Before coming to Fort Bragg in 2016, Phil Sussman fractured his spine in a training accident, an injury he feared would end his military career.
"The pain was hands down the worst thing I've ever felt in my life, I can't even describe it," said Sussman. "I couldn't move, couldn’t roll over. It would bring my wife to tears every time she'd try to move me."
Still, Sussman was determined to continue his rigorous course of training. His physical therapist, a former Green Beret, gave his blessing.
"He said, 'If you can take the pain, then go forward.'"
Sussman kept pushing and resumed training, but his wife saw the effort taking a toll. She urged him to try yoga to manage his chronic pain.
"She'd been doing yoga for about a dozen years, but I always brushed it off as something for girls," Sussman laughed. After just one class, he was hooked. A combination of yoga, meditation, and therapy helped ease his pain and battle depression.
"As soldiers we're conditioned to just keep driving forward," said Sussman. "And I realized through my meditation practice and through yoga that I was finding peace in the present, but I was looking around me and saw so many soldiers still struggling."
Sussman resolved to share his experience, launching a clothing line designed to make men more comfortable in the yoga studio. He encourages fellow soldiers to see yoga as a path to healing.
"It's OK to reach out for help. We understand."
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org