A group of Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers with the 108th Forward Support Company completed the Murph Challenge on May 29 at Crossfit Blue Moon in Sussex, Wisconsin, commemorating fallen service members as part of a Memorial Day tradition.
The Murph Challenge is a workout consisting of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another one-mile run, all while wearing a 20-pound vest or body armor. It was named after Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2007.
Initially Soldiers from the 108th planned to participate in the Sussex Memorial Day parade. The parade was canceled shortly before Memorial Day due to road construction concerns.
“I had several signed up to participate, so I didn’t want to let the day go by without offering an opportunity to come together and remember our fallen brothers and sisters,” said Capt. Hedy Vincent, commander of the 108th.
“Lt. Mike Murphy epitomizes strong selfless leadership to me,” Vincent said. “He gave his own life to save others as Jesus Christ did for the world. This workout honors Mike Murphy and what he stood for, my fallen brothers and sisters, my Savior, and the passion I put into serving my country.”
This is the first year Soldiers from the 108th came together to complete the Murph Challenge. Some of the Soldiers had never done the Murph before and didn’t realize how tough the workout is. Still, their motivation was unwavering, Vincent said.
“The commander kept on saying, ‘Respect the Murph cause you’ll learn,’ and we definitely all learned how difficult it was,” said Sgt. Brooke Bougie, an automated logistical specialist in the 108th.
This was Bougie’s first time completing the Murph.
“I wanted to really challenge myself and do something that was a little bit more meaningful on Memorial Day,” Bougie said.
Vincent, Bougie and other Soldiers in the unit also had a personal connection motivating them to complete the Murph. While completing the workout, they held the memory of one Soldier particularly close to their hearts.
On May 18, Spc. Jonathan J. Henke Jr. passed away in a motorcycle accident. Henke joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 2013 and served his military career with the 108th.
“He was one of those Soldiers who befriended everyone in the company,” Vincent said. “He was the center of attention when he told jokes and tall tales that prompted me to say, ‘That’s just not true.’ I smile thinking of him and how he brought the morale up with his jovial smile and personality.”
“He was definitely a talker,” Bougie said. “He loved to tell his stories and goof around. He had very far-fetched stories.”
The Murph Challenge not only built unit cohesion, but also helped with the grieving process for Soldiers who participated.
“It brought us together in his memory,” Vincent said. “We’ve obviously got a long road ahead of us, but I believe other unit members that saw the pictures realize how much we loved him as a family member.”
Henke will be sorely missed within the 108th, Vincent said. However, his memory will live on, and his death and the choice he made to be an organ donor brought life to others.
Vincent plans to incorporate the Murph Challenge in future Memorial Day events. She said there were many more Soldiers interested who couldn’t participate this year due to prior engagements but plan to participate next year.
“It was a painful event, but it’s something that I think I will definitely be doing in years to come,” Bougie said.
“I wholeheartedly believe that when you push one another and support each other in various challenges, you become more than just a unit,” Vincent said. “Developing trust in one another is of utmost importance to me. I hope that this will begin a tradition with the 108th.”