Happy Military Appreciation Month. Today, I am recognizing my friend Matt Northam. Matt served as a MP for seven years in the US Army. He was in all the places your read about between 2001 and 2008 when he left the service; Guantanamo Bay, various military prisons and Iraq. Matt is in my writers group. He is very quiet. He writes but doesn’t always share- which makes it that much better when he does. One of the prompts we used was “tell your 9/11 story”. Matt was sitting in MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station)
watching the horrible events unfold before him. Matt had already decided to join the service, he was merely waiting to finish his paperwork and go to bootcamp. His story was rich and wonderful to hear. He clearly explained how it felt to KNOW you are being called to serve- that there would be little doubt that he was going to war. Lots of his peers got up and left the building. He raised his hand. 
Matt and I met shortly after he first returned from Iraq. He was the security guard at night in the building I worked. I did business counseling alone in a room behind closed doors. I often did not know my clients. People get a bit anxious when you give them hard to hear feedback regarding their business, their finances and their view of the marketplace. I felt safe knowing Matt was their to watch my back. Matt, like many young veterans was an extreme athlete, a fitness fanatic and a relatively intense person. He was a Mao Thai fighting. He was trying to make himself fit back into his old life, but in a way, the puzzle piece no longer fit. Matt was studying robotics and continued to work with us even after he moved on to school at NIU. I remember that terrible Valentine’s day on the NIU campus when a disturbed young man brought a gun into a class room killing 5 people and wounding 21 others. Matt was there and thankful ok. Matt decided to take a break from school and go to Thailand to improve his fighting skills. While there, he met his beautiful woman who would change his life. His wife Whipa. 
Matt came back a very different man. He is settled, calm and committed to making a life for his family. I didn’t know Matt before he went to Iraq. But I can say that the Matt I know now, is a much more contented man than the 25 year old I got to know over dinner breaks at the Shah center. Matt has had a banner year. A new job, A new house and a beautiful daughter, Ariana. Matt was the first member of my writing group. He has been a faithful advocate of our group and for his fellow veterans. He went to Thailand searching for answers and came home understanding, sometimes the problem is you are asking the wrong questions. I am very thankful for his recommendation of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl- it was what he read while standing guard in the prisons of Iraq. It says so much about who the man he is and the solider he was. I am deeply grateful to Matt- for his friendship, for his commitment and for his service.