Houstonia Magazine — By 8:30 A.M. on a recent Monday morning, the summer sun is already beating down on Mark Perez, 30, as he stands at attention in his Marine Corps dress blues. Since April he’s been regularly climbing onto a concrete ledge on the Woodhead Street bridge over the Southwest Freeway in Montrose, where he stands motionless for an hour saluting the northbound commuters passing underneath.
The drivers below never fail to notice him. Some snap iPhone photos, some roll down their windows to wave or give him thumbs up, many honk approvingly. Once, a trio of drivers pulled over and saluted him. Perez says he doesn’t really notice any of it—his attention is focused inward, in meditation. It’s a ritual designed to raise awareness of PTSD, and to help himself cope.
“I’m proud to wear this uniform,” he says. “It didn’t cause my PTSD. I don’t blame the Marine Corps, I praise the Marine Corps for making me the leader that I am.”
Perez served from 2006 to 2010, deployed for most of that time in Iraq’s Al Anbar province. Though he never saw direct combat, he was on a convoy that was hit with an IED—even now, he says, seeing trash on the road floods him with intense feelings of anxiety and fear.