During his time as a football player at Southern Oregon University, now retired Marine Corp Sgt Mario Alcala suffered an Achilles tendon injury during junior year, which ended his playing career and left him feeling without a purpose. Knowing he needed a change, he found a recruiter’s office and joined the Marines. In September 2004, within two weeks of arriving at Camp Pendleton, Alcala was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. Shortly after returning, Alcala met his wife, and in the years that followed, they went on to get married and have two sons. ​

Alcala was medically retired from the Marines after doctors discovered a brain tumor. Then, less than a year later, Alcala was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Battling cancer while going through his transition from Marine to civilian, Alcala found HOPE’s Above & Beyond program—a career-readiness program that is part of the organization’s transition pillar (which is now our Warrior’s Compass program). Earning both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, Alcala found solace in participating in golf events with fellow veterans through HOPE. Moving to the Dallas area upon his retirement, Alcala served as a volunteer for us at events, sharing his story and inspiring others. Today, he is a full-time part of the HOPE team, serving as Military and Veteran Program Manager.