Home Base

From the Desk of a Veteran

Dear Home Base Florida Family,

It’s June 2003, the third week of recruit training at Parris Island, SC. No one knew it was my 18th birthday. You quickly learn to keep your head down and follow orders. Just five weeks earlier, I had graduated high school, and now I found myself in a completely new world. Drill Instructors shouting orders mere inches from my face was not something I was accustomed to back in Naples, Florida. The intensity of boot camp was essential to ensure we were best prepared for what was yet to come.

We deployed to the frontlines of Iraq in February and suffered our first KIA, Cpl. David Vicente, on March 19, 2004. An ambush and murders of four American Blackwater contractors on March 31st,2004 would change our orders from Stability and Support Operations (SASO) to offensive operations. April 4, 2004, we embarked upon the First Battle of Fallujah. We lost 8 men throughout that deployment and another 11 lives were lost when we redeployed to Fallujah in 2005.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the First Battle of Fallujah, a sobering milestone that brings into sharp focus the sacrifices made by so many. Memorial Day stands as one of the most solemn days of the year, a time when we honor the brave souls who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Each of the 21 names, across two deployments, is forever etched into the legacy of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, and serves as a stark reminder of the cost of our freedom.

The number of lives lost on the battlefield pales in comparison to those lost to the war that wages on, long after returning home. The transition from military to civilian life is a culture shock many grapples with. This new culture is as foreign to those transitioning from military service as these stories may feel to you. The sense of belonging and purpose is something people who haven’t served will likely never come to know. When we think of predictors of suicide—loss of identity, social isolation, loss of purpose—it is no wonder why the veteran community struggles with these transitions and post-service life. For the 2/7 Marines, the suicide rate was four times higher than that of young male veterans and 14 times higher than the general population, highlighting the severe impact of these invisible wounds.

The weight of this sacrifice is not borne by the fallen alone. It is a heavy burden carried by their families and comrades, who live with the memories and the loss every day. At Home Base Florida, we are committed to supporting these families and individuals. Our mission is to address the invisible wounds of service—PTSD, TBI, anxiety, and depression—ensuring that no one walks this path alone.

Reflecting on my own experiences and the bonds forged in service, I am reminded of the unspoken promises made among Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines: to look after one another and our families. This promise extends beyond the battlefield. It is a commitment we uphold every day through our programs and services at Home Base Florida.

My time in the military fuels my passion and dedication to our mission at Home Base Florida. The memories of my brothers in arms and the promises we made to one another drive me to ensure that our veterans and their families receive the care and support they need. Our work is a testament to this promise. By providing world-class care and addressing the unique challenges faced by our veterans, we honor the fallen by healing the living.

As a nation, we owe it to those who have given their lives in service to ensure that their sacrifice is never forgotten. We must support their families, stand by their comrades, and uphold the values for which they fought. This is the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Yet, in the midst of our solemn remembrance, there is also hope. At Home Base Florida, we witness the transformative power of care and support. We see families reunited with their veterans, and individuals finding new purpose and joy. We help families better understand and manage PTSD, allowing them to rebuild stronger, more resilient bonds. Each success story is a testament to the enduring spirit of our veterans and the unwavering support of our community.

Thank you for being a part of our community and for your unwavering commitment to honoring our nation’s heroes. Together, we remember, we honor, and we care. And together, we build a future filled with hope and healing.

Semper Fidelus,

Jason Cooper
Associate Director of Development
Home Base Florida Veteran and Family Care