Winston Bromley and Michael O'Dell

Recorded June 14, 2021 Archived June 13, 2021 39:29 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000875


Micheal O'Dell (33) is interviewed by his friend and colleague Winston Bromley (49) about his time in the Marines and his difficult transition back to civilian life.

Subject Log / Time Code

MO talks about joining the Marines while he was on probation
MO talks about his first deployment - sent on a commercial flight on his own to Iraq
MO remembers his friend Spencer who killed himself a month into deployment and how that changed him
MO talks about alcohol addition post-deployment and being drugged and sexually assaulted
MO talks about his difficulty adjusting to civilian life and his more than 30 arrests
MO talks about his 3-year prison sentence and how signing the papers felt similar to signing his military enlistment
MO discusses how things turned around for him in and after prison "in some ways those 2 years in prison were the happiest I'd been since I was 14"
Advice for people interested in joining the military


  • Winston Bromley
  • Michael O'Dell

Recording Location

Virtual Recording



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00:00 Hi, my name is Winston, Bromley. I'm 49 as of today. The location I'm currently in, is up in Toronto, Ontario. Today's date is June 14th, 2021 and my relationship with my interview ETA is co-worker and friend Michael. Mike has a little bit about you.

00:18 Thank you, assistant. So, yeah, my name is Michael O'Dell. I'm 33 years old, located in Bandera, Texas. Just outside of San Antonio. And today is June 14th. Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on here. I really appreciate you being here and doing this for her for the archives. So what do you remember about when you first and looks like the day that you were enlisted? What do you remember about that day are Winston. So when I enlisted in the in the Marine Corps, I wasn't sure what branch of service I was going to join. I just knew that I was going to going to join the military and I went down to the recruiting station and there was so I was on probation and I went down the recruiting station in the Navy was my first choice and they told me no.

01:07 And I passed right by the Army. In the marine, recruiter Steph start, key or got jumped out. He's a, a menu on probation and I can help with that. And so brought me in his office. When I signed on that day, parents didn't know anything about it and I went home and let him know that I would be leaving for boot camp in a couple months and that's that was that was how I joined. Why the Marine Corps? Well, he popped out of his office and pulled me in.

01:39 So what what actually made you go down to enlist?

01:43 So I wanted to write great question. I wanted to, like I said, I was in trouble, I had no Direction. No guidance. I wasn't really going anywhere in life and I wanted to go somewhere, right? And that was for me. That was probably the only out that I saw I could take was join the military, so I drove down there and

02:10 And I went through that process.

02:13 So, tell us a little bit about your deployment that you had.

02:17 So I was I was stationed. So when I join the Marine Corps, I was stationed with 3rd, Battalion 3rd, Marines, out of KB, which is in Hawaii. And so it was cool man. I thought I was the only only one from boot camp in combat training that got sent over there. Everybody else got the East Coast or the West Coast. Write San Diego for Camp Lejeune and I got sent to Hawaii man and so special. Right? I felt like, you know unique and went to Hawaii and 3/3 had just left for a Fallujah in 2006. And so so when I got there, my you was gone.

03:07 And now they told me that I was going to just be back with the remain behind element for six, seven months. However, long the unit was going to be gone and that was kind of disappointing, right? Cuz then I was worried. My guys haven't met yet. I'm a boot, you know, experience overseas. They're going to come back fresh from a deployment. And here's this new guy, right? Just sitting there been kicking back in Hawaii, while they're all off in Iraq. I was worried about you know, and Street and what's a boo?

03:44 SO3 3 is 3rd, Battalion 3rd, Marines, America's Battalion out of Hawaii. There's three battalions their 1/3 2/3, + 3/3, and they constantly rotate one deploys, one trains and was back, and it's just a constant rotation. And a boot is someone who's never had their boots on the ground overseas. So, that was me fresh out of boot camp, you know, his to work boot fresh out of boot camp. No deployments. That was me. And so so I was worried about that in two weeks later. They came and got me and I went down to get my, my Supply. My gear from Supply.

