Throughout my life, the body of my Memorial Day weekends have consisted of barbecued ribs and chicken, picnic dishes, yard work, and trips to the beach. Memorial Day pleasures were treasures to be hoarded like a camel reserves water. I lived off the three day weekend until a proper vacation could be had in June.
What Memorial Day was not was a time to remember the fallen veterans who died in service to our country. I don't have reason or excuse other than to admit that my imagination was centered how I would coax my grill into yielding another perfect feast.
This year I started Memorial Day differently. I joined a Crossfit gym this year and learned that every "box" in the country was doing the same workout to honor Lt. Micheal Murphy, a soldier who died in Afghanistan trying to find a clearing where he could relay his company's position. The workout goes like this:
Run one mile
100 pull ups
200 push ups
300 air squats
Run one mile
Lt. Murphy called the workout his "body armor" and made it a regular part of his routine. I approached it as a personal Mt. Everest. I wasn't sure I could do that many pull ups in the time of a single workout. So I approached the workout with more self-centered motivation: Could I climb this mountain?
I finished the workout in fifty-seven minutes and change and felt darn good about myself. Not bad for a middle-aged man. I didn't wear a weighed vest like the experience Crossfitters, but maybe next year. I spent the day filled with a sense of accomplishment. But again, my thoughts were on me and my accomplishments.
The next three days corrected my perspective.
It was the muscle soreness. Tuesday AM I woke up early to workout and my lats, delts, and chest groaned. It hurt to lift my arms over my head. We stretched for an hour, and it offered little relief. Wednesday was no better. It's Friday AM my lats feel like rusty brake pads that won't release their grip. Mentally, I've been in a fog. Exhausted.
That's when it hit me. During a time of war, the men and women of the armed forces live with marrow sucking fatigue for months sometimes years. They live with the mental burden of knowing their children may be orphaned. They go to bed each night ignoring their knotted and sour muscles. And some never returned home to find relief from these burdens.
Gratitude filled me.
Now I understand why Crossfitters observe "Murph." It's not a self-indulgent fitness binge. It's an opportunity to empathize, in a small way, with the men and women who put everything on the line to defend our freedom. I'll do the "Murph",and yes, I'll work to improve my time and maybe even wear the vest. But the goal will be to build empathy and gratitude for those who paid the ultimate price.