Howard, Wis. (WFRV) – Out of five brothers, Paul Flanagan was the only one in his family to join the Army.

“(I was the oldest of five), so it was definitely one of those things where I felt that sense of duty or honor to protect family, type thing, and that’s how it all started.”

He wanted to be a diesel mechanic.

“(I thought), ‘Oh wow, I can serve my country and get a background education on things that I wanted to at that point in time, all at the same time.’ So, that was my biggest intrigue in the beginning,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan started with the Army as a mechanic in 1996, and ended up changing his MOS to a cannon crew member.

He would gain a new perspective on life after his deployment to Kuwait in 2005.

“Any veteran coming back from any type of deployment will say, “Yeah, it’s definitely an interesting transition.’ You go from being, I don’t even know how you explain it, but being in complete control of your situation to now having to readjust your mode of thinking to take a lot of things into consideration before you make any kind of decision,” said Flanagan. 

Flanagan found his outlet after transitioning back from the military some years later in fitness. He now owns two Fire Fitness Camps in the Howard and Appleton areas. Now, he’s encouraging other veterans to find their outlets.

“You’re not the only one. Everybody feels some way shape or form. Find your outlet, whether it’s fitness, volunteering, whether it’s one of the veterans groups that you can work with even just to find a space that you can just drop some of whatever that weight that you’re holding is,” Flanagan said. “That’s a huge part of it, of being able to find a spot where you can have that release, I think is a big thing,” he said.

That spot for Flanagan is in the gym, but he’s also a part of several veterans groups, including the Oshkosh Military Network, hiring veterans into Oshkosh Corp, and reaching out to them as they transition into and out of deployment.

Because if there’s one thing Flanagan values most, it was the help he got when he needed it most.

“I look at how well I was take care of when I needed the help, when I was deploying and I just want to make sure that our veterans that are still in those situations nowadays still get that same support,” Flanagan said.

“You know, that communication needs to happen as well, especially nowadays, there are so many forms that you can communicate with people, you just wanna be able to reach out, see if those families need anything, especially while they’re deployed,” he said.