There is a hero in this picture.
She looks like a regular person (I guess most hero’s do), but she is extraordinary.
I ran to join in this picture just as they were about to click the shutter. I popped into a hasty squat and was a little off balance so I grabbed the gals foot/ankle right next to me to steady myself. Not really a big deal, but let me back it up just a second.
Actually, let me back it up about two years.
I started CrossFit when my daughter was about nine months. I have the same CrossFit convert story that every CrossFitter has, so I won’t bore you with that.
I had been writing with our affiliate for a bout a year – mostly inspirational stuff I came up with on my own or athlete transformation stories I was assigned. I’ve never been a sports writer, but I was hooked. One morning, an interesting story came across the desk. The mother of an Army soldier called us to see if we would do an article on her daughter who had trained at our gym before she was deployed. Her mother was persistent and she wanted her daughter’s story told.
It went something like this: while in Afghanistan and competing in the Asia Region for the CrossFit Open, this Army soldier’s competition season came to an abrupt end. Working as a humanitarian aid to Afghan women, she and her team were “patrolling the perimeter of a location when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. The impact beneath the vehicle left them bruised, sore and injured.” Although no one on the team suffered any life-threatening injuries, fractures to the bottom of both heels were enough to keep our soldier off her feet and out of competition for almost ten weeks.
I wrote up the story and posted it to our affiliate’s site. It then caught the attention of CrossFit HQ and I had an opportunity to speak with the now stateside Army soldier over the phone. Hearing her story and listening to her speak made me realize the calling of my life. I was put here to tell stories. Not always my own, but I am supposed to tell them. I got off the phone with her and felt incredibly humbled by the opportunity. I remember sitting in silence in the parking lot just thinking “every story matters.”
When I tell a story, it takes up a little place in my soul. Someone’s experience takes up residence in my life – and when I tell the story, I learn from the story. Every single time.
From time to time, I would wonder what that soldier was up to and did she get back in the gym or did she ever open that affiliate she was hoping to open. Did she make it home to her family? Her mother? Will she compete again?
I think the CrossFit community is the most fascinating thing. Most communities exist as concentric circles – one circle inside of another circle inside of another circle and so on. Each community being surrounded by an invisible circle, it goes around and around, but it doesn’t ever touch another circle. There may be five, ten, fifteen communities all existing in the same area and, yet, they never touch.
CrossFit is this crazy bunch of overlapping circles. Each community exists in their own right, but instead of staying within our own people, we overlap. We blend, we connect, we share our experience.
Look at that picture again.
I’m the one kneeling in the front. My hand is on the girls foot directly to my right.
That is Rebecca Mendez. That is our Army soldier. Those were the feet/heels fractured in Afghanistan.
THOSE FEET ARE HELPING ME BALANCE. THEY ARE KEEPING ME FROM FALLING OVER.
Do you not see the rich and miraculous symbolism in that?
I had no idea when I hastily squatted in that photo that I would stumble across this today. It took my breath away.
I AM THANKFUL. Those feet are just one pair of the many feet that represent my freedom, your freedom, our freedom.
Thank you, Rebecca. Thank you to all the veterans and active military who represent my freedom.
Now, I need to sing the national anthem and cry because I am overwhelmed.