A lot of our readers in the UK, may well have come across your latest shoot, with Michael Stokes – how did the shoot manifest?
It was by complete chance. I discovered Michael’s photographs of Alex Minsky about two years ago and found them inspiring. It was something I wanted to do very badly. I didn’t think I even had a chance, so I never contacted him.
About a year and a half after first seeing those pictures, Michael just so happened to see a non-profit’s post about my story and he reached out. I saw the message from him in my inbox, did a little happy dance, and the rest is history!
Glancing over your Twitter account, it would appear you have a very creative outlet (modelling/writing) has this helped with your recovery?
My creative process has been a huge part of my recovery. From writing, to painting, to modelling, each outlet gives me the ability to expend any negative energy I have, to create something I can call mine. It helps me to keep my mind busy.
It’s everything for me to be able to create something which has perhaps never been seen or read before. I’m inclined to say that it has been the most significant part of my healing process.
Our readers may or may not know that you fought in the army. Can you tell us a bit more about the experience?
I was a sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry. I joined right out of high school, shipped off to basic training, and then made my way out to my unit in Germany to train up for deployment. I eventually deployed to Baghdad, Iraq and spent a year fighting over there.
Two days before we were set to return home, my vehicle was hit by two roadside bombs. As a result, I lost my leg below the knee and went through four years of physical rehabilitation.
Given that you’re in great shape and evidently look after yourself, what is your routine?
To stay in shape I do equal parts performance training and strength training six days a week. I’m very conscious about what I put in my body (though I’m all about a cheat meal now and then), and I play sports as often as I can to include softball, golf, beach volleyball and mud runs.
What would you say inspires you?
I’m inspired most by those who are dealing with more significant issues than I am, military or otherwise. There’s a funny joke around the army hospital, where multiple amputees call single amputees like mine ‘papercuts’. It’s funny, but it’s also true. There are so many triple amputees, quad amputees, horrific burns, it’s difficult for me to feel sorry for myself.
I have my bad days, but then I just look to the men and women dealing with, and fighting through, so much worse and I can’t help but pick myself up and drive on.
Our readers can very much appreciate a guy easy on the eye. How does it feel to know you may have a gay following?
I’m very appreciative of every avenue of support I have. I’m so thankful and humbled by the love and respect shown by so many people. Besides that, I am a huge supporter of equality and gay rights.
My brother is gay and I witnessed his struggles with hiding it all while we were growing up. It’s something I stand behind and something that means a lot to me.
Gay, straight, or asexual, the support I receive COULD NOT be appreciated more!
Being an American how did you feel about the bill being passed for equal marriage? There’s a lot of unfounded assumption suggesting the army isn’t a place for homosexuality.
I think like with any other large entity you have varying viewpoints on the matter. From what I’ve seen, and through the people I’ve talked to, if you do your job well and you have your battle buddies’ backs, it doesn’t matter who you sleep with behind closed doors.
I take naps and keep my mind calm! While things are very hectic, with this injury I do need my fair share of bedrest, so when I take it, that’s my time. That’s the time the phone goes away, the laptops shut, and a good comedy is on the television. It’s my mental relaxation time.
The gym has a similar effect on me. Plus, while it can be busy, that’s how I like it!
What advice would you give to anyone who’s in a difficult situation and feeling demotivated?
The first thing I would say is, don’t think just because I’m in shape that I’m never demotivated. I find myself demotivated all the time! There are days the last thing in the world I want to do is go to the gym or eat right. There are some days where I don’t do either.
I think the most important thing to remember when making a lifestyle change is that it won’t happen overnight and that even small results are still results. I encourage people to take a shirtless selfies, just for themselves, every few days from the exact same spot.
As you progress through your lifestyle change, you will begin to notice slight changes in your body. By documenting and regularly seeing these slight changes, you are better able to remain motivated the next day, and the day after that.
Too many people expect a six pack overnight and don’t understand that it’s a process, sometimes a long process, but one that if you stick with and dedicate yourself to, you WILL see change.