On the Move

Posted on Nov 11, 2016


Noah Currier was among the first Marines deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He arrived home safely in 2003 after a seven-month deployment, but after just three days back in the states he was involved in an automobile accident that would damage his spinal cord, leading to quadriplegia.

Noah Currier

Noah Currier

The next several years could be described as “dark times” for Noah. He admits to spending too much of his time at the bars drinking with his buddies and partying with bands to cope with depression.

“I was not in a good place in my head after the accident,” says Noah. “It was an unhealthy path.”

He would soon learn how to get healthy both mentally and physically. And it would change his life.

Noah began attending adaptive sporting events1, including an event in Colorado where he participated in skiing.

“It was something that I never thought in a million years I would be able to do again,” says Noah. “All of a sudden I realized there’s another piece to this. I’m not just confined to this little life that I’m living right now where I’m really just doing a lot of damage to myself.”

Skiing helped show Noah Currier what was still possible.

Skiing helped show Noah Currier what was still possible.

At the time he was taking some classes at Rock Valley College with an emphasis on some business fundamentals that could help him with his plans to open up a new club in Rockford2. Two things intervened and changed the course of those plans for the better.

First of all, working out the details on a location for his club was proving to be a challenge and the process was moving slowly. While frustrating at the time, Noah now reflects on that being a blessing in disguise. The second piece of divine intervention occurred back in Colorado at another adaptive sporting event.

At previous events he had met many injured veterans who talked about how adaptive sporting events had helped pull them out of a rut, just as they had for him.

“The cool thing about these events is they show you how to make something possible that you never thought was possible,” says Noah. “They show people what they’re still capable of.”

“The cool thing about these events is they show you how to make something possible that you never thought was possible.”

The challenge for most of the vets he had met at the events was being able to afford to attend them. Between travel, lodging, taking time off of work to attend, and other mitigating factors, it simply became unrealistic to participate as much as they would like.

An idea was about to be born.

A few years earlier, Noah and a friend had sold some military themed t-shirts to raise money to fund a trip to Project Walk in San Diego3. He mentioned this to some of his friends at the event in Colorado and soon found himself volunteering to take this idea on as a full-scale mission.

“The idea was formulated in a hotel lobby by maybe 30 different injured veterans at an event,” says Noah. “We created this monster in our head and then it was like, ‘Well, who’s going to do it?’ I raised my hand and said, ‘I’ve got a two-car garage and I know how to design a website and t-shirts.’”

Noah Currier's rugby pose.

Noah Currier’s rugby pose.

It was then that a company called Oscar Mike, named after military radio jargon used on the front lines that translates to “on the move,” began in Noah’s garage in Poplar Grove. A few of his friends from that brainstorming session in Colorado moved to Poplar Grove to help him start the business.

“My bedroom was the office, the garage was the warehouse,” says Noah. “The office was four guys in my bedroom, literally with desks around my bed.”

The goal was simple. Sell enough t-shirts to be able to provide funds for injured veterans to attend adaptive sporting events. As stated in their vision statement, “Oscar Mike wants to see all injured veterans utilize their full potential and live rewarding and productive lives.”

After setting up shop in the garage, Noah shifted his focus at Rock Valley College from learning the skills necessary to help him launch a new music venue in Rockford to instead turning Oscar Mike into a viable foundation and business to help injured veterans get “on the move.”

The graphic design class he took at RVC helped him design the first Oscar Mike t-shirts. What he learned in his accounting class helped him maintain the finances for the business. And it was Professor Steve Wong’s marketing class that helped Noah develop the first Oscar Mike marketing campaigns. He was even able to do some of it as a class project.

“Professor Wong was real helpful,” says Noah. “We’ve even kept in touch since then. He spent a lot of time helping me outside of class as well.”

“It is always flattering to have a former student remember their teachers and also learn that he has accomplished his dream,” says Professor Wong. “I understand that many of his employees are veterans, and his commitment to them is impressive and honorable.”

Oscar Mike’s official launch date was 11/11/11. Veterans Day.

Oscar Mike apparel is 100% American-made.

Oscar Mike apparel is 100% American-made.

They started modestly, to say the least. They sold a couple of t-shirts online and relied on good old-fashioned guerilla marketing and word of mouth to build momentum.

After a year they were able to move out of Noah’s bedroom and garage and into a much larger facility on River Road in Marengo where the business still operates.

Speaking of growth, Oscar Mike has doubled its business every year since its founding. Noah estimates they have been able to send over 100 veterans to various events over the last five years, but he has much loftier goals for 2017. By the end of 2017 he hopes Oscar Mike is helping 1,000 veterans… per year.

In the United States there are nearly one million veterans with a 70% or higher service-connected disability. Oscar Mike works closely with the U.S. Veterans Affairs’ recreational therapy departments across the country to connect with vets who have shown an interest in athletics and attending adaptive sporting events.

They often have more people interested than they can accommodate, but they do what they can to help as many people as possible. Depending on how many people want to go to an event and the amount of money available at the time, Oscar Mike will either fully fund or partially fund interested participants.

“I still don’t take a paycheck. I’m happy doing what I do. It gives me purpose. It gives me a reason to wake up in the morning.”

Although assisting injured veterans is the mission of Oscar Mike, there are two more things that make it a unique and special organization. Oscar Mike is not only for veterans, but it is also veteran-owned and operated (all but one Oscar Mike employee is a veteran). Additionally, all Oscar Mike apparel is 100% American-made.

“Even though we are not a big company, the supply chain and the amount of people we touch is pretty impactful,” says Noah. “We hope we’re a great example of what American manufacturing is capable of and why it’s important.”

“I still don’t take a paycheck. I’m happy doing what I do. It gives me purpose. It gives me a reason to wake up in the morning.”

Noah hopes when other people wake up in the morning for a workout that they will choose to wear Oscar Mike apparel.

“You have options of what you’re putting on every day when you get dressed and you’re going to go to the gym or go out for a run,” says Noah. “There are so many companies that represent absolutely nothing except their shareholders. And then you have [Oscar Mike] who says ‘we represent you, American manufacturing, and injured veterans.’ And you have that choice every day.”

Sounds like an easy choice.

To learn more about Oscar Mike please visit oscarmike.org.

oscarmike.org

  1. Adaptive sports, also disabled sports, or parasports, are sports played by persons with a disability, including physical and intellectual disabilities.
  2. At the time, Noah’s family owned and operated Chubby Rain, a popular night club in Poplar Grove. Noah was helping run Chubby Rain but wanted to open a bigger and better version of it in Rockford.
  3. Noah came up with the concept of using a t-shirt inspired by his brotherhood in the Marine Corps as a fundraiser. He designed a shirt that boldly stated “He who sheds blood with me shall forever be my brother” across the back. The shirts quickly caught on with supporters and the fundraiser turned out to be an overwhelming success.
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