Fishing (and driving) for calm in the mountains
A veteran suffering from PTSD is healing now in the mountains of North Carolina — and recently received a new truck through a program sponsored by Wells Fargo.
Michael Scoggin almost lost his life in the mountains of Afghanistan four years ago when his Air Force base came under attack. Today, he is regaining his life in the mountains of North Carolina — driving scenic roads, fly fishing in nearby streams, and taking college business classes. “This is where I really find myself,” says Michael, 32, a decorated (and now retired) Air Force staff sergeant and air warfare electronics technician. He lives near Boone, “where I can think and process things I’ve gone through. It has helped me grow and heal.”
He is the first veteran to receive a new vehicle through Wells Fargo’s sponsorship of Transportation4Heroes, a program of the nonprofit Military Warriors Support Foundation. The nonprofit has worked with Wells Fargo Dealer Services to provide mortgage-free homes to veterans since 2013.
Michael and his wife, Amber, were honored by the donation Nov. 5 during half time at the televised football game between Appalachian State and Arkansas State. Wells Fargo Dealer Services teamed up with a customer, Discovery Chevrolet Buick GMC of Boone, which donated a 2016 Silverado 4WD truck. Dealer Services donated three years of pre-paid gas and maintenance services and one year of monthly family budget financial counseling.
“On the battlefield, our military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a community, we must ensure that when these brave warriors return home, we work hard to care for them and let them know we appreciate their service to our great country,” said dealership owner Kevin Geagan during the halftime ceremony. He and former Appalachian State Coach Jerry Moore presented the keys of the vehicle to Michael.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to be part of a program that helps veteran heroes in such a tangible way,” says Bill Katafias, Dealer Services’ national production manager. “Both Michael and Amber have served our country valiantly, and it was our sincere pleasure to assist them with this form of appreciation for their sacrifice and service.”
For Michael, who served four tours of duty in the Middle East and now studies business at Appalachian State, even attending the game was a milestone. He says he still deals with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes him uncomfortable in crowds and noisy settings. He credits Jerry Moore, a coaching legend at Appalachian State, for helping him. Moore, who led the team to three straight NCAA Division I FCS championships, is a spokesman for the dealership that donated the truck.
“People say I looked really calm, but to be honest, Coach Moore was super strong for me there,” Michael says. “I got to spend some time with him before the game. He just really calmed me down. I went through everything and I was fairly comfortable through the whole thing.”
Dealing with PTSD has been a challenge, he says. He recalls being in class when a classmate’s cellphone blasted out a loud, fire-alarm ringtone. Reacting instinctively, Scoggin hit the floor to take cover, then got up and hurried out of the room after realizing what had happened. Other students laughed nervously, he says. Later, the professor asked Michael to speak to the class about war and PTSD, and it became an educational experience for everyone, he says. A number of students told him they appreciated his courage, and now several of them are now interested in helping him start a nonprofit.
Drawing from his love of the outdoors, Michael is working to start the nonprofit for sharing the therapeutic value of fly fishing and other outdoor life.
“I’m never happier these days than when I take other people fishing and see them catch their first fish,” he says. “I think there are so many others who could benefit from learning to love the outdoors, such as children with special needs, single moms, and people with physical disabilities.”