RICHMOND – When he was 17, Staff Sgt. Roger Jackson struggled with his weight – a hefty 250 pounds on a 5-foot-7-inch frame.
“Over the years, I had been made fun of, bullied, talked about, put down, denied certain extracurricular activities, criticized, etcetera because of my size,” Jackson recalled.
Eventually growing tired of his low self-esteem and lack of confidence, he decided to try out for the high school basketball team. As a bigger guy, he was understandably nervous but committed himself to the training and even started running alongside the cross-country team. He quickly developed a love for running, and his speed and endurance improved as a result of this new focus on fitness and healthier eating.
Today, the Army Sustainer assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, weighs in at 170 pounds and stands 5-foot-8-inches tall. Just recently, he posted a personal best mile run time of 5:13. The staff sergeant is happy to share his story as a way to hopefully influence others to take ownership of their mental and physical health and professional wellbeing.
“I was a student at Christopher Newport University, paying my way through college when my recruiter informed me of the benefits and opportunities in the military,” he said. “I went back and forth with myself about the idea before finally deciding, ‘why not?’”
At age 20, Jackson enlisted as an 88M Motor Transport Operator and used tuition assistance benefits to pay for his undergraduate degree. Over the next few years, he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a noncommissioned officer. His next goal is to attend the Army Master Fitness Trainer Course so he can learn the skills needed to help others achieve success in their fitness endeavors as well.
“I believe my main purpose in life is to help others in whatever capacity,” Jackson said. “At this point, I want to help my teammates realize their potential; that they can do anything they want to. However, they must make that decision for themselves.”
Jackson’s fitness routine these days includes regular cardio and strength training and he’s learned a lot about how to properly fuel and feed his body to accommodate and support his activity level.
“While I do continue to push myself, my goal is balance,” Jackson said. “I do my best to achieve balance in the realms of fitness, diet, sleep and mindfulness to keep myself conditioned.”
For others working on their own weight-loss journey, Jackson said success comes down to dedication and goal-setting.
“To start your journey, make a decision, set the goal and get after it with full force,” he encouraged. “Even when you reach your goal, do not settle there. Keep striving forward to maintain and continue being the best version of yourself.”
Listening to supportive voices also is an important part of the journey, according to the staff sergeant, along with accepting support from friends and family.
“They’re the ones in your corner who want to see you succeed and grow,” he said. “Don’t pay attention to the ones who say you can’t do it. If it’s something you want, do it and prove that you were right.”
(Editor’s note: Those wanting to follow SSG Jackson’s example but uncertain of where to start should consider contacting the Fort Lee Army Wellness Center. It offers health assessment reviews, body composition testing, nutrition planning, help with exercise routines and more. For more information or to make an appointment, call 804-734-9384.)