On January 21 in Murrieta, Calif., the CrossFit Community will gather for the largest DHP Fundraiser yet.
In 2009, Brad McKee, a sniper serving in the U.S. Marine Corps with two tours of duty behind him, spent a week visiting comrades being treated at the Army Burn Unit of the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. For McKee, it was a life-changing experience.
“When you go to see these guys who are victims of burns to their face and their body, and some were guys I was serving with when they were hit, you’re exposed to a whole different dimension of rehab,” he says. “It was a very emotional experience for me. You have a total respect for what they’re going through.”
These words take on additional weight when you consider that McKee lost 20 friends to combat deaths while serving. He lost three others to suicide.
The patients at the BAMC are typically covered with third-degree burns and are in critical condition. Rehab can require dozens of operations, skin grafts and excruciating pain requiring years of recovery. Back in his hometown of Hammond, La., McKee, further inspired by a fellow Marine, Keith Zeier—who despite critical injuries suffered from a roadside bomb in Iraq recovered and ran a 100-mile ultramarathon to raise $50,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Fund—decided to run an ultramarathon to raise money to support returning soldiers and their families in April of 2010. The Disposable Heroes Project (DHP) was born, with the mission of bringing attention and support to those soldiers and veterans struggling to reset their lives.
McKee is also the owner and head trainer of CrossFit Hammond in Louisiana, and it’s been through the Crossfit world that DHP has held a series of events, often in concert with Crossfit certification seminars, where money is raised and veteran’s stories are told. In addition to preliminary fundraising orchestrated by the host CrossFit gym, funds are raised on the day of the event through the sale of t-shirts and donations. A group workout is also held.
McKee works with Sam Macaluso and Kyle Clements to operate the project, all three contributing on a volunteer basis. McKee will visit veterans and their families to indentify a need that the fund can help satisfy. “We will fly a wounded vet out to our events and surprise them.” The DHP has helped veterans with a range of support, from paying rents, buying airline tickets and furnishing homes.
McKee’s military background has helped to open channels that might otherwise not be open. “They need the assistance but they won’t ask for help. They’re not going to speak up for themselves. There’s an instant connection when I’m in the house of one of the families. We’ve shared a similar experience and I think it helps put them at ease.”
This coming January 21st at CrossFit Overload in Murrieta, Calif., the DHP will be holding it’s largest event so far according to McKee. In attendance will several of the wounded veterans the DHP works with. Navy SEALs and members from CrossFit HQ will also be present.