we find ourselves in.
I am a firm believer in post-traumatic growth and overcoming adversity at all costs. Before I finally put the bottle down I was an emotional time bomb. I destroyed relationships, marriages and the trust of those around me. But while there were a lot of things that I couldn’t ever seem to get right, there were other areas of my life and career that were incredibly successful and some might even say admirable. I have to be the first to admit, however, that over the course of the last 18 months, I have lost touch with that side of persona and my hope is that by sharing a little of myself with others, I will not only find it again, but also inspire others to do the same.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton