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Jeffery G. Nichols (Military 2021)


My upbringing started in a small rural town called Moscow in Eastern Iowa. I have the most incredible parents and the best sister; I grew up in a place where it was a typical blue-collar type of environment. My dad served in Vietnam, was drafted, then returned to a drug semi for forty-two years, my mom was a chef for forty years plus, and is now retired. We were more of a country Iowa family, which made it strange for me to become a military service member. I was never really against it, but it wasn’t prolific in the Midwest as much as it is in the south. I went through college and played baseball since that was my interest; I received my associate degree from Indian Hills Community college in Iowa. I then became a strength coach in 1996 for the University of Troy in Alabama.

Sports was always fulfilling for me, but I felt I needed to refocus on some other objective type. When college came to an end for me, it was slightly different since I always felt like I was a part of a team from the age of four years old. While strength coaching, I felt unfulfilled since I was still young being twenty-three. I always liked the challenge of being competitive to try certain things, like triathlons and other things that interest me to keep me engaged. I decided to take a year off from school and found myself driving from Alabama to see my family in Iowa for my birthday. It was a twenty-hour drive from the University of Troy, which was not far from the military base. While driving, I had come to a point where I felt I needed to be a part of a team.

Since many of my professors and colleagues were former military, they’d always motivated me to become a part of something in the community and serve. I decided to go through my list of options for which branch I wanted to be a part of, and the Navy potentially stood out to me with my background. I was typically a great swimmer and had qualified for the Olympics in 1986, but I never followed up with the sport because I only cared about baseball, although swimming was my best sport. Even when others felt it to be a challenging sport, it was appealing because it came with ease. With the combination of all the things that I was up against and the feeling of being a laundering soul with no team, I found the military was the best fit for me once I entered into the training process.

I realized this would suit me very well, so once I went through boot camp and showed up for BUDs in May of 2003, the feeling became very familiar. Seeing the team process and being surrounded by a bunch of people who wanted to be there. The class started with 188 people and only twenty–two of us graduated. Through that process, the military was satisfying because it filled that real gap of loss in college. The people I served with were terrific individuals; it allowed the travel and experiences to be excellent for seeing the world. I spent eleven years in the Navy; I did double-digit combat deployments in South America and all over the middle east to include Afghanistan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Iran, and Soule Africa. I had twenty-two concussions and was also blown up on top of going through some horrible incidents while serving.

When my time came to an end, I thought of the two best values that I received from joining the military; The first was learning professionalism, and the second thing was I knew when it was time for me to get out! I recognized it through my life experiences. At the time, I was a Dad with a young son but was divorced. My son was six years old, and I missed him more than he missed me, and it began weighing down on me. For eleven years, I was gone 308 days from my son. As I began to look at the numbers, I knew there was no possible way to have a stable family living this life, and that’s part of the reason I didn't. When I decided to get out, and the administrative process began, I didn’t think that I could deal with a new transition. I had a job lined up as a consultant for sports companies. The emotional process was being removed from the military and returning to civilian life. I lived a detailed life done by someone else giving me directions since I was four years old. Being placed into sports, coaching, and then the Navy, it was always some sort of academic serving that followed. My friends were given to me; therefore, I felt as if I never really needed to make an effort in that regard.

Being removed from the military and starting all over again as a civilian felt strange because I didn't know how to begin a friendship, making it feel weird. It was hard for me to talk with people because my whole life it was “Do this, shut your mouth, and get it done, so I said ok.” I found myself not needing a transition, and the emotional side became difficult for me. I also realized with all the accidents that I’ve gone through, there was trauma attached to everything that went on during my country's service. I was placed on pain medication prescribed by my doctor in the Navy at the time and was told it would subside. The pain would get progressively worst, so I continued to take the medication. When I needed a refill, the doctor prescribed it for me with no questions asked. I always considered the meds to be “Fuck It All Medication! Because I never gave a shit about anything!”

I never experience any side effects as most people did, so I just said, “Shit, I’m just hungry, but I can carry on like normal.” The abuse of medication persisted for several years; even when I got out of the military, getting refills was effortless. I realized this was becoming bad, and the decisions I was making were not good, it led to opioid abuse, and my world went utterly upside down. “I HIT ROCK BOTTOM HARD.” I became suicidal a couple of times, and it got to the point when I knew I needed to take responsibility for myself. I was fortunate enough to have great people around me, and they really could have left me since I was a mess, a total nightmare! “I was a Social Virus around people.” My very close friend stuck through the struggle of opioid abuse with me and helped me as I got through it. These individuals help me get better by taking responsibility for what I was doing to myself. They n