April 2012. This month’s featured veteran is Elijah Sacra. This is his unedited story, in his own words.
Elijah was born the oldest of seven children in Newark, Delaware on May 12, 1973. His parents were 18 and 20 years old. When he was a year old his family moved to Brooklyn, NY. After living in the city for a while they moved to Wilmington, DE, followed by a permanent move to Dover, DE. Although his family lacked financial resources, his parents worked tirelessly to provide all seven siblings with a good life. As a child he embraced literature and information immersing himself in the studies of the Military, World & American History, Natural History and Martial Arts. His childhood activities rotated between martial arts, fitness, hunting, fishing and surfing. Elijah’s career in health and fitness was sparked in his early teens while practicing martial arts and working out with his brother Aaron who went on to serve in the 82nd Airborne.
When he was just 17 years old, Elijah volunteered to serve in the United States Marine Corps and left six days after he graduated from high school. During his tour on active duty, Elijah performed comprehensive health and fitness evaluations, nutritional counseling and remedial personal training sessions for military and civilian personnel. He also served as a Strength & Conditioning Coach for members of elite Marine Corps Special Operations Units utilizing training methods of speed, agility and quickness that have since been incorporated Marine Corps wide. Elijah also participated in mountain bike races, triathlons, martial arts and competitive rifle and pistol marksmanship in Olympic Style Competition. While stationed in Japan, Elijah studied and taught under the tutelage one of Okinawa’s greatest living karate masters, Grandmaster Fusei Kise.
A pivotal moment in his life came when he was injured in training while in Okinawa. He was too afraid to admit he was injured during his final physical evaluation and was Honorably Discharged from the USMC. Six days after he was discharged from the USMC, he underwent surgery at a local VA Hospital. Due to complications it took over a year to heal. During this time he did not possess the proper tools to help him move forward with his injuries on a path to wellness. It was during this era that Elijah vowed to become a “Walking Wellness” center. Over the next 20 years he has been on a quest to pursue education and training to deliver health and wellness education to those that have are injured and ill.
Since that time Elijah has worked extensively with the general population, amputees, the blind, the obese and those who suffer from Cancer, MS and Diabetes. He has also worked in the allied health field, in fitness centers, at medical facilities, in obesity clinics, in physical therapy offices and athletic training facilities. Elijah’s current training philosophy focuses on mind-body based training with an emphasis on postural alignment, core performance, functional training, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and strength training and skill development. He has studied with some of the most elite mentors in martial arts, sports performance, yoga, mind-body medicine and nutrition to include: Supreme Grand Master Fusei Kise, Mark Verstegen-World Renown Strength & Conditioning Coach; Juan Carlos Santana-Founder of The Institute of Human Performance; John Philbin Former Head Strength Coach of the US Winter Olympic Team; Clarissa Kussin CHHC AADP, David Wolfe, Vaughn Gray, Dr Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Kim Manfredi, Brian Kest and Ana Forest. Elijah has completed 200hr Yoga Alliance Teacher Training and is also trained in Yoga for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Combat Operational Stress Reaction. He studied Sports Medicine & Exercise Science at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. During his training at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, he studied over 100 dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts. His teachers included Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine; Dr. Deepak Chopra, leader in the field of mind-body medicine; Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center; Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of Nutrition at Harvard University; Geneen Roth, bestselling author and expert on emotional eating; and many other leading researchers and nutrition authorities. His education has equipped him with extensive knowledge in holistic nutrition, health coaching, and preventive health. Drawing on these skills and my knowledge of different dietary theories, he work with clients to help them make lifestyle changes that produce real and lasting results. Today, his unique perspective on treating the mind and body through integrative training and nutrition allows each one of his clients to achieve optimal wellness, with a special concern for those who suffer from wounds and injuries, post traumatic stress disorder and other combat related illnesses, chronic pain, disease, obesity and addiction.
In 2009 Elijah parlayed 18 years of experience in the Health & wellness industry to become Founder & Executive Director of Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness TM (SFHW), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Elijah Sacra started on his Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness journey when he met Alvaro Matta in 1991 while serving at Camp Lejeune North Carolina in the legendary 2ND Marine Division. The journey and ideals of Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness were born and forged at the time-honored institution of Parris Island, South Carolina where they both became lifelong member of the United States Marine Corps. Born during the era of OIF/OEF campaigns, the compelling nature of SFHW’s mission is second nature to Elijah, as his cousin is an OIF Purple Heart recipient. He also experienced the reality Walter Reed Army Medical Center first hand as he visited his Service Disabled Veteran brother, Aaron Sacra as he was undergoing surgery for a shattered spine from a jump with the 82nd Airborne. Together, Elijah & Alvaro set out to create an organization that embraces the following credo: REAL WARRIORS-REAL STORIES-REAL RESULTS. Most other nonprofits serve the active duty and veteran population through group trips and events. While this methodology is good for renewing camaraderie of a unit or specific group, it is only temporarily beneficial to the individual attending. These events often lead one to feel good for a brief time, be it a day week or month. That feeling often diminishes over time and that individual is often right back where they started. SFHW is the first and only non-profit utilizing Integrative Health and Wellness Solutions that last for a lifetime and give the individual tools for a better life. SFHW’s FULL CIRCLE Holistic model treats each member as a unique individual-NOT a one size fits all approach. They propose that an investment in an individual’s personal wellness affects the very core of their being and spread itself outwards in a ripple effect that will directly influence friends, family and the community at large.
