Sacrifice, duty, and motivation!

It’s how to describe a major life-changing event, like losing significant weight to change your health and overall life outlook.

It can also describe stepping away from day-to-day life to serve others, or a greater goal.

For Kissimmee’s Christian Montijo, it is both.

Montijo is putting aside a career in banking and a family to enlist in the U.S. Army; he ships out to Camp Jackson in Columbia, S.C. on Monday. To make that happen, he had to lose weight – a lot of it.

He ships out almost a year to the day he chose to reshape his life and transform his 350-pound build. He leaves as a 190-pound recruit ready to tackle Basic Training at age 28.

“I knew for a long time I had to take action, that if I kept these habits and this size, I’d probably be living a short life,” he said. “And I knew since high school I wanted to be in the Army, my dad and brother were. But I started working and it just didn’t happen.”

“I’m doing this for my wife and children (ages 4 and 6), they’re another motivating factor. They support me going off to do this. Now I can live my dream.”

Montijo said he made the decision to lose the weight necessary to be about to join the Army just before New Year’s of 2019, and he shared the simple way he did it – diet and exercise.

“I went from eating fast food every day and drinking soda because it was easy to drinking water and doing my meal prep Sunday night for the whole week,” he said. “I didn’t want there to be any excuses, like, ‘I don’t have time’ or, ‘It’s too hard.’ And I started walking around my complex every day. Before, if I walked that everything hurt. But it didn’t anymore and it made me want to do it more.”

Over the summer, he filed enlistment papers and met up with Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Ayala. Montijo still had 30 pounds to go to meet the Army standards to enlist, when the process became “nervewracking,” Montijo said, but Ayala stayed in contact with him, encouraging him and his process.

“He explained the benefits getting in the Army would provide, and that was just more motivation,” he said. “Starting in July he kept contacting me, calling or texting, and was really engaged in my progress.

Ayala said anybody can do what Montijo has accomplished, but they have to be willing to work.

“I see people the way he was, at his biggest, all the time,” Ayala said. “They think it’s impossible. And there’s people who only need to lose like 25 pounds. I use Christian as a motivating tool, that it’s not impossible.

“What he’s done takes grit and motivation, so now that he’s in, I have no doubt he’ll make it very far in the Army and do great and be an inspiration.”

Montijo said he heads off to Basic Training feeling great with plenty of new-found energy. His words of wisdom for those who want to make a similar change? Be patient, but keep it up, every day.

“I didn’t gain all that weight overnight. It takes time for it to come off, but it will melt away if you stay motivated every day,” he said, noting that his exercise went from walking to jogging to running two miles.

“I tried to lose weight plenty of times before. It’s not rocket science. I’m just mentally stronger than I’ve ever been. And I hope I can motivate other people out there to take control of their health and life. If this story can help one person live better, I will be happy.”