LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It means, “Of their own accord”, and the motto, sua sponte, is taking on and bringing new life to current and former military service members competing in Ironman Louisville.

It's one of the toughest competitions in the world. Thousands are arriving in Louisville to give it a try to prove that they have the mettle to be an Ironman. But the grueling competition that starts Sunday morning on the Louisville riverfront is also saving the lives of some of America's bravest.

The goal for some who have trained for months is to just cross the finish line and hear "you are an Ironman.”

For one team, just competing is proving that they were further from life's finish line than they could ever comprehend in their darkest moments.

Sua Sponte Elite Racing is a team of current and former US Army Rangers created by former Ranger, Josh Mathis.

“We just adapt and overcome and make sure we get the job done”, said Mathis.

"Our main goal is to try and just get and keep Rangers active once they get out of the service,” said Mathis.

“There's a big problem with veterans who get out kind of taking a downward spiral and winding up in some pretty dark places that they don't necessarily want to be in."

Mathis found himself in that place after years of service. He admits to having struggled to adapt to civilian life and battled the same types of issues facing many others who’ve served.

But a few years back he promised that he'd train for a triathlon and that is how he saw the light.

"It completely turned my life around,” Mathis said. “It let me focus on something positive every day. It's not just the same get up and go to the gym and lift every day, it's something new every day.”

Now there are 110 active members turning to triathlon to recharge their spirit. One of them is former Ranger and LMPD Officer Paul Cobb.

“From where I was two and a half years ago, probably the worst condition, worst shape of my life after 17 years as, at that time 15 years as a police officer, I'm 44 now and in the best shape of my life and I have these guys to thank for it,” Officer Cobb said.

The group not only trains for triathlons, they also connect with current and former US Army Rangers struggling with the same issues they have faced. Mathis said sometimes they’ll reach out to a Ranger after noticing concerning posts on social media. Cobb and his son recently traveled cross country visiting former Rangers at each stop.

The comradery built through training for this elite competition, they say, is rebuilding their lives and reminding them of the Ranger motto, “Rangers lead the way”.

You can learn more about Sua Sponte Elite Racing by visiting their website here.

Sua Sponte is also on Facebook.