Justin Bohannon, known as “Boflex,” spent ten years in the Army. After serving two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, Bohannon returned home—but the transition was not easy.
Bohannon suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and struggled to transition into a life outside the military. Fortunately, he found comfort and coping mechanisms through his love of weightlifting, which led to an even bigger newfound passion, his nonprofit Make A Vet Sweat (MAVS).
MAVS’ mission is to serve Texas veterans who are coping with combat-related disabilities, including spouses who suffer as well. For three months, MAVS covers the cost of a group fitness gym membership and encourages and promotes a healthy, holistic alternative to overcoming PTSD.
Together, one group workout at a time, MAVS is helping veterans fight their ongoing battle with PTSD while promoting team building and a healthy lifestyle.
How did MAVS start and where did you find the inspiration?
It started in 2015 with getting one of my veteran friends into the gym. He had expressed that he would workout more if he had a membership, but he couldn’t afford one. There was a gym nearby, so I walked in and asked whether I could pay for a veterans membership and receive a veterans discount. Pretty quickly, I was inspired and dedicated to doing my part in helping solve a problem. What I know is fitness and what I want to do is create a way to get veterans active and fit. I believe an active, fit veteran is a stronger, safer American, and that is my plan.
What does MAVS do for veterans and their families?
MAVS provides a healthy outlet for veterans and their spouses to combat PTSD and mental stressors by staying active. Studies show that 12 weeks of consistent activity, like running, is better than antidepressants. It’s a natural alternative to prescription medication for those with less severe symptoms.
How has the organization changed your life and what improvements have you seen as a result?
This organization is very rewarding for me because giving back is something everyone needs to do in some capacity. MAVS has opened doors for me, both professionally and personally. I’ve been able to grow into a well-rounded person and a more effective leader and communicator by exposure to different people. I am realizing my problems aren’t as bad as they sometimes seem.
In what ways have you seen it impact the veterans that attend your workouts?
Veterans have told me their lives have been saved by having such a meaningful outlet. In addition, their marriages are better and they’ve become more connected with people other than veterans.
What is it about working out that creates a positive outlet for you and veterans?
While in the military, staying physically fit is an important part of service. Yet after getting out of the military, veterans view fitness negatively, neglecting their own health. However, by working out and getting endorphins moving, it gives a positive mental release.
How do you see MAVS’ future and where do you want it to go from here?
From here, I’m looking to help as many veterans as I can nationally.