Meet Andrew Minton of Fort Collins; he works with the American Legion George Beach Post 4 in Laporte and serves as the commander of the VFW Post 1781 in Fort Collins, but before all of that, Andrew had a much different profession.
“I served from 2010 to 2015 in the United States Marine Corps and got out as a G4 Corporal. I was an infantry machine gunner and did two deployments in Afghanistan. On my first deployment, I got hit by an IED blast and then on my second deployment, I got hit by a mortar that landed close to me, about fifty feet away. I was medevacked to Germany and then after that, I slowly processed out because I got hurt pretty bad,” Andrew said.
He received two purple hearts for his service, but along with that, he received two traumatic brain injuries, a punctured lung, and a fractured neck. Andrew said he was on military patrols doing operations, in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan, in the city of Sangin. In the second injury, they had just gotten off patrol and the mortars started coming in, Andrew said he wasn’t even sure what was happening at first.
His unit was the 3rd battalion, 4th Marines, based out of Twentynine Palms, California. On his first deployment, they hit an IED and the impact knocked out most of his teeth because his face hit the machine fun. The second explosion Andrew said is hard for him to recall because he was knocked unconscious.
“I was in Germany for about a month and a half before I got sent back to the United States and then I got sent back to Coronado in California,” Andrew said. “It was pretty rough there for a while.”
Andrew said that as a young man at the age of 22, he felt like he was seeing the Iraq war passing him by without a chance to get involved and contribute something, so he joined the Marines as soon as he could. Andrew is now 33 years old and said if anything his experiences have only made his feelings of patriotism stronger than before.
Based on Andrew’s experiences and sacrifices made during his time served in the military, it’s easy to understand why Veteran’s Day is so much more than just a day on a calendar. Since his time back in civilian life, he’s done nothing but dedicate himself to helping veterans much like himself with the uneasy road back to recovery.
“Veterans Day is very important to me, I’m a commander of the VFW, so a big part of what I do is helping veterans,” Andrew said. “If anything, the experiences I had in the military only made me feel stronger, to see what soldiers really go through because trying to help people get out, those first couple of years that you get out are like some of the hardest of your life. It took me about two years to get back on my feet after I got out because the transition really hard. There’s not much guidance when you’re getting out from the military or the VA, so that’s a big reason why I’m doing what I’m doing is to try and help veterans have an easier transition.”
According to Andrew, it’s not just the act of combat that veterans struggle to overcome, but largely it’s the adjustment to going back to a life of living on your own with no orders to follow.
“Mostly really the hardest part is that transition of ‘now you’re your own boss.’ You’re no longer told what to do all of the time, it’s a lot harder after you do that for years and years before you get out,” Andrew said. “I was only in for five years, but if you’re in for twenty years, it’s really hard. That’s the big reason that I do what I do as the commander of the VFW, we help veteran’s needs and help them navigate the VA, put homeless veterans hotels and stuff like that.”
Originally from northeast Ohio, Andrew has been living in northern Colorado for a little over four years now. After serving in the military, he spent two years as a fishing guide in Alaska on the Kenai peninsula. After helping a friend of his from the marines with a job, the two of them decided to move to Fort Collins to go to college. He’s currently finishing up his degree In Emergency Medicine and Fire Science at Aims Community College in Windsor. He said he’d like to finish up his paramedic license and then get a job in a hospital and slowly work on his nursing license and follow in the footsteps of so many of his family members who also work within the medical field. After graduating and his commitment to the VFW is up this summer, he plans to move to New Hampshire with his fiancé to be closer to family.
Based on his time spent with so many veterans through the American Legion and the VFW, Andrew said the main thing he notices veterans want is simply an acknowledgment. A simple act of saying hello and thanks can go so far, according to Andrew.
“A Veteran just really wants to hear thanks,” Andrew said. “It’s a hard day for Veterans, it does mean a lot, especially the Marine Corps because the Marines’ birthday is one day before Veterans Day, so those two days are kind of difficult, they’re just two days out of the year that people look forward to but also don’t look forward to if that makes sense.”
According to Andrew, the hardest part of his job is seeing the worst aspects of veterans’ transition back into society, much of which he said is often paired with homelessness and drug addiction that he largely feels could be avoided altogether.
“It’s really sad to see how riddled the homeless population is with veterans and drug abuse and mental health problems or how the two often go hand and hand as people are trying to cope,” Andrew said. “From what I see, really it’s a lot of mental health issues, and if we did a better job of helping those guys from the beginning with processing out and giving them more guidance, a lot of these people wouldn’t be where they’re at.”
Getting involved with the VFW definitely helped a lot with his own transition, so if you’re looking for a way to contribute or give back on this Veteran’s Day, Andrew said calling your local VFW post is always a great way to start because much in the same way it helped him, he’s seen firsthand how it’s helped so many others, as well.
“If anyone wants to help out in the community, if you look up VFW Post 1781 in Fort Collins, you can just look us up and give us a call, we always take donations, it’s a non-profit, so everything we make goes right back to the community of Fort Collins. I know it makes a big help and it’s always appreciated by so many people,” Andrew said.