SHERIDAN — Fifty-year-old Andre Maxwell has found a place he can call home, and that place is here in Sheridan.
“The people here are warm; the people here are friendly. They’re respectful,” he said. “It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been in America.”
Born to a single mother in Brooklyn, New York, Maxwell grew up among different cultures and different ideas.
“Even in a huge metropolitan city where there’s multicultural, there’s just so much racism and really it puts doubts in a young person’s mind, what your future can hold and what you’ll be able to attain,” Maxwell said.
To his friends and coworkers, he tells them that in Sheridan something is different.
“Here, I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s just that here in Wyoming people just respect you for who you are,” he said. “I feel totally comfortable.”
Maxwell moved to Sheridan by way of the U.S. Navy.
He served from 1987 to 1990, during the beginning of the Persian Gulf conflicts as an engineer on the U.S.S. Cochrane, a missile destroyer.
“We were primarily doing all the logistics, mapping out targets, long before the war was started,” Maxwell said.
While all of his work was done outside of combat, he said on occasion Russian Bearcat bombers would be heard flying overhead, because at the time they had their own interest in the budding conflict.
“We were like a little more than 125 miles from the carrier, outside the no-fly zone, so they used to buzz us from overhead and we’d go on alert,” Maxwell said. “There were a few tense moments.”
Joining the military was an interesting decision for Maxwell.
“I got my heart broken and I just needed to get away,” he said.
But the jump wasn’t one made without thought.
“Even though it was an emotional decision to go into the military, I still rationalized that I couldn’t do the Army, I couldn’t do the Marine Corps, because honestly I grew up in Brownsville and Brooklyn, I was surrounded with violence,” he said. “I just couldn’t see myself being that person. I couldn’t see myself taking another human being’s life, but yet, given the opportunity to serve my nation, I thought engineering would be a good decision.”
Before being discharged for severe depression, Maxwell earned the Navy Expeditionary Medal for his service.
Thirteen years ago, Maxwell was invited to take part in a program at the VA Medical Center in Sheridan.
“This program taught people how to deal with their different forms of mental illness,” he said.
He did exercises with Dr. Barbara Ziegler, who offered different mental training regiments.
“Going through Dr. Ziegler’s program 13 years ago made it possible for me to be the man that I am today,” Maxwell said. “She allowed me to open doors in my life that I never thought were possible.”
Maxwell’s future is in his hands, and his goal is to make reality television that actually aims to help people. Right now, he is working toward his associate’s degree at Sheridan College. He plans to take a part-time job at the campus bookstore while he focuses on his studies.
He said the current shows on television, shows about actual people, don’t aim to do anything but entertain.
“Unfortunately, the way I see it is, it’s horrible,” Maxwell said. “Because they come in in chaos and when they roll the credits people are still in chaos.”
He said there needs to be a return to the classics, shows that tried to show people right and wrong.
“Like Archie Bunker, you know, Allman Family,” he said. “You’d have a social situation where somebody would be ignorant or resistant and there’d be an opportunity for some education. You’d watch somebody who was bigoted, close-minded and self-centered actually take in an idea and change a little.”
If everything works out how he hopes, there is one thing he doesn’t plan on changing.
“If I made it in Hollywood and I was one of the biggest producers in the world, my home is here in Sheridan,” Maxwell said.