04:26 And they shipped me to Iraq by myself on a commercial flight. So, my first deployment fresh out of boot camp. I was on a commercial flight, right? From Hawaii to Cali, Cali to Maine and it from Bangor, Maine to Kuwait. Is that flight scared. The life out of me. I was by myself, right? I was probably the only American on that flight and I was heading overseas to a war-zone just terrified from the flight that I was on and we got there and my unit came and picked me up and you know, we we went on the deployment and it was a wasn't a bad deployment, you know, there's three three had lost.

05:14 Lost a lot of Marines, the deployment before that, the one I didn't go. And I wasn't in at the time. And so, they were all charged up. You know, from that previous deployment. They were charged up ready to get back and not much happened on that deployment, you know, where they're six, seven months, came back home. And then we deployed again.

05:41 You have to leave and all that stuff. Will Hawaii was nice, man, you know being stationed. There. It was. It's beautiful, you know, lots of stuff to do for a little while and then it's just an island and things kind of changed for me was was on our second deployment, lot of stuff. Lot of stuff happened. We lost lost a good friend. Was that what was your friend's name? Spencer deployment - you know a few things we did a lot of night missions. We did the first deployment. We did a lot of training, the Iraqi Army to defend themself.

06:41 All the cities in, in just take over so that we could step back, right? That was what that deployment was about was just training. The Iraqi Army in the in the locals second deployment was focused on night missions, but something that we did that, I think is pretty awesome. Our second deployment. So there's Captain Spiker you went down in Desert Storm. He was a pilot and so many years before we were over there, but you went down in Desert Storm and his body was never recovered that. I don't know, the entire story, the plane. I think they knew where the wreckage was, but I didn't know if it was shot down or mechanical malfunction, and I don't even know, I didn't follow through with any of that or I don't remember, but I remember the mission.

07:41 And so, we were sent out to a company, was sent out to go find his body. Right years later. We're we're running a bunch of night missions in out of the mighty and then we get this thing as calm down and we get this mission to go find Captain spikers body is so Q of companies out there, sifting through sand. Some, some locals knew where the crash site was go out there, the pieces of the plane digging and digging and digging and digging and digging. It was like a little kid playing in the sandbox, you know, when you're a kid, you're playing in the sandbox, you can do all kinds of stuff. You can build cities, you can build tunnels and bridges, and all this different stuff. And we're out there bunch of Marines, right? Just playing in the sand.

08:41 See I soak at this. They say it was a big deal. Huge, huge deal. I think Kim members name I think is true off. Not sure but he found that they found the body and you know, the mission was over. They flew him home. It was it is a big deal, the family finally, finally got their their father, their husband and Uncle Walter Wright, who, who, that man was to do that Warrior. They got him home. I think it was the Carolinas North of South Carolina, had a proper Memorial, all all that stuff. And President Obama came out and gave an award to I think, is our first Star Wars or start major. I don't remember, but he got an award. Some sort of presidential award. It was pretty cool man.

09:41 Can you talk a little bit about him?

09:44 Yes, so so he, he he was, he was with us. He's young. He he died at 20. He's from California.

09:53 Is it he's a good guy, man. Full of life, you know, I mean we all were we were all young 19, 20, 21 once already. So this was his second deployment and my second one as well and you had a girlfriend back home. Just super, super cool dude. Tip of the spear Marine, you know, look the part after the part live the part right and

10:24 And you know, you never really know. You never really know what what's going on in someone's head.

10:31 You know, you can look, they put on that mask, right? People can look happy and not be happy. People can look like it got the world at their fingertips and really, it's falling apart. So, you just, you never really know what. Someone's really going through and ended up taking his own life while we're on that deployment with it. Like about a month into the deployment is April 16th, 2009. And you know that how we found out was

11:08 Was just, I mean, it was horrible. So like I said, we were running night missions and so, we're on Camp rahmati. We're not out on missions, were back back at base. All, you know, guys are playing on the PlayStations in their room. Sleeping racked out over the chow hall, eating midnight rations, right? She's taking a lobster and I'm laying in my box. Most of us are sleeping was late at night, but I'm laying in my bunk and next thing, you know, we're on base. The next thing, you know, we hear a ton of gunshots.

