Davis Aston of Bangor. Credit: Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Where is home for you? Is it where you live now or a place where you used to live? Does a person, not a place, embody home for you?

We tend to describe veterans returning from combat overseas as “coming home.” But for many veterans, their home changes. Or their perspective of it changes. How do they find — or create — their new hometown?

Over the next couple days we’ll share videos of veterans talking about what coming home meant to them.


David Aston: Age 24, of Bangor, founder of Warrior Athlete Fitness Training and a student at Beal College studying medical assisting.

Service: A specialist with the Military Police. Served two tours overseas, to Iraq in 2010-2011, and Afghanistan in 2013-2014.

After David Aston graduated from Bangor High School in 2009, he joined the Army and was promptly sent to Iraq. His grandfather’s service had inspired him to join the military. But there was no way to know what to expect until he got into the war.

He created a will. And in Iraq he thought he would die. The explosions were close. Eventually the imminent possibility of death became a new normal.

Coming home to Bangor was fine at first, then terrible. He didn’t ask for help when he needed it, he said. Relationships suffered. He slipped into depression. And then he went back overseas, this time to Afghanistan.

He thought it would be easier to come home the second time, but it wasn’t. A romantic relationship ended, and he was thrown into the worst depression he’d ever had. He started having anxiety attacks.

Aston found some solace in the words of other veterans who wrote on Facebook about similar experiences. He also, eventually, found a way forward that gave him hope: Even though his time in uniform was up, he could find a way to serve his community.

A personal trainer, he started Warrior Athlete Fitness Training for first responders, police or anyone interested in bodyweight and conditioning workouts. The exercise style is reminiscent of military training.

Eventually, he wants to turn his effort into a nonprofit that helps veterans through physical fitness and raises awareness of post-traumatic stress. The point isn’t to have a physical space, he said, but a community.

“That’s what you survive on overseas, so it makes sense that we would continue that over here,” he said.

If you’re interested in learning more about veterans’ recovery from trauma, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient and psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Shay will give a free keynote on the trials of homecoming at 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 13, at Wells Conference Center at the University of Maine.

Erin Rhoda

Erin Rhoda

Erin Rhoda is editor of Maine Focus, a journalism and community engagement initiative by the Bangor Daily News.