By Mr. David E Poe (IMCOM)May 11, 2011
Ironman triathlete Andy Holder, better known as "Iron Andy," checked in and spoke at Fort Bliss' Warrior Transition Battalion May 6.
Holder, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes six years ago at the age of 36, said after struggling to cope, he accepted his condition by deciding to train for the Ironman Triathlon to show others that limitations are more internal than people imagine.
"I was 36, I was fit and healthy, so to hear the news that I had type 1 diabetes confused me," Holder told his audience, and said while he'd spoken to servicemembers before, he marked his first visit to a WTB May 6. "I was also scared because I didn't know what it meant to have diabetes, but more than that, I was angry. I was angry because I was a new dad and I imagined my kids would always look up to me as a super hero. I didn't want my kids to grow up seeing me weak.
"With everything I realized I couldn't control, there was one thing I realized I could, and that was my attitude. Everyone can control their attitudes every day of their lives. I wanted to show people through my actions that the word 'can't' should be taken out of their vocabulary and the way I decided to do that was training for the Ironman Triathlon."
An Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. Ironman Hawaii, which is the annual championship, is just one of many sanctioned Ironman Triathlons held around the world every year with locations ranging from the rolling, green hills of Nice, France, to the unapologetic deserts spreads of Tempe, Ariz.
In a room full of warriors in transition, Holder said regardless of his own obstacles, the courage he saw in his audience inspired him and he was humbled in their presence.
"I've spoke to a lot of audiences, from elementary schools, to colleges, to big corporations, but clearly this is a different group," said Holder. "What I'm dealing with in facing a chronic disease is small compared to what they've gone through."
Though he may have approached it a little differently than speaking to college kids, or corporate CEOs, in the end he said he hoped WTB Soldiers walked away with the same thoughts he hopes all of his audiences walk away with.
"I hope in some way they can sort of internalize my story and apply it to what they're going through now and down the road," he said.
Capt. Don Porschien, a former warrior in transition and now Bliss WTB's operations officer, said he felt Holder's visit was fitting for warriors who are overcoming short- and long-term obstacles alike.
"We bring people here who've overcome adversities and that kind of inspires the Soldiers to overcome their injuries and get back to a normal life," said Porschien. "I'm inspired by him as well because we're really big on positive thinking in transitioning folks either back to their job in the Army, a different job based on their abilities, or successful veteran life."
According to their website, "the Iron Andy Foundation (IAF) believes that everyone should have an opportunity to live a healthy and active life. It is the foundation's mission to help children, young adults and families dealing with diabetes have a proactive approach and attitude towards managing and fighting this chronic disease."
For more information on the IAF and to keep up with Andy as he swims, bikes and runs his way around the globe while inspiring others to never quit on life, visit www.ironandyfoundation.org.