JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - There are some sports that people need in their lives. One soldier needed skateboarding so much that he tried to build a half-pipe at the forward operating base he was deployed to in Afghanistan.
That is because skateboarding is a source of resilience for Spc. Jerry Ledesma, a Weslaco, Texas, native, and senior radar operator with Battery F (Target Acquisition), 26th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, 7th Infantry Division.
Skateboarding is an integral part of who Ledesma is. He started at the age of 15 when his father gave him a board for Christmas. He had a rocky start, but enjoyed it so much that he knew it was not something he could just give up.
"[At first] I kept falling and everything, but I also just kept getting back up and trying again," he said.
Ledesma was learning resilience without even realizing it. Executing complex movements to perform tricks during constant physical activity can be enough to exhaust and frustrate new skaters until they want to stop trying. But Ledesma never got frustrated enough to quit. Instead, he grew to be more patient and persistent.
"If you love something a lot, you're just going to keep doing it," he said. "No matter how bad something sucks, or if you get frustrated, just keep at it. Eventually it's going to become second nature."
While skating is second nature to him these days, he makes it a point to keep trying new tricks or to try old ones in more challenging locations.
"It's just dedication. The feeling of landing a trick that you've worked hard on ... the feeling of trying something new and riding away from it is just amazing. You can't really describe it, it is just a very great feeling," he said.
Ledesma is generally confident and comfortable on a skateboard, but gliding around and performing gravity-defying tricks with ease is not enough. He likes to challenge himself every time he skates by working on something he cannot do easily. By doing so, he always has a reason to practice good patience and persistence.
"You have to step outside of your comfort zone sometimes, and you have to be patient with yourself. You may be doing everything right but sometimes you might slip out of certain tricks," he said.
It can take all day when he is working on new tricks, but he would not have it any other way. Skating helps keep Ledesma resilient, and in the Army that can go a long way.