“Born August 22, 1989 in Sierra Vista, Arizona in a military family, I spent most of my childhood moving around to places such as New York, St. Louis, San Leandro, and Southern California after my mom remarried when I was 11 years old. I am the middle of 3 siblings, and as the traditional middle child, I had a history of a reckless and eventful childhood. Between fights, sneaking around, and occasional illegal activity, I kept my mother on her toes through my life, and in some ways still very much do so today 25+ years later. The last planned decision I ever made was when I was sixteen years old and decided to join the Marine Corps.
Everything since has been a reaction to events. I was a military child growing up, and it had always sparked an interest in me. A random and last-minute decision, but it was widely supported as everyone knew I would be good at it. I’d love to say those events were joyously eventful, but it would be a lie. After ten years of faithful and active service, combat deployments, and multiple injuries, I exited the Marine Corps in 2016. My decision to get out of the Corps was brought to you by a spinal fusion in May of 2015, which was the result of one training and one combat incident in years prior.
In 2011, I was in a vehicle struck by an IED (improvised explosive device). The explosion damaged and disabled the vehicle. No Marine in the vehicle was seriously injured at the time, but we later found out—after a long duration with back pain—it did cause some injury to the spinal column. I was an infantry machine gunner by trade and I was used to carrying around 200lbs everywhere I went, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have back pain. 2013 was when my doctor decided we were going to do the fusion. Even though I was scared at the time, it was still very much necessary given the amount of damage.
We did about 18 months of physical therapy, injections, steroids, medial branch blocks, you name it before the decision was made. During this time, I got certified as a personal trainer so I could learn about the body and take control of my recovery following the surgery. By the book, and via recommendations from my doctors, the recovery was supposed to last an estimated 12- to 18-month period. I was determined to get on my feet and back to the things I enjoyed as soon as possible. A spinal fusion is ‘ranked’ one of the most painful procedures the human body can experience. As I sit here today, I can support and defend that notion.
In the hospital for 3 days following the procedure, I was on a rotation of the following medications: Oxycodone, Percocet, Valium, and morphine drip. Standing and walking became very big challenges. It took me nearly a month following the surgery to get up and start walking outside of the house, including going upstairs to my bed. I spent 3 weeks sleeping on the couch and using a massive back brace and cane to move around. Approximately 2 months following the surgery, I was exhaustively walking 1 mile. Between my own home exercise I had previously studied about and my physical therapist, I was on my feet and back in the gym around 9 months post-operation.
Nine months following the spine surgery, I was struck by a truck in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. At 4 a.m. on February 6 ,2016, I was 2 blocks down the street from my house on my way to work—100 miles away—when a truck made a left turn in front of me and I struck the dead center of the vehicle. Sending me up and over the truck, I flew a measured 98 feet down the street. I spent 17 days in the hospital recovering from two collapsed lungs, 7 thoracic spine fractures, 6 broken ribs, 6 shoulder fractures, lacerated liver, and moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI). In an accident that doctors said I shouldn’t have survived, but I don’t even remember.
The brain injury caused post-concussive amnesia and my last memory before the accident was about two weeks prior. I know this timeline because when I woke up in the hospital, post-surgery following the accident, my first thought was I had been shot. This thought became a statement when I saw my ex-wife and the doctor. I asked, ‘Who the f–k shot me?’ To everyone’s shock and wonder, the doctor began to ask questions. He asked her why did I think I had been shot. To which she replied, ‘He was on the range shooting a few weeks ago,’ in wonder. The doctor then concluded I woke up thinking I was just recently on the range and had been accidentally wounded. The memory loss has thus far been permanent.
I still to this day—six years later—don’t recall the accident. The little bit I do know is due to witnesses, the police report, medical reports, and general understanding of the location of the accident. The visitors log at the hospital showed 46 people came to visit me, and I personally only recall 3. My ex-wife, my best friend of now 22 years, and my direct supervisor in the Marine Corps. My focus at this point was surviving. The struggle to breathe, talk, and move became the biggest challenge I had ever faced. I got certified as a personal trainer before the spine surgery so I could better help myself recover. This led to the skill set of helping myself recover from the motorcycle accident as well.
I quickly realized health and fitness were a passion of mine, and after the accidents and multiple surgeries, I was good at it as well. This drove me to go to school to study physical therapy. While I was going through school, certain subjects such as biology, anatomy, and physiology had clicked very well with me. I enjoyed seeing it, talking about it, and putting what I was learning into action with my recovery and fitness program. I finished my Bachelors in Kinesiology Allied Health (Pre-physical therapy) and then went private as a personal trainer with specialties in corrective exercise, performance enhancement, fitness nutrition, nutritional coaching, and MMA conditioning.
