Wounded veteran finds new calling as fitness teacher
Over a 10-year period beginning in 2003, Marine veteran Calvin Smith endured 21 surgeries caused by war injuries he suffered in Iraq, a brain tumor and a motorcycle accident that cost him his left leg.
But looking back on that devastating decade, the 37-year-old Vista resident said he wouldn’t change a thing.
On his road to recovery, he fell in love with his speech therapist and she’s now his wife. He also discovered Pilates, which has so reshaped his mental and physical health that he’s now becoming an instructor.
His new mission in life is to share the health benefits of the strength-training exercise program with other veterans who’ve experienced traumatic injuries.
“My message is that just because you’re wounded, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something,” he said. “The only person holding you back is yourself.”
Smith is the first veteran amputee in training to become an instructor for Club Pilates, which has 400 gyms nationwide and another 250 scheduled to open this year, said Tianna Strateman, vice president of education for Club Pilates.
“Calvin is definitely a rock star,” Strateman said. “I can’t say enough about him and everything he’s accomplished.
We’re excited about his teacher training and becoming an instructor for both regular members and others in the military.
He’s our first and we hope he won’t be our last. He’s a trailblazer.”
Smith grew up in Mesa, Ariz., where he said he had a Marine Corps poster tacked up on his bedroom wall by the time he was in second grade. Serving in the military was the family business.
His grandfather spent 33 years in the Navy and his father did three tours in Vietnam.
In high school, he enlisted in the Marines on delayed-entry status and spent most weekends drilling with other recruits before heading to boot camp after his senior year in 2000.
As an infantryman with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, he was stationed at several international bases. Then, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, he prepared for war.
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