Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blood, sweat and tears is theme at special Memorial Day event at Crossfit Gym in Wilmington.

By Verne Strickland  May 31, 2011

It was not the original blood, sweat and tears, but it surely was one of the most touching and memorable.

The blood was shed by two valiant American fighting men who died in service to their country. One a U.S. Navy Seal, the other a Green Beret, they were singled out for a special tribute on Memorial Day at Crossfit Wilmington gym on Market Street.

The sweat was poured out by over 250 grateful men and women –among them veterans of all ages – who turned out in serious heat and humidity for a grueling one-hour work-out – some wearing combat boots and body armor – as a show of support for the families of the fallen American heroes.

The tears were shed by the grieving family members of Master Sgt. Ben Bitner, and by many of the appreciative participating crowd on hand.  Sgt. Bitner was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 23, 2011 -- Easter week-end. 

CrossFit Wilmington owner Tony Cowden said the "Murph" workout is named after a fallen Navy SEAL named Michael Murphy. Cowden says the workout is intense and takes a lot of hard work.

The heartfelt support included not only energy and spirit, but also a generous sum of money raised to fund scholarships for the children of one of the servicemen killed in action.

Ilario Pantano, a former U.S. Marine officer with two combat tours under his belt, was one of the organizers and participants.

With a hoarse voice, still catching his breath, drenched in sweat, a drained but game Pantano consented to an interview moments are completing the grueling "Murph" course. He was moved and subdued as he talked about why he was there. Few congressmen or candidates today are likely to have had such a closeness to our Americans who serve in uniform. 


The run is a mile out, then we do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-up, 300 squats, then run a mile back. And it’s over 90 degrees right now in the heat of the day, and we did that on purpose because we wanted to make it as miserable as possible so people would know Lt. Michael Murphy was experiencing, and Sergeant Bitner was experiencing when he was killed in April of this year. 
We’re just doing it light today. Some of us have boots and 20-pound flak jackets on just to try and connect with our brothers and sisters. There were so many of them lost in this fight, over 7,000 patriotic young men and women, plus 40,000 veterans that are missing some part of themselves that you can see, and over a million missing some part of themselves that you can’t see. 
So we’re just here today to remember them. We’re here to live for them, as they would want us to live, and to celebrate, because as long as we remember them they’ll live forever.
VS: It was a wonderful event, with a really impressive turn-out.
You know, John 15:13 tells us, 'No greater love can a man have than to give his life for his brother.' That scripture means both men and women. But that’s what we’re here for – we can sweat, strain, bleed a little bit, donate a few bucks, so some kids can go to college. We can do that. How many are here today, would you guess? I figure over 200. They did sell out of 100 tee-shirts. It was a great event. We are grateful for all the help, for the wonderful turn-out, and the generosity of Tony and CrossFit.

This summary from the "Murph" fundraiser was tallied in Pantano for Congress:

Yesterday, over 250 people came to CrossFit Wilmington for the Memorial Day Fundraiser. They gave their time and sweat to honor the men and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. The “unofficial” numbers tallied for the fundraiser are well over $11,000. Approximately $2,000 for The Wounded Warrior Project and $9,000 for the sons’ of MSG Ben Bitner, recently KIA. We cannot thank you enough.

WECT-TV6 Wilmington ran this news piece to promote the Memorial Day event:

Wilmington gym honors fallen soldiers; raises money for family

Posted: May 28, 2011 6:53 PM EDT Updated: May 28, 2011 7:06 PM EDT
Master Sergeant Benjamin Bitner with his son; Courtesy: Tony Cowden
Master Sergeant Benjamin Bitner with his son; Courtesy: Tony Cowden

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A Wilmington gym owner is remembering two of his fallen comrades with a Memorial Day fundraiser.

CrossFit Wilmington is hosting a "Murph on Memorial Day" fundraiser on Monday. The event is named after Lt. Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan.
Proceeds and donations go to the Wounded Warrior project and to the family of Master Sergeant Benjamin Bitner, a Green Beret, who was killed in April while serving in Afghanistan. He left behind a wife and two young boys. Money from the event will go to a college fund set up for the children.
Tony Cowden, who owns CrossFit, said the event will include a work-out named after Murphyn. The work-out, called 'Murph', requires participants to run one mile, do 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 body weight squats and then run one more mile.
If that isn't tough enough, some people will actually do that work out with a 30-pound flak vest.
There will be prizes for the three top finishing men and three top finishing women.
"While a lot of folks are going to be at barbecues and having a beer,we are going to be out here paying true honor to those who served their country with a little bit of sweat," said Cowden. "A small price for us to pay."

CrossFit is located at 6603 Market Street in Wilmington.

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