The story you're about to read is personal. It's about the lives of a family struggling that almost didn't make it until we met a neighbor named Eric who (undoubtedly through his deceased son, gave freely and without hesitation). Liam and I are very introverted but as we sit, small business owners, people seem to want to know the story. His story. So I will tell it. Not because we want notoriety or pity, but because there is a stigma behind our veterans (or anyone struggling) that seeking mental health treatment is "bad". We will sacrifice our privacy in the hopes that we help someone else struggling. Even if it's just one person, it's worth it. So, if you want to know about BlackGuard, here it is. Read kindly and reserve criticism, for.......
"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen" - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
My name is Kristi and I'm the fiancee of Liam, the man behind BlackGuard Customs and most of the incredible art work and hand crafted tactical gear seen on this website. I moved to a neighborhood in North Austin three years ago and used to run along the jogging trail of Rattan Creek Park. There in the park sits a beautiful memorial bench of a young Marine named Cpl Chad Oligschlager and on occasion as passing, I'd see folks sitting there, in peace. I had no idea that the very neighbor living next door to me was the father of Cpl Chad, who along with family, created this bench to honor Chad because he'd been cremated with no grave site to visit. At that time I had no idea that within the next year and a half that I'd become a part of this family. I had never even spoken to them.
Liam came into my life about a year after my move next door to the Oligschlagers. It took another year for him to open up about what happened in Iraq - he'd been reluctant to tell me he'd been "blown up" twice as a Marine serving in the Corps and his unit has the highest ranking number of suicides. Since we've met, he's lost many brothers and the struggle is definitely real. He attended a funeral on his birthday last year and while it broke my heart he chose to go, I listened when he said, "Seeing my brother off is more important than celebrating my birthday". I had been trying to convince him to get into counseling for over a year when he met Eric, Cpl Chad's father next door. They became friends and Liam opened up to him about some of his issues returning from war and being on over eight different medications from the VA. Doctor after doctor said he was "mentally ill", bipolar, depressed, etc. So many frivolous diagnosis given for a problem they truly can't and don't understand. What they didn't tell him was that he could treat himself without the meds. They kept writing scripts and putting band-aids on open gashes still bleeding. They almost killed him. Still, he would not go to counseling. There was and still is this stigma that if you go to counseling you're "not a man", "crazy", "mental" and all that's implied.
Eric finally convinced him to go to counseling completely free of charge to us because it was paid for by the Cpl Chad Oligschlager PTSD Foundation they created in the absence of their son to help others struggling as they were abandoned by the very people whom hired them to "do their duty". Not only did the foundation provide him with counseling but they also provided me with counseling. I didn't know how to help him. I didn't know what "triggers" were but I was determined to learn. What I realized was that all along I had been grasping at the things I believed where "wrong" with him but never understood the magnitude to which he suffered inside his head. Even as a nurse, I just didn't get it. To this day I cannot debone a piece of meat in front of him because the smell and sound of it reminds him of the removal of dead bodies from a water bank that had been so deteriorated the flesh would fall off. I had no idea. I had no idea. This organization showed me how to help him. Until then I was spinning my wheels and inadvertently making things worse for him.
I encouraged Liam to do things that made him happy and one of those things was to quit the high paying contract job he hated more than anything in the world (because they made him shave his beard). So, jobless he began working in the garage with his hands because it made him feel a sense of accomplishment. A friend had sent him an axe one day for him to make a custom kydex sheath. He allowed him to keep the axe and as he pondered what to do with it, he decided to take a design and engrave into the metal and wood to make it beautiful, yet still keep it's functionality. He took this axe to an event with his friend Wes, from RAA. Everyone wanted to buy it so Wes paid to have many of them made to sell in his shop as part of his "Rogue" clothing line. From there a business was born.
We began hiring, creating, making, grinding, engraving, and finally succeeding. Soon our garage became too small and we moved into a 1700 sq ft shop in the little town of Liberty Hill, TX, where we are now. I run the office, Liam is the HMFIC, and we have three amazing friends that also work here as artists, apprentices, and photographers. We all come and go as we please and although our work is important to us, no sale of any product is worth time away from our family.
Are we successful? Absolutely! Not because we're rich (far from it) but because we are all on the road to recovery. We are alive, we are thriving, and we are still grinding. I don't know if we'll ever be a big famous company but for now, that's OK. We are OK. Liam loves what he does and he's good at it.
So we honor two of the people who helped get us here....
1. Wes of Rogue American Apparel - without you Liam may not have found his potential.
2. Eric Oligschlager and his son Cpl Chad. - without you Liam may not have found his happiness.
To anyone reading this please know that we owe a debt to the Cpl Chad PTSD Foundation far greater than money. We will continue to be at their events giving back as much as we can. This year we will have a booth for viewing some of our custom made axes, knifes, tactical gear, and more. We'd love to have your support to this wonderful organization and to the family who gives, and gives without receiving anything in return but the pride of knowing they've saved another veteran's life.
How to Donate: http://www.cplchado.org/support.html
Cpl Chad Website: http://www.cplchado.org/index.html
Eric, Julie, family, & Tania Glen, you saved this one and we only hope that our success in this business and the happiness restored will be good enough to make you proud and keep the organization going.
Thank you for giving so generously.
"All the Way Home"