Honoring Veterans… Honoring Our Friends

11
Nov

Honoring Veterans… Honoring Our Friends

Veterans Day has a very special meaning to us at 104010. We’re veteran owned and our inception was based on the idea of honoring and helping veterans, first responders, and improving our communities. The brave men and women who signed up for a cause much greater than any individual is what “Train American” embodies. 

Mandi Thomas and Jonathan Lopez are veterans and recently became part of the 104010 family. They came to visit us, told their stories, motivated, inspired, and deeply impacted our community. The memories and lessons learned will last a lifetime. What better way to honor them than to share their bios.

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In honor of Veterans Day, sharing Jonathan Lopez‘s bio: At 17 Jonathan joined the United States Army. He attended Airborne school and the Ranger Indoctrination Program. He became part of a sniper unit with the first infantry division. He deployed to Europe after basic training. Once there he attended Belgium Commando School and SFAS, Special Forces Assessment and selection. After completing multiple deployments Jonathan Lopez returned to his duty station in Germany and he was hit by a drunk driver, his injuries were so severe that his left arm had to be amputated and he was told by doctors he may never walk again. Shortly after, he was honorably discharged from the US Army.

He felt out of place in his new civilian life and had a hard time identifying with other wounded veterans, who were combat wounded. And after quite some time overcoming his demons, he found himself on a new journey.He became involved in outdoor training activities that consisted of kayaking, diving, cave exploration, and much more. In 2015, along with his service dog Zoe, he began participating in Obstacle Course Races for his own physical and mental growth.Since then he has completed numerous Spartan races, mud runs and rucks. He volunteers with Operation Enduring Warrior a veteran-run organization, that helps wounded veterans obtain their physical goals and overcome their challenges. He also volunteers at Homestead Air Reserve Base, helping veterans and their families transition into the civilian world with benefits and healthcare services. He also volunteers with Achilles Freedom Team and the Miami VA. He has become an advocate for eliminating opioid dependence in the military and finding alternative ways to help overcome depression and PTSD. He lives by the motto “DIE FIRST, THEN QUIT!”

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In honor of Veterans Day, check out Mandi Nordquist Thomas‘ bio below: Mandi Thomas joined the Army in 2003 after realizing she didn’t have the money or the focus to go to college. She went to basic training in Ft Leonardwood, Missouri and from there went to Interrogation school in Ft Huachuca, Arizona. She attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California where she became fluent in Russian. After language school, she attended Airborne School in Ft Benning, GA and then went to her permanent duty station in Ft Bragg, NC. Attached to a PSYOP unit, she realized that she wasn’t doing what she signed up for and began asking around for deployments. She made enough noise that she was asked to go interview with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and earned her spot as an interrogator in Bagram, Afghanistan. After being in country for three weeks, she started to feel sick and was told to go to the clinic and take a pregnancy test. She was, in fact, pregnant with her first daughter and had to go home. Less than a month later, she got out of the Army to be at home with her daughter. She attended online school and earned 2 bachelor’s degrees (Psychology and Russian) and had another daughter two years later. Her plans of staying in the military as a career were taken away and she found herself depressed and just going through the motions. She became a personal trainer in 2007 and began training adaptive athletes in her local gym; as well as active older adults (55+ at a nearby retirement community).In 2017, she decided to become a firefighter in NE Florida and is now a FF/EMT with St Johns County Fire Rescue. She also volunteers with Operation Enduring Warrior, a non-profit that helps wounded veterans and law enforcement officers through physical and mental events/sports. It has filled a void that she had been experiencing since getting out of the military in 2006. She is constantly working on herself and speaking about mental and physical health since she battles with past demons that occasionally show their faces.