In the beginning of 2008, after attending two years of college, I felt a strong pull towards the military. I was a respectable student, but I wanted to experience something more than what my school could offer. I needed to be a part of something that was bigger than myself and ultimately push me to be a better individual. In July of 2008, I enlisted in the United States Army as part of the Military Police. I completed Basic Combat Training and One Station Unit Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. There, I learned how to be a soldier.
Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was my first duty station and it was a dream location. During my time there, I trained for deployment, fulfilled my duties as a Military Police officer, and was given the additional opportunity to become a Traffic Accident Investigator.
In 2009, I deployed to Iraq for 12 months. It was during deployment that I learned how to be part of a team and what it truly means to be a leader. This was my first time outside of the United States, and I learned that despite a language barrier, the power of sport and physical activity is universal. While out on missions, we would interact with local children using a soccer (football) ball and other activities. The time I was able to interact and learn from these children is something that stayed with me when I returned from deployment.
After Iraq, I was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia where I served as a desk sergeant and team leader. As my time in the military was coming to a close, I wanted to take full advantage of my GI Bill and go back to school to receive a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees. In school, I found my passion for providing sport and physical activity opportunities to individuals with disabilities and had my first encounter with Special Olympics. I spent a great deal of time at a Unified Champion School, where I coached bocce. I made it a priority to infuse fitness into all of our practices and games.
This path led me to my current role at Special Olympics as the Manager of Fitness for Youth and Schools. During my five years in the Army, fitness was a significant part of my daily routine, and now I get to take all the knowledge from my military career and educational background to provide opportunities for schools and youth with and without intellectual disabilities to be physically active and healthy.
I would like to wish a Happy Veterans Day to all of the veterans in the Special Olympics movement. Thank you for your service!