At Veterans Overcoming Obstacles, the belief is that a healthy lifestyle supports change. This Colorado-based non-profit organization helps veterans deal with drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD-related suicide, and the difficult transition from military service to civilian life through a focus on health and fitness.
“We are looking to rebuild the camaraderie we once had in service,” says veteran David Hess, who is in charge of public relations and fund-raising for the organization. “We are committed to helping veterans transition from service to being a healthy, active, productive member of society. This is all made possible through the hard work and dedication of United States Marine Corps veteran Chris Carter for creating VO2 and driving us to success at every step of the way.”
How do they help accomplish this? Through support group meetings, yoga, tai chi, group fitness, and—you guessed it—obstacle course training and racing. This past summer, VO2’s obstacle course team captain David Hess and and group of 55, including one wheelchair-bound veteran, tackled Colorado’s Tough Mudder course.
Here is Hess’s story of the experience.
Transforming Into Tough Mudders
Every Sunday morning we have our veterans support group followed by yoga and obstacle course training, free to all veterans, at Devil Dogg Strength and Conditioning located in Pueblo West. We use multiple obstacle course events, golf tournaments, 5k and 10k races, lifting competitions, and more to help keep our veterans focused and give them a sense of achievement and purpose, but Tough Mudder is our home.
One of VO2’s veterans, Steven Hancock, happens to be wheelchair bound but doesn’t let it slow him down. He wanted to complete a Tough Mudder Classic, so this year we put together a team of 55 people dedicated to helping him achieve his goals by any means necessary. We also retrofitted Steven’s wheelchair to take on the race, placing a harness on the chair so that it could be pulled and pushed at the same time while Steve could also use his own strength to push forward as well.
A mix of VO2 staff, veterans, Tough Mudder Ambassadors, and civilian friends came to the call, traveling to Denver to tackle the Classic course in August 2019. At the start line MC Sean Corvelle did what he does best and helped inspire the crowd and honored VO2 in the mix, allowing us to lead our start time.
Along with the help of Mudder legend Jim Campbell, we got off to a great start. We also had the help of Tough Mudder Ambassadors Jessica Kidd and Charlie Charbonneau, and we tackled each and every obstacle one at a time and conquered them as a team along with the help of passionate Tough Mudder family members.
The Aha Moment
Finally, we came to the last two obstacles, Mudderhorn and Electroshock Therapy. For Mudderhorn, Steve left his chair on the ground and a group of VO2 team members helped him over the obstacle one painful step at a time. He used his upper body strength and team VO2 moved his legs for him and protected him from falling. Kyle “Coach” Railton was there to push and inspire every step of the climb along with Clinton Jackson on the mic to give love and inspiration. (Watch Team VO2 tackle Mudderhorn on Facebook.)
We then tackled Electroshock Therapy crawling and clawing every inch of the way. The feeling of crossing the finish line and earning the headband Steven so desired and worked for was beyond incredible. This truly was 110% a team effort.
Words to Live By
A healthy lifestyle can truly help support change. We are proud at VO2 to use the Tough Mudder courses to keep our veterans motivated and drug-free and credit the Mudder community with a lot of our success. Mudders are a truly incredible group of people; countless strangers stopped mid race to lend a helping hand without hesitation.
Shout out to the many people who stepped up to help Team VO2, including:
Tough Mudder Ambassadors Jessica Kidd and Charlie Charbonneau. Our incredible civilian family Linda Ky, Alyssa Ogorek, Lori Gilmore, Linda Casillas, Ashley Nelson, Lindsey Nelson. Goat Tough and Tough Mudder legend Jim Campbell. Start line MC Sean Corvelle and finish line star Clinton Jackson. “Coach” Kyle Railton for inspiration, Francis Lackner for a ton of helping hands and last but not least team VO2 Chris Carter, David Hess, Lexi Kristan, Alex Autobee, Vana Gonzales,Matt Dilcher, Kaylin Trivisonno, Natalia Kauffman, Steven Hancock, Jami Hancock, Logan Pratt.