I enlisted in the United States Navy in 2001, but I was in the delayed entry program until I graduated from high school. I went to boot camp in the summer of 2002. I was stationed in San Diego, CA and did one deployment with the USS Anchorage LSD-36.
Shortly after I arrived, we were preparing to go to the Persian Gulf as part of Amphibious Task Force-West, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). During that six-month deployment, USS Anchorage disembarked Marines and supplies from Landing Force West during the opening stages of OIF.
Later, the ship provided logistic support to U.S. forces stationed on captured offshore gas and oil platforms near the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. After coming back from the deployment, my ship was decommissioned. I received an injury to my knee preparing for the physical fitness test. I had two knee surgeries and was medically discharged in 2005 as a Machinist Mate Third Class. After being medically discharged, I moved back to Illinois. My struggle began in 2006 when I was so depressed, I actually considered suicide. I knew I needed help, so a friend helped me check myself into the VA Hospital, where I was diagnosed with PTSD.
Upon my recovery, I decided to obtain an education at Western Illinois University for a Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration with a minor in Forensic Psychology. This was the toughest school year for me because my mother passed away after quadruple bypass surgery.
Despite the tragedy, I continued my education and am currently going back to school at Waubonsee Community College for Therapeutic Massage. I found The Mission Continues from Student Veterans of America website. I was fascinated after checking the website. I love helping people, so I decided to apply. My host organization is the Student Veterans of America as the Illinois Outreach Coordinator.
My service provides good to the community because Veteran Clubs in a college or university setting helps out the community by doing projects such as cleaning up a park or helping Veterans in need. It also helps Veterans in school with a peer, social, and education connection with other Veterans from their school and other schools in the area. Being in a group you have that camaraderie and everyone is trying to achieve the same goal: getting an education. In the future, I plan to start my own nonprofit organization called Vets for Teens, which will focus on Veterans mentoring at-risk youth.
Matthew Wolding served 2 years and 11 months in the United States Navy. He is currently serving a Mission Continues Fellowship with the Student Veterans of America.