Realtor® Terry Martin-Back: Coming Out of the Darkness
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – “Walking towards the darkness didn’t seem like such a bad idea in the fall of 2016,” says Terry Martin-Back, a real estate professional with EXIT Realty Producers in Gainesville.
“The Great Recession drained our savings and retirement nine years earlier and it was a struggle to keep my head above water for several years,” says the Army combat veteran. “My business was hemorrhaging cash. I looked at my debts and the darkness loomed.”
Martin-Back says that while mowing his yard, he started to develop a plan of what he needed to accomplish before committing suicide. He says, “My plan was to have all the company debt paid off, have the house maintenance up to date, get my dress blues laid out with all the ribbons and accouterments polished and properly placed. I was going to walk into the backyard, call 911 and advise them of my address and where my body would be, hang up and pull the trigger.”
Veteran suicide rates are high. According to the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the average number of veteran suicides per day was 17.6 in 2018.
Thankfully, however, Martin-Back isn’t a statistic. “As a combat veteran from Desert Storm, I had lost the fear of death. The one worry I had was not for me, it was for my wife,” he recalls.
That’s when he decided to take small steps toward improving his life. He started a fitness plan, one that was suggested by his real estate trainer. The next choice was to eat a healthy diet. Over the next year, he started doing interval training and running. Then, he bought a bike.
The bike changed his life. “Before 2018, I hadn’t been on a bike in 40 years,” he says.
Always one to take on a challenge, he decided to enter an 85-mile charity bike ride for Soldiers Freedom Outdoors, a retreat for veterans that allows them to relax and recharge. He was already supporting the local veteran community and the retreat.
Since that first bike ride, he’s completed the race two more times. This time, his team raised $5,000 from the local community, which EXIT Realty International matched through its “The Heart of EXIT” program. Martin-Back also participates in charity marathons, 5Ks, and triathlons.
He has long supported the veteran community in Gainesville: “I volunteer several days a month at Camp Freedom taking care of the organization, keeping the grass under control, making repairs to the retreat home, fixing the barn stalls, I just keep myself busy,” he explains.
He is also a member of the Korean War Veterans Association and takes care of the Korean and Vietnam Veterans Memorial in town.
“I have a passion for looking after my brothers and sisters and keeping the veterans' insight within the community,” he says. “And I know people aren't going to forget us. But then again, every once in a while, you just have to give a reminder that, every day, I lost 17 brothers and sisters to suicide.”
Martin-Back now understands that mental fitness and physical fitness go hand-in-hand. He tries to set an example and encourage other veterans to make small changes to their lifestyle that will reap big rewards mentally.
“What scared me was looking down the dark hallway myself, and that was a wake-up call,” he says.
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