Herring enlisted in the United States Army shortly after graduation from Jenks High School in Tulsa, Okla., in 2004. After a year of demanding training, he joined the ranks of the U.S. Special Operations premier infantry unit, the U.S. Army Rangers. Herring participated in more than 220 direct action missions during two deployments to Afghanistan and two deployments to Iraq, including the mission on which the book and film Lone Survivor were based. Where he didn’t expect to encounter even more conflict, however, was in his transition back into civilian life.
While visiting a friend in Fort Collins, Herring fell in love with the city and the mountains. He enrolled in Front Range Community College in pursuit of a degree in business administration, and life was good. While he was no longer at war physically, his mental state told a different story.
“When most people met me, they saw a charismatic and happy 23-year-old, but behind closed doors, my pain unfolded,” said Herring. “I had been trained to withstand anything, why not this?”
Herring pressed pause on his academic career and moved home to Tulsa where he worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense. After a tumultuous relationship breakup, Herring finally admitted that he needed to find help. He began rebuilding through weekly visits with a counselor at the Department of Veterans Affairs and resumed his education at Tulsa Community College, but the pull of the Rockies never ceased. With his spirits and grades lifted, he came to Colorado State University as a student of psychology in the College of Natural Sciences.
Back on TRAC
Herring’s academics thrived but left him drained. Thinking his battle with mental health had been won in Oklahoma, Herring turned to alcohol to cope. His downward spiral came to an end in the office of his Psychology 100 instructor Karla Gingerich, where he reached out for help once more. Together, they enrolled him in CSU’s intensive rehabilitation program for students facing drug or alcohol challenges, Back on TRAC.
“I am ever grateful to the counseling team at Colorado State that has helped me build a life worth living,” said Herring. “After graduating the program, to this day I know that my work is never done, and I continue to see my individual counselor regularly.”
During these difficult times, Herring remained an engaged and devoted student, and he volunteered for events like Project Homeless Connect and pet adoptions, in addition to his involvement in the CSU Health Network’s Student Health Advisory Committee, Philosophy Club and Women and Gender Advocacy Center. Part of his self-care includes spending time with his 5-year-old German Shepard, Blitz, who he describes as a 100-pound ball of love. The two take every opportunity to explore Colorado’s outdoors together.
After graduating, Herring will continue his passion for helping others at the University of Denver, where he will be pursuing a master’s in international disaster psychology.
“I know that I will still be faced with challenges ahead, but with the right intrinsic and extrinsic tools, I can not only take care of myself but possibly help others struggling with these same battles,” said Herring.