When Mesa veteran Sean Stoddard founded a nonprofit two years ago, choosing to call it “Archangels,” it had a much deeper meaning for him.
“Our platoon was called the Archangels,” Stoddard recalled of his 2007 and 2008 tours of duty in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army.
“The logo that we use is actually the patch that was made by one of the soldiers that I served with. It’s very sacred to me. Some of the original Archangels are no longer with us, so it’s really special to all of us.”
The Mesa native attended Kino Junior High and Mountain View High School before joining the Army, which also deployed him for two years in Afghanistan.
Stoddard, the 13-year Mesa Police Department veteran policeman founded Archangels in 2017, to provide services to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He knows – not only from his service to his country but also as a first responder how – how PTSD can impact an individual’s mental health.
“When he returned from his service overseas, he said, “I started hearing about a lot of the challenges a lot of my brothers I served with in Iraq were going through, and so I started looking into possibly starting a nonprofit.”
“I worked with a lawyer and the lawyer said, ‘Oh it’s too much money. It’s too painful. It’s too hard, don’t try to do it,’” Stoddard said.
The Archangels began as a group of volunteers before becoming an official nonprofit organization.
However, right after he founded Archangels, Stoddard was deployed once again.
“As I started to get ready for the deployment, I thought you know what, I really need to just put this thing to the next level,” he said. “I wanted to also focus on first responders.”
Today, Archangels provides a wide range of services for both veterans and first responders – including equine therapy, military dinners and fundraising for other organizations in the Valley.
For veterans or first responders who are struggling financially, Archangels works with businesses throughout the Valley to provide them with free or low-cost services.
They can call Archangels, which will then connect them with the appropriate service provider, even a plumber or hairstylist.
The nonprofit also raises money for the families of fallen service members to help with funeral costs and other necessities.
“What’s nice about us is we don’t charge a dime. I don’t make a dime, I’m a volunteer, my board is volunteer, everyone who’s involved is volunteer, so when people donate it’s not like we take off 25 percent. It just goes to the family.”
“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to do that,” Stoddard said.
Archangels next big event, the Victory Run, will be held on Veterans Day this year at Magma Ranch Veterans Park in Florence.
“It’s going to be a 5K with every different service organization, the Marines will be out there, the Army will be out there. We’re going to have face painters and balloon twisters,” he said.
One of Archangel’s recent projects was also held at the Veterans Park, where they “installed a really beautiful sign there,” he added.
“It’s 10 feet wide, six feet tall and solid steel; it has all the military emblems. It’s incredible.”
Stoddard is currently working on completing his master’s degree and is studying ethics and the treatment of PTSD.
“I think the most immediate, pressing need is trying to fight PTSD and suicide,” he said. “It’s such an epidemic everywhere, and not just across the country, but specifically in the service community.”