After returning home from Iraq in 2005, I found I had few places to go to talk about what I had experienced. One of the few people I could turn to was my childhood friend, Brian. Brian and I spent most of our young adult lives together. Once we graduated from high school in 2001, Brian enlisted in the Army and I went away to college. However, after the events of September 11th 2001, it wasn't long until I had signed up to serve as well. Our Army service took us to different units and different countries, but when the dust had settled and we linked up again at home in the US, he was one of the few friends I had that I trusted still knew me and understood what I had experienced.
Brian and I spent many long nights talking about what we had gone through during our deployments. On a few occasions, we even went to counseling together at a VA Vet Center. We had completely different stories, but shared many of the same challenges and regrets from our time in the service. After some time, I moved away from home and Brian was there to help me as I stepped into a new chapter of my life. We didn't see each other as often anymore, but were sure to talk and reconnect in person as much as we could.
On an early February morning in 2013, I got a call that would change my life forever. Brian had taken his own life the night before. He was gone. There was nothing I could do to bring him back or tell him how much he meant to me and everyone else in his life. It was crushing. For years when I thought of him I would be overwhelmed with grief. I could hardly bear to talk about him without breaking down except with the closest of friends that I knew loved and missed him too. I am still overwhelmed by grief when I think of my friend. But I am also proud of him. Proud of who he was, proud of his service to our country and thankful for the time we had together.
In honor of Brian and his legacy of service and friendship, I have founded Freedom Hill Coffee Roasters at Freedom Hill Farm - a place where Veterans and First Responders can come to participate in peer-led PTSD therapy and enjoy family-friendly camaraderie, events and recreational activities. A portion of every sale and coffee subscription goes to funding these events and events like them all across the country.
Thank you for your support and thank you for helping us end Veteran and First Responder suicide in America.
Our mission is to honor America’s heroes and help end Veteran and First Responder suicide by telling our heroes' stories, hosting fundraisers for Veteran’s charities, holding peer-led group therapy courses here at our farm in northern Michigan and through sponsoring group therapy sessions all over the country with partner organizations.