By Lucas Dyer, M.S. –
I attended the Mighty Oaks Foundation’s Legacy Program for the first time in December 2016, at SkyRose Ranch (CA). I then returned for phase one of my leadership training in January of 2017. I am currently coordinating with John Foldberg to set up my next phase of leadership training.
I was born in Vermont in August of 1979 and I have one sister who was born in April of 1981. My mother was young, pregnant with me at 16, had me at 17, pregnant at 17, had my sister at 18 and divorced just as fast as she got married. She was left alone to raise two newborns after going through a violent and abusive rough several years. The foundation of growing up in our house was “don’t get caught,” and if you do, deny it until you believe it. Nobody cared about what I excepted, so I didn’t trust anyone and never showed any signs of weakness. Anything within these standards seemed to be OK. My mother worked two to three jobs as far back as I can remember which meant she was often not home. As a result, I learned how to care for myself and without a male role model ever in my life, many things I learned the hard way. I quickly joined up with the wrong crowds and followed what was “cool” and “rebellious” rather than what was right. There was no God in our childhood, meaning that my mom wasn’t a believer. In fact, she would often blame God, and others for the situations and hardships we faced regularly. Oftentimes, blaming us and reminding us often that if she didn’t have us, she could have finished school and got a real job. By the time I was in 5th grade I was known in the area as someone who “ran with the wrong crowd,” which was doing drugs and drinking. The only thing that saved me from going over the edge was sports. I was involved in hockey, baseball, and soccer and played all three sports year-round. I was good, really good, and I was also on the honor roll, so I always had “good credit” that allowed me to get out of trouble when trouble found me.
As I came to the end of my 8th-grade year, I found myself in more legal trouble than my “good credit” could keep up with. I had been arrested several times and broke probation each time. Before the judge, I found myself being issued a juvenile detention center sentence that would last until I was 18, at which time the state would take another look at my case. Before the judge could finalize my fate, a gentleman from the back stood up and approached the bench. He spoke on my behalf and proposed a plan that, instead of juvenile detention, would allow me to attend 3-months of drug and alcohol rehabilitation and upon successful completion, and one year of probation, my records would disappear and I would have a clean slate. The judge agreed and I became a lifelong friend of that man. His name was Robert Bryant, the owner of Second Growth, a non-profit for troubled teens. I attended rehab, I completed my probation, and I took off with the new hope of my second chance.
After high school, with the funding help of Robert Bryant, I attended private school called Vermont Academy in Southern VT. There, I was on the Dean’s list both years and played baseball, hockey and ran cross country. I applied to four colleges and got accepted into all four. In the fall of 2000 I accepted entrance into Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston Massachusetts, where I would play both baseball and hockey. Over the summer of 2000, I debated on whether or not this was a good decision. I had no money, and my mother wasn’t able to support me financially for any of this. After talking with a few friends who were finishing their freshman summer program at The Naval Academy, I decided to enlist in the Marines and in August of 2000 I left for Parris Island, SC.
My Marine Corps career spanned a total of 16-years, which all started from a “dare” to join the Marines. I served 13-years on active duty and in 2013, I reenlisted into the Marine Corps Reserves, in order to advance my professional career in the civilian workplace. My overall experience in the Marines was great, and I enjoyed every single aspect of being an Infantry Marine deploying and fighting our nation’s battles. But, I found myself in a tough spot during my time served. Married and divorced twice in my first 10-years. In those 10-years, I had four deployments and four duty stations. I was unhappy, depressed, angry and generally confused. I had a hard time keeping a relationship. I was selfish. I lived very independently although I was partnered with someone else. I always had to be right, and everything had to be my way. I lacked sympathy, never displayed any empathy, and no matter what I had, it wasn’t enough.
I was told it was a mixture of PTS’d’ and combat stress with failure to adapt. That confused me even more because, “Marines like me,” that are hard-charging and highly combat decorated don’t get labeled with this stuff. We breathe fire and attack the hill. We are not weak. On top of all this, there was still no God in my life.
In April of 2011, just before Easter Sunday, a friend of a friend whom I had just met saw me and said “wow, you look like you could use some prayer. May I pray for you?” Not knowing exactly what to say, I said, “sure, but I don’t need your prayer.” Later in that week, she had contacted me and invited me to attend her church and an Easter Sunday BBQ. I declined both. She asked, again and again, I declined again and again. The next day, she called again and asked. I finally said, “YES, I will come,” just to get her to leave me alone. So, I attended my first Christian church ever on Easter Sunday in 2011, and that day I gave my life to God, and for the first time in my life, I fully submitted to Jesus. Later that year, I met Jessica, my wife and mother of our two kids. We got married in August of 2013. Life was great, but, really only on the outside. Along the time we had our first child, I started to revert back to my selfish ways. I wanted to be independent again. No matter what I had, it still wasn’t enough. I started to distancing myself from Jessica and soon our house lacked the love and caring ways. It was quiet, as I took attention away from her and put it into my son and other activities. It was depressing and I was too prideful to admit, and change it. Our Church community loved us, as we were active members. I was even an instructor, teaching classes on ministry and God’s purpose of serving, but it was all a mask. Each day, I would put on the mask, but nothing ever penetrated that mask. I kept up the charade until December 2016 when my wife forwarded me a copy of Chad’s and Kathy’s story. I put it off for a few weeks, but then one day while driving home, I listened to it. I was hooked.
I felt, for the first time in years, that it was OK to feel the way I was feeling and that I wasn’t alone. That if this man, who was very much like me, could do what he did, having been through what he went through, I knew I could too.
In mid-December of 2016, I attended my first program. I was scared, but eager to see what Mighty Oaks was about. That first experience was beyond words and deserves an entire story alone. Before Mighty Oaks, I was alone, angry, depressed, confused and prideful. I pushed everyone away who wanted to help but allowed those who truly didn’t care in. I kept my mask on daily. After Mighty Oaks, when I came home, my wife couldn’t believe it. Who was this man of God standing in front of her? All of the bitterness, resentment, anger, and rage was gone. God had spoken to me and His spirit woke me up.
I had been dead for my entire life and it took Mighty Oaks, and a touch from God to wake me up.