Break the Barriers program helps Valley veterans become stronger

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Break the Barriers' veterans program is growing each year, and as it expands, more athletes are returning from competitions as winners. (KFSN)

Break the Barriers' veterans program is growing each year, and as it expands, more athletes are returning from competitions as winners.

John Martinez is in a much better place today than he's been in a long time. The Army, Marine Corps and National Guard veteran found himself at a crossroads when doctors told him he needed surgery for a painful pinched nerve. But for the 63-year-old, surgery was not an option. Then he learned about the free program offered at Break the Barriers.

"It was kind of funny because when I was in a cane I didn't know if they were going to take me because I was limping, so I threw my cane in the car and then tried to walk straight," said Martinez.

In just two years, he's transformed his body by pushing his limits. With help from coaches at Break the Barriers, he's learned the proper way to weightlift, cycle, shoot an arrow and swim.

"When I was a kid where I learned how to swim was in a canal in Selma, California. We're not allowed to go in there, but we all swim. All the kids we didn't have pools," said Martinez.

His hard work is paying off. He was one of 14 veterans who participated in the Valor Games in May, returning home with 28 medals -- three of which were his. They are accomplishments he uses as fuel.

"It makes you feel good inside because this time...it gives me more inspiration to do more for them and for myself," said Martinez.

And it's just as rewarding for those behind their success.

"They're just getting connected in ways that they haven't been connected in years. So just finding that purpose, I think, which is probably something they've been striving for for a while, just shows the transformation in their life in a positive way," said Tyler Hergenrader with Break the Barriers.

Now that he's retired, Martinez spends more time working out, with no signs of slowing down.

"I get faster as the older I get, I guess. It's amazing how the gym can do wonders for you. To me I call it the fountain of youth," said Martinez.

The next stop is the National Golden Age Games in August, where he's adding another event to his lineup: running. There, he hopes to continue his winning streak.
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