SFHW’s primary mission is providing Integrative Health & Wellness Solutions to our Nation’s Wounded, Ill and Warriors, and their Families to include Active & Reserve Military, Veterans and First Responders. SFHW fulfills their primary Mission through two distinct programs: The WARRIOR ATHLETE INDIVIDUAL PROGRAM and the WARRIOR WELLNESS GROUP PROGRAM. These programs include Training & Education that fosters a culture of personal empowerment and responsibility. Both programs are supported by a team of MOTIVATED & DEDICATED volunteers and accredited professionals. SFHW’s secondary Mission includes Warrior Resiliency Training and their Combat Athlete Program- an Integrative Mind-Body Tactical Strength & Conditioning program has been used by members of US Army Special Forces, Marine Corps Special Operations Command and US Military Academy at West Point.
Elijah currently serves on an Executive Roundtable and Vision Sharing Board for Non-Profit and Community Participation in Achieving “World Class” Standards of Care and Services for Wounded Warriors at the New Joint Services Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He is also attends the Smithsonian/Navy Medicine Conference Series on Wounded Warrior Care – A series of distinguished ethics education conferences sponsored by the Office of Sponsored Projects of the Smithsonian Institution in partnership with the Navy Medicine Institute for the Medical Humanities and Research Leadership and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
During his time served in the United States Marine Corps he was surrounded by energetic, intelligent, highly adaptable men and women and that is still true today. He is surrounded by a team of subject matter experts, that enhance his life on a personal level. Along with all of the SFHW Staff it is his vision to create a legacy that stands for Health & Wellness that will inspire healing and resiliency for our members and create a positive influence and results ripple effect for generations to come.
In closing Elijah recently heard following from several US Marines on their thoughts on service in the Marine Corps and agrees wholeheartedly.
“Everything I Required to Be Successful in Business & Life, I Learned in the United States Marine Corps.” Furthermore, I believe that everything I required to be successful in life and business can be boiled down to the 14 Leadership Traits instilled into me during my Boot Camp recruit training at MCRD Parris Island and I am still benefiting today from the lessons I learned while in the Corps. The 14 Leadership Traits provide a crystal clear road map of everything any budding or experienced leader requires to move forward in life and business in a powerful manner. The 14 Traits are timeless and everyone serious about business can use them as a barometer to gauge where they are and more importantly, where they desire to go. I caution you that should you choose to apply them to your life, to be authentic and allow your self-observance to be confronting at times. This process is revealing and at times it can be uncomfortable, believe me…. I know from personal experience. The truth shall set you free.
The fourteen leadership traits can be remembered with the acronym JJ-DIDTIEBUCKLE:
“ Marines were forged in the fires of Parris Island, but the true purpose of that Marine comes out POST EAS. The moment when the individual Marine realizes his purpose and the realization that he exists for a reason beyond the Marine Corps. It might be his family, it might be his children it could be anything. But it is something. So what I encourage you to do is to do some soul searching to find the purpose you have been looking for. Then once you figure it out. Go forth and do great things. Otherwise it was all in vain”
“Marine are leaders, and IF you are going to continue to lead in life-you need to learn how to lead yourself. Just like you stepped off the bus onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island into the unknown and made a transformation in 12 weeks, you can do the same thing with your own Health & Wellness. It starts with a single step and your results will spread out to Corps, your family, friends and the community in a ripple effect. We are all here because of my favorite four-letter word. It starts with an “L” and ends with an “E” and that’s LOVE. We didn’t become a Marine because we have to-we did it for LOVE of Country. The bonds that are forged while serving in the Corps will last forever. In the Marine Corps the motto Semper Fidelis describes and signifies our dedication, loyalty and commitment to each other, our organization, and our “Corps and Country” even after leaving service. “For those that understand, no explanation is necessary.” “For those that do not understand, no explanation is possible.” THE THREE CORPS VALUES: Honor, Courage, Commitment make up the bedrock of the character of each individual Marine. They are the foundation of the Corps. These three values, handed down from generation to generation, have made U.S. Marines the Warrior Elite and the Tip of the Spear in the defense of our great Nation.“
Elijah Sacra CPT RYT CHHC CGCS
USMC VETERAN | PERSONAL TRAINER |SPORTS PERFORMANCE COACH |MARTIAL ARTIST |YOGA TEACHER |NUTRITION & HEALTH COACH | GOLF CONDITIONING SPECIALIST | FOUNDER/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SEMPER FIDELIS HEALTH & WELLNESS
Semper Fit Incorporated DBA Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. FEDERAL TAX ID #27-132-0064
Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness is inspired by the USMC’s Semper Fit Program, however the USMC has not approved, endorsed or authorized this activity, and no official connection exists between the USMC’s Semper Fit program and Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness. SFHW’s programming is aligned with the philosophy of Total Force Fitness or TFF (pronounced TuFF). TFF is not a “program” but rather a doctrine that espouses the simple truth that all of our Services embrace: people are more important than hardware and are the cornerstone of our Nation’s defense. Several features of TFF need to be made clear. First, it encapsulates the tried and true principles of leadership that have served to keep militaries strong, disciplined, and peaked in their Warfighting abilities. Total Force Fitness is a leadership doctrine not a medical manual. It starts with the simple proposition that it is every leader’s responsibility to set the conditions for fitness at all levels and in all situations. Furthermore, while improving TFF the leader must be aware that fitness, total fitness, is holistic and encompasses both the mind and the body.