Pushups for Charity
Years ago I read Marcus Luttrell’s book ‘Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10,’ and was blown away. It captured the complexities of war in ways I had rarely seen on the nightly news. Luttrell’s tale brought tears to my eyes and left a lasting impression in my mind. Apparently, it did the same for five women from Texas, who went out and started Boot Campaign, a non-profit dedicated to helping war fighters and their families when they return home.

This past weekend in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of taking part in the final event of the year for Pushups for Charity, which worked in conjunction with Boot Campaign to help raise funds for our returning war fighters and their families. Men, women and children of all ages and fitness levels came out to do as many pushups as possible within 90 seconds, with the goal of hitting 10,000 before the end of the day. There was a lot of people who needed a shower when all was said and done, but the goal was ultimately accomplished.

The thing that most struck me about Pushups for Charity was the sense of community the event instilled in participants from the get-go. All of the Team Leaders were upbeat men and women who made complete strangers feel as if they were longtime friends. It was hot and humid with no wind and no shade — but no one cared because everyone was having fun. Organizers, participants and the audience that cheered and clapped with each round all seemed to concentrate on a shared bond — love of the military. There was no amount of sunburn or sore muscles that could take away from the joy of moment.

After I got home on Sunday night, I was looking at a picture of myself with Team Leaders Mark Little and Chris Nesbitt and wondering why I seem most at ease (no pun intended) around soldiers. I laugh more. I smile more. I’m more “me” in those moments than in any other social situation.

I think a clue to the peace that company brings me can be found in the bio for CPT Mark Little (U.S. Army Ret.), which reads:

Mark enlisted in the Army in 2002. Mark spent 4 years as a Combat Engineer learning and performing the craft of a demolitions expert.

Mark was deployed to Iraq as a Platoon Leader for the 3rd Infantry Division. He spent 99 days in Iraq, conducted over 150 Combat Patrols, and received 3 direct IED blasts, resulting in 2 Purple Hearts and the loss of both of his legs.

Mark is the Captain of the USA Warriors Hockey Team, which provides recreational hockey therapy to wounded Service-members, he actively Crossfits, and is excited to help the Boot Campaign with their critical mission of supporting our Nation’s Heros as they return from combat.

Mark is a Hero Team Leader because every fiber of his being is dedicated to serving his fellow Military Service-Members and refuses to let injuries get in the way of completing any mission he undertakes.

Selfless Service. Check. Courage. Check. Perseverance. Check. The list of qualities that I respect, admire and seek to cultivate in myself are so often found in individuals like CPT Little that it is in their presence where I feel most comfortable.

Pushups Charity FB

There is something extremely awe-inspiring about men and women who can have both of their legs taken from them and, upon healing, get out of bed and essentially say to the world, “You took my legs and knocked me down? Okay. I’ll just build myself some new legs and stand right back up again. And on top of that, I’m going to be just as hard-core awesome as I ever was.”

That is the character of winners. These are the individuals we should look to for inspiration. Their stories are the ones that should not be forgotten.

The next time a political party comes knocking on your door, I suggest laughing them off and turning to an organization with a track record of actually keeping its promises. Boot Campaign is one, but there are many, many others. And if you can’t give money, you can always take 90 seconds out of your day during the next Pushups for Charity event to knock a few out. It won’t cost you a dime, and you’ll meet some incredible people in the process.

Best,

Doug

'The Rock' is batting 1000 for awesomeness. He's relaunching movies, he's got a great new show with 'The Hero,' and now it turns out he's connected with the Boot Campaign.
‘The Rock’ is batting 1000 for awesomeness. He’s relaunching movies, he’s got a great new show with ‘The Hero,’ and now it turns out he’s connected with the Boot Campaign.
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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

15 comments

  1. Mark sounds like a true hero. I bet it must feel like a privilege to know him, if you see him again soon tell him that my family and I thank him for our freedom.

  2. I can give you 50 pushups…that may be about it.:(
    I do not do pushups regularly anymore, I used to be able to do around 200.

    1. It’s not about how many you can do, my friend. The fact that you’re still able to knock em out is all that matters. You can’t stop the aging process, but the aging process can’t stop your ability to give 110%. 😉

  3. Doug,

    I’m glad to hear this went so well. How many pushups did you knock out of the park? These guys are epic and I’m glad you can help them get the recognition their noble service deserves. Here’s hoping you cover more stuff like this in the future, and I’m glad you had a chance to return to your native territory haha!

    Mark

    1. Actually, the grading was my personal highlight. The guy who recorded my score was/is SF (can’t quite tell from his bio if he’s still in or not as a reservist) and he called out the score: “81 pushups! *pause* 81 legitimate pushups!” That made me feel good. If a guy like that gave me props for my pushups it’s a mighty high compliment.

      I did another 90 second round later in the day after some rest and knocked out 76. There wasn’t anything left in the tank when the bell rang on that one.

  4. Participating in the Boot Campaign and Pushups for Charity sounds like an amazing experience. Mark seems to be an outstanding individual and is an inspiration to us all. Trusting the selfless heroes who fight for our freedom over political parties is a good choice any day… I really need to start doing more pushups.

    1. I was actually thinking of doing an blogging experiment where I’d embed a video of me doing a specific exercise at the end of each post. The point would be that by coming to this blog you’d (at least from my point of view) get to exercise your body and your mind. You could read the post and then the exercise would be optional. I think that one is about a year away if it’s going to happen since I live in, essentially, a cardboard box.

  5. That’s a great idea. I’m sure most, if not all of your readers would enjoy your workout videos. Good luck on any and all efforts you are undertaking right now as well as the future ones if you intend to make the videos a reality.

    1. My next move is going to be “THE” move. The one where I’m not leaving for a long time. At that point I’ll have the room I need, video equipment, etc. We’ll see… Thanks for the feedback. I’ll probably give it a try for sure down the road.

  6. I think this kind of stuff is great. Thanks for being part of it, Doug. You do your fellow veterans and Americans proud.

    1. Thanks, man. There’s a part of me that always feels awkward about getting out in 2000, only to have 9/11 happen a little over a year later. That was always a strange time for me, because I had so many conflicting emotions and desires. On one hand I worked my butt off in school and was on my way to what would be a degree from USC, but on the other hand I felt an obligation to walk away from it all and go back into the service.

      I do think that everything happens for a reason, and had I gone back in I would not have met my wife… I don’t know. I know that I can never turn back time to give the soldiers what I want (i.e., me on deployment with them), but I can at least do my best to honor them now. The more time that goes on, the more at peace with my past decisions I become.

    2. This stuff is great. If I were celebrity, this would be the type of thing I’d endorse.

      I also find Marcus Luttrell’s story to be interesting.. and how his rescuer Gulab risked death from the Taliban to get him to safety.. There’s going to be a movie out next year with Mark Wahlberg, I think.

    3. Yep. ‘Lone Survivor.’ I can’t wait. I’m not thrilled that Mark Walhberg got the starring role, but I’ll overlook that. I’m so happy that they found a way to get ‘Lone Survivor’ to the big screen.

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