As the smoke settles from our grills and Fourth of July fireworks, one reflection we must look at is those who fight for our country. One of those brave men and women is Stuart Lips, an Australian immigrant who played football at Marshall and is now a member of Bravo Company, 1-148 Infantry Battalion for the Army-National Guard.
Growing up, Lips had always wanted to be in the military and even debated joining the Australian Military but loved America so much he wanted to stay and serve here. He went to high school in Kentucky for his senior year then later walked on to the Marshall football team.
During his time at Marshall it was an uphill battle trying to fight for playing time while also trying to find self-worth while being on the team. His time at Marshall ended after a car accident but he still was not shy of being in the sports world. He made a run at trying to become a professional golfer and was a rugby coach at Thomas Moore University.
The biggest hurdle in his mental health journey was when he joined the military. “When I got back from basic there were a couple mornings sat on the couch and would just start balling crying and my wife would ask ‘What’s wrong?’ and I would say ‘I have no idea’ because I had gone through this whole breakdown and lost a lot of confidence in myself.” He had talked about how the entire basic training process is a breakdown and build up into the man the military wants, but it is designed for kids out of high school not a man over 30 with two kids and a wife.
Both Stuart and his wife have struggled with mental health issues but have been struggling for help. Being in the military he is on military insurance but struggles to find a therapist or psychiatrist that will take their insurance and not cost between $200-$400. Lips brought up an alternative method that has helped him and his friends out which is just sitting down for a beer or coffee and as Stuart said “having a chat” because in that you find yourself ranting about things but being able to relieve the stress of it. “There’s a difference between hey contact this person or here’s a phone number or here’s an email address as opposed to having a conversation” Stuart has buddies who have seen the harder side of war and have been struggling but they have been able to get through their struggles like a team and rely on each other.
Reflecting on the Fourth of July, Stuart made sure to make his pride in this country known. “My boys are born on Memorial Day and July Fourth, we love American holidays and we celebrate them. Sometimes I just sit back and appreciate that I get to live here and I get to be a part of the U.S. Military, get to raise my family here and we do have it pretty good in this country.” So as we sit back and reflect on where we are, we thank the men and women who fight for us.