Previous Next
Justin P.

A Hometown Hero.

When Justin P. graduated from college, he didn’t feel the urgency to get a job just for himself – he also needed to provide for his newborn daughter.

“I told my girlfriend that if I couldn’t get a job by this specific time, I was going to join the military,” Justin said. “But apparently, I didn’t do enough research because I could have gone in as an officer, and instead, I went in as enlisted.”

Justin’s focus was centered around his daughter; if she had a better quality of life, that was most important.

Not long after, he was in Fort Moore, Georgia (formerly Fort Benning), for basic training as a combat medic, followed by AIT at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The first nine weeks covered his EMT certification, and the last portion was the combat medic side – things like needle decompression of the chest, stopping the bleed, getting a clear airway, etc. 

“We joked that we had 16 weeks of medical school,” he laughed.

Then, it was off to Grafenwöhr, Germany, in May 2010, where Justin completed his pre-deployment training. They trained through trauma lanes, assessing pseudo-patients with various trauma wounds under stressful conditions to ensure they’d be able to stay level and focused during live action. They also traveled to Poland to do animal labs – but we’ll spare you the details of those experiences. 

Finally, in July 2011, it was time to deploy to Afghanistan.

They started at a forward operating base (FOB) in the Nangarhar Province for a few weeks before their company was attached to the 10th Mountain Division in the Logar Province. 

“Initially, our mission was more hearts and minds – building relationships with the community members,” Justin explained. “But it didn’t take long for us to be immersed in the medical side.

“They would bring kids to the aid station who had been shot, and that was so tough. Sometimes, we would just go into the community and help kids who had been injured in other ways.

“I remember one kid who had been burned in a grease fire, and he had these old bandages still wrapped around his wounds. It looked like it was going to get infected. So, we would just change bandages out and provide basic levels of care…but it stuck with me.

“Anytime I encountered a child that was injured, I could only see my kid.”

Justin told us about how when you’re deployed with your unit, you’re all experiencing similar things. You’re also actively trying not to think about it. When they would go back to their barracks at the end of the night, they would play video games or watch a show together. 

A few times each week, Justin would use Skype to video chat with his daughter, Madison. They were looking for as much normalcy as possible in a very un-normal environment.

And they definitely weren’t unpacking all of the emotions around what they were seeing or doing. They would push them down as far as they could and talk about what they wanted to do as soon as they got home.

“We were always saying that,” Justin said. “‘When I get home, I’m going to do this. When I get home, I’m going to do that.’ It was all about getting back home.”

After a long year abroad, Justin’s deployment was over, and he flew back to Germany for a little while before he decided to re-enlist. 

“I wanted to work at Walter Reed, and they accommodated that request. By April 2013, I was in Washington, D.C.”

Justin served at the military hospital for two years and concluded his service on July 29, 2015. Provide a better quality of life for Madison: mission accomplished. 

Unfortunately, the hard work wasn’t over. A new battle lay before him, and this one was harder to see coming…and even harder to navigate. 

“The first years after I got out of the Army, more than a dozen of the soldiers I was stationed with had taken their own lives, and for a few years after, I thought about doing the same every single day.”

Justin was struggling and stopped checking in with friends and withdrew. Then, he and Madison’s mom divorced. Combined with the tough transition from military service to civilian life, it was a lot to manage.

But Justin kept his eyes on his daughter, and she remained his top priority. As he began to heal, he met his now-wife Ariel, a person he described as “a real-life angel.” Together, the two of them helped him find a path forward.

That led him to an opportunity with theCHIVE, where he combined his military service and caretaking in an office manager role – coordinating countless details and handling all of the logistics it takes for a team to operate seamlessly. 

We, of course, adored him.

That’s why when our good friends and partners at Hometown Hero asked if we knew of a Veteran who could use some support, we knew just the person.

Justin had silently managed his symptoms of post-traumatic stress for years, trying holistic treatments and looking for ways to prioritize his mental health and well-being. 

After the VA released some studies on sweat tents and lodges and their reduction in cortisol levels - the hormone that plays a role in stress response - Justin began researching at-home options. The sticker shock was real.

Hometown Hero is more than just a brand; they’re a testament to the enduring spirit of community, compassion, and wellness. In 2015, two friends, Lukas Gilkey and Lewis Hamer, embarked on a mission to craft high-quality, plant-based goods from the heart of Austin, Texas.

Lukas, a proud U.S. Coast Guard Veteran, had witnessed firsthand the challenges and struggles faced by his friends who had served in different branches of the military. These experiences left an indelible mark on Lukas, inspiring him to take action.

From the very beginning, the core principle that has guided them is the belief that true hometown heroes are all around us and they deserve our unwavering support. 

Lukas and Lewis made a profound commitment to give back to those who have dedicated themselves to protecting and serving their country while also making sure they have access to safe hemp-derived goods.

That’s why they donate a portion of their profit to nonprofit organizations that help Veterans in need. They demonstrated that unwavering commitment when they agreed to support Justin and honor and celebrate his service by funding a medically-related need. 

With their generous support, Chive Charities was able to fully fund the cost of an infrared sauna to supplement Justin’s therapeutic treatment for a total impact of $10,550.

But as a fellow Chiver and beloved friend, we couldn’t just email Justin the news. No way. Instead, we called his wife Ariel and made her keep one of the biggest secrets of the year from him. 

Under false pretenses, we invited Justin back to HQ to “talk about his application.” When he arrived, the full Chive Charities team, Hometown Hero, and theCHIVE employees were waiting downstairs to surprise him. His face says it all:

For someone who has done so much for others – and for an organization like Hometown Hero that proudly supports them – it was a win all around.

We know we can speak for ourselves and Hometown Hero when we say that this impact isn’t possible without supporters like you. Our Veterans are true heroes, regardless of their military branch, time in service, number of deployments, or any other labels that might be attached to them. They served our country and fought for our freedom. If they have a need, we want to support it. 

Thank you for showing your support and giving back to those who place service over self. To Justin and the 16 million Veterans in the U.S., we thank you. And to the people and organizations who recognize them as the heroes they are, we thank you, too.

(Psst, you can be part of helping the helpers, too. Become a monthly subscriber and join us in life-changing impact. DONATE HERE.)

Justin P.'s Updates

Check back soon for updates!