I grew up in Malta, Montana, and graduated from the University of Montana School of Pharmacy in 1996. Following the events of September 11, 2001, I contacted an Air Force recruiter and upon commissioning on December 5, 2003, I resigned from my hospital pharmacy position in Billings. After assignments at Scott Air Force Base, IL; Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; and Washington D.C., in 2010, I volunteered to deploy as a medical mentor to the Afghan National Army (ANA).
As mentors, we advised and assisted the ANA in furthering their healthcare system and, ultimately, being able to care for Afghani soldiers and civilians on their own. Multiple mass casualty events on and around our Forward Operating Base (FOB) kept us busy in a challenging situation. The ANA’s lack of medical knowledge and capabilities, combined with differing cultural valuations of life, often resulted in disheartening outcomes for the wounded Afghanis. The moral injury of knowing that under different circumstances, many of those lives could have been saved remains with me today.
I was physically wounded on December 5, 2010, while standing approximately 10 feet from a suicide blast that claimed the lives of Sgt Jason Reeves, USA, and Sgt Nicholas Aleman, USMC. Thanks to the quick action of my teammates, I was aerovac’ed to another FOB within the “golden hour” and underwent surgery to stop the bleeding caused by a lacerated liver. After a brief stay at the Bagram Hospital, I ended up on a ventilator at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and was eventually moved to Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. Besides the liver laceration, I also had a TBI, ruptured ear drums, shrapnel wounds from head to toe, and glass in my right eye, but I was alive!
After recovering from the visible wounds, I was too proud (and dumb) to admit to any invisible demons. So, I trudged through life for several years before finally seeking help for PTS and alcohol abuse. At this time, I was introduced to Warriors & Quiet Waters (WQW), participating in my first Solo Fishing Experience (FX) in May 2017. I quickly realized WQW was the perfect complement to my medical care as it rekindled my love for the outdoors and fly-fishing and provided the solace and solitude essential to my ongoing recovery.
As I continued to serve, I got back into old routines and further away from my WQW experience. Unfortunately, this led to a relapse in 2019 and the need for additional medical care. Once back on a sober path, I reached out to WQW and was fortunate enough to be selected for the 2022 Smith River FX and blessed to be accepted to the year-long Coaching program. The extended connection, supportive comrades, and opportunities for sustained personal growth from the Coaching program are why I advocate for Built for More. Many programs are available to help wounded warriors, but WQW has broken the “one and done” mold with Built for More and its purposeful 6-to-12-month engagements, which guide warriors to find a deeper connection to themselves, their purpose, and the people they impact. As an Alumni Ambassador, I am excited to give back to a program that has given me so much by being a Built for More advocate and furthering WQW’s reach and impact so others may benefit.
Sean is currently serving as a U.S. Air Force Colonel in the Washington D.C. area. Sean and his wife, Stephanie, have two sons, Seamus and Sullivan. He holds a B.S. degree in pharmacy from the University of Montana and graduate degrees from the United States Air War College and the United States Air Command and Staff College.