I Stand for Freedom (Literally!) this July 4th

Why I stand for freedom…

Your freedom and my feet… How on Earth do those two things relate? Let me explain…

Since we are coming up on Independence Day, I always think about the freedom that we have and how blessed we are. My father served in Vietnam and during that time, he was exposed to Agent Orange.

Ironically, Agent Orange hibernates in your fat cells. It sat there in my Dad’s beer gut until he wanted to become a helicopter pilot in the Army. But to be accepted, he needed to lose some weight.

He went on a crash course diet and in that process, he lost that gut but also introduced the stored Agent Orange back into his system. It was during this time that I was conceived.

Nine months later, my mom gave birth to me. Although I was an 8.5 pound baby, they incubated me immediately and took me away from my mom. It was obvious I had severe birth defects in my feet and the doctors were afraid that this was just one sign of more serious complications, like brain and organ deformities.

To make a long story short, they came to the conclusion that the only defects I had were in my feet.

My parents battled with many doctors to save my feet because most wanted to have them amputated. Thank goodness they were both incredibly stubborn because they never gave up the fight for me, and they eventually found a doctor that said he would do his best to save my feet. Multiple surgeries later, I still have them. They’re not pretty… But they’re still there!

While on active duty, patrolling the North and South Korean border by helicopter, my dad was shot down and killed right before my sixth birthday. At that point, the doctors still didn’t know that it was Agent Orange that caused my birth defects. My mom always shares with me how glad she was he never knew.

So even though I had my two God-given feet, doctors warned my mom early on that I would most likely never walk or wear shoes.

Well being just as stubborn as my parents, I had to prove those doctors wrong. At 14 months, with a cast on both legs, I took my first steps.

But now that I was walking, the doctors were telling my mom and dad that if I wasn’t very careful, I would be in a wheelchair by the age of 35. Sports were never an option for me growing up.

Again, I had to prove those doctors wrong and I’m still walking on my feet (8 years later than they predicted) and have been a leader in the fitness industry for over 18 years.

I’ve always wanted to tattoo “I Stand For Freedom” on my feet because that’s exactly what I do. My father dedicated his life to giving us freedom and the stubbornness of my parents made it so I could stand on my own 2 feet!

Besides, I do believe that all I’ve been through has given me the heart to help others with struggles of their own.

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny… ~C.S. Lewis