June 2015 | Volume 001 | Issue 007

Clear Path for Veterans

Supporting the Journey Home

Miles and Maddy - Two of a Kind

Mark “Miles” Vigil was born August 11, 1982 and died tragically on November 29, 2010. He grew up in West Layton, where ironically, he attended Syracuse Jr. High School in Syracuse, Utah. In 2001, Miles watched the events of 9/11 unfold. His father Mark said “he was really upset. He felt like he had to do something.”

 

In 2002, he joined the Army and was stationed at Fort Drum, when not long after he was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Service came naturally to Miles. He constantly looked for ways to help others, in service to his country and to his community. Miles was always thinking of ways to give back even after he left the Army. His father notes, “He was one of a kind.”

 

After leaving the Army in 2006, Miles received his associate’s degree from Lemoyne College here in Syracuse. Two years later, he moved back to his hometown in Utah and began pursuing a career as a fireman. He graduated from the Fireman's academy and was once again ready to serve his community. He became involved in martial arts, and loved giving free jiujitsu lessons to elementary kids. As a way to overcome the stresses of his post combat life, he retreated to the water to spend time fly fishing and he enjoyed being in the peaceful presence of nature. Miles was wise beyond his years and his soul was warm and his heart was kind. He was a gentle giant and he cared deeply about his family, his friends and his country. Ask anyone who knew Miles why he gave so much of himself and they say “that’s just Miles. »

 

The love and support that Miles gave out was reciprocated from a group of men whom he saw as family. Champ, Earl, Steve and Dejuan served by his side and provided him with comfort and strength during their deployment together.  In a blog written in 2009 Miles says “It is nice to know that you have backup whenever you need it. They taught me family can form out of sweat and blood, and a few hundred sandbags, and pound cakes.” He loved his military brothers, and they in turn will forever remember Miles as the “one of a kind” person his Dad describes.

 

Memorial Day is a day to commemorate those whom we have lost in battle. There’s an understanding and acceptance that our military men and women sometimes succumb to death while serving their country; we rarely memorialize those whose front line battle might be at home. Miles lost his battle at home and committed suicide in November 2010. It was a tragedy that shook the souls of those who knew him. I never knew Miles, but countless stories from family and friends serve as evidence that his life has forever changed them, both while he was alive and how he died.

 

In September 2011, I had the privilege of meeting Earl Fontenot. While working as a Veteran Liaison for Congresswomen Ann Marie Buerkle, Earl was asked to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for Clear Path for Veterans. It wasn’t until several months later, that I learned Earl’s passion and commitment to serving Veterans stemmed from the loss of one of his best friends, Miles Vigil. Earl had a passion to serve, so when Congresswoman Buerkle lost the race in November 2012, he agreed to join Clear Path for Veterans as our first paid staff member. Here, Earl met Maddy Spicer, a dog who is largely responsible for why Clear Path exists today.

 

I adopted Maddy in 2001 and because of a medical condition that left me unable to have children, Maddy was my rock. She was a certified therapy dog and knew just what to do to make people happy. For 13 years she led me on a path of helping others. Maddy was my Miles, and she helped me find my way to serving my community and eventually, our Veterans. She watched my back and stood my by side through good and bad. Like Miles, Maddy was a gentle soul and graced visitors with her warm personality and she changed people’s lives.

 

In April 2013, Maddy’s life was nearing its end. The time had come for my husband and I to make the difficult decision to putt her to sleep and end her suffering. Although dying is an inevitable part of all living things, when and how is often the hardest for those left behind. Something drew me to call Mile’s Dad Mark, and I picked up the phone and shared my sadness. I believe it was Miles who pushed me to call his Dad and for a brief period of time, our sadness melted away and we talked about the two things we loved most, Miles and Maddy. From that phone call forward, Mark and I forever committed ourselves to a legacy of service in their memory. In the end, we were both comforted in knowing that Maddy and Miles would be together.

 

This Memorial Day marks an opportunity for us to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. In addition, let us reflect on those who have lead generous and impactful lives. Miles and Maddy gave birth to a long line of service to others and we are forever grateful to their legacy. From everyone at Clear Path, we hope that you too have had the privilege of knowing a Miles and Maddy.

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Our Mission:

Recognizing the responsibility of communities to help those who serve, Clear Path for Veterans empowers service members, veterans, and their families through supportive programs and services in a safe, respectful environment.

We are a community based non profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2011 in rural upstate New York. Our mission revolves around connecting our Veterans to their communities through wellness, peer support, community outreach and education. We do this by accepting our role and responsibility in caring for those who’ve served. Founded on principles and values of traditional warrior culture, Clear Path’s model of reintegration mirrors traditions hundreds of years old.

www.ClearPath4Vets.com | 1223 Salt Springs Road, Chittenango, NY | 315-687-3300