Beards Behind the Brand: Billy Gaines
This is a brand new content series called Beards Behind the Brand! Our goal with this new series is to feature empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be.
It's all about doing better every single day, and these stories unite us in that mission. This week we're featuring Live Bearded customer Billy Gaines and his road to redemption.
At Live Bearded, the mantra of “doing better” is more than just a saying.
It’s a way of life.
Coincidentally, that creed is also what longtime customer Billy Gaines has based his life around…
For himself. His family. His kids.
But it hasn’t always been so simple.
“My story isn’t an easy one,” Gaines said assertively. “But it’s a victorious one.”
Growing up was challenging for Gaines. As he puts it, he grew up on both sides of the tracks. There were times when his father brought in more dough than they could count… but there also times when he worked a full-time job in high school to help out wherever he could.
“I’m the second oldest of four boys,” he said. “My parents quit trying for a girl after my youngest brother. From about age 5, I was the victim of physical abuse and sexual abuse. It ended when I was 13 and I spent the rest of my teenage years trying to prove to myself that it wasn’t my fault.”
Gaines didn’t live in the roughest neighborhood, but the rough neighborhoods often found their way to his block. He got picked on and beat up often just for being the little guy.
“But that pushed me to one, learn how to fight, and two, I turned to sports as an outlet,” Gaines said with passion. “I tried them all but became very good at football. I headlined the local sports page nearly every week and was on track to sign with South Dakota State University. However, towards the end of my season I fractured my ankle in two places and that was all she wrote for my NFL aspirations. But it worked out. I met my future wife my senior year and joined the Air Force shortly after graduation.”
Gaines’ affinity for his wife is unmistakable. Just mentioning her name and there will be a smile shortly after. In fact, he says she is the strongest person he knows and credits her with saving his life.
“Early in our marriage I fell into a dark place,” Gaines recalled. “I turned to alcohol and was drunk at every free moment. Day or night didn’t matter. I was not a very good husband and am shocked she is still with me today. She actually left me the day I found out I was deploying to Iraq. But, by God's grace, we were able to work through it. Post-traumatic stress disorder sucks and it hit me hard one random day, and haunted me for months. My wife Dez was there every step of the way. I would wake up and just cry and she was there to rub my head (and beard) to keep me calm. She has literally been my rock. She’s not afraid to call me on my crap but she’s loving and helps me through it.”
Dealing with PTSD, childhood trauma, and the deaths of so many close friends took its toll on Billy. But he and his wife made it through, and he says their marriage is now fireproof. Billy says his greatest achievement in life has to be seeing his three children grow into the people God called them to be.
“And what is amazing is that my wife taught my kids to have that same loving heart that she has,” Billy said fondly. “My daughter is a grown woman trapped in a teenage body and the stuff she comes up with baffles the heck out of me. She’s an outside-the-box thinker and a dynamic problem solver. When I’m not in my right headspace she always has a practical solution. I need that. Now my son is the real MVP. This dude is beyond funny, beyond witty, and knows how to make the best of every situation. Aside from never having a clean room, he’s just about perfect. Watching him on the football field triggers an emotion I can’t describe. He’s a little beast and I can’t believe God chose him to be my son.”
Through his childhood, marriage and military career, Gaines has an appreciation for life that he undoubtedly wouldn’t have had otherwise. The road has been riddled with challenges and battles, but it’s made him the man he is today.
“Everyone wants to overcome the struggle and get to the mountaintop as quickly as possible,” Gaines said when asked about his advice for others going through a tough time. “But notice there are very few trees, if any, at the top. That’s because growth happens in the valley. Going through hardships sucks. Sometimes they can be the hardest things you’ll ever do in life. But when you come out of it, you’ll be the best version of you. Plus you’ll have a story to tell. You never know, your whole existence on Earth may be to help someone through the very thing you overcame. Stay positive. Positivity breeds positivity and negativity breeds negativity.”
Gaines is an avid outdoorsman and loves more than anything to spend time with his family. He’s also found a significant brotherhood within the Live Bearded community.
“Live Bearded is one of the greatest things that has happened to me post retirement,” he said. “I never knew there was a community of people who genuinely care for other people. With all the crap that has been going on in the country as of late, this bearded community has not only been a positive example for growing a beard but also a positive example of how to treat people. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or whatever, Live Bearded has honestly given me a place of safety, family, and fellowship.”
At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.
Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!