From Combat To CrossFit: One Marine's Plan To Whip America Into Shape


This post is part of the “Coming Home” series, profiling members of the military who have successfully transitioned from active duty to civilian lives. “Coming Home” is sponsored by USAA. Read more posts in the series »

Attached imageREUTERS/Goran TomasevicU.S. Marines from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Lance Corporal Chris Sanderson, 24, from Flemington, New Jersey (rear) and Sergeant Travis Dawson, 24, from Continental, Ohio, (front) protect an Afghan man and his child after Taliban fighters opened fire in the town of Marjah, in Nad Ali district, Helmand province, February 13, 2010. U.S.-led NATO troops launched a crucial offensive on Saturday against the Taliban’s last big stronghold in Afghanistan’s most violent province and were quickly thrown into a firefight with the militants.

Few people can say they’ve done these three things simultaneously: led Marines in a major offensive, become a good guy Internet meme, and
land on the coverof an HBO documentary.

Travis Dawson can.

As an infantry squad leader, Dawson deployed to Afghanistan as part of the massive assault on Marjah in 2010.

“That deployment was one of the most fun slash most scary slash most depressing deployment of all … I’ll remember it of all them most,” says Dawson, who has deployed three times to Afghanistan.

Media from all around covered Battle of Marjah, which was later highlighted in an HBO documentary.

“As far as being in a documentary on HBO, I think it had a different effect on people,” Dawson writes via email. “Civilians and the regular population overall liked it and had good things to say about it. I think it was a far better experience for the Marines that were actually involved in the operation. It gives them something to look back on and even though we may never truly ‘win’ the war there, they can see the good they did in that operation and the sacrifices they gave and conditions they went through.”

Later an anonymous netizen would turn a picture of Dawson and one of his squad mates into a “good guy” meme.

“I’ve never really thought about it,” says Dawson. “Nowadays everything can be and is turned into a meme, so the fact that my picture became a meme in a positive way is humbling and pretty cool, something that I can always have and look back on.”

Now he has settled down in South Carolina, gotten his Cross Fit certification, and enrolled in a Trident technical college. He plans to transfer to the Citadel Military University and major in business with a minor in a health-and-fitness-related field.

“I have to be humble, coming from the most senior sergeant in the battalion with all this responsibility, everyone looked up to me. Now I don’t have a job yet, but I know when I do get a job, some kid that’s younger than me is going to be above me, I understand that. I have no experience in the civilian world whatsoever, I get that.”

Facebook liftingvia FacebookTravis throwing it up in the gym.

College is a bit of a culture shock, but he thanks the Marine Corps for teaching him some valuable lessons.
“I’m a 28-year-old freshman in class. I feel like I skipped an entire generation of knowing what civilians are like,” says Dawson.

“You really can’t compare the challenges now,” says Dawson. “Do I really want to wake up and go to school at 8 am, or be on a deployment, working every day for 7 months on 4 hours of broken sleep? Life is not that bad right now.”

He’s confident that if he doesn’t start his own gym by the end of college, he’ll be fully capable of managing someone else’s.

“My biggest advantage is my overall work ethic, because I, coming from the Marine Corps, being 28, I’ve done my fair share of partying. Going to college I don’t need to party, I don’t have to do that.”

“With school now, there’s been times when the Marine Corps handed me a book and said ‘read it and know it by tomorrow,'” recalls Dawson. “If I can do stuff like that with the Marine Corps, school can’t be too bad.”

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