This is my friend Miller, he is an Iraq war hero (my words, not his) and he has been one of my martial art students for a few years now. I will never forget the day that he came into our school for the first time. Neither one of us could have known how much that our life would change when we started
this journey together.

Miller suffers from PTSD that he acquired while serving in Iraq. He is an Army Ranger who along with two other Rangers saved the lives of over twenty of his brothers and sisters by defending a hospital that was under attack by insurgents. When he brought a letter from President George W. Bush that
commended him for his actions as he came into the school that first day, I remember thinking to myself as I read this letter, “What the hell am I going to teach this guy about being a warrior?” To be honest, I was a little intimidated by the soldier that was in front of me but I scheduled the private lesson and signed him up.

The first day that Miller came for a session his wife drove him and stayed to watch the lesson. Miller wanted to grapple a bit and I obliged to the best of my ability. Half way through our session Miller became ill and ran off of the mat. This is not unusual in some situations but it didn’t seem to make much sense that day because we were not rolling very hard. After he returned from the restroom, he and his wife exchanged looks, a look that I have both seen and worn many times. Miller was an alcoholic. As Miller started to pack up his things, I could see the look of utter disappointment on his face. I asked both him and his wife to stick around for a little while, as they had paid for an hour lesson. I told them a little bit of my story, of an alcoholic childhood, a divorce that I thought would never happen, and of course how martial art helped me to recover from alcoholism.

Miller and I continued to train together until I moved away to be closer to my son. He went on to get his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has even taught a few classes at my school. He has been sober now for over three years and his life just keeps getting better.

I learned that day that I was a good communicator and that I really enjoyed counseling others. My life got better too, as I moved on to graduate from Northcentral Technical College with an associates degree in Human Services as well as a technical diploma in substance abuse counseling. Although it was martial art that brought us together, there were many lessons to be learned for both of us. My students and fellow martial artists bring out the best in me and for that I will always be grateful. It is good to know that sometimes I can return the favor.

Instructor Jamie Sparling