Mark was born in Belleville, IL, and attended Belleville West High School where he was an honor student and varsity athlete in tennis and soccer. Following graduation, Mark chose to continue playing soccer in college for a year, and then transferred to the University of Kentucky. Finding that college life didn’t provide the fulfillment he needed, Mark finally left college and enlisted in the Army Reserve in July of 2005 as a Psychological Operations Specialist. Mark attended Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, SC, and then moved to the JFK Special Warfare Center and School at Ft. Bragg, NC, for the Psychological Operations Course.
Mark left for Iraq in January of 2007 with the 318th Psychological Operations Company and was assigned to Charlie Co, 1-26 Infantry Regiment in Adhamiya, Iraq, the infamous Blood Brothers Battalion. This was the front line of the deadly sectarian violence that plagued Baghdad at that time. While there he served as a gunner and individual team leader conducting area assessments, face to face communications with the local nationals, patrols, raids, and driving for the 10th Special Forces Group. On April 8, 2007, Mark received his first concussion and a broken jaw from a hand grenade. Mark was able to remain in theater and was moved to Baqubah, Iraq in June 2007 to be a part of Operation Arrowhead Ripper. Due to a command error, Mark and one other individual were left alone for 3 days in the heat of the battle. The pair sought refuge in an Iraqi Army Checkpoint, locked in a closet where days later the pair were recovered and returned to the fight. Following the operation, Mark was sent back to Adhamiya for the rest of his tour, and he returned home in February 2008.
Upon returning home, Mark’s wonderful son Seth was born, and he discovered his mother lie dying from her second fight with breast cancer. Mark began working 50 hours a week doing construction, he returned to school where he had a 4.0 GPA, and took care of his mom and son who had colic. After doing this for months, Mark finally broke apart and a flood of memories and emotions from the war came spilling out. Mark dropped out of school, and shortly after his marriage completely fell apart. Mark had hit rock bottom. He ran into an old friend from school, and then began to slowly piece his life back together. Another friend got him a job in personal banking, and Mark finally began to feel a little better. Soon though, the Army came calling again, and Mark packed his bags to answer the call.
This time it was Afghanistan, and after a short train up, he found himself there in July 2010. He deployed with the 307th PSYOP Co, and was tasked out to 1-91 CAV, 173rd Infintry Brigade (Airborne). Mark was pushed out to multiple COP’s including Charkh, Barak-i Barak, Pul-e Alam, McClain, and Shank. While at COP Charkh, Mark took his second TBI when an 82mm mortar landed next to him. After a few more weeks of firefights and close calls, Mark was sent home on Emergency leave due to a family member attempting suicide. Mark went home and spoke to them, and brought the individual back from the brink. Mark was then returned to Afghanistan to continue on with his mission at a small fire base in Eastern Afghanistan. Finally Mark returned home for good in July of 2011.
Mark did alright at first, taking a job at his old soccer club, but soon the excitement of being home faded away again and Mark saw the path he knew he was about to take again. This time an old friend named James Sperry was there to lend Mark a helping a hand. James took Mark in, mentored him in all he had learned about brain injuries and how to live with them, and introduced Mark to The Fight Continues. Mark spent most of 2012 focused on his recovery, and is proud of the progress that was made over the course of the last year, though his personal struggle still continues onward. He currently resides in Lebanon, IL with his son and James.
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