You Know You're From...Spencer: Ben Manthe
Ben Manthe is living out his boyhood dream.
"I was 12 years old, Manthe said. "I said 'Dad, 'I'm going to be a wrestler when I grow up.' There was no other path for me."
Growing up in Spencer, Ben was the middle child with an older and younger sister.
"Very often WWF wrestlers Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and 'Macho Man' Randy Savage crashed Barbie's pool party at the dream house."
It was 2004 when he stepped into a ring for the first time with a group of friends.
"We did this show that was awful, and we were all terrible because none of us knew what we were doing," he said with a chuckle.
Over the next 6 years, he got the proper training and improved drastically. But an injury lingered on, with a new wife, one kid already and another on the way.
"It was getting hard to look in the mirror. I didn't like who I was," he remembered. "I wasn't happy."
With the encouragement of wife Kristal, Ben joined the Army in August of 2010. One year later, August 2011 on a mission in Afghanistan.
"The bullet hit me right here in the mouth," as he pointed.
Shot by enemy gunfire.
"It was like a jet engine and a whistle combined together and that bullet hit me right in the face," as he described the impact of the bullet.
"I answered the phone," wife Kristal recalled. "And the first thing they said was, 'is this Mrs. Manthe?' And it felt like the whole room just went dark.
Ben was flown from Afghanistan to Germany to San Antonio.
"When I first saw him, he was hooked up to machines," said Kristal. "Even though his injury didn't look so bad on the outside, we knew how bad it was on the inside."
"I didn't feel pain until I woke up in San Antonio, Texas," Ben said.
He had several major surgeries and facial reconstructions over the next 23 months, until he medically retired in July of 2013. Struggling with PTSD and to find a new normal, a friend convinced Ben to check out a wrestling show. Finally, in December of 2014, he laced up his boots once again.
"I felt like I found the one thing the war didn't take from me," said Ben.
He's been wrestling full-time for 3 years now. And in that time has started his own wrestling company, Frontline Pro.
"It's overwhelming. Mind boggling. Stressful and downright soul crushing at times because there's so much to it," he said while laughing.
Having lost 14 brothers-in-arms to suicide the last 5 years, Frontline Pro's mission is to help various veteran programs.
"If we can help any, just even one person dealing with their PTSD or their mental health issues, make sure people know they're not alone," said Kris Lockman, an announcer and event organizer for Frontline Pro.
"The whole point of this is to just help the guys that needed help," said Ben.
"I just want us to help as many people as we can," reiterated Kristal.
His own struggles seemingly behind him, life is good...as it can be.
"I'm in a better place now than I think I've ever been. You know there's things that you see and things that you do, places like that change you," Ben said.
"I don't know that I'll ever get him 100% back the way he was," said Kristal, "but I love him for who he is now."
An Army veteran living out his boyhood dream.