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"Born into the Life" - Living to Serve

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"There are a lot of things in life that matter.  But nothing matters as much as who or what you decide to serve" - Marcus Lutrell. 

Often when I search for content to write about, I look for stories in the headlines or sports figures and celebrities who are doing something that display the Compete Every Day spirit; motivation for us every day people. But then I started thinking, what about us every day people!? People all over the world are doing great things, serving in ways that most of us don’t know about – they’re worth a story even if they aren’t today’s headlines.

My friend Jess Holland, is one of these every day people; making a difference. When she isn't posting about nuggets, her dog, or workouts, you can find her posting about honoring our heroes of the armed forces; the men and women who put their life and service on the line every day. In all seriousness, she shows a true passion and heart for all that is military and service for our country.  In fact, in a little over a month from now she will be riding 24 hours on a spin bike to raise money for the Douglas J Green Memorial Foundation's September 11th Care Package Drive (@DJGMF_LV).

The Las Vegas-based nonprofit is an all-volunteer organization that provides care packages to service members during deployment. Suni Chabrow started the foundation after her son, SPC Douglas J. Green, lost his life in action in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2011. Douglas used to love the small care packages of junk food his mother would send abroad. To keep the tradition alive and continue to honor her son and his sacrifice, Suni began sending care packages of food to the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and across the globe. This year they have a goal of 2,000 care packages; each one costs $14-15 just to ship! That doesn't even include the munchies inside! So they will be hopping on spin bikes for 24 hours to raise money. People can "rent" a bike for $40/hour or $1000 for all 24 hours in the hopes of meeting and exceeding their goal.

Jess, I know you grew up in a military family. Is this where your interest in honoring and supporting our country's servicemen started?

Jess: My mom served for the United States Navy for 20 years and my dad served 30 years in the United Stated Navy, in his tenure, he coached the US Armed Forces Soccer Team and the US All Navy Soccer Team. I grew up a Navy Brat, I was "born into the life." But once my parents retired, I didn't have any drive to do anything outside the box with the military. I really reconnected with the military once I moved to Vegas. At that time, my roommat’s little brother Frankie had joined the Army. I remember clearly all the feelings and emotions she went through before he was deployed. Frankie and his unit deployed on June 28, 2011, he was KIA July 16, 2011 (18 days into his first deployment). He was KIA in Spinboldak, Afghanistan while on a rescue mission to recover a vehicle with 4 fellow soldiers who were stranded in the desert late at night. Their Humvee hit an IED and Frankie was the only soldier killed in the mission. He was also the only soldier killed from his unit at Fort Hood the entire year they were in Afghanistan. 

Frankie had a Masters Degree and could have been an officer; instead, he chose to join the ARMY as an NCO with the desire to work his way up through the ranks. His reasoning for that was simple, he said, "When I become an officer, my men will know that I have been where they are at, and they will be more likely to respect me." It is very hard for my roommate to talk about her brother's story, so I vowed to her that I would make sure he is never forgotten. I connected with DJGMF over a year and a half ago via LeAnna Marchese, she has passion and drive in every aspect of her life, and she bleeds red, white, & blue! She told me what DJGMF did for the deployed and I was in right away.

We've spent countless weekends and holidays standing outside grocery stores collecting munchies 4 the military. It's the least we can do to give back to our service men and women, and we take pride in doing so. Fall 2013, I joined Phil Randazzo in trying to help conquer the problems that Veterans and transitioning men and women are going through when they leave the service. I took on the role of Business Development Director at American Dream U. American Dream U is a non profit dedicated to helping our military get the education and access to resources they need to find their dream job or to start a business of their own. We plan to hold events on bases across the world and we’re dedicated to providing the best speakers, tools, and information. It is thanks to our military that we live in a country where the entrepreneurial dream is possible; this is our way of giving back.

Our next event is at Fort Bragg, NC August 22-23, 2014. I've been working hand in hand with Fort Bragg Leadership and their Transition Office the past 6 months gearing up for this event. Over the next 5 years all branches of service will be drawing their troops down to historically low numbers. Approximately 124,000 service men & women will be looking for what their next step in their career path will be, American Dream U hopes to help guide them into the right direction.

It’s truly inspirational to see all that you are doing to give back in these ways. What fuels you to compete everyday for supporting and serving our troops?

Jess: The number of homeless and jobless veterans is at an all time high, and on average 22 veterans takes their own lives A DAY. We know we can't completely solve this problem, but we damn sure are going to give it our best to try! Whether it's sending a care package to someone who is deployed via DJGMF or helping service men and women get on the right track to business ownership or finding their dream job via American Dream U. I compete for my life and the lives of others every day. It is my honor to do it, and my Momma is super proud of me ;)

Thank you Jess for sharing your story and your mission in serving our troops and military. You are doing so much; yet there is so much to be done. For the average person who doesn't have someone closely tied to the military, our nation's freedom and safety can easily be taken for granted.  We get caught up in our day to day life, and what's going on with our armed forces gets pushed aside for the latest celebrity news and gossip - as if it's easier for us to digest and remain oblivious. Meanwhile families across the country are sending loved ones off to do the things we would never want to do, in order to live the lives that we do.

There are so many opportunities to show your appreciation; one of the easiest: simply saying "Thank you.” Even the smallest gesture can go a long way; United We Compete.

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