Warriors of Camp Southern Ground
Matt is a Warrior Week alum. Born and raised in California, Matt dropped out of college to join the Navy. This is his story.
My name is Matt Ellis, and I attended Warrior Week at Camp Southern Ground in February 2022. That time frame was hands down one of the darkest and lowest points of my life. Camp Southern Ground was my cry for help. But getting to the bottom was a result of all my experiences, starting decades before that.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My upbringing isn’t anything spectacular or notable. My parents are still married after 45+ years, and I have one younger brother who is also a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, and recent Warrior Week alumni.
I am a product of a post-9/11 world. I remember everything about that day, where I was, what I was doing, who told me about the attacks. I struggled in college for a few years before dropping out and enlisting as a Master at Arms in the U.S. Navy. I deployed twice to southern Iraq. The latter of which was as a Military Working Dog handler (Explosive Detection). The deployment was dynamic, and highly operational. I was a young man then in my 20’s and felt invincible. Upon returning home, I was different. Longtime friends, family, and those that knew me best knew it. However, I refused to acknowledge that I had PTS (it’s not a disorder).
Fast forward 12 years, my marriage was going down the divorce path, and I finally wanted to tackle the elephant in the room. Short tempered, distant, emotionally unavailable… I hated who I was. My friend recommended Camp Southern Ground, and I applied to attend Warrior Week.
The week I spent at Camp Southern Ground was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I learned about my Clifton Strengths, and how to apply those strengths based on who I am at my core using the Enneagram personality assessment. I learned how to overcome overthinking, how to stay even keel, and how to ensure I’m looking after my own wellness. I may not be in control of the emotions I feel, but I am in control of my reactions to those emotions.
Perhaps the most poignant thing that happened to me was about a week or so after Warrior Week concluded. On the first day of WW the photographer, Darrick came up and told me he was going to get a picture of me smiling. I laughed and shrugged it off. We talked and I learned he is a fellow Navy Chief like me. A week later I received an email with a link to my cohorts’ photos that Darrick had taken. I stumbled on three pictures of a guy wearing a green shirt and a ball cap. There was a huge genuine smile on his face, the type that can only be associated with a belly full of laughter, a passion for life, and a desire to stay present and in the moment. The catch…. I didn’t recognize him for about five seconds. And then it clicked, that person in the photo was me! I knew in that moment I had a choice. I could live everyday like the person in that photo, or I could go back to the person I had become. Nothing changes if nothing changes. I dove in deeper to my strengths. I studied my personality type. I applied everything I learned during Warrior Week. Here I am, nearly two years after Warrior Week. The divorce wrapped up amicably, my kids are thriving, I’m thriving, and none of this would have been possible without everyone at Camp Southern Ground. I cannot thank them enough!!!
As veterans we will always have struggles in life that very few people will understand, or even comprehend. Camp Southern Ground equipped me for the internal battles and how to struggle well. They gave me a battle plan for life.
When you feel frozen or stuck in your tracks, all you must do is take a single step. That single step will get you closer to the objective, and you may not know what the end game or objective is, but that step gets you closer, nonetheless. Take that leap of faith, and you just may surprise yourself at how resilient you really are.
Help us make a difference in the lives of more veterans like Matt.