Marine Veteran

 A Safe Environment

Andres "Andy" Ivan Saldivar served as a US Army veteran with the 1st Armored Division 23FA Alpha Battery and stationed in Fort Bliss, El Paso. He was deployed into a combat zone in Afghanistan for nine months between 2012 and 2013. Andy was a cannon crew member under the MOS of field artillery and achieved a rank of Specialist. He helped provide force protections and establish guard units around enemy control points; he was part of dismounted maneuver tactics in more than thirty patrols over one thousand miles in Regional Command South while assisting Special Operations Task Force 7135. 

Andy 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. 

Shortly after enlisting in the Army Andy deployed to a combat zone in Afghanistan.  He knew he would come back a different person, and he tried preparing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He saw what combat did to his brother and friends, so he prepared himself to absorb the consequences of combat zone deployment.

Transition after deployment came with many challenges. Andy had trouble communicating with family and friends, felt shut off and impatient, and had a short temper. He perceived everyone as a threat and felt out of the loop of reality. Andy started developing severe insomnia and couldn't sleep sensing that something was going to come for him at night, so he moved his bed to face the door.  Everything caused him to abuse his sleeping pills and drink heavily. Andy moved from job to job missing the sense of purpose and importance from the US Army. He missed the structure of the service and camaraderie with his fellow soldiers.

With all of the anxiety and stress becoming overwhelming, Andy sought help from the VA. The VA diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  He chose to not tell his family and friends about his PTSD diagnosis fearing judgment.  Andy dealt with his PTSD alone hoping the pain would all be temporary. 

He learned about Merging Vets and Players (MVP) through his brother. He had been attending sessions for a few months and encouraged him to join. His brother talked about it being an intimate, positive experience working out and connecting with other veterans. Andy joined him and realized MVP had everything he was missing: a safe environment, camaraderie, and positive energy. The physical aspect of the program rebuilt his self-discipline and self-image. Sharing his struggles during the peer huddle opened him up to asking for help. He went more often and noticed his outlook on life began to improve; he was more positive and more patient.

Andy's experiences and relationships have helped him develop spiritually. He finally feels connected and a sense of peace. After reflecting on his transition Andy provides this advice to veterans transitioning, "It's okay to cry. Reach out for help and support from your battle buddies, the VA, and other family and friends.  Remember you're not alone and you're not broken."