Consuelo Moore’s Story
Charles came home lost. We had friends who had been on multiple deployments, some divorced, others struggling to deal with it. I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted what we had before. Even though I had taken classes about it, nothing prepared me for what would happen.
Within months of medical retirement, we were homeless and hopeless. My drinking started when Charles was on deployment, but now it was out of control, so I joined an AA program. I didn’t want to live–I wanted out, but I couldn’t abandon him. I had to save myself, then come back for Charles. I couldn’t help anyone until I fixed myself and I couldn’t do it on my own, so I surrendered myself to Jesus.
We sought help at church, but ended up separating for 6 months. I found a women’s ministry and needed to let God work on Charles while I worked on myself. Our kids needed a healthy mom. At 40 years-old, I felt like a child as I learned how to pray for the first time. I thought Charles needed fixing, but I also needed God to fix my heart. Charles saw me changing and I stopped nagging him to get help. He could see I was on stable ground and how it helped our family.
We tried another church program that required a deep commitment, but Charles wasn’t ready for that, so I went alone. These people knew nothing about us, but they welcomed us unconditionally. I’ve never experienced anything like that. They encouraged us to come, even if we sat on opposite sides of the room, and that’s what we did–we were so angry! I had all these emotions and I didn’t understand what happened to him in combat. We began peeling back the layers of our pain and learned about grace.
We discovered Camp Hope for vets with PTSD and Charles signed up. I took care of the home front so he could focus on healing. After that we attended our first Joni & Friends Warrior Getaway, a great program that ministers to the whole family. It opened up a new world of help and support for us. We met a powerful network of new friends on the same journey.
Through them, we connected with Wild Ops. Charles signed up for a trip and received the book “Wild at Heart,” to read. Charles is not a reader, but he really got into it and learned so much. At Wild Ops, he loved the adventure and comradery with other military guys. He witnessed tough men who love Jesus. It made him want more! He came home eager to apply what he had learned.
The difference I see in Wild Ops is what I call After Care—what he received after the trip. It wasn’t everyone going on their merry little way afterward. Guys continued to follow up, asking questions, holding him accountable, feeding into him. Someone would call and say, “I’m reading this scripture and this is what I’m seeing, what do you think?” It’s made him comfortable about getting into the Word and learning with others. He’s no longer alone and forgotten. He once slipped into an awful place and was starting to isolate, but in came texts and emails. It changed everything!
Wild Ops is the brotherhood Charles needs to keep moving forward. We still have a long road ahead of us, but we’re both strong and growing. Wild Ops and Joni and Friends are invaluable to us as we continue our journey with Christ!
Mark Stillion, E5 (Sergeant)
Marine Corps 2006-2010
Everything seemed fine when Mark left the Marine Corps until the flashbacks and nightmares began 6 months later. Taking drugs to escape, his life quickly spiraled out of control into the abyss of addiction.
Mark’s parents divorced when he was very young. Though he and his dad met when Mark was around 10 and had increasing contact in the following years, they were never close due to his father’s drug and alcohol addictions. His mother remarried and although this man was a good stepdad to Mark, he was an unfaithful husband. They divorced after he was caught in his third affair. The experience has made Mark very protective of the women in his life.
Involved in a good church growing up, Mark started doing missions trips at age 14, going to Panama for two weeks in 2003, Australia/New Zealand for a month in the summer of 2004, followed by an eye opening 10-day medical mission trip to Uganda in a very remote location, in November of the same year.
Mark enlisted in the Marines in 2005 at age 17 with his parents’ permission, entering bootcamp 10 days after his high school graduation in 2006. He deployed to Fallujah, Iraq the following year as the driver of his Platoon Commander’s M1A1 Abrams Tank, running 2-4 missions per day. Impervious to small arms fire he never felt much danger, even though they hit multiple IEDs, including a pressure plate IED that blew off the track and several road wheels at 2 AM returning from a mission.
After receiving intel of an IED team’s plans to plant bombs at an important bridge his tank section received an overwatch (surveillance) assignment, stationed 1000 meters from the bridge. In time a pickup truck arrived and began installing IEDs. After receiving permission to fire, they hit the truck with a high explosive anti-tank round destroying the truck and crew, sending shrapnel flying in all directions. The after-action report revealed collateral damage—there had been kids playing in the culvert below the bridge out of sight from the tank’s distant position. They were killed by the shrapnel. The report didn’t hit Mark initially, but between deployments, he was at home playing with his nieces when the horror of what had taken place devastated him and the nightmares began.
On his second deployment to Iraq in 2009, tank corps had been removed from the field of action, so his unit deployed as improvised infantry patrolling in MRAPs, the IED resistant replacement of the HUMVEE.
Leaving the Marine Corps in 2010, he redeployed to Baghdad as a civilian contractor with the Department of Defense in 2011 as a Guards Supervisor of a detainee prison which housed some of the most highly sought after war criminals and enemy insurgents. At the end of that deployment he began a new contract job as a Special Operations Intelligence Analyst/UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Operator. He then deployed to Afghanistan from Jan-Dec 2012. His job entailed setting up a site for a Persistent Ground Surveillance System (PGSS) safe flight operations for collecting, analyzing and reporting intelligence data from the aerial surveillance system (from an altitude of 4000 ft.) to the US military.
The problem with these tethered UAVs is that they have very little protection and the large PGSS made an easy target for shooting as it is being launched. Mark’s crew often experienced heavy enemy ground fire. Under this contract agreement, they were not allowed to carry weapons, so they were unarmed, with no means of defending themselves as they operated or patched disabled UAVs. During this deployment, Mark got word that his closest friend in the Marine Corps, who was deployed in another region of Afghanistan, had been killed. His friend was married with a 3-month old baby.
