Navy E-4 Petty Officer 3rd Class Zachary Collins: “Thank you Team Semper Fi for helping me find myself and my calling again”

Posted on November 15, 2016

Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Navy E-4 Petty Officer 3rd Class Zachary Collins brings a significant background as an athlete to his status as a member of Team Semper Fi.

Zachary began running track and cross country in high school, and attended college on a cross country scholarship: He was a two-time All-American cross country runner in 1994 and 1995 at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute.

“I joined the U.S. Navy in 2000, serving 10 years as a Helicopter Rescue Swimmer and a Naval Aircrewman,” says Zachary, who deployed twice to Iraq, once in 2003 and again in 2007. “I was injured in 2003 and came back to full active duty after two years,” he continues. “I served an additional six years before I could no longer do the physical job of jumping out of helicopters any longer due to my injuries.”

As a way of helping deal with some lingering issues related to his service, Zachary discovered triathlon and Team Semper Fi.Petty Officer 3rd Class Zachary Collins participating in a NY Triathlon

“After last year’s triathlon camp, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” he says. “Under the coaching of Logan Franks and with the support of Team Semper Fi, I have progressed through last year’s and this year’s triathlon races to qualify for the USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championships and the Toughman National Championship 70.3-mile race in New York.”

“My goal,” Zachary adds, “is to qualify for the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii, within the next couple of years.”

Meanwhile, Zachary is looking to a future beyond the field of competition. “After leaving the Navy, I started working again on my degree program in college,” he says. “I will be graduating in September 2017 with my Bachelors of Science Degree in Psychology.  I plan on continuing on with my Masters Degree at the University of New Mexico, and am undecided as of yet to the route I want to take.”

“I would ultimately like to work in the field of social services as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW),” Zachary adds, “and help other veterans like myself struggling with PTSD.  I feel it is my calling and would like to give back to others – especially veterans.”

Zachary competed in the 2016 Santa Cruz Paratriathlon, finishing third with a total time of 1:09:01.2 (we like to think that the triathlon kit, which includes competition gear and other goodies provided by the Semper Fi Fund and Team Semper Fi, and covering his entry fees and sending him to the advanced triathlon camp in Pensacola, Florida, had a little something to do with such a strong finish) — but we know it was all Zachary!

“In less than two years in the sport, I have progressed rapidly and have the Team to thank for all of the support and opportunities to travel to races. Thank you, Team Semper Fi and Semper Fi Fund, for helping me find myself and my calling again.”

Zachary adds that his favorite quote — one which he lives by — is from Orison Swett Marden, who founded SUCCESS magazine in 1897: “Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”