11:49 And it's like, holy crap, right? So everybody gets up gets their rifles. We don't know what's going on. We're not getting attacked because we're on base. Like, there's no way we're getting Anna. And so we're everybody's walking around the the the barracks the squad ways we were in and

12:09 Couldn't really figure out what was going on until he was found in the bathroom. And that's what it clicked like. Oh shit.

12:20 This is this is what happened like this is real and and like, you know, the day before that it was smiles and and life is great. And then like I said me and you never really know what someone's going through.

12:41 Thanks for sharing that like what kind of hat like when you were over there? And obviously was going through the training in Hawaii all the way over to to Ramada in Volusia. What kind of habits did you pick up while you were in the service? That helped you? Like just perform better and and also said that you could have taken outside of the outside of your military was. So I'll glad you. I'm glad you asked those questions with it and there's some good things, and there's some bad. But the so Marine Corps Marine core values, honor courage, and commitment.

13:25 And, you know, there's something that happens to an individual. When you

13:31 When you bring on those values, right? Honor, courage, and commitment, they're beating your brain. You eat you eat it. You live it. Like, that's what you do. A submarine as a I guess you she misses you should. Do is a person cuz a father husband friend, whatever honor, courage and commitment. And

13:54 I live I was out of the tip of the spear kind of marine. You know, I had my PT was on point. My physical fitness was on point. I was doing good on my test. I shot expert on the rain. So like those are those are some of the things that I can still shoot good. You know, I my physical fitness is back on point, you know, I'm still motivated and dedicated in the gym with with with my life. And I think I got those those values in those Ambitions from the Marine Corps in. Those haven't know, I fell off for a while when I got out, but, but those are some things. And then, I think, I think one of the biggest ones that people might not even making your bed.

14:41 Making your Bastille. Make my bed. I make my bed. I still make my bed every morning and it sets my day up for Success. It's a small thing, but it's a huge win. And that's in my hair is on point long, hippie hair and eyes like dreadlocks and braids and stuff, and I smoke pot. And and I join the Marine Corps that, shaved it off, and I'm kind of high and tight ever since they. Okay. So getting to that kind of side of things. What kind of fun things did you have to work?

15:28 Yes, ma'am. I'm just curious. You said earlier that, you know, losing him kind of changed things and I'm curious how it changed things for you and the people you were deployed West and if there was anything you did to remember him or different things, you did moving forward, after that.

15:47 So it's a great question so that, and it kind of that. It's a good spot to ask that question. It really leaves me in like some other stuff to talk about. We had a, we had a memorial for him, you know, out and Iraq. And and that was it, right? It was, it had a memorial have a small service and we still have 6 months of the, the, the deployment left to go. Right? So you don't, you don't have it. That's not the time to be reminiscing and thinking and overthinking, right? Because you have Missions at hand. You have things you got to do, you have other brothers that need you to be at your top, right? So, so have the service and that was done and the deployment went on. And so, a lot of stuff was now I know was never really processed, you know.

16:47 And so,

16:49 I'll add this before this deployment. I definitely had a picked up the Habit before I join the Marines drinking alcohol and it definitely escalated while I was in the Marines to a very dangerous and unhealthy amount but it didn't affect my service until until we came back from mr. This deployment. That's when that's when the alcohol. Really started to impact me as a professional. As a tip of the spear Marine. Now falling was my reputation. And so are my values, honor, courage, commitment. Now, I'm breaking my my values that I made to myself and I made to the Marine Corps, my commitments, they're falling through and

17:49 And I'm not saying it was because of that because of what happened over there. But what I will say is when we came back, it was different. My life was in a super dark dark place. And I really just turned to the bottle, like, it was just a daily thing. And in fact,

18:14 When we got back.

