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Manage Your Moments

Sometimes you meet people who make a big difference in your day, your week, maybe even forever. Last week was like this for me. I was in Tampa, Florida, for the Super Bowl festivities and working with Under Armour at the NFL Experience. While we were there for five days, putting thousands of fans of all ages, shapes, and sizes through an “NFL Combine” experience (i.e., 40-yard dash, vertical jump, bench press, and agility drills), I met two people who made a lasting impression on me. It was the last day – Super Bowl Sunday.

Just a few hours before the biggest game of the year, activities at the NFL Experience were winding down. I was eager to get into the stadium to see the underdog Arizona Cardinals take on the favored Pittsburgh Steelers. I was pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they are led by a former William & Mary teammate of mine, Mike Tomlin. It was just then when I saw two military-looking men leaning over a barricade three yards away from the bench press where I was spotting participants. One gentleman was wearing his military camouflage uniform and another other younger man stood near him. The younger man had a prosthetic arm with a Steelers insignia in the bicep region and some scarring on his face. I couldn’t help but notice these two guys and I wanted to go over and connect with them, as they seemed extremely interested in all that we were doing.

As I walked over to introduce myself and say hello, I immediately knew these two men were different from the other fans, young and old, I had been working with for nearly a week. One man was in his late 40s to early 50s and the other was in his early 20s. We greeted each other and I asked if they were wounded in combat. They proceeded to tell me their stories. We stood and talked for only 15 to 20 minutes, but their words have left an indelible mark on me.

Staff Sergeant Michael Kacer was injured in a firefight in Afghanistan on June 18, 2008. He lost his left arm and had significant shrapnel scars on his face. Assigned to the 28th Infantry Division out of Scranton, PA, he was ending a shift of “Personnel Security Detail” on what had been a fairly quiet day, when a rocket landed just 10 feet from him. He was in a building at the time and lucky that there was a cement wall between where he stood and where the rocket landed. There was a small window nearby, about 2×2, that the rocket could have entered through – but it hadn’t; no one was injured with the first rocket explosion. As he and several of his friends huddled in the room, feeling fortunate to have been protected by the wall and contemplating their next move, another rocket was launched by enemy fire. This time they weren’t as lucky.

The second rocket went right through the small window and detonated next to them. Staff Sergeant Kacer tragically lost two of his friends. He personally sustained the loss of his arm and severe wounds to his face. As he described this life changing moment, my eyes welled up with tears of sadness for this young man. He described the details of the events and I couldn’t help but think of the how terrifying the experience must have been for he and his comrades.

I asked Michael what the experience had taught him – what insight he had to share with others. This is where I just about broke down completely. He said, “This whole experience has taught me so much about life. It used to be all about me. Now it’s about APPRECIATING EVERYTHING IN LIFE ALL THE TIME. I don’t take things for granted and I appreciate every moment I have. I appreciate every little thing I have. To me, I would go back to fight for our country’s freedom in a minute if I was physically capable. I just live life so much fuller now and have really come to appreciate everything. I am thankful to be alive and be present every day.”

I stood there speechless, touched by both pride and humility. This man, probably fifteen years younger than me, had just shared his heartfelt insight on life, a lesson I was only on the path to learning for myself.

Just then, Staff Sergeant William Hisghman from Winchester, VA, jumped into the conversation. Bill was with the 400th MP Battalion HHC out of Fort Meade, MD, and has served in the US Army for 21 years. While he was away in 2007 for a 400-day deployment, he carried the additional weight of all that was going on back home with his family. Three separate times, his wife had been diagnosed with cancer: ovarian cancer, small intestine cancer, and kidney cancer. One week before he was going home to see her and their four sons (now ages 25, 23, 18 and 17), he was critically injured in a Humvee rollover accident. He herniated several discs in his neck and suffered extensive nerve damage that has basically left his arm unusable. He was medivacced out of Iraq to begin a long arduous rehab.

I asked Bill the same question I asked Staff Sergeant Michael Kacer – “What lessons did you learn throughout all this and what motivates you now?” Without thinking twice, Staff Sergeant Hisghman pointed to a boy about 10 years old going through agility drills with some of the trainers on the makeshift gym floor set-up at the NFL Experience. “That’s what motivates me,” he said. “The reason I fight is for the freedom of our kids. I want them to be able to grow up and appreciate living in this great country.” Staff Sgt. Hisghman went on to say, “I would go back to fight and give more of the discs in my spine if I could. It’s about the kids and investing in them so this great country can become even better.” He spoke of the importance of kids staying in school and getting their education. He spoke of taking it one day at a time, not living in the future or living in the past. Bill reminded me (and all of us), “everyday life is managed one moment at a time.”

I never have felt so humbled as I was in the presence of these two heroes who spoke of living for today and appreciating every moment we have. It was a random meeting of two ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer and Staff Sgt. William Hisghman – two true American heroes made a difference in my life in just one moment in time.

A couple hours later, I walked into the Super Bowl with all the glitz and fireworks and hoopla associated with such a spectacular event, and I was proud to be an American. It turned out to be a great day as I watched my old friend and teammate, Mike Tomlin, become the youngest coach, at thirty-six, to win a Super Bowl. What a great feat. What an accomplishment in America’s biggest game. The game was over but it seemed that only moments had passed since the F-18s had flown overhead. For the tens of thousands of fans surrounding me, the aircraft were part of the sights and sounds creating the backdrop to an event many only dream of seeing in person. For me, I had stood there thankful for the sound of freedom.

After the game, as I walked away from the stadium, I couldn’t help but think back to my two new friends I met earlier in the day and think about the size and significance of their accomplishments and contributions – bigger than any football game will ever be. Thank you gentlemen for teaching me a big lesson last week. You taught me about staying present in the moment and enjoying the small things in life regardless of the chaos that may be all around. You taught me about what it means to stand up and fight for what you believe in. You taught me about overcoming adversity. You taught me about perseverance, fortitude and faith. You taught me what it means to be an American. But, most importantly, you taught me about being human and caring about other people.

Thank you Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer and Staff Sgt. William Hisghman. You are two American heroes I will remember for the rest of my life.

Staff Sgt Kacer and Staff Sgt Hisghman continue to serve in the US Army.

Todd Durkin is a 2 Time Personal Trainer of the Year and Founder of Fitness Quest 10 & Todd Durkin Enterprises in San Diego, CA. He trains people from all walks of life, but is best known for the work he does with over 25 NFL Superstars. He trains the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Alex Smith, and Donnie Edwards amongst others. His expert staff of 30 trainers, coaches, and massage therapist/bodyworkers perform over 400 weekly sessions and help educate, motivate, and inspire the world to greater levels of health & fitness. Todd has 17 DVD’s on fitness & sports performance and has been featured in many national magazines and media outlets. His ezine newsletter “TD Times” is his way of connecting clients, trainers, coaches, colleagues, and friends from all over the world. He can best be reached via his websites,, or by using the contact form below: [easy-contact]

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