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

Dawn Dillard says July 4, 2017

Where’s the ❤️ button when you need it, lol! I’ve always admired you for overcoming your foot struggles and proving the drs wrong… But had no idea you lost ur dad that early on, that’s a lot. You are such an inspiration, thanks for sharing!

Linda says July 4, 2017

What a beautiful & inspirational tribute to your dad! Boy.. would he be proud of you !

Veronica says July 4, 2017

Thank you so much for your father’s service and for your strength and courage

Sherrie says July 5, 2017

Beautiful story Melissa of how you overcame physical challenges and are able now to inspire others. Sad to hear about losing your dad at such an early age; I can see how Independence Day is especially meaningful to you knowing that your dad had a special part in the freedom we enjoy today, Happy 4th

Nancy Causey says July 5, 2017

Thank you for sharing that personal story ~ blessed! I had no idea!!

My father was a pilot in the Air Force and volunteered for Viet Nam. Our fathers,

Cheryl Boyd says July 5, 2017

I would love to continue in your Intermittent Fasting program.

Elzena says July 16, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story and your journey with us all!

Katie says July 4, 2019

LOVE LOVE LOVE!❤️ I have been following you on Instagram for awhile now so I was familiar with your story regarding your feet. But reading this and the analogy “standing for freedom” is just simply amazing! I literally got the chills. I say go for it with the tattoo! What a wonderful way to pay tribute to not only you, but your dad as well. Love you, everything you “stand” 😉 for, and your transparency through your journey in this wonderful thing we call life. Oh, and your ABUNDANCE amount of resourceful information in the health, food, and fitness worlds ❤️ Keep on rocking it girlfriend 👌

Anna Villano says July 4, 2019

Truly an amazing person inside and our. Thank you for the inspirations and keeping me motivated all my love ❤️❤️❤️

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