BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The military became a calling for Western New York native Mike Shurmatz after the September 11th attacks. He was a junior at Sweet Home High School...9/11 was also his birthday.
Shurmatz was stationed at Fort Drum and served in Iraq from 2009-2010. While overseas, he was promoted to Captain.
"I was just like all in the military. I fit in, I was good at it. I was physically active, I felt like I was really developing as a leader," Shurmatz recalled. But he left the military and returned to Western New York in 2011.
"And I was really happy to be home, but low and behold like four or five months later, I was like what am I doing with my life?" he said. Shurmatz struggled with work, family and every day life.
"You are trained and built to drive forward, to keep moving...the mission is first, you are not more important than the mission. But what happens when you don't know what your mission is?" he said. Four years later Shurmatz joined "We are Dwyer," a peer support program at the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York.
"Dwyer is one of those lifelines to help veterans," Shurmatz said. "We are Dwyer" is in honor of PFC Joseph P. Dwyer. He was just 31 when he died in 2008 after suffering from PTSD, substance abuse and depression. The program's purpose is to give veterans and their families a place to connect through events, community service and social activities.
"It got me back with people that I felt understood me and I understood them," he said. Passion, purpose and hope--three words that describe "We are Dwyer." Three words Shurmatz proudly wears on his sleeve.
"I was really nervous about doing it, but I am so glad that I did because I feel like a whole new person now that I've reconnected with some of my brothers and sisters and something that really is a part of who I am," he said.