Local veterans participate in 2K burpees challenge to end veteran suicide

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – One of the most hated exercises became the focal point of a month-long, nationwide campaign to end the trend of nearly 20 military service members committing suicide every day. Two local veterans dedicated their time to promoting the 2,000 burpees challenge in the month of August.

For the past 31 days, people from across the United States joined Stop Soldier Suicide’s 2,000 burpees challenge to bring awareness to service members taking their own lives.

At one Johnson City CrossFit gym, Thunder Valley Fitness, 35 members joined in. Two of those members are U.S. Army veterans.

Thomas Young is a Desert Storm Army veteran who served from 1988 until 1992.

“Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide. That’s roughly one every 65 minutes. The main reason to do this is to bring awareness to that,” Young said.

Young said the challenge holds a personal connection for him as a veteran.

“This thing really means a lot to me. There’s a way for me to pay tribute to all the soldiers that I served with and the ones that served after me and before,” Young said.

As a veteran, Young said it could have easily been him, but with the help of his gym community, he is still alive today.

“This is one of the reasons why I may not have gone down that road of suicide,” Young said. “I found a community here that was very supportive, not just my physical fitness, but in all walks of my life.”

A burpee, according to Brad Weems, co-owner of Thunder Valley Fitness on Hanover Road in Johnson City, is a new-age rendition of the infamous “up-down” that you see in football. The exerciser’s body goes to the floor, the chest hits the deck, and the movement ends by jumping up with the arms over the head.

“It’s just really cool, you have the burpee, which is a lot of our members’ least favorite movement, and here they are, doing one of those exercises that no one really likes, but for a good cause,” Weems said. “It’s a real tough exercise where it’s a compound movement, it’s working a lot of muscles and really getting that heart rate jacked up.”

Heart rates must be skyrocketing at Thunder Valley Fitness where Young, as well as Science Hill teacher and Army Veteran Jeff Price, conducted most of the 2,000 burpee challenge.

Price lost a fellow service member to suicide in 2012.

“This guy, I would never have – {of} all the people I knew – I would never ever thought that he would be somebody who would do that. So, it really struck home to me that we don’t understand what they’re going through,” Price said.

But it was with his gym community that he found solace and support. When he started participating in the challenge, he created a Facebook group for his CrossFit gym buddies to join in.

“To have that many people kind of rally to it and jump in and do that means a lot to me, but our gym is a really cool place,” Price said. “I mean, it’s more like a family or church or something than a gym so, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think 35 people would jump in.”

As the nation’s longest war draws to a close, Price said this challenge has an extra special meaning to it.

“I think it does make it more special because we really don’t understand what people are going through,” Price said. “Maybe the money that we raised, any awareness we raise will help people kind of come up with ways to better serve our veterans when they come back from those places.”

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