Being Part of the Teams: Good for the Heart, Good for the Soul

Sooner or later, there comes a time when the unexpected rears its head and turns your life upside down.  This change can be for the good or bad, depending upon how you react to it.  For service members and veterans out there, our deployments, loss of friends, separation from loved ones, or some other occurrence during our time in the service had a lasting impact on our lives, forever changing the man or woman we were to become.  But let’s not forget that such life changing events can also affect our civilian counterparts.

Several years ago, while still a young man in the latter part of his high school years, Devin Givens, a resident of Seattle, Washington experienced something that someone so young should never have to experience.  At the young age of 16, Devin was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury and told he would forever be wheelchair bound.  As any one of us could imagine, such a dire prognosis can severely impact the life of a teenager. Devin, upon learning of his injury, tried his best to fight back and defy what the doctors bluntly stated as life-altering. In some ways he succeeded but, as a result of his constant battle, he turned inward, exhibiting classic signs of PTSD – aversion to social gatherings, anxiety, and helplessness, all to be expected when suffering from something so dire.  For a few years following the incident, Devin continued to suffer from many of these unfortunate symptoms, to the point where he was unsure of what the future held for him.

In 2014, Army veteran Chance McPheron, an infantryman who served with 3rd and 4th Infantry Brigade in Ft. Lewis,
learned of an event called an 8-Bit Salute which sounded like it would be up his alley.  After participating in the event, both monetarily as well as physically, Chance was hooked and found something he wished to be a part of.  He investigated the event a bit further a learned about OSD and what they were trying to do within the active duty and veteran community.  It didn’t take long until he was fully onboard with the organizations mission and vision.  After participating and hosting a few events of his own, Chance was approached by OSD in early 2015 to help start up the Seattle chapter of the newly created Teams program that OSD was spearheading.  With little hesitation, Chance gratefully accepted but wasn’t fully prepared for the amount of work and dedication that such a responsibility required.

Shortly after standing up the Seattle team in 2015, Chance was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed.  An introverted person by nature, he was having a difficult time hosting events and building the team membership.  The only positive he found from the events he was organizing was that one particular member was constantly attending the various online and offline gatherings.

PAX Prime was just around the corner and Chance wanted to ensure his Seattle chapter had a presence.  But, he knew there was a glaring hole that needed to be addressed before attending.  His group exhibited all the attributes of a successful team – scheduled events, engaged membership, and successful fundraising campaigns.  However, it sorely lacked in one area – civilian leadership and engagement. While contemplating this issue one day, Chance realized the solution was staring him right in the face.  The one member who kept attending all of his meet-ups and events, Devin Givens, was a perfect example of the kind of dedication and leadership he envisioned in his civilian counterpart. So, without hesitation, Chance asked Devin if he would take on the responsibility of being his civilian lead of the Seattle team and Devin gratefully accepted.

Bringing on Devin as the Civilian Lead has been a blessing in disguise for the Seattle Chapter. While Chance brings the military experience, knowledge, and understanding to the team, Devin adds a whole new element that Chance didn’t know he was missing. With Devin came an abundance of fresh, new ideas for fundraising, community, and volunteering. He brought an exuberance of dedication and passion. But, most importantly, he was a perfect example of how helping others can actually end up helping oneself.

After the incident, Devin began heading down a very isolated path, one that resulted in him dropping out of high school, pushing away long-time friends, and giving up on hobbies he was passionate about.  It wasn’t until several years later that he realized a change was necessary.  He began searching for
something that would bring a little ray of light into his life and realized that the one thing he really wanted to do was help others.  It just so happened that this desire came about right around the time he heard of an event that Chance was hosting.  Once he read more into the fundraising event, he knew he found what he was always searching for – an organization that was passionate about serving those that served for him.  Devin began attending and participating, filling Chance’s head with ideas for future events.  It was this dedication that Chance admired and which made the decision to bring him onboard as the civilian lead easy.

Over the past year that the duo has been leading the chapter, many wonderful things have happened.  Online participation and membership has grown to over 200, in-person gatherings for events has exceeded their expectations, and the number of events they host or participate has grown exponentially.  The OSD Seattle team has increased their participation in the community, working with the Warrior Transition Battalion in Ft. Lewis to host gatherings with the military community, meeting up with Supply Drop recipients, and attending events like the upcoming Emerald City Comic Con and PAX Prime.  Devin has a lot more ideas for changes that need to be made like creating a bigger impact in the community, growing their own membership, and working with local veteran owned businesses.  Additionally, what was once just two acquaintances hanging out at various events has become a close friendship, one which provides a shoulder to lean on when times get rough. But the biggest change that occurred wasn’t something that happened within the community or team.  It was something that happened internally, taking over a year to unfold.  By participating and being active with the OSD Seattle team, Devin found a new purpose and goal in life, something that allowed him to grow as a person.  While some see his volunteerism as giving to the community, it’s what the community and OSD has given him that means so much.  They are helping him as much as he helps them.  And therein lies the beauty.