Matthew O’Dell of Murfreesboro would disagree if called a hero. But I believe he is one.
He bravely served our country in the Middle East first as a United States Marine and then later in the U.S. Army. He also was a civilian contractor in that war-torn part of the world.
I was taken by his story while getting acquainted recently over a cup of coffee at his popular business in downtown, Reveille Joe Coffee Company. I’ll let him explain with his own words.
He said, “I will start by telling you about a man I once knew. On March 7, 2008 he sat in his dimly-lit apartment alone and wrote these words: Hopelessness resides in a mind when a heart perceives its abandonment.
“For nearly three weeks he didn’t leave the house. He rarely ate and sat mostly in silence. The pounding, scream-like sounds of thoughts raced through his mind drowning out the music that blared from the apartment below.
“Depression had gripped him so tightly that he didn’t reach out for the hands that were feverishly praying for him.
“As he sat there contemplating whether or not to pursue the next day, he picked up the phone that seemed to ring … just at the right moment.
“He began to wrestle with the syllables that poured from his mouth. Wiping his tears, as he explained the wounds that had reopened over the last few weeks, he knew that he was somehow going to be OK.
“The explosions, the death and the blood-soaked roads that had brought him to this very moment would be the same road that would lead him to his salvation and hope.
“One morning while shuffling through old journals that had been packed away, I began to realize that the man … is me, a hopeless and broken man, devoid of all positive thoughts.”
Matthew knew right then and there that he needed help spiritually, mentally and emotionally. A new chapter in his life was opened. It has been a journey, a journey that now has hope. A Biblical writer put it well, “Without vision the people perish.”
While Matthew and I continued our conversation, a sound came from a speaker in the coffee shop. He stood. I instantly joined him along with other patrons, standing tall with my right hand over my heart and mouthing the words to Star Spangled Banner.
Once seated and again sipping on our coffee, he explained that every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at high noon, the National Anthem is played inside his store to remind patrons and himself of the sacrifices given by our men and women in uniform.
Born in Kentucky, Matthew has literally traveled the world as the son of a military family. It was his grandfather, also a Marine, who inspired him to join the Corp back in 2003. As they say, once a Marine … always a Marine.
That service continued until 2007, and then 11 months later, Matthew felt the call to duty again by joining the United States Army and serving for the next four years.
While fighting his own depression following service in Afghanistan, he realized that many other veterans are searching for a lighted path after war. He recalled, “While in the service, I always had a support system, but once out, my familiar surroundings were gone. That is when depression took charge of my life.
“Many veterans, especially those returning from combat, need mentorships. That is what I want to provide them through ‘Operation: Adopt a Hero.’ It’s all about connecting veterans with those in the community and organizations that could provide them positive relationships.”
Matthew invites the public to help with the mission. Call (615) 849-1222. Go online to http://www.oaah.org, http://www.reveillejoe.com or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.