When his contract ended, Mark returned home and moved to LA where everything seemed fine at first, but 6 months later the nightmares and flashbacks began again. There were even nightmares that seemed unrelated to battle. That’s when he began risky behaviors trying to escape his thoughts. For the first time in his life he began using street drugs and quickly became addicted to cocaine and amphetamines. Things escalated quickly and he became an IV drug user. He lost his job because of it and began selling drugs to support his habit. Going to wild parties and making drug runs, he was making a lot of money for several years, but it caught up with him. A traffic stop by LAPD turned out to be a sting operation. He had a car full of drugs.
Bailed out by one of his drug clients, Mark realized he had a real problem and sought help. He was grateful when his case was moved to Veteran’s Court, which led to in-patient drug rehab at the VA. This lasted for a couple of years, but it became a vicious cycle. He’d get clean and leave the VA. With no money, he’d stay with friends—drug users who fed his habit until he went back to the VA for more treatment.
Then Mark was arrested in 2018 by the FBI for a crime he committed in 2015. A customer who lived in NY traveled to Hollywood where Mark brokered the sale of 2 kilos of amphetamines. The product was then shipped back to NY by the buyer. The shipment was intercepted by the US postal authority which conducted a controlled delivery to the buyer and arrested him. The buyer cut a deal, became an informant and cooperated with the authorities to locate Mark as the seller. He was arrested in LA, and extradited to NY. The interstate nature of the sale made it a Federal crime, so Mark faced a mandatory minimum sentencing of 10 years with a maximum punishment of a life sentence (30 years).
Mark pled guilty and expected to spend the rest of his life in prison, but God had other plans. His case was picked up by the New York Veterans Defense Program. They dived into his military history and built a case for extraordinary circumstances due to PTSD and documented Mark’s attempts at treatment to present to the judge. When he appeared in court for sentencing, Mark was stunned. The judge, citing Mark’s efforts and progress, gave him probation under the condition of continued treatment
Referred to PTSD Foundation of America’s Camp Hope, Mark entered their residential PTSD program for almost a year, where he got clean, stayed clean, and rekindled his relationship with God. After Camp Hope, he found out about Wild Ops from his friend K.C. Williams whom he had met at Camp Hope. Mark applied, but it was a long process to get approval from his probation officer to travel to the Wild Ops venue in Tennessee.
At Wild Ops, Mark was overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of the hosts at Bluewater Resort, the venue for this adventure. In the midst of the great fun, fellowship and processing with other vets as they fished, drove ATVs and quads on miles of trails, and had long talks around the bonfire, Mark kept thinking he didn’t deserve to be here, he should be in prison.
Hearing the other men’s stories and struggles and telling his own story was like a booster shot for his regenerated faith, launching him to a new level of healing. On the final morning as one of the other vets was being baptized after accepting Christ into his life, Mark decided his childhood baptism wasn’t enough for him. He needed to be baptized again to declare his renewed faith, so into the frigid lake water he went!
Mark is not wasting his second chance at life. He will be graduating in December with a Bachelor’s degree in Addiction Counseling and is currently in a student internship in Ohio. His next pursuit will be a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Mark’s plans and pursuit are what Wild Ops is at it’s core: Vets helping Vets.
Michael “Ziggy” Zingelewicz
Ziggy joined the Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq for 2 years in 2007 as a Humvee machine gunner. After many fierce battles and close calls, including surviving two IED explosions that destroyed his Humvees, he returned to Camp Pendleton. Haunted by memories and unable to sleep, he began drinking heavily. Diagnosed with PTSD, he entered treatment, was medicated and not allowed to participate in any training or handling of weapons. Worst of all, he was separated from his unit, the brothers he trusted and depended upon.
He exited the Marine Corps in 2010, and thought he was fine, but he was lost. As he put it, “All I knew was how to kill enemies.” What do you do with that in a civilian world? 6 years later, he was self-medicating … drinking more heavily than ever. Even though he had a job and a fiancé, he felt worthless and didn’t care about anything. He left a suicide note to his mother and took a drive in his truck with his loaded .45 caliber handgun on the seat next to him. He doesn’t remember what happened, but awoke in a wrecked truck surrounded by emergency lights and police.
His mother and family intervened. He began getting calls from total strangers—combat veterans like himself, but he didn’t want to talk to them. He’d hang up, but another would call, until one guy said, “I know you don’t want to talk to me, so just shut up and listen!” Ziggy did listen as this stranger told him his own story, no holds barred. He knew first-hand the battle Ziggy was in. He was a Wild Ops veteran.
After his emotions stabilized, they asked Ziggy to join Wild Ops on a 5-day fishing adventure just a few hours from him in Montana. When he met them, he realized these guys were just like him. Ziggy was quiet at first, just listening, as one by one they told their stories in complete detail. They’d been through what he was going through and they had something he wanted. Finally, he sheepishly asked, “How can I get a relationship with God like that?”
Today, Ziggy’s life has been transformed. He found a new band of brothers through Wild Ops. They check in regularly with one another and do Bible studies together. He was baptized and now a year later, he’s married, has a new son and starting in a great career.
In Ziggy’s words, “Without Wild Ops … I wouldn’t be here today. I was on a mission of (self) destruction and Wild Ops deterred me … and gave me a sense of hope and a new way of life.”