13th Annual Pat's Run

Tillman Scholar Jason Turner helps addicts turn their lives around and thrive

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'I feel like I owe a debt and so each day I show up and feel like I'm paying back that debt,' Tillman Scholar Jason Turner explained.(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) 'I feel like I owe a debt and so each day I show up and feel like I'm paying back that debt,' Tillman Scholar Jason Turner explained.(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: PatTillmanFoundation.org) (Source: PatTillmanFoundation.org)
'This is a thinking exercise, as well as using your physical body,' Turner explains to his class. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) 'This is a thinking exercise, as well as using your physical body,' Turner explains to his class. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Pat Tillman (Source: Pat Tillman Foundation) Pat Tillman (Source: Pat Tillman Foundation)
PRESCOTT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

With just a couple of days until the 13th Annual Pat's Run, we want to introduce you to a very special Tillman Scholar who will be participating in the event.

Jason Turner spent years in the military before an alcohol addiction took over. Now he's sober and using CrossFit to help others get back on their feet, encouraging others to give it their all.

"This is a thinking exercise, as well as using your physical body," Turner explains to his class at Captain CrossFit in Prescott.

As the founder of Recover Strong, Turner is using CrossFit to keep people on the straight and narrow, whether they're struggling with a mental illness or a serious drug or alcohol problem.

"I feel like I owe a debt and so each day I show up and feel like I'm paying back that debt," Turner explained.

[SPECIAL SECTION: 13th Annual Pat's Run - April 22, 2017]

Turner has been working with troubled youth for more than a decade now.

They need somebody to say, "I got you." They need somebody to say, "It's OK; we're going to do this together."

In his life before this, Turner was a K-9 handler and trainer in the U.S. Air Force.

Turner was honorably discharged a couple years after an alcohol addiction nearly destroyed his life.

"You just want to die every day but you just can't and you don't, and every day you wake up and it’s just hell," he said.

With the help from somebody who cared, Turner got sober.

"During the period when I was under observation for a long time and the people who were caring for me would say, ‘You’re going to die if you don’t get sober, etc.’ and that didn’t appeal to me," he explained in a candid interview for the Pat Tillman Foundation in September. "I met another guy who went out of his way to talk to me the right way and became a mentor to me and showed me how to get back on track in a way that no one else did."

[IN DEPTH: One on one with Jason Turner]

Turner began helping others and then got a degree in psychology from Arizona State University.

Soon after, he was chosen as Tillman Scholar (class of 2013), an honor reserved for those pre and post-9/11 servicemembers who demonstrate extraordinary academic and leadership potential.

[RELATED: Tillman scholarships helping vets serve their communities]

Being a Tillman Scholar stokes the fire of the motivation I have and being part of the foundation guides me and gives me a compass to go for. ... For me, being part of the Tillman Foundation is one piece of my life puzzle that has allowed me growth opportunities and transformed me into a better person.

"The Tillman Scholar network and getting connected with a program that is on a macro-level, doing what I want to do – I want to impact change," Turner explained last year. "Being a Tillman Scholar stokes the fire of the motivation I have and being part of the foundation guides me and gives me a compass to go for.

"Being part of this community means quite a bit," he continued. "To go from where I came from to be where I'm at now provides a better life and decision-making for myself. I really feel though that sometimes I don’t belong in the same caliber as my fellow Tillman Scholars. For me, being part of the Tillman Foundation is one piece of my life puzzle that has allowed me growth opportunities and transformed me into a better person.”  

"How has your life changed from you being in that spot of alcohol taking you down, to today?" I asked when I caught up with him in Prescott recently.

"There's [sic] two lives," he answered. "There's that life and then there's this one, and they don't really resemble each other."

Turner says it’s now his responsibility to give back and share what's been given to him.

"What’s really at the core of the human experience is the opposite of individualism and that is connection to others – I had a lot of help getting myself out as I couldn’t do it on my own," he explained. "Nobody on planet earth is self-made, we’ve all had a helping hand – just like I had a guy show up and start showing me the way."

He says he remains committed to seeing people who are struggling get through the hard times and end up with a life of which they can be proud.

I feel like I owe a debt and so each day I show up and feel like I'm paying back that debt. ... Part of why I do what I do today is because we need alternative ways that provide people the opportunity to get sober.

[RELATED: 13th Annual Pat's Run at Sun Devil Stadium]

"They need somebody to say, 'I got you,'" he said. "They need somebody to say, 'It's OK; we're going to do this together.' And they learn to stop competing with each other and they learn to start cooperating. Then the challenge is to beat themselves. 'Can I be better than I was yesterday? ' That's all we're asking for."

MEET MORE TILLMAN SCHOLARS

Karen Gallagher

Jameson "J.D." Lopez

Katie Newton

[TILLMAN SCHOLARS: Class of 2016 (PDF file)]

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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