Having spent two separate tours in Afghanistan fighting on the front lines alongside his fellow infantry soldiers, Marcus Rothlisberger has experienced the reality of war and the challenges that come with it.
While fighting for his country brought tremendous pride to the seven-year Army veteran, life after war left Rothlisberger with the struggles of PTSD that the Mitchell native continues to overcome. To honor Rothlisberger’s years of service and bravery, he was nominated as the featured veteran for Saturday’s Veterans for Veterans Poker Run in Mitchell. The poker run begins 1 p.m. at The Depot, and proceeds go toward helping Rothlisberger’s ongoing PTSD battle. Registration for the event begins at 11 a.m.
“I was taken aback when I heard I was nominated for the poker run, and it’s a testament to my friends and family’s support they have blessed me with,” Rothlisberger said in an interview with The Daily Republic. “Their support has been the foundation of helping through life after war and the Army.”
Rothlisberger joined the Army in 2011 and went on to become a member of the First Brigade, 28th regiment infantry. His first tour in Afghanistan came a year after joining the military, and he spent nine months overseas in dangerous combat zones.
Upon safely reaching home soil in America, Rothlisberger said he felt a sigh of relief after his first stint in Afghanistan.
“I was relieved to have made it home safely, but it wasn’t an easy adjustment,” he said.
While Rothlisberger had a myriad of combat battles throughout his time in Afghanistan, he narrowly made it out of a mortar bomb attack toward the end of his first tour.
Rothlisberger vividly recalls the moment he felt the impact of the mortar bomb and said it changed his life forever.
“Ever since that day, I feel like a switch flipped on my outlook on life,” Rothlisberger said of the mortar attack. “I felt like I was more grateful for life after that.”
The near-death experience was one of many war moments that shaped his life away from the battlefields of Afghanistan. In addition to the life-changing moments, his oldest daughter was born while he was fighting for the country during his first tour.
With his second daughter being born in between the tours spent overseas, Rothlisberger said his kids have helped the veteran overcome some of the PTSD he experiences to this day.
“My family is my foundation of support,” he said. “My mom, dad and the kids have been with me through it all.”
While finding desired employment can add another hurdle for veterans post-war, Rothlisberger caught his break over a year ago. He solidified a job as a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Sioux Falls, where he now finds inspiration and joy helping clients reach their fitness goals.
“Getting out of active duty is such a shocking lifestyle change. It’s hard to find a job right away and get your feet on the ground,” he said. “But I have been blessed to have found this rewarding career.”
Although Rothlisberger has made great strides in coping with PTSD, he said learning about the deaths of fellow soldiers he calls brothers is one of the most challenging aspects of life after war.
“The comradery you build with your brothers when your fighting side by side in the wire is like nothing else I’ve experienced,” Rothlisberger said. “It’s one of the hardest things to hear when you find out one of you brother’s died and isn’t coming back home. Of my brothers who are around still, we keep in close contact, because we understand what we go through at times.”
Focusing on hobbies is one way Rothlisberger has been overcoming PTSD. Between working out at the gym and playing football for an amateur league team in Sioux Falls, Rothlisberger is taking his life post-war one day at a time.
“Football and the gym have helped me so much,” he said. “Being a part of the team is the closest thing to being with my Army brothers.”