What made you decide to join the United States Navy in 1999?

It's always been a tradition in my family to serve our country. It was expected we would attend college, then serve. My father always said, "Before you exploit this country, you will serve it." The idea, specifically, to be a SEAL came from my brother Morgan, when we were about 14 years old. 

What does it mean to you to be the lone survivor of Operation Red Wing?

That was the worst week of my life and I lost many good friends. I share our story—it's not just mine. I'm thankful for those who have heard the story and used it to push themselves in challenging situations. They help me carry on the memories of my teammates so they may live forever.

"If you surround yourself with people that feel sorry for you or tell you that you’re messed up, you start to believe it. Get away from the people who bring you down."

Can you describe your experience coming home after your tours overseas?  

I had three combat deployments. Coming home from the last combat deployment was the hardest, because I was retiring. My brother was still in and I was at home by myself. Being away from the team environment was the hardest struggle. I learned to keep myself busy, then after a few years I met my wife and we had kids. That changed everything; my wife and my kids are the best part of my life. 

Why do you think support systems are so important for veterans, especially those that are wounded in action?

Support systems are important regardless of who you are. You have to have family or friends that look out for your best interest and you have to provide that for them as well. 

If you could tell one thing to every single veteran coming home from combat what would it be?

In any situation, when you have structure and routine, then get out of it, you feel a little lost. Create a routine, healthy habits and surround yourself with good people. If you surround yourself with people that feel sorry for you or tell you that you’re messed up, you start to believe it. That's the most important thing: get away from the people who bring you down. Live with a purpose.