Warrior Reminds Us That Giving Season is Every Season
Army veteran Brian “Amarok” Critton loves riding his motorcycle. It gives him peace of mind, and an escape from the noise in his head. One afternoon, while doing what he loves, Amarok came across a devastating scene. He saw three wrecked cars on the highway, the site of an accident that had just happened. Smoke was billowing from the car in the center, a woman still inside.
Amarok did what came naturally to him. He pulled over and ran to help. The woman in the car was shaking violently and coughing. As he was on the scene, he saw a flame spark. The woman he was trying to talk to told him she couldn’t move. Rushing to his instincts, Amarok managed to pull her from the car and carry her away from the vehicle to the sidewalk. When the police arrived to take over and he knew the woman would be alright, Amarok got back on his bike and continued to his destination. He didn’t wait around for accolades. Helping someone else is just human nature, at least for him.
The Start of Service
Amarok decided to join the Army after 9/11. He remembers the high school he was attending in New York being evacuated on that fateful day and constantly being afraid of planes crashing overhead. He felt he needed to do something about it – both to fight that fear in his mind, and to fight on behalf of his country and those killed that day.
The men and women who serve this country, it’s not just for them. It's for the ones they love.
“The importance of serving is I feel like I could make my family safer,” Amarok said. “The men and women who serve this country, it’s not just for them. It's for the ones they love.”
Amarok enlisted in 2002, as soon as he was eligible. He signed up to be an infantry soldier, all the while knowing going to war wasn’t only a possibility, but a distinct probability. That probability became a reality when he was sent to Iraq in 2006.
“I knew that joining meant I'd be going to war,” Amarok said. “I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew there was a chance of dying. But I just thought, I couldn't see myself doing nothing, and walking around afraid.”
The Wounds of War
Amarok may have known that joining the Army post-9/11 likely mean spending time in combat. But it would be almost impossible for someone to know the toll that could take, especially when you see your fellow soldiers wounded and killed. Then there are other difficulties, like being separated from spouses, children, and other family members.
Amarok struggled with the pain of not being able to save other soldiers he knew who didn’t make it home. He struggled with wondering whether he made a selfish decision by remaining in the military and leaving his family back home to go war. The heartbreak of a long-distance breakup with his fiancée sent him spiraling further.
“I really wished that I had somebody who could say, ‘I know how you feel. I'm going through the same thing,’” Amarok said. “So, it was such a lonely feeling. It was pretty much maddening. I had to put that in the back of my head to focus on the missions that we had overseas, but these things led to me attempting to take my life twice. That's the importance of me sharing my story.”
Save Yourself to Save Others
Amarok knew his mental health was in jeopardy. He knew he had to find something to help pull him out of the dark if he were going to be able to help others. While in Iraq, Amarok found music as an outlet. When he returned from overseas, he had the opportunity to perform on stage and share his story with others. He found someone new to share his life with and built a family.
He also found Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and was able to get help with his mental health and connect to other veterans who were going through similar things. Amarok credits WWP with helping him better communicate with his family and be able to enjoy more opportunities and moments with his wife and children.
“I would have never thought of [doing] these things because I felt so isolated,” Amarok said. “They opened up my eyes. They opened up my relationship with my family. They made it better. They've given somebody who, at certain points hated his life, something to live for and look forward to. Thank you doesn't even cover how it felt. I can't express it, other than everything that they've done in my life has made me more whole and complete.”
With a better outlook and more knowledge of resources, Amarok went back to serving others. He shares his story about his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with his more than 170,000 TikTok followers. He stays up until 2 am, or as late as he has to, if a veteran reaches out and needs someone to talk to.
“The worst thing a veteran can do is sit alone in a room, and bury themselves in their thoughts,” Amarok said. “The most dangerous moments in my life were when I had no one to talk to … I had no activities in my life, no hobbies, nothing. That's what got me in my darkest moments. So, my advice would be to get out there. If you don't want to talk to anybody, that's fine. Do something that you love and that takes your mind out of itself.”
After getting help himself, Amarok found a purpose again in serving other veterans.
“I've literally done almost everything I've ever dreamed of,” he said. “With that being so, the only thing that drives me is helping other vets. There's no lack of fulfillment in that respect because it's a never-ending mission.”
Amarok knows firsthand that it takes a lot of caring and compassionate people to help veterans live fulfilling lives and get the help they deserve for their service. He credits veterans service organizations like WWP, and the donors who support warriors with making a life-saving difference in the lives of veterans and their families.
“When somebody thanks me for my service, I thank them for their patriotism,” Amarok said. “It's so important for us to know that our mission doesn't just end when we put down the M16. These donations really let us know that we're not alone.”
This is what I like to do. This [riding] is where I can have thoughts and feelings and not be judged. That's where I talk to the dead; people that I lost overseas. That's where I cry. So, this bike, it's not just a gift, it's an extension of a part of myself.
One corporate partner, Harley-Davidson, has a long history of supporting veterans and recently thanked Amarok for his service with the surprise of a lifetime. The motorcycle-loving warrior was presented with a military-inspired Harley from the company’s new G.I. Enthusiast Collection.
“I'm still blown away by it,” Amarok said. “I ride every day. I’ve had this bike for about two months now, and I think I'm already over 6,000 miles. This is what I like to do. This [riding] is where I can have thoughts and feelings and not be judged. That's where I talk to the dead; people that I lost overseas. That's where I cry. So, this bike, it's not just a gift, it's an extension of a part of myself.”
Warriors like Amarok, corporate partners like Harley-Davidson, and donors like you are everyday proof that the season of giving is alive and well all year round.
“I'm seeing patriotic people out there who care about us veterans, and do all these things,” Amarok said. “Sometimes you kind of see the negative more than you see the positive but seeing [what donors do] overpowers a lot of those negative things.”
Learn more about how to support warriors on their journeys to recovery.
Contact: — Paris Moulden, Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.570.7910
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.