On the walls of Evan Ahlin’s home office are pictures of friends and family members. And then there’s a photo of a vehicle. It’s hard to visually decipher at first – it’s tilted, twisted, and parts of it are missing.
“It’s my M-ATV minutes after we hit an IED (improvised explosive device),” said Ahlin, a retired U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant. “I keep this up there to remind myself that things could be worse when I’m having a bad day.”
Ahlin, a young communications student, said life changed then. Although he did not realize it at the time, the explosion of May 22, 2010 in Afghanistan marked the beginning of a new role for him: that of a lawyer.
Everyone in the vehicle survived. But a series of health problems followed for Ahlin, including a traumatic brain injury, PTSD and a stroke. Subsequently, he was reassigned from his artillery work to that of combat photography and he discovered a passion for communication. Today, Dearborn resident Ahlin speaks openly about her experience in an effort to help other service members and veterans. [Here’s a video of Ahlin made by Brainline, an online TBI health education resource.]
Ahlin is active in veterans organizations including the Dearborn Allied War Veteran Council and UM-Dearborn’s Student Veterans Association. And, as a former City of Dearborn liaison, he is instrumental in organizing the city’s Memorial Day Parade, one of the oldest in the country. Ahlin also planned the City of Dearborn’s Veterans Day Ceremony this year, which was a tribute to all who served in the United States military.
“People join the military for many different reasons. No matter how someone got there, they were sworn to serve something bigger than themselves. It’s honorable,” Ahlin said. “Some want to be thanked for it, others prefer to stay behind. Either way, it’s important to let our veterans know that we recognize their service.
Ahlin said recognition and resources are essential for veterans seeking civil relationships — not just on Nov. 11, but every day of the year.
“There are stereotypes and stigmas that come with being a veteran – the media often paints us as unstable, drunk or homeless, and sometimes all three – and it’s hard to overcome when you try to put yourself forward and connect with people. So any effort made to get to know the veterans in the community, to break down the walls and to include our voice is appreciated,” he said. difficult for anyone to ask for help, especially when they are not online and do not realize that the assistance they need may be available.”
He is impressed with the level of support that UM-Dearborn — and in particular, Veterans Services Program Director Tom Pitock — offers veterans: “If you want to graduate from college, find a school with a Tom . Get a mentor. Before enrolling, visit the school so you can feel it and find out if it’s right for you. For me, UM-Dearborn is the right fit.
He also appreciates the efforts of Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud to create a stronger city-wide support network for veterans, such as finding ways to incorporate the voice of veterans into the activities of the city and hiring veterans for internships in the city.
Ahlin, who grew up in New Hampshire, calls Dearborn home. He moved here after his retirement with his wife, Fatooma Saad. Also a Marine Corps veteran, Saad — who grew up in Dearborn — graduated from UM-Dearborn in 2018 and is currently working on her doctorate. at Wayne State University.
Ahlin hopes more people will get involved with veterans service organizations. He said the camaraderie gained provides benefits such as career connections, mental and physical health support, and more.
Ahlin said he realized that some of life’s most horrific experiences can have positive results.
Looking back on his military career – it’s been almost 20 years since he enlisted – Ahlin said he wouldn’t change a thing. He traveled the world, met his wife, and experienced events that are now featured in films and documentaries, such as the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the rescue of a merchant ship from Somali pirates.
More importantly, it gave him the basis for his mission now.
“I want veterans to know that you can and will do great things. In the military, we learn to be mission-driven, to move forward. But then when we go out nobody tells you the mission,” he said. “It is therefore essential to remind veterans, injured or not, that we have a mission, a purpose. There are organizations that welcome you and want to help you discover yours – and they are right next to you.