I am a Wounded Warrior still serving on active duty and April 9th 2004 is my Alive Day. I received a serious internal injury during a firefight in Al Kut, Iraq conducting combat operations against the Mahdi Militia. This past April I celebrated my 10th Alive Day. Some might question celebrating the day I was wounded, but that is exactly what it was, a celebration of life.
It wasn’t always that way. The first few “Alive Day” anniversaries were frustrating as I reflected on what the “Old Normal” was and my struggle to get back to my old self before I was wounded. I didn’t like the “New Normal”. I was not at the same level of fitness as I was before that day and I was starting to realize I never would be. I had to accept my injury and the constraints it put on me; I had to accept the “New Normal”.
But accepting the “New Normal” was not easy, it was an act of courage. But before being courageous I had to acknowledge I was vulnerable. There is certain vulnerability in facing the fact that you will not be the same as you were before. But once you acknowledge that vulnerability you can develop the courage to overcome it. I finally acknowledge being “vulnerable” and with the help of family, my Army brothers and sisters, and community members I was able to accept the “New Normal” and return to endurance sports which were a big part of my existence before the war.
After my recovery I was retained on active duty and continue to serve in the Army. I am currently assigned as a faculty member to the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. I got involved with a great organization named Team Red, White, and Blue (Team RWB) whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. I believe it is though the relationships formed with fellow vets and community members that Veterans can be courageous and accept the “New Normal” in their lives whatever that might look like.
So back to my Alive Day celebration- Last April 9th, 2014 as previously mentioned was the 10th anniversary of my Alive Day. I celebrated with my fellow Team RWB teammates and we knocked out the “Alive Day” workout.
The circuit consisted of 9 Stations – 9 reps of each exercise were performed followed by a 50 yard sprint- Do this 4 times per station. The 9 stations represent each of my soldiers that were wounded ( Minus myself- this was about them, not me). The 9 reps is for the date, April 9th. The 4 times per station is significant because April is the fourth month of the year. The workout was 20 minutes and 04 seconds for the year 2004.
Example- Box Jumps
9 box Jumps, 50 yard sprint
9 box jumps, 50 yard sprint,
9 box jumps, 50 yard sprint,
9 box jumps 50 yard sprint- move to next station and repeat again
Kettle Bell Swings
Slam ball/Steel bell slams
Weighted carry- Use a weight plate or slamball.
It was a great workout, but what made it really memorable were the people out there CRUSHING IT with me. Physical fitness ALONG with the support of friends and community members can help wounded Veterans embrace the “New Normal”; CRUSHing Adversity, building resiliency and putting them on the road to recovery.
George Washington said “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve…shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” One way to show appreciation is to join an organization like Team RWB and help Veterans connect to their communities.
Jonathan is an experienced leader and coach with a proven record of leading and developing others to perform at higher levels and improve their overall effectiveness. He has a passion for learning and developing others to improve as leaders. Jonathan brings lessons from experience leading in U.S. Army Infantry, Cavalry, and Armor units in a wide range of assignments, to include leading soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. He is a decorated veteran and a recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. Jonathan served as a faculty member at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY before transitioning from the Army in 2015. He is a certified Executive Coach and operates his own leadership coaching business. Check out his website here: http://www.quicksmartsleadership.com