By Keysha Bradley, AT&T Insider

As Memorial Day approaches, we'll recognize those who have given their lives in the name of freedom. This day is especially important to Cody Bandars, a senior product marketing manager at AT&T and former Navy SEAL.

During his tenure in the Navy, several of his peers lost their lives.

His 1-year wedding anniversary on Aug. 6, 2011, was supposed to be a happy day. However, he woke up to the news that a military helicopter had been shot down by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thirty-one Americans lost their lives, including 17 Navy SEALS. It was the largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare history during the Afghanistan campaign.

Then a few months later on Oct. 1, 2011, Caleb Nelson, a Navy SEAL from Cody's hometown was killed in Afghanistan. "Caleb's death really hit close to home," Cody said. "He grew up 2 miles away from me. It made it very real."

Carrying The Load

To honor his fallen comrades, Cody supports Carry The Load, a nonprofit dedicated to providing active, meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the sacrifices of our fallen heroes.

"I Carry The Load for all of our brothers and sisters who are still serving, for those who went before us, and for all of them we've lost along the way." Cody said.

Prior to going into the Navy, Cody worked at Trident Response Group (TRG), a global intelligence and advisory group in Dallas. TRG was co-founded by Clint Bruce, a former Navy SEAL, who mentored Cody until he went to boot camp in March 2010.

In 2011 while Cody was serving our country, Clint Bruce and another former Navy SEAL, Stephen Holley, founded Carry the Load.

"An important part of coming home is finding and helping build better versions of you to go and do what you did," said Clint. "I felt like I owed the teams better, smarter, faster and fitter versions of me when I left. Cody was, and is, all of those things. It's exciting to see him bring the intangibles of our special operations careers back to a great organization like AT&T and certainly for Carry the Load."

Life @AT&T

After 2 deployments and 7 years as a Navy SEAL, Cody decided it was time to move on to the next chapter in his life.

He came to AT&T through the Care Coalition Fellowship Program in January 2017. The program is designed to support the U.S. Special Operations Command service members who are in the process of transitioning into civilian life, but are waiting for the completion of their medical separation orders.

"I was lucky enough to find a needle in a haystack in Cody Bandars," said Marcus Owenby, AVP – product marketing management. "Cody happened to be a perfect fit for a role I had been trying to fill. He was bilingual, detail-oriented and had the cultural experience to be comfortable working with our business partners in Latin America."

Cody Bandars

Click below to learn more about Carry the Load and see videos from relay events across America.