News: '31 Heroes': Sweat, pain shared in memory of fallen warriors
Story by Staff Sgt. Lindsey Kibler
KABUL, Afghanistan - The only requirement was to give your all— 31 minutes for 31 heroes. For the soldiers, airmen and civilians gathered at Kabul International Airport, Sept. 3, this physical training day left no room for the faint of heart.
Quitting wasn't an option in this memorial service that was unlike any other. The men and women at KAIA gathered to share their sweat and pain during a CrossFit workout, called '31 Heroes.'
They joined countless other CrossFit enthusiasts who, on this day, dedicated their workout to the 30 U.S. service members and one U.S. military working dog who made the ultimate sacrifice Aug.6, when their helicopter crashed during a mission in eastern Afghanistan.
All service members on board were killed, as well as seven Afghan commandos and one Afghan interpreter. It was the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.
The event, sponsored by the Navy SEAL Foundation, will serve as a “version of the ‘moment of silence’,” according to their website.
Regardless of the location, all participants will perform the same workout, which is a non-stop, 31-minute test of physical and emotional will.
“All the pain and anguish during this workout doesn’t even compare to what those we are honoring went through,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Irvin, a Dell City, Okla., native. Irvin was one of the event’s coordinators and the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Signal Current Operations Chief.
“They knew every time they went out on mission, there was the distinct possibility of dying and they went anyway,” he added. “I’m proud we are able to honor them like this.”
The workout of the day, known as a WOD, was carried out in two-man teams. While one team member ran 400 meters, carrying a sandbag that weighed up to 45 pounds, the other team member worked through a circuit of exercises. Each complete circuit, known as a rep, consisted of eight thrusters of up to 155 pounds, 11 box jumps and six rope climbs.
With limited equipment in very austere conditions, creativity was key, said Staff Sgt. Jessica Bezanson, a CrossFit Level 1 certified trainer and enlisted aide to the IJC commanding general.
A towel was draped over a pull-up bar to mimic the movement of climbing a rope, requiring a team member to alternate arms while pulling themselves up without using their legs; 90 towel pull-ups equated to the required six rope climbs. Ammunition cans were used as a substitute for sandbags, and tires were used for box jumps.
For Bezanson, a Rapid City, Mich., native, the day’s WOD was a bit more personal, and the pain was bittersweet.
“Of all the Hero WODs we’ve done out here, this one meant the most. I heard about (the incident) an hour after it happened. I was here. I felt the impact of it,” she said. “It made me work harder. I pushed myself harder today.”
In the days following the incident, on this particular day and in all the days to come, the memory of those 31 heroes will not be forgotten.
According to the Navy SEAL Foundation website, all proceeds raised from the global event will be given to the families affected by this tragedy.
’31 Heroes’ pays tribute to the following fallen U.S. service members:
Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, La.
Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif.
Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minn.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Mass.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, W.Va.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, La.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Mich.
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, Calif.
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, N.C.
Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah
Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.
Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pa.
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla.
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif.
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minn.
Army Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan.
Army Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb.
Army Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash.
Army Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Fla.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pa.
Also killed was Bart, a U.S. military working dog.