Yoga Leadership Camp & Being Authentic

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Blog written by:  Terrance Gant; Team Red, White & Blue Phoenix

I walked into the Yoga Leadership Camp a little skeptical about what was going to happen and how I was going to feel.  I mean… it’s yoga for crying out loud. But boy, was I in for a surprise.

Georgina started it off with a talk about being authentic, and her “why” for joining Team Red, White & Blue.  It really was a great way to start off the weekend because it immediately set the tone.  During her talk, I silently whispered to myself, “You better not cry.”  So much for the positive self talk.  Before I knew it, the first day was ending with some calming yoga and a group dinner.  After dinner is when things got serious.

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All the Eagles sat in a circle, and Georgina asked who wanted to share their story.  I shyly raised my hand, and the tears began to well up in my eyes.  I’ve told my story a few times in a couple different programs, but this would be the first time I would share it with someone without a military background.  My story goes something like this:

I joined the military back in 1998 under peace time.  It was so fun that on my first West Pacific deployment on the USS Pelieliu, all we did was a couple training operations and a ton of liberty in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.  I was on my second deployment when my life would dramatically change.  While on liberty in Darwin, Australia, September 11th happened.  I would go on to deploy to Afghanistan twice and Iraq three times in an 8 year period.  In 2009, I was injured and had to make a decision to move laterally to a different position or separate from the Marine Corps entirely.  I couldn’t imagine being anything other than an infantry man and leading Marines in combat.  If I couldn’t do that then I didn’t want to do anything, so I got out after 12 years of service.  That’s when the wheels started to fall off.  I found myself drinking heavily – not your normal 6-12 pack of beer, but a fifth or pint of vodka a night just to sleep without nightmares.  I was neglecting my family and ended up destroying my relationship with my ex-wife and children.   I ended up losing everything, wife, kids, and job.  I ended up homeless for three months wondering how to put my life back together.

The drinking got worse as well as my social skills.  On February 15, 2015 I tried to end my life.  My girlfriend at the time, who now has become my wife, said that I needed to get help, if not for myself than for the sake of my children.  There, the dark journey into my own soul began.  After attending numerous counselling sessions with the VA – both group and individual – I enrolled in a program called Save A Warrior (SAW).  Here, the light bulb came on.  Once I was done with SAW, I came home thinking, “What now?” Now that I have done the internal work what’s the external work?

A while later, I saw some people running with red shirts on, so I went home and Googled them and found out it was Team RWB. I signed up and, at first, just participated from afar.  When I was finally talked into doing the Tempe International Triathlon, I was hooked.  The camaraderie, es sprit de corps, and brotherhood was that missing external piece that I had been looking for.  Since then, I have jumped into the team head first and haven’t looked back.  Being the Veteran Engagement Coordinator has been the most fulfilling position I have held since separating from the Marine Corps.

I finished telling my story and there was a hush over the camp participants.  Throughout the weekend I would hear stories that even though they weren’t exactly like mine, they were stories of pain, hurt, and un-fulfillment in lives.  The same thing I was encountering, just in a different manner.  What I learned that weekend at Yoga Leadership Camp can’t be taught in school.  Be authentic to yourself, genuine to others, and always have empathy and compassion because you don’t know that person’s’ story.  We all have a story to share and when we are authentic with it and genuinely in tune with others stories, we can begin to build stronger, more loving communities and Nation.

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