A former “troubled youth,” I started getting kicked out of school on a regular basis in sixth grade. After my school’s administration noted a trend in my poor behavior, and my single mother of four kids reached out for help, I was introduced to Mr. Blue. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Blue completely changed my life. Over the course of the next two years, I would continue to get into trouble, here and there, but Mr. Blue somehow kept me in line. Unfortunately, he was laid off my last year in middle school and I lost the role model I once looked up to. The next year, I was kicked out of my mother’s home and sent to live with my father. I “wasn’t welcome there anymore” and rightfully so, I had become such a burden on her.
Fast forward a couple years, I graduated early from high school and shipped off to boot camp. After 9/11, I decided I’d try to save the world. First stop, Marine Corps. In four years, I went on three deployments, had two meritorious promotions, won Marine of the Quarter and was made a squad leader. I helped rebuild a school in the Philippines, saw combat in Afghanistan and traveled the world with my best friends. However, I struggled, as many do, returning to life as a civilian. Leaving the comfort of comradery and unmistakable structure and sense of purpose, many veterans find the transition difficult. Not long after separating I hit the bottom, struggling with anger, anxiety and substance abuse along the way, but the Marine in me never died.
Suicide, alcoholism, addiction and several other different deadly vices are notorious veteran killers. Luckily, I was able to escape this fate through the relief I found in physical exercise, yoga, volunteering and any other way I could find to stay busy, outside of school and my job as a kickboxing instructor. I began to live a purpose driven life.
After a few years at school, a volunteer trip abroad and hundreds of hours of volunteer work at different organizations around the Valley, to include Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Phoenix Fire Department’s Crisis Response Team, I reached my second stop on my plight to righteousness, a career as a Firefighter. A job I have been happily doing for just under 3 years. While working full time as a firefighter, I was able to complete my undergraduate studies, graduating from Arizona State University, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise and Wellness in December of 2016. Most recently, I was recognized as the 2017 “United Fire Firefighter of the Year.” But there is still something significant missing and my dream to help those still walking in my old shoes continues forward.
I see myself in every struggling kid, navigating a young life with no clear direction or guidance. I see myself in every transitioning veteran, searching for purpose, a new mission, in the unforgiving civilian sector. Through the generosity and care for others, instilled in me through my gracious parents, the direction Mr. Blue gave me in my time of need and my desire to help my veteran comrades, lost in a broken system, I have come up with Calm, Fit, Complete.