SOF, Veterans

“Every Day’s My Birthday”: TFA Co-founder Mark Antal Celebrates Two Alive Days in May 

“Every day feels like my birthday,” says TFA co-founder Mark Antal. The reason? This month, May 2024, marks two separate occasions on which Mark was shot during his military service. Today, he and his family celebrate these Alive Days to show gratitude for life and each other.  

Mark’s first Alive Day is May 5th, recalling the moment in 2005 when a bullet made its way through two of Mark’s teammates before landing in him. Even after he was shot, Mark continued to fight until backup arrived. Medics eventually removed the bullet, and Mark still has it to this day. While it may sound counterintuitive for a bullet to symbolize life, that’s exactly what this one does, marking a time when survival prevailed.  

Mark’s second Alive Day, May 10th, 2010, also serves to remember his K9 Spido, who engaged and helped neutralize the threat alongside Mark and his team. In the process, both Spido and Mark were shot. Mark says that he’s alive today because of his trusted K9 partner.  

“Dogs pick up on things that you don’t,” Mark continues. They sense scents and odors that can’t be masked, revealing threats that even the most advanced technologies cannot necessarily detect.  

“If either one of those days took my life,” Mark says, “I wouldn’t be here doing this.” Aliveness for him means being able to enjoy his family and make a difference in the world. His military travels around the globe helped him realize that you can only control so much. He’s learned simple rules to lead a good life: enjoy yourself. Don’t take anything for granted. If you see someone who needs help, help them. This ethic informs Mark’s work at TFA, supporting veterans in finding continued purpose while also making monumental differences for civilians in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones.  

Alive Days are also an occasion to remember the sacrifices taken by people in uniform, a reminder that life is precious and can be taken away at any moment. Mark hopes that sharing the story of his Alive Days spreads awareness of veterans’ sacrifices and helps people feel grateful that they, too, are alive, whether they have formal Alive Days to celebrate or not.  

“My dad’s alive today!” Mark’s children tell their friends on May 5th and 10th. They wake up, hug their father, and celebrate the precious time they have together. May we all share their enthusiasm for life, for family, and for the gift of being able to help others in this world.