Why we got started
Leland Holgate – Founder, USAF Veteran
I was born in Vicenza, Italy June 1, 1979, to parents who were both in the Army. My mother Judith Ann was a nurse, and my father Lawrence Daniel was an Airborne Ranger.
I’m the oldest of 5 children. Growing up I traveled the world and it gave me a very unique perspective. When we moved to the states I grew up in Florida.
I was a very active youth. I participated in boy scouts of America and became one of the youngest eagle scouts at the age of 15. I also ran track and played football. On top of it all, I played trumpet for my high school band.
I was the support for my siblings and my mother since my father was constantly deployed. My father was my first look at how PTSD can affect someone and the people around them.
From a very young age, I had to learn how to walk on eggshells. The smallest thing would set him off, and I grew up being beaten and verbally abused.
I never did blame him but was always beside myself on why. He was still my hero. Someone who sacrificed himself to better the world, and to watch the backs of his fellow soldiers. It grew to a point where I was protecting my mother and my siblings, by keeping his focus on me.
He had this amazing capability to love and create the most amazing family adventures. It was literally like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Little did I know, but this was shaping my life in a way that would help me in the future.
Inevitably I joined the military straight out of high school. He was still my hero, and I wanted to make him proud. I joined the Air Force on June 1, 1997. After basic training, I went to Loadmaster training and was tasked to work on C-130’s.
I was selected to go through S.E.R.E training and was excited to move to new levels in my military career. S.E.R.E. training opened the doors to being involved in combat efforts, and support missions.
My first deployment was Operation Northern Watch in Saudi Arabia. Thankfully this deployment was uneventful, besides the occasional drill, and early morning air raid training to get to our bunkers.
My second deployment is where everything changed. My squadron was tasked to Sembach, Germany to join the efforts in Operation Anvil.
This was the time when Slobodan Milosevic was attacking Kosovo. We ran several support missions, and the last one would change my life forever.
On our way out of the theater, I was strapped into one of our rear troop doors in the C-130. This was the practice in hostile areas, so two airmen could be lookouts for the rear of the aircraft.
Out of nowhere, the alarms started ringing and we started to yank and bank back and forth. It was our missile warning alarm.
Immediately we started releasing chaff and flare, as I looked for smoke, which was an indicator that a missile was headed our way. Nothing was spotted.
It was unclear whether we were painted by an enemy target or some sort of anomaly set off the system. At the time my military training kicked in and I didn’t have time to think.
I acted and did what I was trained to do. After the conflict ended, and we made it home, I knew I needed some R & R. Myself and several friends went to Heber Springs in Arkansas.
A beautiful lake where we would cliff jump or ride wave runners & boats. I decided to hop on an inner tube behind a wave runner. For a while, we were having fun, and I help on for dear life. All the sudden I felt our speed dramatically increase, and my friend turns sharply.
The last thing I remember is flying off the inner tube, and impacting the water. Apparently, I skipped along the top of the water folding over and over again like a lawn chair.
After being revived on the shoreline, I woke up in the ambulance and was completely disoriented. I had no idea what was going on, and the was commotion all around me.
The EMT was pricking me with a needle everywhere and asking me if I felt it. I had no idea why he kept asking me “Can you fee that”? Then I noticed that I couldn’t move my legs, my arms, or anything below the neck.
Terror set in, and I knew my life was over as I knew it. I’ve never been so frightened, and helpless. After several tests, I was told that I had a large contusion on my upper spinal cord, and it was a very good possibility that I would never walk again.
I was lucky to be alive, but so disheartened by this news. I felt like a prisoner in my own body. The experience from my last deployment played over and over again in my head.
After the first day of dealing with this, I made up my mind that this was not going to be my reality. I had no idea how to meditate at the time, but I kept speaking to myself out loud and in my head. “This is not your end”, “I will walk again”, “I am not going to be a prisoner in my own body”.
I asked the nurses to help move my limbs every chance I got. Thankfully within the first two days, I started feeling tingles down my midback, and into my arms. It grew and grew to the point where I could slightly move my arms and fingers.
It took a while longer for my lower body to wake up but over time I slowly regained feeling throughout my body. Over the next 13 months, I went through physical therapy. Little did I know that my physical therapist was using a lot of yoga to help stretch and awaken parts of my body.
It took quite a while to get back on my feet. Even after months of therapy, I was using a cane or supporting myself by holding onto things as I walked.
Sadly because of my injuries, I was medically discharged from military service. I had no idea what I was going to do next. There was a big hole in the middle of me, and I now had no purpose in life.
I was on medication from the military for both physical and mental issues. I knew I needed a change, so I moved to Las Vegas. I met someone, got married, and started having children right away.
I had my two beautiful stepdaughters, and my son. I thought that taking care of my family would be all the purpose in life that I would ever need. I love my 3 children and loved my wife.
Unfortunately, my service followed me to bed every night and at times I felt stressed. I would hear alarm bells and feel as if I was yanking back and forth.
I looked for anything I could to numb my physical pain, and to shut off the alarm bells going off in my head. Eventually, the medication just wasn’t cutting it.
I found drugs, and of course, drowned my sorrows with alcohol. The party scene became my norm. Thankfully someone introduced me to a workout I could do at home and it included yoga.
It felt so familiar, and eventually, I realized I had done some of these moves in the past. At first, it was purely physical. I needed something to help with the constant pain that I was in from my injuries.
After several months I noticed a huge change. My pain was diminishing and I wasn’t so angry all the time. I was able to breathe and deal with the flashbacks & alarm bells in my head.
As time went on I knew I thought I was in the clear. In 2016 my Father couldn’t deal with PTSD any longer, and he took his own life. He was one of almost 60 veterans a day who commit suicide.
As if that wasn’t enough, when I got back from burying him, I found out that I was going to have to battle stage 2 colon cancer.
Again, I was thrust into darkness. I allowed myself to travel down a self-destructive path of drugs and attempted suicide.
Thankfully one day I woke up and decided that this was not how my life was going to end. I had all the tools I needed to win my battle with my mind and my body.
I started meditating and practicing yoga again, and everything changed forever. It hit me while meditating one day. “Why aren’t you helping your brothers and sisters find yoga? It’s helped you so much”.
A friend introduced me to TruFusion and began my yoga instructor training. Since my concentration is on creating space for others to find balance in life.