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Every member of the United States Armed Forces has his or her own story of the origins of their journey to service. Some feel it’s destiny while others pursue it as a goal. Kami Wilkins was the daughter of a Marine. Her father is men’s physique competitor and bodybuilding announcer Tim Wilkins. However, her own career began by a chance encounter with a recruiter in college.
“I was on my way to psychology class, and he noticed me. I’m 5’10”, and I was wearing a camo hat,” Wilkins recalled. “He was like ‘You! Come here. How are you not in the Army?’ I laughed and said that my dad was in the Marine Corps, joking it off. He was like, “No, seriously. How are you not in the Army?’ I just felt called.”
That chance meeting changed the course of WIlkins’ life because she decided to join the Army. Many people who serve in the military feel that it’s a part of their duty to stay in great shape. Wilkins felt her years of working out with her father and experience playing high school basketball would serve her well. As she found out, basic training required a greater level of fitness than she anticipated.
“The ruck marches threw me for a loop,” she admitted. “I thought I would be fine carrying a 45-pound backpack and marching, but that actually took the biggest physical toll on my body.”
Throughout the beginning of her military career, Wilkins suffered injuries that she thought would heal on their own. After several months of struggling, she would start seeing a chiropractor three times a week, which played a positive role in her complete recovery. She would graduate from basic training, and among the most memorable moments for her was Tim’s presence that day.
“My dad is a very strong man. I have a lot of respect for my dad, but he was trying his best not to be a big baby that day. He was just so unbelievably proud of me. It was a really emotional experience.”
Unfortunately, she would be dealt with another setback in the end of 2020, while talking to her dad on Bluetooth in her car.
“I got sideswiped by an SUV, and I was in a sedan. It totaled my car, and I had to crawl out of the backseat. It was super traumatic,” she explained. “I had to go to the ER to get checked out. I had problems with my low back, my neck. They said I had post-concussion syndrome.”
Kami Wilkins once again persevered and went through another recovery process that included chiropractic sessions, neurologic appointments, and physical therapy. The 23-year-old made yet another recovery and is currently working as a paralegal specialist in Riverside, CA. After she was able to train again, Tim had a suggestion. He felt his daughter should compete. The competition in question was the NPC Armed Forces Nationals in Alexandria, VA.
“I got to work with the best coach, Kim Oddo, a legend who is my dad’s friend,” she said proudly. Kim was the sweetest, and he was so supportive and wonderful. I can’t thank him enough.”
Kami Wilkins entered the Armed Forces Nationals as a Bikini division competitor. She also entered the NPC Battle Royale, which took place on the same day. Once again, she was following in her father’s footsteps — this time by taking the stage. Once again, her dad was in the house — serving as the announcer for the show. He got to call her name as she took the stage. For Kami, this was a culmination worthy of celebration regardless of the result.
“Taking the stage was awesome. It was the end goal after these 12 weeks of prep,” Wilkins said. “It was my personal victory lap.”
Kami Wilkins took fourth place in the Battle Royale and second in her class at the Armed Forces Nationals. What stood out to her wasn’t what happened onstage, but rather the atmosphere backstage.
“The energy in the backstage area was everything. It was amazing. The amount of support for each competitor, the dancing to the music and encouraging of each other, that was the moment that I was like ‘wow, I’m so glad I did this. This is where I’m supposed to be, standing here with these amazing women.’ If I do a show again, it would have to be Armed Forces, for sure.
She does plan to compete again, but she wants to take time to add muscle to that 5’10” frame before doing so. When asked about her future in both her sport and career, she feels the best moments are in the future.
“My proudest moment has yet to come,” she proclaimed. “With COVID during 2020, I didn’t get to go to my unit most of the year. “Recently, I’ve been working with a unit in L.A. and working with them because they have more legal work. So I’ve been a part of a lot of really cool separation boards and work with a lot of respected and higher-ranking officers. Working with them has been one of my favorite moments, but I do think my proudest moment is yet to come.”