SFC (Ret.) Master Rafael Medina has accomplished many things in his life. In 1985, he was among the first members of the newly formed Army taekwondo team representing Fort Bragg at the 1985 N.C. state championship.
When the armed forces recognized taekwondo as a trial sport in 1988, Medina continued to compete, earning medals and eventually becoming a coach. In 1994, he created the motto "One Team, One Fight," unifying the sport of taekwondo for all the armed forces.
He is one of 11 people recognized by the military as a certified coach. After retiring from the Army, Medina began working with children as a coach for the Liberty County Recreation Department’s sport taekwondo team.
But his greatest accomplishment came as a complete surprise when he received news he was being nominated for the Taekwondo Hall of Fame.
On April 10, Medina was in Teaneck, N.J, where he received one of the most prestigious awards ever given at the second Taekwondo Hall of Fame banquet: the Outstanding Pioneer Armed Forces Player Award. Medina was praised for his 35 years of dedication to the art of taekwondo and for all his accomplishments.
"When they presented me with the award, I couldn’t contain my smile," Medina said. "I never dreamed about the hall of fame until they said they were going to nominate me," he said. "Then when it happened, it was like an unrealized dream come true. It’s like thinking about winning the lottery and then hitting the grand prize. Our coaches and athletes work really hard and put a lot of work and heart into this beautiful art. Receiving such an award is truly an honor."
Medina said he was in awe, being around hundreds of the world’s greatest taekwondo masters and standing side-by-side with the other men who helped to bring the sport to the forefront of the military.
"I was amazed at all the masters there," he said. "I walked around and pointed thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve heard of this person,’ or ‘Wow, I met a hall of famer.’ It’s a humbling yet gratifying thing to know next year, people will meet me or see my face on the hall of fame wall and think the same."
He summed it up by saying it was the highest, most prestigious honor he has attained.
"You see the word fame and it makes you think," he said. "Fame isn’t just about being wealthy or having a lot of money. It’s about your attitude, how you present yourself and conduct yourself and how you give from your heart. It’s nice to be recognized for that. This was only the second hall of fame ceremony, so there are not many of us inducted. Now I have my photo and my place there and it’s an amazing thing."
Medina credits his successful career and all his accomplishments to the support of his family and friends. He also said he was thankful to the LCRD for their continued support.
Medina said he still has plenty of work to do as he prepares the next generation of champions here in Hinesville. He said he wants the kids to know they have an opportunity to live out their dreams the way he did.
"I want these kids to see and know that if I can do it, so can they," he said. "There are no limits except for the ones we place on ourselves."