For some people, losing weight and feeling good about themselves physically is a lifelong battle. It's something Darin Adams, a University of Northern Iowa senior majoring in criminology, came face-to-face with.
While still in high school, Darin decided to visit an Army recruiter – he walked into the office weighing 380 pounds.
"I was told there was no way I could join the army, I was too big," he said.
Darin's brother had a heart attack when he was 16, and on top of that, Darin also had health issues when he was younger – these reasons, plus wanting to get into the army, were his primary motivators for losing weight.
"I found out that I loved running," he said. "That passion really drove me to lose weight."
Darin worked hard and decided to visit a recruiter again. "I went back a year later and there was the same Army recruiter, he didn't believe it was me. I had gone from 380 to 240 pounds in less than year."
The weight loss secured Darin a spot in basic training. By the time he graduated, he was down to 210 pounds, but then a new battle presented itself. Within 90 days of graduating from basic training, Darin was deployed to Iraq for 1.5 years.
"Two days before we were supposed to head home from Iraq, I saw on CNN that my unit was getting extended for six months – we were sent to secure Baghdad," he said.
In all, Darin was deployed overseas twice and was stationed in Alaska for two years. "I was working all the time in Alaska, but was having fun. I mean, I got to kayak down a river to work every weekend and saw a pack of wolves!"
He's currently in the Army Reserve working as a computer administrator, but would do his time overseas again in a heartbeat. "Not only did my time overseas make me more mature, but I had experiences that can never be replicated and met some amazing people that opened my eyes to other cultures and religions."
Everything Darin learned and experienced, from his struggles with losing weight to his time in the military, has followed him to UNI. He's involved with UNI's Student Veterans Association and Military and Veteran Student Services and was a driving force in bringing the documentary film "The Invisible War" to campus in October 2012.
He's also very passionate about veterans, "I want to make sure they're getting the support they need; that they get from the front door to the graduation floor, and then find a good job."
With everything that's going on in Darin's life, he doesn't have a lot of free time, but he says that's ok...he just wants to make a difference.
"I want to be able to walk away from a place and say I left it better than when I arrived. I can say that about the military, I can say that about the reserves, and I'm working on leaving UNI a better place," he said.