Let’s Get some things straight…

Cause you’re probably wondering who the tattooed guy is?

sledge-ph
Afghanistan circa 2003

In 1999 (like the prince song) I joined the military

prior to that I grew up in Oklahoma and was set to attend college at Oklahoma State University (where I eventually graduated after dropping out 3 times. War is hell, ya know?). But then September 11th, 2001 hit and my military career and life took a different turn.

So here’s what’s true

I have my enemy marksmanship award (the Purple Heart) for wounds received in action while deployed to Afghanistan. I also earned a Bronze Star and two Army Commendation Medals for my actions overseas. I stayed enlisted for the eleven years I was in the U.S. Army and fought in Ramadi, Iraq during the most violent portion of the war. I also ending up losing my best friend in combat.

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Ramadi, Iraq—2006

And here’s what’s NOT true

I was not Special Forces. People have wrongly assumed this and I have no idea why. While I did serve most of my time under Special Operations (Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command) and attended Defense Language Institute as well as the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, there is a major difference between Tier 1 operators and the work I did with a local and indigenous population.

You’re a professional writer?

I’ve loved stories since I was a little kid. In grade school, I even wrote a book about a mutant snowflake with Rambo-like characteristics (which got me sent to the principal’s office). While I had a knack for stories, I wasn’t very good. Years later, I approached one of my best friends about the writing craft. He’s a Wall Street Journal Best-Selling author and mentored my curiosity and passion. For several years, though, I read stories to my cat. Then, after years of time and effort, people took note and my writing took off. Since then, I’ve accumulated over 40,000 followers, authored several viral articles, and written on behalf of major publications and businesses. This led to a book deal in 2020 with a major publisher in which I crafted my war memoir, Where Cowards Go To Die, which released in July of 2022 to critical acclaim and won the NYC Big Book Award for Military Nonfiction.

And you’re GRAPHIC ARTIST, PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER, plus A MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST?

I view art through numerous mediums. I love creating and have spent the last thirteen years as a Creative Director in some capacity or form. Some of my artwork has been featured in two New York Times Best-Selling novels, TIME Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, and CNN. Speaking began as a way to educate businesses, non-profits, and churches, but I also fell in love with that craft as a different medium to storytelling and have been lucky enough to speak at several high-level events and clients.

My passion for mental health, though, began when I saw my brothers and sisters in arms struggling after returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. As someone who struggled with what I had seen and reintegrating into the civilian populace, I knew the system was failing our veterans, so I wanted to play a part in healing them and a world struggling with mental health issues.

— certifications —

  • Advanced Certificate in Crisis Response, Trauma Care, and Suicide Prevention from Light University
  • Certification in Evidence-Based Management of Suicidal Patients from NCR Behavioral Health
  • Peer Certified Specialist in Mental Health First Aid

— military awards —

  • Bronze Star Medal
  • Purple Heart Medal
  • Two Army Commendation Medals
  • Army Achievement Medal
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals
sledge-family

Tell me about your personal life

I’m married to an amazing woman named Emily who is—and remains—my muse. I have a 5-year-old daughter, Adelaide, who loves hiking and skiing with her old man in addition to big cuddles in the morning before school. My son, Aidan, is now two and is named after my best friend, who was killed in action while I was in Afghanistan. The kid seriously thinks he’s a dinosaur and runs around the house, stomping everywhere he goes and roaring at me.

Besides my family, I love the mountains, which has brought me much respite after so many years at war. My faith is vital to that peace and allows me to treat the poor, marginalized, and oppressed with dignity and compassion. I really do love people and believe there’s hope for even the most broken. Now that I’m 40, I’ve also had to decide whether I want to get into smoking meats or WWII history. I chose BBQ.

Last, I’m obsessed with anything pumpkin spice. Seriously. I can out white girl the best white girl in fall y’all.

TL;DR Version

TL;DR Version