leland holgate sr.
I was born June 1, 1979 in Vicenza, Italy to parents who were both in the United States Army. My father was an Airborne Ranger, and my mother was a nurse. Growing up in Europe gave me a different perspective and allowed me to see who different life is outside of the United States. Having parents in the military gave me a unique view on what stress can do to someone who chose to serve as a peacekeeper. While my father was and still is my hero, I unfortunately fell prey to his rage. From a very young age I was beaten and broken by the man who I looked up to the most. I could tell that it wasn’t my father. It was if Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was my father. Every day I heard his vehicle pulling up to the house, I had to think on all the things I did through the day and ensure that I didn’t miss some miniscule chore so’s not to inflame his rage. Unfortunately, no matter what happened or how complete my list of tasks, it was set in his mind that he would release his burden on someone else. Somehow, I convinced myself at a young age that it wasn’t his fault, and he needed me. My entire childhood was then spent making sure I allowed him to focus on me so he would leave my mother and 4 siblings alone. Many times, when he went after the rest of the family, I found myself turning his attention to me by any means necessary. Thankfully I had cub scouts as a young boy, and boy scouts in my teenage years. This allowed me to work on myself, and to learn skills that would help me cope with life. If not for the cub scout pack, and boy scout troops I don’t know that I would have been able to make it through my teenage years. In high school I also started running track, playing football, and playing in the school band. Music helped center my soul and allowed me an escape from the world.
When I was 17, I decided it was time to go out on my own, and what better way then to join the military, and serve others. In 1997 I left for Air Force basic training in San Antonio, Texas. I signed up as a C-130 Loadmaster and had no idea that the training I was about to receive would change my life forever. After basic & technical training I was tasked to go through S.E.R.E training. This is where the gap in understanding why my father was the way he was, would be filled. The situations that we are put in in the military are life and death. I now understood why my father was so angry all the time. The stress of, not only fighting for your own life, but more so making sure that the men and women you are with make it home, is beyond description.
After S.E.R.E training I was assigned to one of the most deployed squadrons in the Air Force. I traveled the world in a short time and spent time in the middle east. In 1999 we were tasked to Germany to support Operation Anvil in Yugoslavia. On our way out of the combat area, I was strapped into one of the rear windows of the C-130 where I served as a lookout for enemy missile batteries. Suddenly our alarms went off and we took evasive maneuvers. Yanking & banking back and forth I set off chaff and flares, while looking for the threat. Little did I know this incident would change my life as I knew it forever. I felt so helpless and powerless in that situation. When we got back home after the conflict ended, we decided took some R & R (Rest & relaxation). We went to the lake for some fun. My buddy was driving the wave runner, and I was being pulled on an innertube. We were traveling at high speeds when the wave runner turned left suddenly. I flew off the innertube and the last thing I remember was hitting the water. Suddenly I woke up in an ambulance, with an EMT asking me if I could feel the needle, he was pricking me with all over. I couldn’t move or feel anything. Fear immediately set in. The next few days would shape my life in such a different way. Laying there being a prisoner in my own body, I couldn’t help but hear the alarm bells going off in my head and feeling the fear I did while I was overseas. Something clicked and I decided that this would not be my life. Though I was told that this could be my condition for life, I asked the nurses to move my arms and legs. Thankfully after the first couple of days I started feeling tingles down my mid back and feeling came back to my upper body. I knew I would overcome this from that point forward, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. It took about 2 months for most of the feeling to come back and to gain the ability to walk assisted. Unbeknownst to me my physical therapist was using yoga postures to help with my recovery. It took a full year to get up and walking normally. My military career was of course over at this point.
In 2000 I moved to Las Vegas and started a family. Though I love my 3 children and love being a father, I had more to overcome. The next few years I felt a lack of purpose and there seemed to be a big hole in the center of me. I traveled down some dark paths and got caught up in drugs and alcohol. Anything that would help me deal with the pain and the lack of understanding why this all happened to me. Over 10 years ago I was introduced to a home work out that included yoga. I noticed the more I practiced yoga that my pain diminished, and my mind was more focused. Eventually my friend brought me to TruFusion and I started practicing more and more yoga. The Senior Master instructor heard my story and wanted me in yoga instructor training. I had found my calling! For almost 2 years now I have helped create space for others to find themselves and overcome physical limitations through yoga. I know have created Warriors for Life America. A non-profit concentrating on bring balance back to the lives of our Military, Veterans & first responders. We also work with the community to create a better world and to help other find their new purpose in life. I am excited to make a difference and to add value to others lives.