KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WFRV) – An Army veteran, a father, and an entrepreneur; James Long has made the most of his life after serving his country. It was something he always knew he would do.
“From a large family, you’re going to either go the military route or try to get a full ride to school, it’s kind of one of those things. My parents were like, ‘Hey, we’re providing for 10 (kids),’ so, we kind of always knew that,” Long recalled.
A father in the Air Force, and nine siblings to grow up with, you could say the military mindset was instilled in James Long early on.
“Just knowing that there was more out there that we could do, and really provide a service to something greater than ourselves,” he said.
So in 2005 when Long graduated high school, he earned a nomination to go to West Point.
From there, he was stationed at Fort Hood with the 20th Engineer Batallion. But not for long.
“I arrived in 2011 and I spent less than a month at my first base and then I was on a plane down range,” said Long.
Long would deploy to Afghanistan twice, once with the Army and once with the Texas National Guard.
But it was during that second deployment, where Long spent time helping train Afghan leadership to become more self-sufficient, that he realized what his life after the service might look like.
“Hugely different, very rewarding, it kind of helped me understand what I wanted to do with my life in general. I loved doing that, working with people, helping them, it’s kind of led me to where I’m at today,” said Long.
After eight-and-a-half years in the military, Long wasn’t sure where civilian life would take him.
No more routine, no more orders, Long now had to find that structure for himself, and a way to continue helping others.
He did that through something he started in the military; CrossFit.
“Doing that (in the military), helped me realize that that’s still the same community that I could relate to when I got out. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know where I’d be. Maybe I’d be in a bar, and I wouldn’t be healthy anymore, I’d take my anxiety and my mental health, the things that I bottle up, and I would’ve gone to a different outlet,” he said.
The only bar Long is hitting now is the pull-up bar.
He and his wife started Bad Batch Crossfit in Kaukauna, and Fox Valley Meal Prep in Little Chute.
Part of their mission is to give back to veterans. Bad Batch Crossfit recently became a member of Lift for the 22, a non-profit that provides resources for veterans through support and wellness.
Because for Long, it’s all about passion with a purpose.
“Karma maybe, I don’t know if it’s karma. I believe that if you give good out in the world, good will come back. That’s my why, I just want to keep doing good for people in that community,” said Long.
“People are never going to fully understand it, but if there’s businesses in communities that are helping bring that awareness still, I want to keep doing that and I don’t think that’ll ever stop,” he said.