18:19 So this is kind of sometimes hard to talk about, but I'll share it. Hopefully someone listens and it'll help them out, but when I got back from

18:30 When we got back from the second deployment, like I said, my alcohol was through the roof. It was just just not, it was bad. And I stopped hanging out with my battle buddy, and I started to isolate myself, and I was just drinking by myself, and it wasn't fun anymore. It was super dark. It was only it was depressing. It was a real bad place to be. And, and then one night. I was out in town, out in Hawaii, and I ended up getting drugs. I don't know who the, who knows who did it. I have no idea. I remember, but I don't know, you know, who it was complete strangers, but I got drugs, suffered sexual trauma that. And I was so, so high on whatever drugs that was.

19:26 I didn't even remember what happened until many months later. And sometimes that's what happens with with trauma. Right? Like when we, so when we lost Spencer, we didn't it was six more months of our deployment, didn't even think about it. Right? So then we come back home and now we're starting to think about all this stuff and guess what happened. This one of the things that made a lot of service members, struggle with, and go over season that are in direct combat. They lose their brothers and sisters that are due to enemy fire, right? And then you can start the process that you got to continue to push forward. And so you don't do anything until you come home and could be one month later. It could be a year later in the Army deployed for 15 months. Sometimes.

20:19 So you've got this huge time Gap without processing, anything and that's kind of what happened to me when the sexual trauma happened. A couple months later.

20:31 I start to remember, like, what happened? I'm like, no, you know what I mean? Like, no way. I know. I know I was drunk that night but like, no way and then it became more real and more real, and more real and, and the realtor. It became the more I suppress it with booze. Just

20:55 Just real bad.

20:59 What do we talk about that? Like so you came back from all that. Like towards the end of the your military career? Why don't we talk about there or not? When did you leave the military? And let's start on that. Okay, so I got out of the Marines in 2010. I got a honorable discharge when I I thought about reenlisting again because like I said in the beginning, I join to to get out of whatever it was that I was in right and I wanted to stay and even though I was struggling so bad.

21:35 And so I talked to them about relisting and I had gotten so, I had gotten in trouble. I got in a fight with the staff and CEO because his fight, and so that's, that's not good. Right? And I got in trouble for that. I started, you know, get in trouble. I got in trouble a few times. Got in JP Morgan Marine gets non-judicial punishment at least once. So I checked that box at 8 interview another marine and ask him if he's ever been in. JP Winston. Do you mind turning off your alerts? Yeah, it's it's turned off as much as it can be if I'm in my office and the volume.

22:34 Is turn down as much as it can go on the phone.

22:39 Alright, sorry, go ahead and continue. Thank you.

22:46 Where were you at? So when you were talking about coming back from the deployments and then how everything you eat, you, you went to the edge AP trouble, and they told me my time in the Marine Corps was done. And with that with that, right? I put on the Marine identity. You know, I'm a dream. I'm a marine to it till the day. I die. Once a marine always a marine, right? That's the mentality. That's what is beating your head. And, and I love it. Right. I still say, I don't stay out. I was former Marine all that mumbo-jumbo. I'm a marine just I didn't know more and and the the one thing that they did for me and my transition and this is super, you catch the star. Can you do? The one thing they did for me was send me to an hour long.

23:42 Alcohol, awareness class.

23:45 And I had, no, I had a crazy problem with alcohol and no way an hour-long class is going to help was going to help me. But I went to it after that. I got my DD-214 and I was done and I was so pissed off at the Marine Corps. I left my Awards, my ribbons, my marks, with my, my Marksman badges, my uniforms my boots, dog tags left, everything in Hawaii, pack the backpack, cut the plane and came home, like literally left everything and I totally regret it now, but I left everything, man. I was done. I was I was lost, came back home to Texas.

24:40 And that was a difficult transition because I said like I said that identity.

24:47 Now, what do I do? If not in the Marine Corps anymore, and the Marine Corps life or is this a the military life? Right? The military life is completely different. At least. It was then, then civilian life. Right? Like I just about died in the military. Everything is structure in the civilian side of things. There's not much structure, and for the most part, you create your own structure, especially, even if you are an employee, you have a little bit of structure, but you still create your own structure within that structure and employee knows what they need to get done in that day. And everything in between is up to them.

25:40 We're in the military. There's always someone watching you someone to report to someone someone checking in on you battle, buddy. It's just so different. And so going from this completely structured environment to no job. So I don't even have the structure as a job early employer. Right now. I'm just I'm out of the military. I'm on terminal, leave. I'm done.

