Introducing the US Military Endurance Sports (USMES) team:
The mission of USMES is to promote endurance sports to the US military community, helping current and former service members and their families develop healthy habits for a lifetime.
Justin Widhalm is a combat veteran as well as a survivor of 12 IEDs and a fall from a helicopter that broke his back and resulted in serious brain damage. “They told me everything I knew was over. Not only being an athlete, but my military career. Everything I had strived for and had been good at was essentially taken away from me.” Justin refused to accept that and was determined to get back to being the best he could be. After a remarkable recovery and the help of his wounded and non-wounded teammates at US Military Endurance Sports (USMES), Justin is proud to continue to represent the United States – now as a Category 1 cyclist, para-athlete, and loving family man. Today, he races against the pros as a member of the USMES Elite Team, competing alongside current, retired, and veteran members of the United States Military.
Jessica Lukasik, also a member of USMES, is a 24-year-old Junior Lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard. She is a Fulbright Scholar, who has worked in Africa on an environmental-sustainability plan for the Republic of Mauritius, as well as an elite IRONMAN triathlete. “From 2014 to 2016, I was on orders on a tiny island, competing alone in local events or events I helped organize. Returning to the United States and joining USMES brought a sense of higher purpose back to my competition.” Jessica is now the 2017 Kona IRONMAN Military Division World Champion, in addition to finishing first in the 20-25 age category at the 2017 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.
With over 1,500 athletes in the program, USMES works across the US and around the globe providing sports education, event and equipment support for the US military community and wounded and non-wounded veterans. They provide exceptional athletes, like Justin and Jessica, access to programs that let them to train and compete at the highest level, while serving their country. With USMES, Executive Director USAF Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Bill Jacobus saw an opportunity for something more than the already established government programs which had limited funds for elite endurance sports. “There was no budget to support taking the best military athletes in those sports and giving them a platform to compete at a national or international level,” Bill says. “There wasn’t enough commitment for those athletes to really go and chase their dreams.”
Justin and Jessica are just two in an impressive group of elite athletes and aspiring competitors that represent USMES – a remarkable organization that was founded to promote the spirit of overachieving. Essentia Water is proud to partner with USMES and help further their mission of keeping active military and veterans fit for duty and fit for life.