It was 1978, and my father, U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Ron Clark, was leading his squad on a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Their mission: combat readiness. Their training weapon: .50 caliber rifles. Dad established the site, with weapons ready and training underway, just like any other day. Only on this day, things went terribly wrong. A soldier mistakenly discharged a live round stuck in the chamber during a cease fire and check of the perimeter.
Dad and a fellow officer were walking side by side about 200 yards out, perpendicular to the path of the bullet. They were both hit mid-stride.
The scene was gruesome. The bullet penetrated Dad’s wrist, causing damage to his arm and hand. His fellow officer sustained extensive trauma to both arms. Bleeding and in shock, Dad carried his friend to the rescue helicopter. His friend would go on to lose both his right arm and left hand. But he lived, thanks, in part, to Dad’s selfless actions.
This story is the foundation of everything that is now the National Federation of Professional Trainers.
In a mere second, Dad’s life plan was destroyed. Then just 20 years old, he was sent home wounded and hurting, inside and out. Instead of letting it consume him, he decided to turn his pain to promise. His need for healing developed into an addiction to strength and fitness and a determination to make fitness his life’s work. In the early ’80s, Dad won Mr. Indiana, Mr. Purdue, NPC and AAU titles in competitive bodybuilding. But he didn’t feel like he was affecting enough change. It was time to use his knowledge to help other people reach their health goals.
Dad’s road to recovery led him to a life of fitness and better health. That same road to recovery would become a map for others on the same journey.
A new mission emerges
Keeping his new purpose in mind, Dad began learning everything he could about the human body. He was most interested in accessible pathways and processes available to anyone committed to improving their state of wellness. While he pursued his passions, he didn’t slow down. He got certified as a personal trainer while also studying to be a firefighter and an emergency medical technician. He built a private, personal training studio called The Fitness Clinic in 1986 while also working 24-hour shifts as a City of Lafayette (Ind.) firefighter.
Over the course of his mission, Dad realized the need for real-world education, leading him to develop a personal training certification relevant to his daily practice. Fueled by his hard-working, no-frills approach to life, Dad founded NFPT in 1988. NFPT’s primary mission is to help people like him put their fitness passion to work. But to NFPT’s trainer family, it’s so much more than just a certification.
And, though he has passed the business on to me and to my sister April, Dad’s determination and passion still drive everything we at NFPT do every single day. Learn more about NFPT’s mission, vision and values.