26:12 Nothing, so I don't think. So. What do I continue to drink? Continue to drink and, and even when I found employment it was hard, I got a good job in the oil field and even that was difficult because I, I don't, they expected me to know what to do.

26:36 Like you're in an idiot like that. I ask so many questions or I didn't know what it is. What I was supposed to do. They didn't like it and that job didn't last long, maybe six months and I got another good job and I think they didn't last primarily because of the alcohol addiction that I was struggling with but also that lack of accountability lack of leadership. I didn't have any leadership anymore. My face, my face in, God was kaput, right? I had nothing. I had no governing body to help me with anything. And so I just struggled, man. I was thinking thinking, thinking and that went on for about five years or so, you know, as a civilian

27:28 Always in trouble, man. So what happened after this five years? Cuz there's some events that we can go through with it. So within the five, I

27:43 I just I couldn't stop drinking and so trouble followed me. So here I am. I'm a marine. I got an act. I got a honorable discharge and I continue to get arrested cuz it's like criminal criminal, right? Just continue to get arrested and probably like 30 times and that's it. Legit, like, you could probably take that number to the bank plus, or minus one or two over public intoxication bar, fights DWIs, drug possession, drug paraphernalia arrests, like all the above and

28:25 And that followed me through out that five-year timeline within that 5 years. If I primarily had an alcohol addiction, right? Follow me through the military. Got kicked into high gear while I was in and then skyrocketed, when I transitioned out and in 2013, my son was born.

28:49 And so this was three years after I got out of the military. So I got on 2010. My son was born in 2013. I thought, right? Like life is going to be different life is going to be better. I'm going to change for my son. And what happened was not done of that happened is actually got worse. I switched from alcohol to drugs and I had a crazy drug addiction and it was okay because I wasn't drinking alcohol anymore.

29:26 Right like that act. Like that's what I told myself. This problem is okay, cuz I got rid of that problem and two years after that, the drug addiction finally kind of Let Me Lend me to the turning point and that was when I went to prison, right? So so I've got one kid, my son, Tristan awesomely seven-years-old up fixing to be eight and he is just a little Spitfire of a little guy. He's awesome in, but I couldn't change for him, you know, and so I go to prison. So this is, this was a turning point, really. So when I, when I enlisted in the Marine Corps, I remember this, I remember,

30:17 I remember a four-year enlistment contract, right? So I can, okay. And I'm signing on the dotted line for years. I got it. I can do this and I go to right now. I'm in jail, right? So here I am.

30:38 Got some similar papers in front of me, except there for a completely different place right now. I got prison papers in front of me and it's not for 4 years. It's for 3 years.

30:51 And I remember how I felt when I signed that for years, for the Marine Corps. I was like four years do it.

31:01 If you want stay in. If you don't get out, it's just four years.

31:06 It's so now I'm at court and I'm thinking, it's just three years.

31:10 Do it and get it over with this sign. The paper, do it and get it over with. And so I did I sign the paper and the cool thing about this and this is where things change is. Before. I got that three-year sentence, the that I wipe rate.

31:28 Probably for the first time for real since before the military, I finally prayed and like reignited my face again. And I I asked the Lord I said Lord like cuz they wanted to give me eight years and years is a lot like let's do 3 and and I remember I was like come on I'll sign on for years. Like I'll do that. I'll sign on it. I'll do my time. I'll do it. Honorably. I'll commit to that, right? I'll behave when I started making all these agreements with with God and he said, are you ready to? Are you ready to sign on 3 years? And I was like, I thought in my head and I laughed. I was like, yeah.

32:20 Like, I am, like, let's do this. And so, I did, and I go to prison and that's where the game changed for me. I started to, I started to work on my, I started to work on my my relationship with God, started to read like self-help books. Right? 7 habits of highly effective people, write books like that. Right? And I started teaching Bible studies, that started reading the, the big book AA, right. I started working a recovery program and it's like, that's what I did in prison for two years. It was I made parole. So I didn't even have to do the three years, right? I just I just I'm finally on the right track if things are looking up in the, the craziest thing with this is that the two years that I spent in prison.

