Special to The Town Crier

It takes a strong individual to be part of those who fight to the end for our country. It can be said that Miguel De La Fuente was destined to form part of this group, whom we refer to as the United States Army.

His battle for success started at the age of eight when his father abandoned his family. Being the oldest, Miguel tried to help his mother raise his four siblings. Together the six of them traveled all over the northern United States working in the fields.

“My mother was on illegal status for so many years,” said Miguel. “Life was already tough and on top of that we had to constantly be on the lookout, live anywhere we could, and sometimes go without food or a place to sleep.”

The only time Miguel recalls being able to drift away from his problems as a kid was through his participation in sports. Soon it wasn’t just sports, but he began finding an escape through the use of alcohol. It was very frustrating for him to see that alcohol did not solve the problems, but only made them worse.

His problems carried on through his teenage years into his early adulthood, turning him into a functional alcoholic. The use of alcohol eventually led to use of drugs and becoming a father at the age of 17.

Just like any other father, Miguel wanted to provide the best for his family. But his youth was a barrier to acquiring a good paying job without a post-secondary education. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, and at 19 years old he was serving and protecting his country in the Middle East.

“I got assigned to infantry units, which require a lot of discipline,” said Miguel. “It was just what I needed to get my life in the right direction. I enjoyed my service in the military and quickly rose through the ranks to become a staff sergeant.”

Miguel found his passion in life in the military. He went on to serve in Ranger Units, Special Operations Units, and served as an instructor in The United States Army School of the Americas (USARSA). After his graduation from the most prestigious and toughest military school and training in the world, the United States Army Ranger School, Miguel became an expert communication sergeant of the Special Forces.

His career had given him the good life he had been longing for. He lived in Hawaii, where the “perfect weather” nurtured his interest in fitness and adventurous sporting events.

Just as Miguel was about to complete his last duty station, his problem with alcohol resurfaced. He was able to fulfill his duties at work, but not his duties as a father and husband. Unfortunately, in November of 2001 his career in the military ended due to alcohol abuse.

“I was honorably discharged from the military,” said Miguel. “As part of the deal I was required to serve in three hostile tours overseas. I served in Colombia, two Middle East countries and was wounded twice. In 2002, I left the military and relocated with my family back to my hometown, Brownsville.

“From that point on, my life was a constant battle with alcohol because I let it take over the strong man I became in the military,” he said. “I was very unstable, depressed and even attempted suicide more than once. Eventually I was diagnosed with severe depression and began getting treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Throughout the mess his life had become, Miguel didn’t forfeit his goal of graduating from college. He worked full time as personal trainer while continuing his studies.

“I realized the Valley had a big problem with overweight people,” said Miguel. “I was already a personal trainer and going to school for exercise science, so I created my own fitness company known as Ranger Boot Camp.”

Since then he has trained more than 500 individuals in several areas such as weight loss, bodybuilding, strength training, endurance runs, and mixed martial arts fighting among others. His popularity took him to becoming the RGV Silverados Basketball Team’s strength and conditioning coach.

The University of Texas at Brownsville awarded Miguel his bachelor’s in kinesiology on December of 2007. He is currently working on earning his masters in kinesiology at The University of Texas-Pan American. His choice for a higher education has allowed Miguel to work at South Texas College’s Wellness Center as a student activity specialist.

“I have chosen to become a role model for many and especially my three kids who are 16 years old, 13 years old, and seven months old,” said Miguel.

He also volunteers his time sharing his life story at conferences, classrooms and even at the gym to help teach others the downfalls of alcohol.

“In the last four years, my life has changed drastically from bad to good with the help and guidance of others,” said Miguel. “Now I like to use my life experience as a means to teach people how alcohol can literally destroy your life, but also how you can overcome that obstacle and rebuild something great. I consider myself lucky to now be very successful, because many times I was so close to dying or going to prison for the rest of my life for making bad choices.”

He and his buddies are currently working on opening a fitness center “like no other” in the Rio Grande Valley. Both he and his wife continue to go to school in hopes of one day opening up their own physical therapy clinic.

“Today I measure my life’s achievements not by how many successes I’ve had, but by how many times I’ve gotten back up on my feet to attain success,” he said. “I hope that sharing my story and through my work others will learn from my mistakes and measure their lives only by happy, fulfilling milestones, not mistakes. I challenge everyone to witness their own successes.”