2017 Soldier of the Year
Maj. Christopher Mercado
After several of Maj. Christopher Mercado’s friends and comrades committed suicide, the infantry officer decided to stop feeling powerless. He drew on these experiences to create an app that connects service members and veterans with someone to talk to in times of need.
He co-founded the Objective Zero Foundation, which provides suicide-prevention resources to troops, vets and families. Mercado and the foundation created the Objective Zero app, where users can chat with someone via message, video or phone call at the push of a button.
Mercado dedicates his free time to fine-tuning the app, but he also makes his wife and two children a priority. He has volunteered as a youth wrestling coach, mentoring his son and other young wrestlers.
Through a military fellowship with the College of William and Mary’s Project on International Peace and Security, Mercado assists an undergraduate student with research work on national security.
Mercado, with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, has deployed five times, including to Iraq and Afghanistan. His awards and decorations include three Bronze Star Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, 10 Army Achievement Medals, and the NATO Medal.