Orenthall ‘Oren’ James O’Neal was born and raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, a small town with a population under 10,000; his high school only had 621 students. “Growing up, there was nothing to do but sports and churches. Stuttgart is known as ‘the of rice and the duck capital of the world,’ but if you’re not a hunter there’s not much happening but farming and duck hunting.”
Dustin was born and raised in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. “We had 10 acres of land;my aunt, uncle and two cousins lived next door on the same property. I had a great childhood traveling the US attending dog shows with my parents and younger brother.”
Dustin had traumatic events in his life before the military and during the transition. “The day I got my driver's license at 16, I wanted to take my uncle next door, who was in the final stages of ALS, for a car ride. My family wanted him fed before I could take him. This turned out to be his final meal—he aspirated and died soon after.”
Raised by a single mother, Jonathan Neves grew up in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. His mother's career relocated them to Los Angeles on a work visa. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles he enlisted in the US Army, serving eight years of active duty. After several years in the US Army, Jonathan deployed to Iraq.
Andres "Andy" Ivan Saldivar was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. His father was a bartender at the Las Vegas Flamingo and his mother was a housemaid. His older brother, a veteran who served with the US Marines, wasn't around too much when he was growing up.
Bruno joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 2001 and was assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion 23rd Marines as a machine-gunner, and deployed to Iraq in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also participated in Operation Peace Shield in Ukraine. He later served as combat instructor at the School of Infantry (West) from 2005-2008.
Just as Mr. Incredible learned that his real powers lied inside of him, regardless of his uniform, we as former athletes had to realize that important truism to begin our reinvention into our true selves…the real Incredibles!
I am currently a professional MMA fighter training at the Unbreakable Performance Center as an athlete and coach. I have been fighting professionally for about 10 years, having fought in the UFC, Bellator and ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. An MMA career usually lasts about 9 years depending on how physically demanding the sport is on the body. “You can only last so long getting knocked around and the MMA world (UFC/Bellator) doesn't provide player injury support.”
When another MVP member invited him to a meeting, at first Matt was only interested in the workout and has come to appreciate ‘fireside chats’ held after each meeting. “My transitioningfrom active duty on board a ship was hectic. They just dropped me on the dock in San Diego—I had only learned that I would be discharged that day with an ‘Other Than Honorable Discharge’ after testing positive on a drug test: I didn’t have all my belongings, no place to stay that first night, and I got mugged.”
MVP came into my life while I was at a low point. Early 2017 I had very little self-worth, I only identified with my faults and shortcomings, and I had absolutely no purpose. Though I appreciate and have come to cherish the views, perceptions, and experiences of my brothers and sisters in arms, it was the experience of Ryan Leaf that made a lasting impact on me. I respected and admired Ryan's honesty, integrity, and humility. I too wanted to write my comeback story, and I said to myself, "If Ryan Leaf can fall from grace in the national spotlight, and mount a comeback, so can I."
I've now found the family and camaraderie that I've needed since leaving the military. Between meeting with and helping other veterans and also our disaster relief efforts in Houston, I've rediscovered my sense of purpose and drive. It also helps when I dedicate what good I've been able to do to my fallen brothers. I'm finally truly proud to be a veteran. Proud that I came home and that I continue to survive. I'll never be the same person that I was before combat, but I'm finally ok with that.
Being a part of "MVP" gives retired athletes and retired veterans the ability to interact and share experiences and stories of what it's like to be removed from such an influential part of his or her life, and be expected to live like any other, "normal" person. Whatever "normal" is for us, we figure it out together.