The year following the accident, I was in the hospital for my first surgery towards the shoulder reconstruction. The left shoulder suffered 4 separate fractures in the accident and all ligaments had been damaged. In early 2017, we did a complete reconstruction of the shoulder. This surgery and recovery took nearly a year due to an infection and a slow healing process. After having the spine fused, shoulder reconstructed and dealing with the other residual effects from the many other injuries, it became a full-time job just focusing on my recovery. Walks, swimming, yoga, physical therapy, hikes, massages, cryotherapy, and compression were day-to-day tasks.
I decided in 2018 to get involved in competitive bodybuilding to help me stay on task. This decision gave me a constantly evolving goal to work towards and made it very difficult to stray from my designated routine. Training daily and for long periods of time, I competed in my first men’s physique bodybuilding show in June of 2018 and have since done a total of 7 shows placing top 5 in each one. During this time, I was training part-time clientele and going to school full time until the fall of 2019 when I completed the academics to the level I desired at the time. Since 2019, I have been training full-time with an average of 30 clients all year long. I made some friendships along the way that even turned into business partnerships.
Following the accident, I claimed a settlement for injuries sustained, which went to medical bills and paying off our home. I then was left with a small amount left in savings. I took said amount and made a risky investment to take one of these partnerships and turn it into opening a gym together. In 2018, I bought into the Self-Made Training Facility Franchise with the intention of opening my own gym. While running into issue after issue with city limitations, zoning, size, price, and location dilemmas, it all came to an abrupt end when bad things were discovered about my partner and pending investors. After dissolving the partnership and looking far and wide for other investors or partnership opportunities, my dream had hit a speed bump I wasn’t getting over any time soon.
Due to legal specifications, the nonrefundable money put into this franchise effort became a loss. So now recently divorced, still recovering from multiple injuries, transitioning out of the Marine Corps, finishing school, competing in bodybuilding, losing a lot of money and my safety net, and raising a son, I now needed to make a move to begin my rebuild. I took a step back and looked at a new approach to still accomplishing my dream of being a gym owner.
My son was born on my birthday just following the spine surgery in 2015, and just before the motorcycle accident in 2016. One of my main reasons for getting certified as a trainer following the spine surgery was to make sure I wasn’t the 25-year-old dad who wasn’t able to play with his son due to an injury. Rightfully so, I’m glad I made the decision. My son is the other half of me. Just as smart, just as wild, and just as reckless as I had been in my adolescent years. Since the accident and his birth, he has become my purpose in life and inspired everything I’ve done ever since. Since surviving the accident and beginning my business in health and fitness, he has become the main foundation for my purpose in life.
As an active Father with a healthy co-parent relationship, I’ve become most widely known for my fitness and fatherhood. Though his mother and I decided to split when he was two years old, it has since been a good relationship altogether. We share custody 50% with no exchange in child support or alimony. This has become a blessing on its own as we both prioritize his behalf before our own. We communicate daily in all matters from school to medical to extra-curricular for him. He has suffered from a concussion, stitches in his head, lost teeth, and numerous cuts and bruises. He also has an extremely rare autoimmune disorder called Hypocomplementemic urticarial vasculitis (HUV), a 1/1,000,000+ blood disorder that affects the proteins in his blood. Needless to say, my son—much like myself—is a daily challenge as you never know what kind of day was going to have.
I’ve been looked at as an inspiration both as a parent and a personal trainer. I’ve personally been known for my sense of humor and outgoing personality, which has been deemed very entertaining. I use this to my advantage from time to time as I like to use both my Instagram and TikTok platforms to entertain and inspire. I’ve used such attributes to inspire my next business venture. This led to the creation of another business of mine and it is my clothing line Father Figure Fitness apparel, which is a family athleisure clothing brand designed and inspired by fit families. I launched this on the Shopify platform in late 2021 and since continued to grow both in business, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
I use my creativity, fitness, and parenting experiences to help fuel the variety in the clothing line. Off to an intentionally slow start, I’ve gotten a lot of great positive feedback regarding the statements the clothing line illustrates. The last 6 to 7 years have been very eventful, to say the least. More than a blog or interview can ever cover. I include blogs on my website that cover anything from nutrition to personal development topics. The plan is to take the blogs and create training e-books and short stories, which I will eventually turn into a book. Between the Marine Corps, near-death experiences, business ventures and losses, parenthood and divorce, I’ve learned so many things that have formed me as a person today.
So many things in fact, it would be a shame to keep those experiences to myself. My story has since inspired many and continues to do so, and I am blessed beyond belief for the opportunities I have been given over the years and through these experiences.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jesse Turner of Redlands, California. You can follow his journey on Instagram and TikTok. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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