33:12 Were the best.

33:16 I had felt since I was probably, like, 14 or 15 years old.

33:23 Like out of all the good memories with my friends and parties and all the fun like we had, when I was a kid, I was still kind of like depressed, and then the fun times I had in the Marines. It wasn't. I wasn't living life struggling and I went in and I'm sitting in prison finally, feeling free crazy just crazy to think, but it's the truth, sit in prison, finally feeling free. And so I got out made parole. And in life has just not been the same since man. Got out in January and rode home from Houston with my mom and my dad and my life hasn't been the same and you got them, too.

34:12 That Warriors are hired me. I think two months, maybe three months after I got out of prison and cuz you got your story, right? Like you've gone through everything and I believe we got them deal with. So thank you for that. So you were talking about if you no coming back down from doing, you don't ruin your time. Coming out of all that tells you what a bit about, how you how you talk to your children about, you know, when you went over to the military and all that, cuz I was going to look up to you and what you do. So my son, my daughter is for October butt up and they both live with me. That's something. I got custody of my children. Single father, got custody of my kids and I had custody of them, since 2008. So my daughter, she does, she doesn't really know much. But my son, he's seven years old. He asked me all the time to the biggest things. He talks about to me, when where

35:12 Are in relation to me, right? Is, what did I do when I was in the military? And how can he be like me?

35:21 The other one is, why did I go to prison? And that's the I hate it when he asked me that question, but are you telling the truth every time because he needs to know, right? He needs to know but but he is so he is parked with him to believe.

35:43 Because life is really good right now. So it's hard for him to believe and I don't go into detail with them about the military unless it's really kind of positive or funny is only seven and then on the other side of things with their prison stuff. I just kind of focused on like I wasn't wasn't following the rules right? Life has rules and that's why it's important to follow to learn how to follow rules.

36:12 What are the coolest thing about, like, talking to about his being stationed? In Hawaii. He loves us. He loves animals. He, that's his, I'll get to talk to him about that. Right? Like Daddy, went skydiving in Hawaii. Daddy went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, those kinds of things. He just he just absolutely love.

36:37 We're getting towards the end of this, just to last question for you. So what kind of message would you have for future Generations? That might be watching?

36:50 So for future, Jennifer someone, that might be watching or listening to this call, if you want to join the military, do it.

37:02 It's great. It will teach you leadership. It will teach you life skills and will teach you a bunch of quality habits. Really good habits is, this is definitely go, just go.

37:20 Be careful on your transition out. Don't think that you got the World by, at your fingertips unless you do. I guess. Like, I, you know, be careful with that transition because it is different than the transition is different. And find yourself a healthy support system that can help get you through that transition. It's not a sign of weakness to need a support system, going into a new environment, right? It's, it's a sign of intelligence, write this new. Maybe I should get a support system to help me with this super-smart right in the other thing is, if you, if you were in the military and you've gotten out and you're struggling like,

38:02 Reach out for help there, like here. Where I'm at, where I work for you so hard, right? Like this place is amazing, right date? And they hired me, like, it's crazy. I never thought I'd have a life like this or a job like this. But, but if you're struggling to reach out for help, reach out and talk to somebody, that's the biggest thing. That the biggest thing I could say. Hey, buddy struggle and they got a, I got to pick up that phone, even though it weighs a thousand pounds. Pick it up, call somebody. Okay? Who it is? Call us call your family. Tell your friends to call your old Commander. Somebody just give him a call. Thank you very much, Mike. I really appreciate you taking the time to be honest and doing this recording. It's been fantastic. They always, you know, pleasure to hear everything that you've done and how you become, where you how you got into, where you got into. So thank you very much for your time. And that

39:00 You're welcome, and thank you for saying, thank you for being there with me. Winston is going with you and and I do like to you. No share my story. So I really appreciate that. And then story storycorps, right? Storycorps, ignore all the way in helping us out, wanting to hear what I have to say is just really appreciate it. So, thank you.