When men and women answer the call of duty to serve our country, that journey begins with Basic Training. This is where they prepare their bodies and minds as they transition from civilian life to a military career. Self-discipline, responsibility, accountability and honor become more than mere words – it becomes their creed. 

Growing up in a military family, I know the dedication it takes to stay “PT” (or physical training) ready. That’s why I knew a partnership between the National Recreation and Park Association and The Coca-Cola Foundation on the Coca-Cola Troops for Fitness (CCTFF) program would be a winner. It’s a program where park and recreation departments employ our nation’s military veterans to serve as fitness instructors and role models for healthy living. Veterans lead a wide variety of classes that reflect their unique talents and experiences and also address any specific fitness needs of the community. Examples are “Walk with a Vet,” Zumba, Yoga, “Fit camp,” nutrition classes and more. Programs are offered at low to no cost and are for any person, at any level – from kids to seniors and every age in between. 

Thanks to our partnership, CCTFF is in eight cities. In the first year of the program, more than 12,000 people took part in programs in Atlanta, Miami, Newark and Sacramento. That’s a lot of people taking a positive step toward leading healthy, active lifestyles through parks and recreation. And this fall, we hope thousands more will join in as the program expands to Boston, Detroit, Honolulu and Los Angeles.

Barbara Tulipane Troops for Fitness 604
Barbara Tulipane learns to tone her arms from military veteran Fabian Vega of the Miami Coca-Cola Troops for Fitness program before a segment on FOX & Friends Weekend.

As many park and recreation departments across the country answer the call of duty to improve the health and quality of life for the community members they serve, there are also hundreds of veterans that stand ready to help their fellow community members become a healthier form of themselves. 

And that’s what Coca-Cola Troops for Fitness is all about. 

The veterans leading the program are some of the most inspiring people you’ll meet. In fact, I had the pleasure of spending time recently with two of the veterans leading Troops for Fitness programs in Miami-Dade County – Laura Ortiz and Fabian Vega – when we got together for a segment about the program on Fox & Friends Weekend. Within minutes of his arrival, Fabian was showing me how to tone up my arms, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t want toned arms!

We are proud of this program and our partnership with The Coca-Cola Foundation. Together we will reach our goal of engaging 200 veterans in 12 communities over the next few years and help communities get in shape in the process.  

Barbara Tulipane is president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association