COVINGTON -- It's been a few years since Tracey Ford has served as a drill sergeant in the Army, but you wouldn't know it watching her interact with her Covington-based youth dance team, the Dazzling Diamonds.
Yet, the students don't see Ford's teaching style as intimidating. They say it's inspirational.
"She's a hard worker and she's a very, very good role model," said 15-year-old Exavia Chapman.
The inspiration comes from more than just Ford's dance moves. The Abita Springs native gave up her love of dance at a young age to join the National Guard. Then 9/11 motivated her to go active duty with the Army.
But during a deployment to Iraq in 2004, Ford's life changed.
"I was hit on a convoy which made me have multiple amount of surgeries, probably almost 17, 18 to this day," said Ford, "Messed up my bladder, my kidneys. I'm still going through repair surgeries."
Ford was told she'd never walk again and the recovery process left her, at one point, battling yet another obstacle-- obesity.
She finally said enough in 2012 and fought back to her first love, dance.
"They said i wouldn't walk again, I wouldn't run again, but I'm here and doing it," she said.
Ford, who now goes by the stage name "Laweziana," has taken her tale and talents from coast to coast, and beyond, teaching adult cardio fitness classes.
"I've been everywhere from San Diego, California, Puerto Rico, Covington, Dallas, Texas, New York," she said, "I've been everywhere to try to motivate them to show them that they can do stuff that people say they can't do."
She's also passing on her gift to little girls, especially those in her hometown. Not only did she create the Dazzling Diamonds team, but she travels from Dallas to teach them and she's covering most of the cost of their uniforms and travel.
"She's teaching them more than just dance, she's teaching them how to be young ladies," said Gaynell Crockett, dance mom and a student of Ford's. "Being professional, learning how to respect yourself. She's going overall."
Ford said she does not think she's the only one who is inspiring.
"That's what helps me. I've touched so many people, but actually the people motivate me," she said.
Ford said she will continue her mission to move people's feet and hearts, as long as her own feet and heart allow it.
If you'd like to learn more about Ford's local youth dance team, or when she'll be holding local adult classes in the future, visit: https://www.facebook.com/LawezianaDanceFitness/