Robin Kelleher, founder and CEO of Hope For The Warriors, a nonprofit serving military families, describes veteran Mario Alcala as one of the “faces of hope.”
Park Cities Baptist Church members also know Alcala as a face of faith.
“I was told that my testimony has led numerous people to Christ,” he said.
The 37-year-old retired Marine has gone through war, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a brain tumor, and most recently terminal cancer.
Alcala credits his faith and the love he and his wife, Elizabeth, and their sons Quentin, 9, and Koa, 6, and his parents have received from their church family with helping him face stage 4 thyroid cancer.
“It won’t go away, but my faith’s not going away either,” he said in a video produced by the church. “My life is not wasted.”
As a college student in Oregon, Alcala had designs on a career in football until an injury ended that dream.
Instead, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 13 years until medically discharged for the brain tumor in 2010.
Less than a year later, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which eventually spread to his lungs.
[pullquote-left]“It won’t go away, but my faith’s not going away either.” -Mario Alcala[/pullquote-left]
“The people at Park Cities [Baptist] have been amazing,” he said, “from allowing me to stay in guest houses while I underwent radiation treatments to providing cooked meals for my family.”
Alcala has undergone radiation treatment three times and had three surgeries in the past five years. The cancer is not growing as fast as it once was, he said.
Due to his health problems, Alcala suffered PTSD, but found help managing the condition through Hope For The Warriors and participation in its golf tournaments for veterans.
He has completed a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and now works for HealthTexas Provider Network.
Alcala also continues to volunteer with Hope For The Warriors. The nonprofit honored him in the fall with the Vigiano Family Hope and Courage Award, which recognizes hope and courage displayed in the face of extraordinary circumstances.
“These ‘Faces of Hope’ represent the service and sacrifices made every day by our service members and military families,” Kelleher said.
Alcala said he doesn’t feel he’s done anything spectacular, but he plans to continue sharing his story, working with other veterans, and living in faith.
“I have seen God at work throughout this process,” he said. “It still amazes me how God takes something that we see as bad and uses it for good.”