In the not-so-distant past, however, he would have stuck out plenty. Bourne used to weigh roughly 350 pounds. And instead of worrying about a drill sergeant chewing him out, he was worried his weight might shorten his life.

"It just really hit me one day: I can't do this anymore, I have to lose weight," the 22-year-old from Blountville, Tennessee, told Army Times. "It was holding me back. I figured that if I keep going the way I'm going, I'm probably going to die."

Bourne decided not only to lose weight and get healthy, but to join an organization that wouldn't take him until he succeeded in his weight-loss mission. While the young man had already shed plenty of pounds before walking into the Army recruiting office in Johnson City early last year, there was still work to be done.

"He came in, and he was a big dude. He was way outside of our qualifications," remembers Staff Sgt. William Corp, Bourne's recruiter. "I said 'sorry man, right now I can't help you. You can't meet our weight qualifications.'"

Corp estimated Bourne was down to about 260-270 pounds — still way too much.

Bourne said Corp kept a professional, "super serious" tone as he broke down what needed to happen and offered diet and exercise advice. But while Corp dutifully encouraged Bourne, internally he remained skeptical.

"Honestly, it was one of those 'I'll believe it when I see it' things," Corp said. "Over the past year, I have had people come in (with weight issues) nowhere near as extreme, like they needed to lose 15-20 pounds. And I'd never see them again."

Bourne said he's always been bigger than average, but said it was in high school where things "got out of hand." He said with little to do in his town, restaurants — fast food joints in particular — became hangouts. He didn't really do anything to monitor his calorie intake. He quit baseball, a sport he had played until high school, because he wasn't fit enough.

During his weight loss efforts, the hopeful enlistee worked out six days per week, with an emphasis on cardio training that included P90X. He worked out before eating breakfast because he read research indicating that it helps burn fat. And he altered his diet drastically. He loaded up on lean proteins like turkey and chicken and plenty of vegetables like broccoli. per Corp's recommendations, along with nuts and seeds. Corp said he also told him "water is your best friend."

The weight didn't come off perfectly. While he lost an encouraging 10-15 pounds in the first two weeks of his effort, sometimes his scale would remain stubborn for a couple weeks.

"You get frustrated because you're doing all the right things and don't see any progress. But your body is still getting better. I knew in the back of my mind," he said. "That's what really kept me going, that's why I didn't give up."

Corp said Bourne kept up with him about once a month, and he began to believe Bourne might pull through.

"He was a real nice guy. He just seemed really driven for this, like this was the most important thing in the world to him," Corp said.

Other people around him started to notice. Some even changed up their own routines. He said his friend had run track through high school, but gotten a bit out of shape. Bourne said that as he improved it helped drive his friend to get back into running.

Before shipping off to Fort Benning, he admitted to being nervous. But given what he had to do to even get there, that doesn't mean he's worried.

"I'm definitely nervous about Fort Benning," Bourne said. "But it's an excited nervous. I do see myself being in the Army for a long period of time. This is what I want to do. I want to make a long-term career out of the Army."

"I've always admired the military from a young age. I always knew I kind of wanted to be a part of the military. The teamwork, the brotherhood, I just wanted to be a part of that," said the former Johnson City Medical Center employee.

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