One the hardest things about the Sentinels of Freedom is trying to find the proper word to describe the impact they have had on my life. So please bear with me while I attempt to do my best and to truly show how important they were to my journey and success. When I got out of the military, they were plenty of trial and error, difficulties adapting, and just about anything else you can think of. Thankfully one of the things that got me on track was my wife and the birth of my son halfway through my degree, this is what initially set my life on track to pursue nursing school. At this time, I also talked my wife into going into nursing school because what she was pursuing was not looking as promising as it had in the past, this meant we would both be in an extremely difficult degree program and also have a new baby to worry about. I had my retirement from my medical discharge but it was still next to impossible to support a family on that pay but there was no way I could ask my wife to work, go to school and take care of the baby. So I told her not to work and to focus on school and our family, this is something that I knew would drain our savings and possibly create turbulence down the road but I knew it was worth the chance so that we could both succeeded. To be honest I was falling apart and absolutely freaking out. My wife then found the Sentinels of Freedom and I thought that there was no possible way this was real and that I would be selected if it did turn out to be an actual organization. I am sure Carol can tell you that one of our first calls consisted of me asking various questions about the legitimacy of their organization and it wasn’t in an effort to be rude or offensive, I just didn’t think there was an organization that would do so much for veterans and their families in the way the SoF did for mine. Honestly, I had become accustomed to people taking advantage of veterans and felt that we were more likely to be discarded once we traded our uniform for jeans. But with Sof, there were no gimmicks, just a group of people that bent over backward for veterans and truly care about our transition. They are one of the greatest groups of people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Once I was accepted into the SoF, I found out that they were going to pay my mortgage while I was in school and this was pretty much one of those moments where you can’t believe it. This lifted the stress off of me and my wife and allowed us to go through nursing school without having to work, which was pivotal to our success. Most importantly it relieved a lot of pressure on Kacy and me financially, saving our marriage and allowing us to really focus on each other.

As we all know, life comes at you full speed and loves the opportunity to knock you down when it can. Sometimes it seemed like it never stopped but one of the most valuable things that I was given at SoF was someone to talk to. Some days I felt so overwhelmed, tired, and beaten down, but I knew I could call Carol and I can not tell you how many times she has helped me out in countless aspects f my transition. Throughout this, I was able to learn a lot about myself and who I was after my service and this is important because a lot of the time, we all may struggle to get a grasp on things when we get out. Sentinels of Freedom helped me realize what I am capable of outside of the military, that as veterans we are strong and an absolute force when we set our minds to something.

Just like a lot of veterans, I struggled a lot when I got out and there were times that I thought I would live a short and meaningless life, that my purpose had been served and now I was just going through the motions. But I can not stress how vital it was to have supportive people there to pick me up and give me a kick in the rear, Sof is one of those people and it is really hard to put into words what this has all done for my family and me. If it sounds like I am rambling on it is because I can’t find a way to thank you all enough for everything you have done. With your help, I was able to graduate nursing school with a G.P.A of 3.73 which qualified me as a Magna Cum Laude. More so, I was accepted into the only recognized nursing honor society, Sigma Theta Tau. This is only awarded to the top third of the class and is a lifelong honor and achievement. So, to say it for the hundredth time, thank you so very much. You all helped save my marriage and were a critical part of my success, I will never be able to repay you all for what you have done.

Keith Bessler