Holt: Fargo man says deployment to Iraq changed his life
A yearlong deployment as a combat medic with the Army National Guard helped Anthony Bryant turn his life around. "If it wasn't for the military, I don't know what I'd be doing now. Iraq really straightened me out," the 39-year-old Fargo man says....
A yearlong deployment as a combat medic with the Army National Guard helped Anthony Bryant turn his life around.
"If it wasn't for the military, I don't know what I'd be doing now. Iraq really straightened me out," the 39-year-old Fargo man says.
Before his tour, Anthony was unhappy with his life. He was overweight, depressed, drinking too much and smoking close to a pack of cigarettes a day.
While abroad with the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion out of Fargo, he finally felt like he was "contributing to something other than my own demise."
He was functioning better and feeling better than he had in years.
"While on that tour, I realized that I'd just been wasting my life and tried to make a plan to get everything back on track when I got home," he says.
Two months after his tour ended, on July 4, 2004, he quit drinking. "My very own Independence Day," he says proudly.
Sobriety was just the beginning.
That fall, Anthony went back to college to finish his teaching degree. In 2006, he graduated from Valley City State University and accepted his commission as an officer in the North Dakota Army National Guard.
Now he's an English teacher and varsity girls' basketball coach at Lake Park-Audubon High School in Lake Park, Minn., and the commander of the Headquarters Company of the 231st Brigade Support Battalion out of Valley City, N.D.
Meanwhile, he stopped smoking, dropped about 60 pounds and ran a marathon.
"I have two kids, and I'm trying to stay around for them. I know that if I'd stayed on the path I was on, I would have died early," he says.
One of his goals for his new life after Iraq was to be a better father.
Anthony speaks openly with his children about the mistakes he made in the past in hopes they won't repeat them.
"I don't want my kids to have to go through what I went through," he says. "My kids or my students."
He says physical fitness has become his new addiction and the gym is the one thing he has control over.
He does high-intensity cardio and strength-training workouts five or six days a week and runs outside when he can.
This summer, he finished in first place in the 12K Fallen Soldiers Run/Walk in Devils Lake, N.D.
"I feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, and I'm 39," he says.
Anthony started weight training during his free time at military school.
"When you start noticing changes, it propels you to keep going," he says.
His wellness journey wasn't without struggle and frustration.
"The main thing is staying with it. I see so many people that come into the gym and you see them going really hard for a week or two, especially in January right after New Year's resolutions, and then they quit," he says.
Although it's not as hard as it used to be, food is still Anthony's weakness - especially pizza.
"I would eat pizza all the time. There's none of this one or two pieces; I would want the whole damn thing," he says. "I probably haven't had pizza in a year and a half."
He doesn't miss it, either, or the other foods he cut out of his diet, like french fries.
"It's like alcohol," he says. "Now that it's been so long, I don't even think about it."
Health and fitness helped Anthony live the life he wishes he'd started living before that deployment to Iraq, and now he's paying it forward.
"When I finally got my life on track and decided to be a teacher, I always told myself I'd do whatever I could to help others make better decisions in their own lives, whether it dealt with alcohol or physical fitness," he says.
Do you have a weight-loss story to tell? Email me at email@example.com .
Forum reporter Meredith Holt has lost 105 pounds since May 2010. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5590.