The facts are stark and grim.
Approximately 22 veterans die by suicide each day. The Official WOD to End Veteran Suicide aims to bring awareness to this issue through fitness and fundraising.
I had seen this event advertised for two years. But, it always fell during the CrossFit Open which seemed to swallow up mine and my gym community’s attention. With the Open’s move to the fall months, this year was the year to take the dare and lead the event at my home gym. This was a challenge for me on multiple levels.
I’ll talk about the logistics in a later post, but for now I just want to honor the event itself, those who participated, and what I learned about the issue behind the event.
Suicide has a personal meaning to me. My grandmother died by suicide when I was young. Adding insult to memory, I was made to feel shame over and disgust for what she did. I will share that story at some point down the road, but just for that reason, bringing suicide into the light and open conversation has become more important to me in my adult life.
The veteran connection is not as direct for me. I have immense respect for the military, their families, and the sacrifices they make for my freedom and liberty. I don’t pretend to know what they go through, but I try to keep learning how to be more aware, ask questions, and listen.
Organizing this event brought me learning I could not have predicted. It turns out that multiple people in our gym community are veterans themselves who have struggled with PTSD and lost friends and family to suicide. Opening up conversations about this enabled a new level of connection and empathy in me.
Perhaps the most profound moments of the morning were when, in line with the rules of the workout, we stopped every 22 minutes for 22 seconds of silence, to remember those who have died by suicide. After a morning of logistics, setup, money collection, answering questions, I finally got to do the workout myself. When the moment of silence came, I was overcome with emotion.
Murph, DT, Chad. Names many of us know. The famous hero WODS of CrossFit. Some of the hardest most intense workouts we do in the CrossFit Community.
Today we are here for different names and different heroes. Heroes named Cook, White, Ambrose, Love and many more. These names are all veterans, friends and family of those here today, who have died by suicide. Their stories may be less famous. Their wounds may be less visible. But those wounds are just as real and their loss is just as honorable and deeply felt.
As you go through the movements, many have names underneath them. The names of those friends and family. So think of them as we put for our sweat and effort and resources and attention to their wounds, their suffering, their heroism, and ultimately, to contribute to changing the lives of veterans after they return home. Your efforts today support Operation Ward 57 through their hope and courage programs…these provide service dogs and hotline support to veterans. I know many of us are familiar with the healing that comes with faithful canine companions and a listening ear at the time we need it most.
Our last movement, the sprints, has no name…it is for the many who suffer in silence. Who are still fighting. Who are still running even though they are exhausted, in pain, may feel they have very little left. We dig deep and keep going. So today isn’t for rounds or for reps or for time. Today’s efforts are simply for them.