Border Watch Part 5: Veterans find new home within III% United Patriots

NOGALES, Ariz. — It’s not a military organization but the III% United Patriots share a lot of similarities – from the ranks within the group to the camaraderie between the members.

One Marine said the organization helped save his life.

“I was in the Marine Corp for 8years,” said Yota.

Before he was injured in 2009, Yota was on the fast track to making the Marines a lifetime career.

“I got SSgt within 6 years and that’s pretty much unheard of in the Marine Corps so I was going to make a career out of it,” he said.

But all his plans changed in an instant.

“I got blown up by an IED. The IED hit my truck and I was forced out of the Marine Corps because of it, because I have a traumatic brain injury,” Yota said.

Suddenly, the life he knew was gone.

“I have what’s called hyper vigilance so I can’t go into crowds. Going into Walmart during the day is a task, pretty much I stay at home and I get real bad anxiety when I go out into town,” he said. “Before my injury I was very outgoing. I went to concerts, hockey games, football games, just anywhere there was a big crowd I was there.”

He was surprised to find that those he thought would be there to support him were gone too.

“When you get out of the Marine Corps they throw you to the wind,” said Yota. “You’re good to them as long as you’re with them. As soon as you get out you’re nobody to them because they got younger, stronger guys coming up behind you.”

He said it felt like the country he had given everything to had turned its back on him.

“[I felt] Betrayed. Absolutely betrayed. I love my country so much and I sacrificed so much to serve my country and then when I wasn’t needed anymore I felt betrayed,” said Yota.

Things got so bad he even tried to take his own life.

“July 2010, I was so distraught and hopeless that I attempted suicide,” he said. “Obviously it didn’t work and that was my epiphany.”

At that moment he decided to seek out help.

“It was about a year and a half of seeking the help before I got it. When I got out of the Marine Corps they give you what I call checking the box classes,” said Yota. “For me I had PTSD, I was in combat and they basically ask you ‘Are you OK?’ well, there’s such a stigma about admitting somethings wrong in the military that nobody says anything until it’s too late.”

One place he found help was within the III% United Patriots.

“We’re basically a big family with like-minded ideas and they’re my brothers and sisters and this is where I’m supposed to be,” said Yota. “Before I met the group I had lots of thoughts of suicide and now I have such a network of friends and brothers and sisters that I can call upon whenever I need and they’ll help me.”

Other veterans have found similar support in the organization.

“It’s really similar to the military in the way of the camaraderie,” said Gimli. “So it’s like when we get together it’s like a family meeting. ”

“I retired 24 years ago, a long time, but you lose something when you leave,” said Mark Correll Sr. “There’s structure, there’s rules, everybody knows what’s expected of you and if you don’t deliver they take care of you and they bring you back to where you’re supposed to be. So when you get out, what you have is chaos, because everything that you have known is now gone and it would appear that nobody really cares whether you’re in chaos or not. So you come here, you find order and structure again and you’re realigned. You’re on your path, so you’re back in comfort’s arms.”

But some injuries of war never fully go away.

“So the other morning I had a petite seizure here at camp,” said Yota. “We have some of the best medical staff here at camp and they took excellent care of me and they took me into Nogales hospital and I got prescription anti-convulsive medication and I’m doing pretty good now.”

“I’ve never had a seizure before,” he added. “Pretty much what the doctor said was it’s the TBI that’s acting up.”

With the help of his brothers and sisters Yota was back to himself in no time.

“I took an oath of enlistment to defend the constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic and I’m bound by that oath until I take my last breath,” he said.

He’s also now back to helping those who struggle just like him.

“I go to the VA and I talk every week with a group,” said Yota. “I had it so rough transitioning into my civilian life that I wanted to help fellow vets transition, help them in their transition back to their civilian life.”

This story is part of an ongoing Border Patrol series. Coming up next: should a bigger border wall be built?

 

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