Veteran Rediscovers Life's Purpose with Help of SHARE Military Initiative
Michael Cataldi of Scarborough, Maine, serves at a go-to source for veterans in need.
There were many days – years, even – when Marine Cpl. Michael Cataldi, 32, an Iraq war veteran, could never have imagined living with purpose again.
During his first tour of duty in Iraq in 2004, he witnessed his share of death and horror. Michael sustained a traumatic brain injury and developed post-traumatic stress disorder. His regiment’s medical officer prescribed him medications for depression, anxiety and insomnia. Then Michael went back to Iraq in 2006. During that tour, he ran out of his medications.
“Forced to go cold turkey in a combat zone” is how Michael describes it.
He eventually had to be medically evacuated to a combat stress center. After leaving the service, there were more rough years ahead for Michael, including personal losses, homelessness and a moped motorcycle accident that aggravated his TBI and PTSD. Michael was suicidal when he finally contacted the Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides support for wounded Marines and their families.
The Semper Fi Fund recommended Michael for the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center. He spent 12 weeks in the program, which focuses on assessment and treatment for service men and women who have sustained a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, along with PTSD or other mental health concerns, from service in post-9/11 conflicts.
He called his graduation from the program, on April 28, 2016, a beginning, not an end.
“That time revitalized hope for me,” Michael recalls. “It made me realize I wasn’t alone. Before then, I was only living in the past. Now, I’m looking forward.”
Today, Michael is pursuing an associate’s degree, and he also serves as a go-to source for veterans in need through the Semper Fi Fund. In November 2016, he married his longtime fiancé, Morgan, who went through his entire SHARE recovery with him. Morgan and her parents run a veterinary clinic, and their goal is to open an equine therapy and healing center for veterans.
“I tell every veteran, ‘Don’t give up,’” Michael says. “’You’re not alone. Find somewhere to plug in. The worst thing you can be is a warrior without a cause.’”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.