A Veteran's Story...
Many of you have reached out to me over the course of the last couple of months inquiring about my lack of presence at sporting events within West Michigan. For starters I am humbled that you took a moment out of your life to show me such concern, I can not begin to tell you how truly grateful I am. So, lets get on with it.
Many of you know me as a sports photographer, a wedding photographer, a friend, a Dad to four awesome kids, and a husband. In 2017 our lives, our world, was turned upside down. In my prior career I was a Paramedic in West Michigan. I loved it, loved teaching new paramedics, loved helping those in need, loved making a difference in a person’s life. Through it, I made lifelong friends and formed lasting bonds that occur between public service folks. On June 13, 2017 (June 13th is my birthday) I responded to a call where a young patient was brutally beaten to death. Although successful in resuscitating him, going as far as to wipe a tear from his right eye and whispering into his right ear, “I’ve got you little man, you’re safe with me”, he eventually succumbed to his injuries and passed away. June 14, 2017 was my last day as a paramedic. The next 18 months were spent in intense therapy, learning the skills and life modifications necessary to handle the traumatic stress that call left on my soul. I had my friends who always had my six, and I had my family. I was able to walk through those shadows and emerge on the other side, a stronger man.
From then on, life was good! I was able to change careers, taught myself advertising, technology platforms, and systems. It seemed like life was taking us in the right direction, until November of 2019. A wonderful friend of ours, and an amazing (and award winning I might add) nurse at a prestigious local hospital in West Michigan, divulged to us that she and her son were suffering several issues at the hands of her husband. She was hurt emotionally, she was scared, so like any good friends would do, we listened, and we supported her, we had her six.
At the time, Bri (my wife) was in her second trimester with our son, Noah. Her pregnancy was progressing well, she and baby were healthy and doing great. In November of 2019 our friend chose to file for divorce from her husband, and that is when our lives were once again turned upside down.
Michigan is a “no fault” divorce state, except when it comes to allocation of assets. Upon realizing this, her husband began levying allegations of an affair in his divorce proceedings. These allegations were directed solely at me. As you can imagine, one’s honor is something that a military veteran takes exceedingly serious. These allegations made me angry, I’m sure they would do the same to any honorable husband in my position. Unfortunately, it worsened when he began spreading lies to our neighbors, former friends of ours. I wish I could say it stopped there, unfortunately that simply isn’t the case. Bri began to suffer substantial stress, entering a deep depression late in her pregnancy. Her stress manifested itself physically as well, causing her to develop polyhydramnios and suffer from physical pain associated with that. Little did we know, at the time, that these effects would be far reaching. Our son Noah was born in March of 2020, Now, at 20 months old, Noah is still unable to communicate verbally with formed words and this development disability has been directly linked to Bri’s development of polyhydramnios in her 3rd trimester. The stress she endured from the lies being levied at her husband made its way to our son.
Yet again, through it all, we chose to take the high road. It wasn’t until a couple months ago when my daughter, after coming home from school, asked me “why does (name omitted)’s Daddy say you’re a bad man?” That was the last straw, the line in the sand had been crossed. I had to act, I had to do something to correct this, to make this stop. This individual lives in my neighborhood, a mere handful of houses away from me. His son and may daughter attended the same school, and are in the same class.
I chose to exercise my legal options and filed a civil suit again the individual, for defamation. I filed the suit, retained one of the best lawyers on the planet, and genuinely fantastic individual, and we plead our case. The case was initially assigned to a neutral circuit court Judge in Ottawa County. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to remain so. My character was excoriated by the Judge handling our friends divorce case. The same Judge who firmly believes that bias against fathers in family court is an infection, bought the lies of this individual, and in doing so, chose to disparage my character. This same Judge happens to be the Chief Judge of that circuit, ordering my case away from the neutral Judge and into his court.
I am not one to make allegations without evidence yet having spoken to dozens of friends within law enforcement that know this Judge, they all have stated that his actions and his crusade within this case are far and away outside of his character. So why here, why now, and why me? I can only assume that this Chief Judge has a distain for military veterans. Such a thought leaves me heartbroken as a society, that we’ve fallen so far as to allow a sitting Chief Circuit Court Judge to openly display such vitriol and hatred towards military veterans.
I’m sorry for the anger you may read here. It’s frustrating that individuals can lie, that those lies can be bought, believed, and protected by a Judge, and that the realization that justice is not at all blind. In full disclosure, a veteran’s oath to this country is something they take seriously and that stays with them until they leave this life. What I’ve experienced here leaves me heartbroken. Heartbroken for my son, heartbroken for my wife, heartbroken for my community.
--We are better than this, we deserve better, we should demand better.