I wish every veteran could get a makeover from the Queer Eye Fab Five — and before you reach for your beers and bullets, hear me out: the military teaches us to suck it up and prepares us for the worst conditions on earth...and that gruffness becomes the standard of living even after we get out.
It doesn't have to be that way. Not for us. Not for our families.
Just ask Brandonn Mixon, U.S. Army veteran and co-founder of Veterans Community Project, an organization that provides housing and walk-in services for service members in order to end veteran homelessness. Mixon literally builds houses for homeless vets.
The Queer Eye team decided to return the favor, helping Mixon finish his own home, upgrade his professional look, and learn to process his service-connected Traumatic Brain Injury. In spite of all the good Mixon does for his brothers and sisters in arms, Mixon confided to Karamo Brown that he feels like he's failing in life.
"Who told you that you're failing?" Brown pressed.
He's not the only vet who feels this way.
The Fab Five know exactly how to build trust.
During his deployment to Afghanistan, Mixon sustained a fall that resulted in a TBI — and a medical retirement.
"I hated myself. I literally started praying that I would get in a car accident — I would lose my arm or lose my leg — so when people would look at me, they would get it," Mixon shared. It's a sentiment I've heard from many vets who have served during times of conflict.
Invisible injuries can be very easy to overlook or underestimate. Not only does the individual have to learn to cope with the effects of the injury (TBIs can result in changes in vision, headaches, sleep, loss of concentration, higher risk of musculoskeletal injury, memory loss, depression, slower reaction time, and increased risk of dementia), but because it is an unseen injury, it can often be mistaken for a weakness that the individual should have the power to overcome.
Strength of will cannot heal a TBI anymore than it can regrow a limb.
During the course of his makeover, Mixon was able to share his vulnerabilities with the team, including examples of hyper vigilance or emotional distancing.
"Brandon expressed to us that he doesn't see himself as a hero from the time he served. Not only were you a hero then, but you're a hero to so other many people now providing homes and a sense of security for guys who haven't been given a second chance," Bobby Berk insisted.
Sometimes it takes a civilian to see the truth.
"You guys broke down my wall and allowed me to express myself. I just need to express what I'm going through — and they're not going to judge me," he remarked, thanking the team.
Watching the episode, I was impressed with how open Mixon was and how eager he was to invite change into his home.
Tan France summed it up perfectly. "You're an incredible representative for your community," he said.
Family man, serving after service, and willing to look at himself and improve? I couldn't agree more.
Check out the Season Four episode, streaming now on Netflix.
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