The Zone Health & Fitness gym in Ocala hosted a “12 Hours of Heroes” CrossFit event on Memorial Day, during which dozens of people honored fallen heroes with more than words.
Participants of all ages, levels of training and occupations paid tribute to 12 heroes with sweat and hard work by performing any or all of a dozen different workout regimens named after members of the armed services and first responders who gave their lives while serving.
Biographies of the 12 people memorialized were posted on a wall in the gym. The biographies also listed the workout exercises for the particular regimen.
A day to remember:Memorial Day: Ocala-Marion County Veterans Park
So many ways to work out
The 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. event kicked off with the “Abbate” workout named after U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Abbate, 26, of Honolulu, who died in combat in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, leaving behind a wife and son.
The “Murph,” the fourth workout, started around 9 a.m. with about 100 participants. The set included a one-mile opening run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats and a closing one-mile run – all performed while wearing a 20-pound weighted vest.
Ben Marciano, co-owner of Zone with his wife, Danielle, said the workout guidelines can be modified for the participant.
The “Murph” was named in honor of U.S. Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy, 29, a Medal of Honor recipient from Patchogue, New York. He was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, in combat, after he moved to a clear area – open to enemy fire – to get better radio transmission and call for help for his greatly outnumbered team.
Why they do it
Among those taking on the “Murph” on Monday was German Aristizabal, 29, who actually carried a military style backpack estimated to weigh over 40 pounds during the “Murph” mile run.
“(The fallen heroes) sacrifice means a lot,” he said.
Jasmine Jackson, 30, on staff at Fessenden Elementary School, honored the fallen as well as her father’s military service.
“This (workout) was very difficult (but) my dad, Donald Elton Jackson, he’s 69 now, served three tours in the jungles of Vietnam,” she said.
Quentin Boone, 36, an RN with Ocala Regional Medical Center, worked at push-ups during the “Murph” while Dorothy Hughes, 32, and “JT” Carpenter, 33, performed pull-ups.
County Judge Steve Rogers, 53, also took on the “Murph.” He said his workout on Memorial Day was to honor those who voluntarily served.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Troy Kaastra, 23, said he did the “Murph” to honor “people better than myself.”
Ocala Police Department Sgt. Shawn Minucci said his “Murph” was dedicated to “those who served and weren’t able to come back home.”
For the Kirklands, the event was a family affair. Crystal, 34, Michael, 45, and their son Noah,14, all took on the “Murph.” The family operates Fit Kit Meal of Ocala, a service that provides custom prepared meals for delivery to homes or gyms.
Armando Betancourt, 35, a veterinarian technician who works in the field of imaging for horses, also did the “Murph.”
The Alexander family – Xavier, 17, a Vanguard High School student and his parents, Neil and Tiffany – also came out to honor fallen heroes.
Fellow “Murph” participant Jackson encouraged Neil Alexander in his set of push-ups.
Tyhein Manning, 19, a College of Central Florida student, and Anskr Sanitfluer, 18, a University of Florida student, encouraged each other during the “Murph.”
Marcia Sambura, 53, completed the “Murph.”
The workout “is not even a measure of what (military personnel and first responders) go through every day,” Sambura said.
Helping Delano Christie
The event also served as a fundraiser to support Delano Christie, 25, who is set to attend the Florida State Fire College this summer.
Christie moved here from Jamaica in 2013 and wants to give back to the Ocala community out of gratitude for the help he has received.
Christie, now a sound technician at South Point Church, is part of an Ocala-Marion County Mentoring Program. Fire equipment operator Chris Hickman, with Ocala Fire Rescue, explained that the program is a support organization for rising first responders.
Hickman, who also participated in the workout event, said Christie will be onboard with one of the local fire rescue agencies after graduation.
All about the gym
The gym is a CrossFit affiliate which, according to crossfit.com, means the location offers a program with a variable “workout of the day” and a “precision combination of exercise and nutrition” to improve health and fitness.
The Marcianos spoke of the bonding and mutual encouragement among members known as the “CrossFit Community.”
Joseph Lombardi, 28, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2011 to 2019. He moved here from Erie, Pennsylvania, a year ago and was looking for a way to honor members of his former unit.
“I wanted to do more than post a picture on Facebook,” he said as he finished the “Murph” set.
Danielle Marciano said James Swelley, 26, and Willy Richardson, 23, completed all 12 hero workouts.