At MPG, we know fitness is a journey, a way of life, with the power to change people’s lives, transform them, and inspire others along the way. However, it wasn’t until we read the story of Natalie, who lost her brother Frank (US Army Cpl.) when he was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 16th, 2011, that we realized the true power of fitness. Frank was the only solider who lost his life in his unit, and he was Natalie’s only sibling. In the aftermath of her brother’s passing, Natalie battled depression, anxiety, and excessive drinking, trying desperately to self-medicate and fill the void left by Frank’s death. Despite the darkness of a life lost in the most noble sense-serving one’s people-Natalie’s journey is one that ends in triumph: She took her passion for fitness and allowed it to heal her, entering her first fitness competition to, in her words, “honor not only my brother, but myself.”

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Natalie not only overcame an onslaught of despair prompted by her brother’s passing, but also self-doubt, something athletes of all kinds can relate to: “This was a huge step for me because I had always said to myself “I could never have enough willpower to do one of those,” she said. She did more than enter-Natalie is constantly experimenting with a new fitness craze or sport (CrossFit, Snowboarding, and Wakeboarding rank high on her list of favorites) and also began work as a personal trainer to share her passion and make it possible for others to experience the transformative power of staying active.

In regard to her brother, Natalie is confident that she’s honoring his memory and making him proud: “Frankie would always laugh at me because I would work out so intensely and then have pizza! I truly believe he is up there smiling and laughing and puffing up his chest with pride that his big sister was able to accomplish something that seemed absolutely impossible for me.”

Transforming pain into healing power has changed the course of Natalie’s life, and there is no greater journey than one out of severe darkness into light. Remarking that she hopes people in similar situations know they aren’t alone, Natalie said: “It is proven that exercise increases endorphins and serotonin to the brain, therefore increasing your “happy levels” per se. If you force yourself to go try new things, meet new people, each day, you’ll notice you get a bit stronger. You may even find that something that once terrifies you becomes a place of joy within your life. The pain will always be there but the choice to change lies in your hands.”

Natalie’s pain will be ever-present, but even stronger is her newfound drive and her brother’s memory. Together, they have created an athlete and individual who inspires many as she redefines the word “hero.”

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9 comments so far

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  1. MPG, thank you for remembering those who have sacrificed their all for our freedom and for highlighting the life’s struggles and victory over them of the beloved sister of the Fallen Soldier, Cpl. Frank R. Gross.

  2. Natalie, you are my little fire cracker. I am so proud of your accomplishments and know how much I love you . You make me proud to call you niece and I know this has been a challenge and accomplishment for you. You HAVE DONE IT. Keep all these wonderful feelings in focus and I know Frankie is watching and smiling down on you for sure. I love you special..Aunt Pam

  3. Wow Natalie that is great !!! I need to come to Vegas and have you show me how to get in shape !!!! Keep it up you can do it , and you know we are all proud of you …. Frankie. Too Love you

  4. Great article mpg. & Keep it up Natalie you are truly an inspiration. See you in August. Love ya

  5. You have not only honored your brother and yourself but also your parents as well…..all of your family members are very proud of you and super happy that through all of this you have grown into a lovely woman. It is your spirit that inspires and makes us proud. I’m so pleased that you have found the happiness you deserved through this journey! Love you!!!!!

  6. So proud of you boo! Honoring your brother through your dedication to bring your best self and to keeping his memory and story alive. Love you! Xx

  7. Keep up the good work. I pray that in time, God can heal the sense of loss, not that you ever forget, but that the wounds heal. I am glad you are living beyond and for Frank’s memory.
    Just ate at Patriot last night. Best wishes.

  8. Oh my darling Natalie. I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished. I was thinking the other day of you and wished I had done something like this when I was young. How different life might be. I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished. The things you have overcome is a miracle and I know I can speak for all..WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU. Thank you for honoring Frankie, more important for Honoring Natalie. I love you. Aunt Pam…

  9. I stumbled across your Instagram and I’ve been a follower for awhile. I just read this and I am humbled by your strength and spirit. Congratulations on all of your achievements fitness wise and the incredible peace of mind and internal strength you’ve developed.
    You and your brother both are true inspirations!